Investing Less in the ATS and More In the Front-End


In this video, Ivan Casanova, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Products at Jibe, explores the ways in which recruiters can improve the way they recruit talent by investing more in systems of engagement, and focusing on a better candidate experience.

Watch this on-demand webinar now to learn:

  • How organizations can offer an amazing candidate and employer brand experience across multiple devices
  • Ways in which recruiters can overcome challenges in their hiring process by thinking more like consumer brands and appealing to digital natives
  • What a consumer-oriented candidate experience looks like, and how to leverage technology to improve engagement and optimize the end-to-end experience

Webinar Transcript:

Ivan: Thanks, Scott, for that introduction. I really appreciate it. Hello, everyone. My name is Ivan Casanova. I’m the Senior Vice President of Marketing and Products here at Jibe. I’ve spent the last 20 years really thinking about how big companies adopt new technology. If you want to get in touch with me, probably the best way is Twitter. My handle is @itsmeivan. I’m usually on there talking about, obviously, HR technology. You can follow me or send me a Tweet. I’d love to interact with people online.

For those of you who maybe don’t know Jibe, I just want to spend a quick second talking about the company here that I work for. We’re really focused on the candidate experience challenge. Our software, our company, we are just super laser-focused on empowering candidates to enjoy what we call a consumer user experience every time they interact with our client’s brand. Whenever a candidate hits your career site, they should have an awesome experience. And if they do, the clients that we work with typically enjoy a larger pipeline of qualified candidates, and jobs will get filled faster. We’re the only technology out there that allows us to provide this on top of existing ATS technology.

The focus of this presentation today is very synergistic with that Jibe mission statement that I just read – as a company, investing less in the ATS and more in the front-end. We’re going to try to explore the relationship between recruiting and a company’s applicant tracking system. Typically, when I go visit clients and I talk to people, I’m lucky enough that I get to spend a lot of time out on the road talking to clients and one question that I ask them all the time is, “Do you love your applicant tracking system?” I don’t think it’s a big shock for any of the folks who are out there to think about that most people do not love their applicant tracking system.

At our organization, we try to quantify that a little bit. We asked a few thousand HR professionals. We do this on a regular basis. Two-thirds of the HR professionals that we surveyed really expressed serious dissatisfaction with their applicant tracking system. The responses as to why that was ranged from “It was difficult for me to get information out,” “It was cumbersome,” “It was slow.” Mobile support on many of the applicant tracking systems in the enterprise organizations that Jibe works with are nonexistent. And shockingly for us, I think one of the most interesting questions that I had is people actually thought that the applicant tracking system was actually more of a hindrance than it was something that was a productivity tool.

It’s easy for us to think about how folks could be challenged using the applicant tracking systems that they own, but it also makes me think about that the applicant tracking system is such a core system. Every single account that we work with, every single large organization that we partner with, has an applicant tracking system. And they’re investing a significant amount of dollars and effort to support that applicant tracking system. Yet how did we get to a place, as an industry, where the core system is seen as a bottleneck? If that doesn’t make sense to people, I think that’s really the topic that we’re going to discuss and we’re going to explore here today. How did this thing that sits at the absolute epicenter of the recruiting and talent acquisition world become such a bottleneck?

I think one perspective that I often talk to clients about is that the applicant tracking system at its core is what I would call a system of record. So, it is back office software. It is intended to store information. I think that when you go out and you talk to all of the applicant tracking system vendors that are out there, they have a pretty consistent set of capabilities that they promote. And at the end of the day, they are fairly the same of most of the different applicant tracking system vendor technologies.

There’s some workflow technology that is part of the applicant tracking system. There’s clearly a way to post jobs and take in resumes. There’s a way for you to communicate with candidates, manage the interview process, and manage the on-boarding and hiring process. But most of the capabilities of an applicant tracking system are fundamentally connected to the idea of a workflow or a process. And when we think about systems in general that are good at process and workflow, we think of a system that is fundamentally designed to store information.

