We’ve never heard an in-house recruiter say, “I’m really looking forward to my ATS implementation.”

Looking forward to using their new Applicant Tracking System? Absolutely. But usually people don’t relish the prospect of 8-12 weeks of implementation.

If you’re working with an experienced implementation consultant, it should be a well-managed and smooth process. What you may not realise is that a large part of implementation success lies with you.

Provide clear information

The key to a smooth ATS implementation lies in the preparation. You will probably be asked for a lot of information from your supplier, and the more detail you can provide upfront, the better.

For example, it’s really important to get application forms right. If you’re already using an ATS, suppliers will ask for your existing forms with all the particulars.

There is no such thing as being too specific. Say whether you want the ‘Title’ field to be a dropdown, checkboxes or free text field. Be very clear about what terminology you want to use, or if you need name blind or anonymised application forms.

The same applies to things like your email templates. What branding and wording do you want these to include? At which stages of the application process do you want emails sent?

Being very clear and detailed at the start of the process will save time later during your implementation. Your supplier will guide you through what information they need.

Be aware of timeframes

 Before implementation commences, your consultant should put together a project plan. This will detail core deadlines and project points for both parties to adhere to.

This plan will typically include deadlines for delivering information, data migration, UAT (User Acceptance Testing) and for training. If you’re going to struggle to meet a deadline, flag to your supplier as soon as possible so they can readjust the implementation route accordingly.

 Secure internal engagement

Another priority on your list should be ensuring your key stakeholders are engaged from day one. We’ve seen many instances where implementation has been delayed because, for example, IT were only involved in the last week and then raised a number of queries.

Ensure your colleagues’ expectations of the new system mirror yours, so you’re all on the same page when your supplier gathers your requirements or put together solution design documents for you to review.

You should also consider whether the right people are at the right meetings. Sometimes we see the most senior level people attend requirements workshops, but they’re not necessarily the ones who’ll use the system day-to-day, or who have a working understanding of requirements and processes.

Consider who is best placed from each area in the business to feed into the requirements gathering, from IT to Hiring Managers. Later down the line, ask yourself the same question ahead of training sessions.

Give thought to your careers site

It’s easy to get wrapped up in lists of values and application forms, and forget your careers site until you’re nearing the end of implementation. It’s an integral part of your candidate experience, and shouldn’t be an afterthought.

Each element of the application process should dovetail with one another so there’s no fragmentation for the candidate, from browsing vacancies to applying online through to offer stage and onboarding.

Gain input early on from various stakeholders involved in your careers site, whether it’s managed by the Recruitment & HR team, Marketing or an outsourced agency, and discuss what you want to achieve with your supplier well in advance of Go Live.

Don’t feel alone

Applicant Tracking System suppliers are all different, but there is no question that you should have a dedicated Implementation Consultant guiding you through your implementation.

At no point should you feel overwhelmed or isolated during the process. Instead, you should expect a realistic project plan and clear timeframes from your supplier. You should have someone you can call if you have a question, and an expert delivering training, advice and recommendations.

The secret to a successful implementation lies in comprehensive preparation. Even the best laid plans can go awry. But if you and your team are well prepped, and if you trust your supplier, have the internal support of your key stakeholders and a clear understanding of what you need? You might just start looking forward to it.


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About the author

Tristan Potter

From candidate experience to flexible working, and from supporting graduates to ATS reports; Hannah's written it all over the years! Hannah has contributed to publications as diverse as The Guardian, UK Recruiter and University Business. She is also the wordsmith behind our whitepapers and guides, from GDPR to Employee Volunteering.