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ATS Report (2021)

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), love 'em or hate 'em they're the core technology of life as a Talent Acquisition and Recruiting professional. The diversification of different ATS brand visions are finally taking us past the days of tech debt heavy dinosaurs like Taleo and VirtualEdge.

Madeline Laurano, Founder of Aptitude Research shares information from newly published research entitled Talent Acquisition Systems Mapping a New Path.

In this episode we dig into areas many ATS vendors have never gone like:

- Is Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion just fluff in an ATS?

- AI matching technology become priority

- All CRM's are NOT created equal

- Getting serious about "Candidate Communication"

- Why is Internal Mobility still an unknown?

Texting amazingness brought to you by Nexxt. Wait, you're not using texting to attract talent? Get your ass to now :)


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.irls.

Chad (22s):

Welcome everybody to the Chad and Cheese podcast. I am Chad Sowash. If you listened before you already know that one thing you're going to notice though, is we're going to have a lactose free podcast today because we have drum roll, please. Madeline Laurano, she's come back! She's the heavily acclaimed industry, expert analyst and founder of Aptitude Research. How are you doing?

Madeline (52s):

Hi Chad, thanks for having me back. I'm glad I didn't spoil it last time and you wanted me to come back?

Chad (57s):

Oh, you were a hit. I don't know if it was because Cheeseman wasn't on the podcast or just that you're so delightful. I think it's the latter or it could be a combination of both. I don't know. What are you feeling? A little deja VU.

Madeline (1m 9s):

I am, I am. And it's been a lot of change since we last talked and we talked about programmatic and all the new announcements to Seek Out and some of the other providers and much more has happened since then!

Chad (1m 21s):

Before we jump into today's research, tell me how was the programmatic research received?

Madeline (1m 28s):

Very well. I was very happy with it. I think, you know what we talked about last time and I think it still holds true is that I think a lot of people don't understand exactly what programmatic is. And they think that either, as you said, it's just job distribution or they think of it as something that just is going to be an added expense. And I think, you know, what we really tried to show is that this is something that can help reduce costs and streamline advertising. So I was happy with how it came out.

Chad (1m 53s):

Oh, you don't know how many programmatic companies and agencies. I mean, they were all over it. There were texting me. They're messaging me. They're like this research is lit. I don't say that my kids say that, but anyway, I mean, it was, it was awesome. So if you haven't seen the programmatic research go to, right?

Madeline (2m 16s):


Chad (2m 17s):

And it's available there, but today we're going to be talking about your new research and this is, programmatic was big, but this is like the grand daddy, grand mama of them all. So what are we going to be talking about today?

Madeline (2m 33s):

We are going to be talking about the good old ATS market. And it does feel like a child because it took so long to put this research together. It feels like it feels like another child or grandchild for me. So it's been a big report. We really studied the ATS market to look at what's changed? What these providers are doing, and we profiled 13 of the leading providers in the market that met a certain criteria.

Chad (2m 56s):

Now, are you picking these or are these companies who are saying, Hey, we want to be involved or is it kind of like a combination of both?

Madeline (3m 5s):

That's a great question. It's a combination of both. I think a lot of, you know, I'll put out some tweets earlier at the end of last year and said, you know, we're going to look at doing this again. A lot of providers called right away and said, when does this start? And to me, it really had to meet a criteria and they have to be providers that come up in the interviews I do with corporations. And there were some, unfortunately that just did not meet that criteria.

Chad (3m 27s):

Ah, gotcha. Gotcha. So it's actually entitled Talent Acquisition Systems 2021: Mapping a New Path. What the hell does that mean? Mapping a New Path?

Madeline (3m 39s):

Well, I think it's interesting because I always try to think about what's the main theme and I've said it before and you know, it's always kind of been ATS is not enough. You know, the ATS itself has just a tracking engine, a workflow engine. It's not enough. We need CRM, we need onboarding. But this year the theme mapping a new path is really that every provider is going in a different direction. It's not apples to apples anymore. It's not this commoditized market. Some providers are going into talent management. Some providers are sticking with TA. Some providers are trying to do this whole skills framework, currency type of scenario. So it's, to me, it's looking at this market that's been in place for so long and seeing how everyone's trying to go in a very unique direction right now.

