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ATS Feature Hell

Maintaining a platform with decades of unused features, or multiple features providing the same end to a means, or a pile of feature dropdowns leading to a totally unusable system is leading indicators you possibly reside in "Feature Hell".

A well-designed, user-friendly ATS is a little like trying to find Sasquatch. It apparently exists, but really hard to find. Well, lucky for you, Chad & Cheese have nabbed Bigfoot, metaphorically that is. Meet Lital Sherman, Head of Experience Design at PageUp, who agreed to sit down with the boys for a few and chat applicant tracking design dos and don'ts. Dig into testing, mobile, and feature hell with us, won't you?

Matching candidates to jobs shouldn't be Hell either, which is why you need Sovren as your parsing and matching partner. Visit, tell them Chad & Cheese sent you and to send us more bourbon. We're almost out!


INTRO (1s):

Hide your kids! Lock the doors! You're listening to HR’s most dangerous podcast. Chad Sowash and Joel Cheeseman are here to punch the recruiting industry, right where it hurts! Complete with breaking news, brash opinion and loads of snark, buckle up boys and girls, it's time for the Chad and Cheese podcast.

Joel (19s):

Oh yeah. Good day, mate. We have another Australian on the line because, well, God damn it, that's happy hour in the U S and Chad and I are fully drunk. Welcome everybody to the Chad and Cheese podcast. I'm your cohost Joel Cheeseman joined as always by my companion partner. Handmade, homemade Chad Sowash.

Chad (41s):


Joel (42s):

Today is Lital Sherman Head of Experience Design at PageUp a popular applicant tracking system because they're well-known for their design out there and Australia. Let's all welcome to the show. Good to have you.

Chad (56s):

Now that, that is one heck of a title, head of experience design I wouldn't even know who the hell you report to at that point. Are you floating out there? Who do you report to?

Lital (1m 9s):

That is really a good question. So I report to the CIO and hello by the way guys. And basically our department called the product, right? So the CIO is not the Chief Product Officer. He is the CIO, so he managed product, design, and engineering. So all of us were work together. And the good thing about it is that I think traditionally design is they reported into marketing or into product. So head of PR, head of design or design managers were reporting into the head of product, but at Page Up, Head of Product, Head of Design and Head of Technology are all kind of equal.

Lital (1m 52s):

So we have equal voice. And, you know, we argue a lot every day, which is awesome.

Joel (1m 57s):

Lovely, lovely.

Lital (1m 59s):

And as an Israeli, I always win.

Chad (2m 2s):

Take it by force. Always taking it by force.

Lital (2m 9s):

Just joking.

Chad (2m 10s):

And that is interesting because it sounds like you have to be in a, more of a collaborative model in that kind of a setup.

Lital (2m 16s):

Exactly. Yes. Yes. So we actually done kind of is our restructure transformation about a year and a half ago. And what we've done, there is really kind of to change the way our product development teams are working, the way they're working, the way they solve problem to customers and also the structure of those teams. So every team is being led by what we call the three amigo or the trio is probably a more known term, which is,

Chad (2m 47s):

I love it!

Lital (2m 48s):

No I'm serious, which is a Senior Product Manager, a Senior UX Designer and a Senior Tech Lead. So they are leading the teams one of them obviously have their own responsibilities, but together they basically make all this strategic decisions for the team then to operate on those things.

Chad (3m 8s):

Have you seen that movie though, the Three Amigos, do you know what the reference was?

Lital (3m 15s):

I don't know. I'm not sure.

Joel (3m 18s):

She's much younger than you are by the way Chad.

Lital (3m 22s):

I'm not sure.

Joel (3m 23s):

So Lital, your background is not, you know, rooted in HR. You've worked in consumer sites and sort of traditional sexier design projects. I got to know what was your first impression? I can't think of anything less sexy than an applicant tracking system. Like what was your first impression? What was the hook that got you into this industry? Like talk about that. Cause I'm mesmerized.

Lital (3m 51s):

Yes. Well, I have to say, I haven't seen ATS that is sexy or good looking or has a delightful experience. So yes, that is not, but for me, honestly, I will choose a role because of the culture of the company, way more because of the product itself. And I love going into, you know, challenging roles when you see that something is actually not so great. And I really have a really great impact that I can, you know, support the company.