Now, I think that in a world where we spend lots of time thinking about the systems that govern our behavior and we spend a lot of effort trying to optimize those systems, we do all kind of realize that systems have a personality. They have a core mission. Sometimes I like to refer to it as, what’s their DNA? What are they built to do? And I think that today’s applicant tracking systems really are a system of record. DNA is meant to store information and potentially have a workflow of that information.

I just want to compare and contrast that to many of the popular technologies that consumers use on a daily basis. Every day, we are using social media tools, ecommerce technology, popular consumer websites, and news and information sources. And these systems, these websites, these apps that we have on our phones, they’re all intended to engage us. They want us to be thrilled. They want us to learn things. They want us to understand more about the world around us or what our friends are doing or what people out there are experiencing at a given point in time. It’s optimized for that function, for consumers and users to engage with it.

I would hope that it isn’t too much of a big translation for folks who are listening in to think about how designing a system of record versus designing a system of engagement is fundamentally different. I think at the heart of that question is why you need to invest less in your ATS and more in your front-end. Because if we’re going to make recruiting better and one of the things that I think is pretty universal is that every big company that I talk to, every organization that we’re engaged with and we’re working with, fundamentally wants to improve the way that they recruit talent. I think as we sit here in 2015, we all understand. We’ve heard all about the war for talent and how talent is harder to get than ever before. I think as we live in these times today, putting the right employees into an organization is a fundamental and important activity that defines sometimes the success or failure of that organization. And if we’re going to improve that function, we have to invest in these systems of engagement, these front-end systems, and not so much in the workflow.

I think that it’s pretty fair to say that when we say improving the front-end, what we really mean is the candidate experience. This is fundamentally where, as an organization, we spend most of our time really, really focused on, because we think that the candidate experience is an important proxy for the health of a recruiting organization. You’re only as good as your candidate experience.

You know, what’s amazing for me is that I work in the technology business. I’ve worked in a software company. I spend all day in front of my computer. But I was recently on vacation with four teenagers, and for the week I spent with them, I realized one thing is that their mobile phones are never very far away from their hands, not for a moment. And I walk down the street here in New York City where I live and work, and I realize that everybody is looking down at their phones. When I take the subway to work, everyone is looking down at their phones. We’re engaged with online services all day long. I think everybody would agree with that.

What I think, though, is more amazing about that is how awesome that experience is most of the time. The apps that we use on our phones, the websites that we use on our computers, the experience is pretty amazing. I feel like I am using my mobile phone more and more. And I’ve really started to think about my mobile phone as the ultimate engagement device.

I say this with all of the tongue-in-cheek that it implies, but people love their phones. We wrap them in personalized cases that express our personality. We meticulously organize the apps on our phone so that we can use them and really think about which apps we want to use the most. We customize the backgrounds of our phones, again, to make sure that it reflects who we are and it projects a certain characteristic about who we are.

And if we want to talk about, organizationally, what the candidate experience is and how people are searching and looking and applying for jobs, we better embrace the fact that a majority of those activities are taking place on a mobile phone. So, for the rest of the presentation, I’m not going to differentiate between a PC and a mobile phone, because from a Jibe perspective, and I think from the industry’s perspective, it really is one and the same. It should be the same experience regardless of what device you happen to be on.

I may have mentioned this already, but I just want to reiterate that when we’re online today, the experience is amazing. Whether it’s paying my American Express bill or my online banking or when I use social media or when I consume digital media, it doesn’t matter. The experience that we have when we use these devices and we use these services is amazing. And I think that a younger generation, younger than myself, they were raised in this environment, where every single online experience is awesome and beautiful and finely tuned to who they are. And it becomes just a huge extension of who they are, as a generation.

And yet as an industry, the industry that I work in is fundamentally stuck in what I call the pre-iPhone era. And what I mean by that is that the corporate career sites of many of the large organizations that Jibe works with are not that good. The user experience is clumsy. The mobile support is nonexistent. It’s one of the last bastions on the internet, where the mobile experience is really substandard. Branding is another one that drives me crazy. It feels like talent acquisition is literally the last place on the internet where it is okay to change brands on the user in the middle of the process.