Chad (4m 21s):

So can you say, cause I can definitely say that the ATS market right now is probably the most exciting since maybe when it actually launched back in the early oughts?

Madeline (4m 33s):

I think so. And also I think in the 2005, 2006 timeframe, when all those acquisitions happened, Virtual Edge, Brass Ring, that was exciting too, just because of acquisitions. This is bang for another reason it's companies are spending more money. They're looking at their providers more strategically and they're replacing tons of companies, are replacing their ATS systems this year. It's crazy. Yeah.

Chad (4m 54s):

Yeah. Well, it's interesting that you say that back in 2005, around that timeframe, all the acquisitions had happened. They went to much larger organizations where they literally just went to die.

Madeline (5m 5s):

Just to die. It was like where ATS is going to die. They go to big companies and then nothing happens. And what we're seeing right now, and this will come out in the report is a lot of those larger companies that bought ATSs are and have redone them in a very significant way. I mean, ADP and Oracle are two examples. What you're going to see from their ATS is with Orr and with what ATP ADP's offering. It's really impressive. I was very impressed with bot.

Chad (5m 33s):

But they're a total new platform. They're not using the old plumbing at all. That technical debt is way too heavy. So they're flushing that shit that they bought down the toilet and they're actually creating from the ground up.

Madeline (5m 46s):

Completely. Goodbye, Virtual Edge, goodbye Tulio, we're rebuilding this whole thing and hoping to retain the Tulio-Virtual Edge customers in the process.

Chad (5m 56s):

It might be easier than keeping them on the same old that they are right now. Right?

Madeline (6m 2s):


Chad (6m 2s):

So we're going to tease, like we did the programmatic research. We're going to tease the ATS research with just bits and pieces. You have a top 10 trends, which I have a scaled down, boiled down to Chad's top five.

Madeline (6m 16s):

That sounds great. Okay. Okay.

Chad (6m 17s):

So, so I'm going to hit you with these, my top five from your report, and then we can dig into it a little bit deeper. So number one, DEI is the new AI, but DEI is a differentiator. It's never been a differentiator in ATS before. Why is it a differentiator now? And truly, is this just more of like a vapor kind of DEI? What's going on here?

Madeline (6m 41s):

Yeah, I think it's, I think it's all of the above. It's certainly never been a trend in the ATS market. I mean, I think I never talked about it. We'd probably always should have been a trend, but it wasn't. And I think what's happening now is you're seeing a lot of organizations. They have budget for D and I, and they're looking at their talent acquisition technology to spend some of that budget. So the ATS providers are saying, aha, let's start to market a little bit more of this into our messaging and what I mean by a differentiator, is there some providers where it's just marketing, it's just saying, this is a priority we can help you with your diversity needs. We can help you, you know, improve diversity hiring. And then there are others and it's not all of them that have really taken a strong stance to say, we're going to start internally.

Madeline (7m 26s):

We're going to look at our own culture. We're going to look at the diversity of our leadership. We're going to look at having a chief diversity officer. We're going to start there. Then we're going to look at the services that we are customers and partner with them. And then we're going to look at our product. And I think when you think about the product, everyone thinks matching is like these, the be all end all in diversity, it's like this, this solves the diversity question, but it's not. To me it's the analytics it's are you able to show really powerful insights that companies can see and say, wow, look what we're doing when we attract people? We're not doing enough. What can we each, how can we look at the job descriptions? How can we look at the interview process and make this more fair and inclusive?

Madeline (8m 8s):

And that that's very powerful. So you'll see in the report, there are some providers that are really called out for the work they're doing there.

Chad (8m 16s):

I have to say that in this area, there is so much vaporware number one. And then number two, if an organization, if a vendor has not eaten their own dog food, if they haven't actually started to boost their own diversity hiring efforts, they shouldn't even be talking about DEI overall. So I think from this segment, and I'm not sure that you put those disclaimers on there, if they are not really focused on diversity, equity and inclusion in their own organization, how badly do you think they really want it for you in their technology?

Madeline (8m 52s):

Exactly. And you know what? I'm starting to see more and more RFPs from corporations to include those questions, to say, we don't want to just know about the product. What are you doing as a provider in your company to address this? Do you have dedicated roles? What is your leadership team look like? What does your board look like? And those are appropriate questions.