Joel (4m 25s):

Yeah. Were there a few, Oh my God. Moments, like in terms of design when you looked at these ATS and said, I cannot believe that you're doing this, this and this. Absolutely. Is there a one or two that stand out?

Lital (4m 37s):

Because, you know, as a job seeker in the past, probably the apply. So the application system for candidates is just horrific with every ATS that I've seen, ever. And I applied for a lot of jobs in the past when I was looking for jobs, but also I applied for jobs just to see how competitors are operating. And they're all pretty crappy, you know, and that's really tactical with the candidate experience. How can we make it better? Why do we need all this information, that we ask for candidates? How can we make it just easier for people to use and apply quickly to a job? When, you know, usually when someone is looking for a job, they will apply to 20, 30, a hundred jobs sometime, how can we just make it a little bit better?

Lital (5m 22s):

But for me, I really, it was a really good opportunity to join a company that is working on something completely new. I like my challenges and I like moving around the industries. I don't like to stay in one industry and say, Oh, I know everything here, learning new stuff. And B2B was also new to me. So, you know, working with businesses, it is the way more challenging than working with consumers, but I love it. It's interesting. It is honestly interesting.

Chad (5m 50s):

Basic expectations and HR, are just HR, talent acquisition, the actual recruiting process. There they are met because it's not quick. It always asks me to create an account when there's no reason I need to create a goddamned account, it doesn't ask me for the same info or it does. It continues to ask me for the same info over and over and over. It takes 10 to 20 minutes and it sends me into a black hole. So the, the whole experience like defies the gravity of just basic expectations. So I can see why this would be kind of like an allure to you because there are so much that you could fix.

Chad (6m 34s):

There are so many challenges, but the question is, why is it that way in the first place?

Lital (6m 39s):

Well, I can tell you what, just from what I know. So traditionally, you know, those businesses exist for many, many years and businesses. Like most businesses are being, you know, developed and managed by engineers and sorry, I love engineers, but to be honest, they don't really care about experiences or they don't have the knowledge to design a good experience. Most, most companies, you know, they start especially B2B, adding more and more and more and more and more features because clients are requesting those features. So they have a backlog and a list of all the features that all those, you know, let's say 20 customers at the beginning are requesting and I get what they do that right?

Chad (7m 21s):

To make money?

Lital (7m 22s):

Yeah, exactly. And they want to sell it because you know, it's okay, they'll pay for it. Also, let's just add another feature and another feature and another feature and another feature. And sometime you will have, you know, three ways to do the same task. It's just confusing. And then a user will see the system and like, okay, I don't know what I need to do now, do I need to use this feature or this feature, you know, to complete the same test. So this is a lot to know what we call a feature hell or experience rot. When you basically have no idea, what is the next step that you need to do, which is crazy. Now PageUp, like, you know, other ATSs exists for the company exist for 22 years, the ATS exists for something like 17 years.

Lital (8m 6s):

So, you know, of course we have a lot of kind of tech death and legacy systems that, you know, people added more and more features over time. My job with my team is really to fix it. So to find those opportunities of where we see the most value for customers or for the users, what can we change or remove or add, you know, whatever feature or we just completely redesigned the experience to give them a much better experience, because it's really all about the experience, right? If people are not using the system because they want to use the system, okay.

Chad (8m 42s):

Some companies that are pliable and they'll allow that, but this accumulation of all of these, these features or these questions are just this big ball of a massive years of condensing features into a which creates just a horrible experience overall. It's like going into a room where you just go ahead and just throw everything instead of organizing it or getting rid of stuff. Right? So we become feature hoarders. The question is, do you talk to companies, company by company to try to help them with their actual design? Or is this more of a strategic effort from the top down to create a better experience for all organizations?

Chad (9m 28s):

And then how do you manage that from a client standpoint?

Lital (9m 32s):

Yeah. So what do I do? I work more with a team on the strategy. So, you know, we identify those opportunities and sit, and then we say, okay, we'll really need to fix it to all of our customers. Like we have about 400 plus customers. We can't work with each one of them individually and design their own experience because, you know, it's not sustainable. It's not going to work. So for us, for the product design team is really about identifying those opportunities and obviously giving some flexibility to the clients so they can, you know, bring their own templates, create their own workflow, whatever they want to do within the boundaries that we are giving them.