And I think you can all appreciate this, because some of you are actually doing this on your corporate career sites. You spent a lot of money and you hired a designer to build you your homepage, and there’s links to all these great information sites. And the candidate goes to try to actually look for a job, they go to apply, and all of a sudden, the experience changes. It doesn’t work on mobile. The brand changes. And that context-switching for candidates while they’re in the midst of the process is really not something that has been standard in the industry of online services for at least 10 years. So, we are stuck in a context of really before the iPhone came out.

And that’s a shame, right? I think it’s a shame because it reflects poorly on you, as an organization, on your brand. It’s the very first time that a candidate will experience and interact with your organization and your brand, and we’re offering a clumsy user experience that doesn’t work really well on mobile and has potentially bad branding. And I think that this really is the root cause of many of the frustrations and challenges that talent acquisition and recruiting professionals face on a day-to-day basis. Lengthy delays in filling critical positions, hiring managers who potentially are upset or frustrated and don’t have nice things to say, a sense, because it’s hard to really gauge, that we’re not getting those passive candidates to engage with us. And worse, I think, is that poor brand perception.

We hear this every day. I was recently in San Diego at a conference, where I got to speak to probably about 50 talent acquisition leaders from a whole bunch of different industries. Typically, when you go to these conferences, somebody will say, “Oh, well, what does your company do?” I would say something like, “The experience on most corporate career sites is pretty bad, and we’re on a mission to fix that.” And they would universally say, “Yeah. It really is.” There was an agreement there. There was a resignation, almost, of the ability to fix it. They were agreeing that it was bad, and they were struggling with what to do about that.

The challenge that I have for our industry, if we’re going to change talent acquisition for the better, if we’re going to fundamentally change the way we bring talent into our organizations, we have to start thinking like the consumer web.

I love this picture that you see in front of you. What I did was I went into the Wayback Machine. There’s a thing called the Internet Archive, which allows you to look back in time and see what a particular homepage or webpage looked like on a specific day in history. And I go back to 2006, before the iPhone was invented, and there was this little company called Amazon. And they were selling stuff online, and they were just expanding beyond books.

I look at that website today, and I realize that, yes, the design of the webpage and the technology that we use to display webpages has improved dramatically. But I also realize that the folks at Amazon are building a user experience that optimizes my shopping. It is recommending things to me that they believe that I would want. It’s allowing me to observe what other people who are like me believe are reviews of particular products that I’m interested in. It’s allowing me to interact with a whole broad network of resellers of goods and services through their site. And I feel like I enjoy the process of giving Amazon my money.

And so my challenge for everybody who’s listening in today is, has your candidate experience evolved to meet the expectations of people, what I call the “digital natives,” the people who grew up with the internet and who live on and have that amazing experience? Have you evolved? Have you done enough to make sure that the experience that they have is as good as it could be, as it should be? Because I think if the answer is no, it may be a real reason why recruiting is not really working yet for your organization.

I’m just going to spend the last few minutes of this presentation talking about what I think a consumer-oriented candidate experience would be and what that looks like. So, number one is it starts with search.

We’ve grown up with Google for the last 20 years. And we have been engrained to think something in our brains and type it into a Google search box, knowing that that’s a legitimate first step on any activity that we want to do online. Whether we want to find information, buy something, or amuse our friends, we start with Google. And yet, as an industry, we have ceded the top of the Google rankings to the two aggregators.

For so many companies that we start working with, if I type in “marketing jobs at Company X” into a Google search, other third-party companies, people who are collecting information about open positions and displaying them in some job board, those are the companies that get listed first. So, number one, if you talk about consumer-oriented experience, is the candidates out there need to be able to find your jobs through the popular search engines. So, that’s number one. Have you optimized your landing pages and homepages for search?

And extrapolating the whole notion of search as a primary navigational vehicle of the internet, once somebody actually finds your corporate site, whether that be through your corporate site, your public-facing website and there’s always a “Careers” link, they click on “Careers,” they end up on your career page, once they’re there, the thing that they’re going to want to do is search for a job. That’s why they’re there. They want to know what jobs are open.