Chad (9m 14s):

Yeah. So DEI number one, AI is my number two. AI matching is a priority and we all know that AI matching is an incredibly heavy lift. And if you're talking to an applicant tracking system one day and they don't have AI matching, but then the next day they do, they probably don't have AI matching unless they acquired somebody. So what did, what did you find in the report?

Madeline (9m 38s):

Yeah. I mean the, you, we both love the matching space. I mean, I think we can talk like hours and hours. We can do a series of podcasts on matching. So I love the matching space and it's very interesting to look at the ATS market right now because you've got these matching providers, like Hired Score, and Eightfold and Seek Out now that are really putting a lot into their thought on ethical AI or thinking about candidate consent. They're trying to figure out public versus internal communities of how they look for candidates. Then you've got the ATS is where it becomes more of an efficiency AI model. It's saying, Oh, we just want to, to move people across and help you make faster decisions. It's efficiency and it's free.

Madeline (10m 19s):

It's included in the ATS versus an investment. So I think it's becoming a very interesting area right now where some of the ATS is have made a little bit more investment in AI matching than others have, but you still have these standalone providers with very robust, you know, matching capabilities. And I think we're going to really see something happen in the next few years as to is this something that should be in our ATS and are these providers really going to make more of an investment here or is this going to be a standalone market?

Chad (10m 50s):

That's, that's a very good question. Because as we've seen over the years, when a bigger platform buys a point solution, does that point solution generally get better? So I'm going to say for the most part, not so much, right? So is that really the way that we should be going or much like the, a Mapping a New Path, maybe it's a, it's a, it's a new way for applicant tracking systems to start to become accountable and take responsibility for things that should be a part of a core system, much like diversity, equity and inclusion. Right?

Madeline (11m 26s):

Absolutely. And I think it becomes challenging. You know, I know like you're going to have to cut me off with this matching conversation, but I know it becomes challenging because when you're investing in a solution, like a third-party solution for matching you're spending money, so you can hold providers accountable, you can say, what are you doing? What's your approach to AI. We're not seeing the results we see. We want to see. But when you're looking at an ETF that includes it for free in the product, you don't really hold them accountable as much. It's free there. You know, we like our matches. We don't like matches. We don't think it works. We're not going to complain. So that, that becomes interesting too, where, you know, we're not necessarily holding the HS providers as accountable for the AI matching that we would when we make an investment.

Madeline (12m 7s):

Yeah. Stay tuned for a Madeline in Chad series on AI matching. I'm going to go ahead and hit one. Excellent. All CRMs are not created equal. And this is something that your research, we all, I think kind of understand, hopefully, but your research digs into this. Tell me what you found. Yeah. So I think everybody's trying to check that box, the CRM box to say, we've got it. We've got it. Right.

Chad (12m 32s):

These are all boxes, right? They feel, this feels like an RFP kind of like menu. I checked the box, but is it really a box checker? Okay

Madeline (12m 39s):

Exactly. Is it really a box checker? And I think it, everybody wants a CRM. If you're an enterprise company, you need something pre applicant. So you need a way to manage your talent pipelines. You need to be able to think about this. And the ATS are all saying we have this, but some of them have made very significant investments that we've made acquisitions and others it's, you know, Tim Sackett calls it a light CRM. And I think that's probably very accurate.

Chad (13m 3s):

We're seeing companies. And it's funny because I've talked to so many platforms where as soon as I say, I want to see it, they're like, well, it's kind of like, it's really a light CRM. It's like, I don't even know what that means. It just seems like most of these pieces are box checkable. But the beautiful part about this for me, and keep me honest here, is that when you dig into some of these things like DEI, CRMs, so on and so forth, you will deny those applicant tracking systems, a box check, because you don't feel like they've actually covered that base.

Madeline (13m 37s):

Yeah. And we called out those that have really significant, you know, significantly better CRMs. I mean, Jobvite is one example. I mean, they made a significant acquisition and telemetry, and that is a true recruitment marketing platform CRM. When you look at Avature, they started as a CRM, that's going to be very different than a provider that's just checking the box. So, and then there's others that are, they're making investments there. So it's interesting anyone that reads the report you'll see, you'll see my commentary on CRM.