Lital (10m 15s):

Now, of course not every customer will be happy when you change a feature. That's just to given people don't like changes, so we need to work with them on that. And this is where we work with our customer success managers, our account executive, our support team and so on. So they can support those, those clients and take them through the journey of this is what we change, this is the reason why we changed it, give it a go, give us your feedback. So we work a lot with customers in my team, but it's more about interviewing them, really understanding, you know, their needs, their expectations. We adopted what we call jobs to be done. I didn't know if you ever heard about that, but this is a way to discover and really understand, you know, the core job that the customers are trying to get done when they're using a product or assist them or a service.

Lital (11m 8s):

And they'll just say yes to every feature request. And obviously in our industry, customers will request features all the time because this is what they think they need. And, but sometimes the feature that they're asking for is not really the best solution for the problem. So we are there to identify where the problem is and to identify the top problems for the majority of our clients, and then to solve it in the best way possible.

Joel (11m 37s):

You talk about feedback from clients, and that's obviously an important piece of it. I'm curious about the testing side of things, because I think most companies or ATSs in general in terms of testing, you know, maybe they give it to a couple of people in the office or the engineers kind of QA. But I think the best way to do it is to actually have people that are really, you know, 30,000 feet away from the product and bring them in and say, okay, how do you do this and do this and give them instruction, talk about how you test new features and new designs before you roll them out to the public.

Lital (12m 12s):

Yes. So we do what we call usability testing. So usability testing is really bringing people and, you know, the users that we expect to use a system and share the prototype. So it's all about prototype. It's not coded yet, the solution is not coded cause once it's coded, it's really hard to change it and you basically give them a task. You don't tell them what to do, you just tell them, okay, well, you know, change the status of five candidates from this to this, go ahead, show me how you do that. You also tell them, obviously that everything that they do is absolutely a great, and we're not testing them, we're testing our solution and please explain to us what you do.

Lital (12m 53s):

So really want to understand their thinking and they're habits of how they complete tasks. So this is one thing, and also we have that, you know, what we call alpha release and beta release when we put solutions in front of a subset of users and we basically tell them, okay, go ahead, have a play with that and tell us what you think. So we have there, kind of a window for them to give us their feedback. And this is really helpful because sometimes what we think and what we, you know, working at PageUp. So it doesn't matter who you are and to your point before when we test it internally and for us, it's absolutely amazing and awesome. It really doesn't mean that the user will like it or will understand what we're trying to do.

Joel (13m 35s):

You triggered something and I didn't even think about like, so you're testing for both the customer side as well as the job seeker side, correct? Yes. What percentage is which, which is more important, is it equally distributed on the customer side? Like, do you randomly select customers to test? Talk about that process.

Lital (13m 53s):

You know, we have different what we call archetypes also of customers. So it's not just about the industry, but also those people themselves, what are their roles and what are their jobs to be done? So we have the recruiter, we have the hiring manager, we have the supervisor, we have the buyer as well. We are doing discovery with all of them, and it depends on what we're trying to achieve. So with a buyer, obviously we want to see if someone will buy our new product. For example, we have some features or some solutions that are just for hiring managers, for example. So I don't want to get the feedback from the super user on what they think their hiring managers need.

Lital (14m 33s):

I want to get the perspective of the actual hiring manager and they rarely use the system. So for them to use a new feature or an existing feature is much harder than someone that is in the system on a day-to-day basis. And their expectation will be completely different. They want something super quick. They just want to complete the task as soon as they can, they don't want to go somewhere and start thinking, okay, okay, why do I need to do here? So that will be different as well. So with the percentage and everything, it totally depends on the feature that we, or the product or, you know, what the problems that we're trying to solve if it's around the hiring managers. So we will recruit hiring managers to, you know, for interview and usability test.

Lital (15m 16s):

And if it's for recorders, we'll do it for the recorders. If it's for candidates, we'll do it for candidates and so on.