So, are you publishing those jobs and those requisitions in a way that makes it easy? Are you making the search capabilities on your website work the way that consumer-oriented search works? Is it fast? Does it make suggestions to me? Because that’s the way that most search engines work today, and that’s what consumers are looking to believe, or are you giving them a chance to get frustrated and leave your site before they even get to a potential page? And am I allowing the user to control the way that I communicate as a career site with them?

One of the vehicles that we talk about a lot is the notion of notifications. We live in an era where notifications are a very significant communications vehicle. Are we allowing job-seekers to sign up for notifications right on the website? So, if I search for marketing jobs in New York City, and I don’t find the particular job that I want, can I just leave you my email address, and then you reach back out to me when a marketing job in New York City opens up? Or if I’m just interested in marketing jobs at your company, can I register my intent and you share that information back with me?

So, are we offering the candidate enough vehicles so that they feel like they’re in control? Because the model where candidates apply for jobs and never hear back, which we all know comprises a huge, huge percentage of all the job applications that we do get in, that candidate experience is not good. And that open-endedness is not good for clients. And we give them no ability to customize that experience. So, this is the way the consumer internet works, where people can customize the way that they want to be talked to and how they want to be communicated with. And are you actually doing that for your job candidates and job seekers?

And, organizationally, are you allowing people to just say, “Hey, I just want to work with your organization, because I like who you are, I enjoy your brand, I enjoy your products or services. I think you’re a cool company. You’re a cool company in the city that I live.” And are you giving them that talent network that just says, “Hey, here’s who I am, and when you have a job that makes sense for me, let me know.”

Because I do believe fundamentally that the notion of the job board, the advertising, and the “Apply Now” paradigm, which has existed since the internet took over recruiting 20 years ago, is really the vestige of a bygone era. Because I believe that the future of talent acquisition is going to be registering intent for a particular company, because I’m interested in who they are and what they do, and then machines are going to connect people based on their profiles. So, are you offering the candidate that kind of choice?

And are you optimizing the experience for mobile? I talk to clients a lot about this, and I challenge them to think about what is the weakest link in the mobile chain. Because I will tell you this. We do a lot of data analytics here at Jibe and we host a lot of job applications at Jibe, and universally, across every industry, across every type of ATS, across every type of company, big or small, the moment that you stop optimizing your process for mobile, mobile users leave. And that comprises, 40% of every single session on the internet is run off a mobile device. A third of all the people out there in the world only access the internet through a mobile device.

From an end-to-end perspective, have you optimized every single step of the process for the mobile? Because if you haven’t, you will lose every single mobile job-seeker who’s out there. And the statistics show that 80% of people want to search for a job on their mobile, 70% want to apply for that job on that mobile. And if you’re not supporting mobile end-to-end, you’re going to lose them. Think about native, out-of-the-box applicant tracking systems and what their mobile experience is like, and ask yourself if you would apply for this job, or if you even could apply for this job on your mobile phone, because I think the answer is going to be no.

So, if you really fundamentally want to transform your recruiting and adapt your organization to the future, and you really do want to think about how your organization can fill jobs quicker, have a bigger pipeline, have happier hiring managers, then ask yourself the very simple question, which is, what is your candidate’s experience today and how can you improve it? And investment in the front-end of the process, investment in your candidate experience will have a huge impact on the bottom line for your organization.

I really, really want to thank you for the time today. If you really want to find out more about us as an organization, you can find out more at It stands for “candidate experience.” If you want to ask us some questions, I urge you to go to @Jibe, which is our Twitter handle, and use the hashtag, #talentinsights. We will be online, and we’re going to respond to folks who ask a question. So, again, if you have a question, it is the @Jibe handle, and our hashtag for today’s event is #talentinsights. We look forward to your questions. We look forward to everybody reaching out to us on Twitter and continuing this conversation, because we think it’s a really important one that can make a huge impact on your organization. Thanks a lot, guys, and have a great day.