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You're wrong in using ATS for attracting Passive Candidates. Here's what to do instead

Explore effective candidate engagement beyond Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). Find out why relying solely on ATS may not be enough


Remember the time you saw the first ATS software, and you felt it was an answer to all recruitment challenges the world had seen? Well, you weren't wrong for the most part. 90% of Fortune 1000 companies use an ATS. It helps you to speed up candidate management and significantly reduce time-to-fill. From posting the job online to making the job offer, ATS saves the day figuratively, and hours, literally.

However, ATS is built for a world that's fast-changing. If you're one of those organizations that get best-fit candidates by putting out job requirements on its website, you're all set with an ATS and you don't really need to read this post. But my guess is you're not of those folks and I'll tell you why. 

 Recruiting has evolved, and the world agrees.

  • 70% of the global workforce are passive candidates. (Source: Inc)
  • 86% of HR professionals surveyed indicate that recruitment is becoming more like marketing. (Source: Glassdoor)
  • 65.7% of Recruiters say building Talent Pools for the future is their top priority. (Source: Career Builder)
  • 'Recruiter' is one of the Top 5 jobs of 2021. (Source: LinkedIn)

The best candidates don't apply to jobs anymore, we need to find them, hunt them, cajole them into the hiring process, and we all know ATSs aren't built for that. 

There aren't enough 'Applicants' in the world for Applicant Tracking Systems to be a comprehensive recruitment solution.

The dichotomy of System of Records and System of Actions

If we had to visualize how ATSs work, it would look like this:

Step 1: Job Created 

Step 2: Job published on Company website and Job boards 

Step 3: Job seekers apply 

Step 4: Applicants are screened 

Step 5: Interviews conducted 

Step 6: Applicants hired

However, the real-world recruitment process of present times looks a lot different than what ATSs are built for. 

Here's how hiring happens today:

Step 1: Intake meeting for new and evergreen roles

Step 2: Sourcing from LinkedIn, GitHub, and multiple job boards

Step 3: Nudging all prospects to check if anyone is looking out one by one

Step 4: Update the prospect spreadsheet with reached out folks

Step 5: Get on calls with everyone who replied with interest

Step 6: Update prospect spreadsheet with 'interested' data

Step 7: Hold the first-level interview to check if the profile meets the requirement

Step 8: Update prospect spreadsheet and upload candidate on ATS

Step 9: ATS kicks in

If you look closely, your ATS is mostly a system of record. A system of record is an information storage and retrieval system that acts as a source of truth. A system of records is integral to the recruitment operations however the limitations are quite evident.

An ATS wouldn't let you have track engagements with your prospective candidates. You can't measure open rates, click rates, and other vital metrics for the emails you send to the passive candidates. You essentially have to either get on a call or ask explicitly about the prospect's interest in the role and the process to have the slightest visibility and predictability of your talent pipeline.

On the other hand, a system of engagement will help you gather all your passive candidates on one platform, automate all nudges and follow-ups through work and personal emails, track and measure engagements throughout the process, and help you become much more efficient in the outbound recruitment motion.

The wrong way of using ATS for Passive Candidates

A lot of recruiters have found a way to morph their ATS into a tool that suffices their bare minimum outbound recruitment needs. Here's what the hacky process looks like:

  1. Download resumes and passive candidates in bulk
  2. Upload all of them into your ATS
  3. Set your email drips as time-based reminders
  4. Set up dummy stages for non-engaged and interested candidates
  5. Once interested, move the candidates through the usual ATS process

What's wrong with this?

Tl;dr: A lot. 

  1. First of all, it is what it is - a hack. And hacks are great for a short-term fix but hacks never scale. It's a great way to experiment, not a great way to thrive. 
  2. Secondly, clogging your ATS with uninterested candidates make managing your ATS a nightmare, and in the long run, not maintaining data sanity turns your ATS into a mess, hence handicapping your efficiency in place of augmenting it.
  3. Thirdly, the engagement channel is limited to one, and even for that, you don't get the hygiene metrics of engagement, hence making the entire engagement workflow, a black box.
  4. And finally, what about the prospects who weren't interested at the time. Would you not want to engage them until you need them again? Does that work? Or a better way to be on top of mind in your prospect's mind would be a continual engagement cadence?

Do we hate ATS at Kula?

Not by a long mile. On the contrary, we love them and believe that ATSs are necessary. In fact, the most important and deep integrations that we have built at Kula are with the two most famous ATSs of the world. What we are against is the butchered way of using an ATS for outbound recruitment and engaging with passive candidates. An ATS isn't built for it. You need a recruitment automation platform to fill that gap.

A recruitment automation platform helps you build a vast talent pool by unifying candidates from previously scattered sources - LinkedIn, Gmail, spreadsheets, phone books, and everywhere else. And then automate multiple email nudges and timely follow-ups in an intuitive workflow. With analytics embedded into every step of the process, you always have a real-time view of your predictable and reliable talent pipeline.

In short, a recruitment automation platform is built for an outbound-first recruitment world, unlike ATS, which needs to be morphed into doing something it's not built to do.

We would love to hear from you - your opinion, comments, disagreements - everything.

Rohit Srivastav

Founding Marketer

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