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April 15, 2021

14 Tips to Ensure Quality Candidates in Your ATS

It’s a problem that many recruiters and staffing firms are all too familiar with: an underutilized ATS.

We’re human beings. Being attracted to the shiny and new is part of our nature. But just as it costs five times as much to attract a new customer than to keep an existing one, so too is engaging with new candidates less efficient and effective than retaining a happy pool within your ATS.

For a long time staffing firms would sell themselves on the size of their ATS database – ‘we have 500,000 candidates on our books’ they’d loudly announce. But clients have slowly become more aware of the uselessness of such gigantic databases, which inevitably feature endless incomplete or incorrect entries.

So, how do you ensure that you maintain an ATS that prioritizes quality over quantity, and that your recruiters are actually excited to use it?

Let’s take a look at 14 of the most effective ways.


1. What are you preaching and praising?

The first step is to take a long, hard look in the mirror. What do your recruiters hear from your leaders? If messages revolve around finding new candidates and building the database, it follows that there won’t be a focus on engaging with or retaining candidates, nor building a quality database in your ATS. Be careful with the message you’re delivering and make sure there isn’t room for misinterpretation. 

2. Speak with your recruiters

Take the opportunity to speak with your recruiting team. Are they aware that they currently favor new candidates over those in their ATS? What is their reasoning or rationale? These conversations can be incredibly revealing, even if your recruiters haven’t really thought much about their mindset before.

3. Analyze the process

Whether the actions of your recruiting team were conscious decisions or not, preferring new candidates to those in your ATS hints at system and process issues. Carefully analyze your current recruiting processes, and consider how they might be adjusted in a way that incentivizes recruiters to better maintain current relationships over finding new ones.


Data Quality could destroy your staffing firm


4. Build faith in your system

What levels of faith do your recruiters currently have in your ATS? A good candidate database will be modern and powerful, will offer a simple and smooth user experience, will feature quality candidates who are accurately categorized/tagged, and will be managed to guard against degradation.

Recruiters will only search for candidates within your ATS if they feel they can trust the results. If you don’t have someone who can watch over and maintain the system both technically and qualitatively, the ATS will eventually become more of a hindrance than a help. Once that happens, no one will want to use it, and significant investment will need to be made if you are to nurse it back to health.

5. Speak with your ATS vendor

Could your ATS system be better utilized? Perhaps the vendor has best practices that you could apply to your organization. Contact them to find out. At the very least a conversation with your vendor may unearth some features that could help you with your candidate engagement and retention efforts. A good ATS will have a wealth of tools designed to make it the number one source of placements for your firm.

6. Reassign new candidate follow-up

Can new candidate follow-up be taken out of your recruiters’ hands? Perhaps someone in an administrative role could take the task over, leaving recruiters to focus their energies on contacting and placing your current applicants that have been fully onboarded, without the constant temptation of the shiny and new.

7. Show recruiters the numbers

Good candidate retention is built on a foundation of knowledge. Once you show your recruiters just how much more efficient and effective ATS placements are against new placements, the job of ATS management will become so much easier. Figure out the time and cost of acquiring a new candidate versus reactivating someone in your database, and convert those figures into how much money the recruiter takes home. There’s no greater motivator in this profession than the digits on the check.

8. Set candidate contact goals

Once you’ve driven home the importance, set KPIs that ensure your recruiters are doing the necessary candidate engagement and ATS upkeep. Devote Friday mornings to candidate follow-up. Create firm processes around collecting candidate data and entering it into the system. These goals should drive future performance in the direction you desire – consider a point system that assigns a higher value to placements made from within the ATS, and a lower value to new.

9. Incentivize meeting those goals

KPIs set, it’s up to your candidates to hit them. Again, we’re all human, and we’re all incentivized by rewards. These could be in the form of money, prizes, or simple recognition.


Critical KPIs You Should be Tracking | Able


10. Turn engagement from chore to opportunity

Chatting with candidates in your database can feel like a real chore to your recruiters, particularly when those candidates aren’t the right fit for any of their open roles, or are currently gainfully employed. But reframing this maintenance as an opportunity can help your recruiters feel more excited about doing it. This can be as simple as a rebrand: call it a coffee/beer chat, and do it on a Friday. All of a sudden boring candidate maintenance turns into a social occasion!

11. Create a script

Candidates who have failed to secure jobs, or who have actively ‘ghosted’ your firm in the past, can be difficult to maintain a productive relationship with. This in turn can see recruiters become frustrated with the candidate, scolding them at times and further damaging the relationship. Time and space can be the best healers in these situations, and when you once again engage, it’s wise to create a script that buries any perceived hatchets, and makes it clear that your firm is eager to work with the candidate again.

12. Personalize communication

When it comes to candidate engagement, it’s wise to avoid blanket, spammy communications at all costs. Do your best to craft your communications around what each candidate needs or wants. This is made far easier with a good system where candidates are tagged appropriately and can be selected for specific communications. Make it as personal as possible, while using smart tools to ensure you’re still communicating efficiently.

13. Source ideas from top recruiters

You’ll no doubt have some recruiters who are doing a far better job at candidate engagement than others. So what are their secrets? Involve a few champions of the company to find out what they’re doing and why/how they’re doing it, and collaborate with them to figure out a way to change the mindset of others.

14. Get top recruiters to set the example

Once you’ve come up with a few ideas, incentivize your top recruiters to lead from the front. Offer them rewards for setting the standard, and for encouraging the rest of the team to follow suit. Those who are already doing things the right way are often natural leaders, and because they’re in the trenches with the other troops, encouragement from top recruiters can be more effective than encouragement from leadership, for better or worse.


Follow these steps, and you’re far more likely to enjoy an ATS brimming with quality candidates. And if you’ve got a quality database, your recruiters will not only use it, they’ll be excited to do so.