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Chad (16m 24s):

It's show time. So when you're talking about getting into feature hell, which is the years and years of piling features on top of features, and you have recruiters like a handful of recruiters who say they like certain features, and then obviously the sales people have these anecdotal instances in which, Hey, you can't take that feature away because my client or our clients will leave us. And that scares the shit out of everybody because that's that's revenue. Do you guys do any type of internal, I guess I would say analytics on the usage of all of these features to be able to demonstrate internally and externally why you're making certain changes?

Chad (17m 6s):

Not just because you wanted to, but from a usability standpoint, it just made sense.

Lital (17m 12s):

Yes, yes, absolutely. So we use data in pretty much everything. We will use the kind of product usage data, the customer satisfaction on different experiences and also the qualitative data that is more about the interviews that we do. And we do interviews all the time with customers. We do what we call ongoing or continuous discovery. So we always want to reach out to customers and to have one-on-one interview with them. And this will be my team doing that. So the, the designers or our UX research in the team will do that. And it's really more about understanding why. All right. So it's all about the why, why are you trying to do something?

Lital (17m 52s):

Why are you trying to, you know, change

Chad (17m 55s):

To understand the problem is really the key, right?

Lital (17m 58s):

Exactly. Yeah. And, and you know what I said before that, if, for example, you have three different features that are doing the same thing. You want to look at the data and understand which one of those features is being mostly used. And also why, why, why the other features are not being used. And if they're not being used, maybe because, you know, one customer requested in the past, but then, you know, you have two customers using it. So we don't want to keep it there. Why? Because you need to maintain the future. And also it create, you know, the future hell. So how can we remove this feature? And if you have someone, you know, scream and say, no, we can't do that. So, you know, we just need to have a conversation and we work really well in collaboration and say, okay, let's reach out to the customer and see if we can change their behavior and move them from this feature to another feature?

Lital (18m 49s):

Yeah. And it happens a lot, like, you know, changing experiences is not easy, but, but it can be done.

Joel (18m 54s):

Well, we see a ton of fluff in branding, you know? So does it, does a system really need to be cosmetically appealing to be more delightful or to provide a much better experience?

Lital (19m 9s):

It will be nice for it to be, you know, pretty, but I don't think that's the most important thing. It should be functional. It should be easy. It should be, it should make sense. I need to go slower and say, okay, this is exactly what I need to do here. Whatever amount of steps that I need to take, but I know exactly, you know, what are the steps that I need to take and what is the experience? And I need to say that when I completed a task, I want to get something from this system, right? Like a confirmation, a success match message or something yet, your task has been completed. Great, awesome. That's what I need.

Joel (19m 44s):

So what's more important to be intuitive or to be beautiful?

Lital (19m 48s):

Oh, intuitive, by far. Beauty is a delight, you know, add to experience this, but it's really all about the usability of, you know, of the experience, of the feature.

Joel (20m 3s):

And lucky for me, I'm both. Alright Lital, you mentioned data, and I'm curious about sort of the variety of platforms that are being used to search for jobs. And we talk to a lot of people that, that highlight mobile as a way that a lot of job seekers, and I assume customers as well are interacting with the site. So talk about design for mobile. What sort of focuses do you have? Are you looking at watch design and wearables? And most importantly, when is the PageUp virtual reality product coming to market?

Chad (20m 40s):


Lital (20m 41s):

To your last question, you know, so-and-so in any day now. But with wearable, no, we're not doing that yet. You know, that's kind of a gimmick, but I don't know if it's really relevant to watch. We do. However, with mobile, yes. We design mobile first with every, you know, new feature, new products that we're designing now, it always has to be responsive, mobile, friendly, accessible, usable. We have a design system, we have guidelines. We have all, we have all of that. So we don't need to think about any new feature, you know, to re-design it from scratch. We already have all those components in a library.

Lital (21m 23s):

So basically a designer or a developer can just grab those components from the design system and just create something that will be just, you know, great.

Joel (21m 34s):

What kind of traffic numbers are we seeing on mobile versus desktop? And I know you have a variety of customers. You have a lot of colleges, I know that you work with here in the States. So that's certainly a, a unique audience, I assume much younger in terms of searching for jobs in many cases. So data-wise, what are you seeing in terms of mobile versus others? And as far as I can see, you don't have a native mobile presence. So there's no iOS app, no Android app was at a decision based on data, or is that something that'll be coming for the customer side of things?

