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ATS + AI: Using Talent Intelligence to Unlock the Potential of Candidates
What is talent intelligence? And how can it help drive the right candidates into your company’s talent funnel?
An applicant tracking system provides the foundation for many corporate talent acquisition departments. These applicant tracking systems do what the name implies: they track applicants. They also store information such as resumes, perform keyword searches, help companies with government rules, etc. And to that end, they do the job.
And yet, many companies need more.
The reality is that companies design ATSs to hire people who’ve done a job similar to one that’s open today. But for the companies whose businesses are changing rapidly, hiring someone based on specific experience isn’t sufficient. Take, for example, this quote from the recent 2021 HR Tech Market report from the analyst Josh Bersin:
“I recently interviewed the head of talent acquisition for a large pharma company. She told me that the science of genetics is advancing so fast that they can no longer recruit for specific positions or jobs. Rather, her teams now look for people with advanced scientific expertise and recruit them into jobs needing these skills. This is a big trend in AI, machine learning, and cyber, where the core disciplines are advancing so fast that companies can’t hire for specific positions.”
Like this pharma company, many employers need to be future-ready. They need to hire for jobs that haven’t been created yet. So they need to hire people for potential and capabilities – not experience. Their ATS is not enough.
ATS + AI = Talent Intelligence
A system of talent intelligence, on the other hand, is designed to hire for potential. It considers an applicant’s “adjacent skills” – enabling them to succeed in an open role.
Here are some of what companies can do by pairing an ATS with artificial intelligence:
Add Deep-learning AI to Searches
Adding the deep-learning capabilities of AI to searches helps bring people with the potential to do the job to the surface. By identifying adjacent skills and delivering far more relevant profiles, an employer increases the number of qualified candidates in their talent pipeline.
Use AI to Enable Talent Rediscovery
AI helps find people in a “Talent Network,” which includes past applicants, employee referrals, and “silver medalists” who may not have been a fit before but are now. We’ve found that companies that pair AI with an applicant tracking system find that roughly one-third of new hires coming from past applicants.
Building a Talent Network
A Talent Network is more than a database of past applicants. It can include employee referrals, ex-employees, and even current employees. In fact, we’ve seen from our customers that a Talent Network averages roughly about 200 times the number of employees at a company. So, as a rule of thumb, if you have 10,000 employees, you have something on the order of a 2 million person Talent Network when pairing an ATS with a capable AI platform. And more data equals better search results and more qualified candidates.
With AI, companies can see who the strongest matches are for any job, regardless of whether these matches are past applicants, ex-employees, passive/sourced employees, or referrals with the potential to succeed. This saves time and improves quality of hire. Postmates turned to a talent intelligence platform and saw a 46 percent increase in strongly matched candidates between September 2019 and September 2020.
Focus on Skills, Not Jobs
An AI platform understands the capabilities, including current skills and learnable skills, of every individual. Without this, with just an ATS, companies often default to “who has done the exact job we’re hiring for” based on antiquated keyword searches.
Personalize a Career Site
Within a career site powered by talent intelligence, candidates can immediately find the right job for them. They’ll also understand the reasons why that job is a fit for their qualifications and potential. This improves engagement and measurably lowers drop-off rates. Companies can also add a chatbot to improve the candidate experience and handle employee queries more efficiently.
At AirAsia, for example, the percentage of recruiting website visitors who eventually applied for a position rose 35 percent after adding talent intelligence to its career site. At Dexcom’s career site, 40 percent of career site visitors now apply for a job, and 42 percent upload a resume.
Rarely does an applicant tracking system come equipped with the kind of technology you find in leading sales and marketing platforms. (Heck, many of the CRM systems made for the talent industry are lacking as well.) The ATS-AI combination, though, nurtures candidates in a pipeline based on their interests and delivers content of interest to them. Veterans, for example, can receive blog posts or company information about a company’s work with veterans and the military. Nutanix has seen a 70 percent open rate with some of its targeted campaigns.
NextRoll decided to sponsor the Grace Hopper Celebration, an annual event that draws thousands of women who want to pursue a career in engineering. It sent emails to all women engineers in its database of potential candidates, saying NextRoll would be at the conference. “We got an incredible response that greatly exceeded our expectations,” Global Head of Talent Jody Atkins recalls. “People came up to us and said they received our email and wanted to seek us out. That was really rewarding. And it helped our employer branding, which was the goal of going to the conference.”
Conference sponsors received an electronic book of resumes from all attendees. In the end, NextRoll uploaded more than 10,000 resumes.
NextRoll has also tailored contacts with individuals identified as high-potential candidates. “You have to engage people multiple times if you want to attract them to your company,” Atkins says. “Our engineers are encouraged to write blogs, and we use Eightfold to identify the subset of people in our database who would be interested in the subject of each blog.”
Companies like Postmates also have seen huge improvements in the diversity of their job applicants after combining AI with an ATS and hiring for potential. Postmates increased Black, Hispanic, and female applicants sharply, the latter by 91 percent between September 2019 and September 2020.
Run Virtual Events and Hire Virtually
Virtual and in-person events are just so much more effective with the AI-ATS combination; it allows companies to spend their event time on the people who are strong matches for your jobs. AirAsia said that “Virtual Event Recruiting improved our recruiter’s efficiency and the quality of candidates through AI-enabled candidate matching. It was a single place to review and manage registration, assessment, and candidate experience.”
When asked to break down how they spend their days, many recruiters will tell you they wished they were doing a lot more… recruiting. Instead, recruiters get bogged down coordinating schedules. Adding an AI-based interview-scheduling system to an applicant tracking system frees recruiters up to do what’s most valuable and more fulfilling:
- AirAsia cut recruiters’ coordination time by about 48 percent
- Conagra told us it has given “time back to recruiters to allow them to be true advisors to our business leaders.”
- COIT Group said it has “freed up the recruiters to focus on the part where the human element’s important and allow them to go in and eliminate having to spend all day looking through that database for pockets of gold.”
Augmenting your ATS with the right platform offers ready-to-use, real-time reporting for diversity, CRM, recruiting pipeline, and other talent functions. So, with some legacy systems, a company may just see that it has a “diversity problem” if it can determine how many women, to take one example, work at different levels of the company. You can hone in on the problem with talent intelligence: are people from under-represented groups dropping off at the screening stage? The interview? Not accepting offers? In which departments/managers is the problem the worst? In the end, identifying the specific problem helps get to a solution.
Pair Your ATS with AI
The bottom line is that, for the most part, an ATS actually does do what humans designed it to do. By definition, it’s a system of tracking and storage that relies on keyword matching based on the candidate’s experience. However, it is not a talent intelligence system – one that provides the ability to hire based on adjacent skills, as-yet untapped potential, and capabilities.
Pairing an ATS with AI – and creating a talent intelligence platform – can dramatically increase your return on investment. And it can drive the right candidates into your talent funnel. Yes, even for jobs that didn’t exist until now.