Lital (22m 8s):

We have two apps for the learning and performance models that we have, but we don't have for the recruitment, I would say with the admins, so recruiters. And so, and that the vast majority are doing it on a desktop. So, you know, it's kind of a complicated system. It will be very difficult to, you know, to do what they need to do on their mobile. And also I would expect that most HR people will have a computer so they can, that they can work with. It will be more for the candidates, but that's a tricky question for you, the numbers.

Lital (22m 48s):

And honestly, I have to say that I'm not sure, but it is increasing that, you know, more and more candidates obviously are applying via the mobile and looking at offers, accepting offers, reviewing them and so on a <inaudible> buttons.

Chad (23m 0s):

Well, on the high volume side of the house, I would assume that, and I'm not sure if PageUp is working with a bunch of high volume types of customers or not, but I would assume, and we're seeing this at least here in the States that not just for the candidates, because they really need to get through the application process fast, but also for those managers who are looking to hire having mobile apps to make their process much quicker as well. Do you guys work with high volume that much, or is it really just more steady corporates, white collar types of positions that you guys are, or at least designing for.

Lital (23m 41s):

We have a mix? So we do have high volume, let's say, especially in retail and so on. And that's exactly right. We have, you know, store managers, for example, they don't necessarily have a computer. So they usually use tablets or their mobile phone. So everything with the hiring managers, so hiring manager experience will be slightly different mostly than the recruiter experience. So everything that we do is mobile friendly and mobile first, but I would say that it's, especially, we do it for hiring managers and candidates.

Chad (24m 18s):

Okay. So quick question, I'm always hearing that experience equals speed. So if you have speed, then you have great experience. Is that the case? Is that, is that something that you think about in design is always speed or is it really case by case?

Lital (24m 36s):

So I don't agree with the statement. I don't think that speed and experienced are equal. I think it totally depends on what you're trying to achieve here. And also, what do you mean by speed? So speed of the system performance of the system. Yes. Sure. Yep. You want to, you want it to be, to be quick and fast, but to know from someone that is using the system, I would say, overall, if you look at, the ultimate job to be done, yeah, you want to be quicker and more efficient in your decision-making when you know, you choose a candidate and hire them and so on, but it doesn't necessarily mean that you need to, you know, to complete a task in three steps. That's, you know, you can't do that and I disagree with this rule, cause I heard that like, everything needs to be three to three steps.

Lital (25m 23s):

Sometimes something will be, you know, five or seven steps, but it will be better because you added a step that just makes sense! Because you need to do, you know, to drive them, to add an additional layer of whatever. You know, you want to go here or you want to go there, or you want to give them those options. You want to be very clear and I think this is more important. You want it to be usable. You want it to be easy and clear on exactly what you're doing and when you use those complicated systems, sometime you will just get lost. You're not sure, like, okay, I've never seen this screen before in my life. What do I need to do here? You know, I'm not sure about it.

Lital (26m 4s):

Being able to complete a task in whatever time that you need to complete the task, that's much more important than speed. And sometimes, you know, people need to review applicant applications, and you know, it will take them days to do that. So it's more about the ease of use, than anything else.

Chad (26m 20s):

It's all about the flow.

Lital (26m 22s):


Joel (26m 23s):

Lital Sherman, everybody from PageUp, let's all for our listeners who want to learn more about you or PageUp, where do they go?

Lital (26m 32s):

So if you want to learn about PageUp, visit our website And if you want to learn about me, I'm on LinkedIn Lital Sherman in Australia. I'm the only one in Australia, very happy about that. So yeah. Feel free to reach out to me and say, Hello!

Chad (26m 50s):

Excellent. Thanks for coming on.

Joel (26m 51s):

Put one on the Bar-b! Fosters, we out.

Chad (26m 53s):

We out.

Lital (26m 54s):

Thanks guys.

OUTRO (27m 13s):

This has been the Chad and Cheese podcast, subscribe on iTunes, Google play or wherever you get your podcasts so you don't miss a single show and be sure to check out our sponsors because they make it all possible. For more visit Oh yeah. You're welcome.


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