Chad (14m 7s):

So the next one candidate communication, we're not just talking about being able to send an automated email that says thank you for applying or an automated text message that says, thank you for applying. This goes beyond that. How much more beyond that is candidate communication today?

Madeline (14m 25s):

Yeah. It's really interesting because to me, that's the candidate experience, right? It's the communication piece and we don't, we don't do it, especially for people rejected. Like we're not telling them until after we've already made decisions that they've even, we're sometimes not even telling them at all. So we looked at it for all the different channels of communication. I mean, everybody has a different way that they like to communicate. So we looked at the providers that have integrations with collaboration tools like Slack and Teams. iCIMs made a huge announcement with Teams this year. And then we look at those providers that have integrations with the messaging apps, WhatsApp, WeChat. Do you want to be a global provider and you don't have an integration with WeChat, that's going to be a little bit challenging. So yeah, so we really looked at all the different possibilities for communication.

Madeline (15m 9s):

And that to me was where there were the biggest gaps. Is the communication check boxes.

Chad (15m 16s):

Canvas who was acquired by Jobvite. Yep. You have JobPal, which is more across the pond. JobPal was acquired by Smart Recruiters. So you have more of a robust, I would say language focused type of experience. So we're seeing, we're seeing investment at least.

Madeline (15m 33s):

Yeah, exactly. And JobPal's great because they integrate with WeChat and WhatsApp, they're European provider. So we're seeing these investments being made and we're seeing, you know, whether it's text or conversational AI or the partnerships happening. And I think we'll continue to see that, but it's definitely being asked for in RFPs. So.

Chad (15m 51s):

What was, iCIMS the first one with text recruit, really, to start breaking into this candidate communication segment?

Madeline (15m 57s):

I think for sure. And I think Jobvite was not too far after that. Yeah.

Chad (16m 2s):

Yeah. Okay. My last one and this is because most people talk about this a lot, whether it's, I mean, people are talking about DEI and AI all the time, but we're starting to hear more about internal mobility and it seems to still be an unknown. Why is that?

Madeline (16m 18s):

I pulled up a report that I did when I worked at iCIMS like 13 years ago, something like that. And it was an ATS report. So it was similar. It was this monster report and a whole page from it. I took a screenshot, I'll send it to you, but it had this whole thing on internal mobility. And it was the same thing we're talking about now. And it was no coincidence. It was 2008. We're going through the recession. And everybody was worried that we all focus on internal mobility. And I think with internal mobility, there are these waves where it's a priority when we're nervous that hiring is going to be down and external hiring is going to be down or they're going to be hiring freezes. And then we sort of fall off a little bit and don't know what to do with it. I mean, it's an important area for companies, but I think, you know, it becomes more of a priority based on the economy.

Madeline (17m 4s):

And, you know, I don't think that's necessarily good or bad. I just think right now what I'm seeing is companies aren't talking about it as much as they were, and they're not necessarily looking at technology providers for that. A lot of the work has to be done internally. Do recruiters have to be responsible for internal mobility? Is that HR job? Do you know? It's an interesting conversation.

Chad (17m 24s):

Is this HRS baby, is this town acquisitions, baby? How long does talent acquisition actually own the experience until it gets pushed off to somebody else? But from my standpoint, I agree, this seems to be very, very cycle driven. Even though internal mobility should be something that we think about on an every day basis, because we want to keep, we always talk about, you know, we want to keep good talent that happens through promotions, that through the ability to find mentors, to be able to up-skill and those types of things that in itself you would think could be wrapped in an amazing experience that would start at least with the applicant tracking system.

Chad (18m 4s):


Madeline (18m 5s):

Yeah. I mean, I think that's absolutely the ideal situation. And I think, you know, the more companies can understand why it's important, not just during these cycles, but year round, the more we'll see it. And not just from the ATSs, I mean, some of the RPOs have, have made announcements with what they're doing for internal mobility and re-skilling, and up-skilling too.

Chad (18m 25s):

Yeah, very smart. So the last thing I want to talk to you about is there's all this amazing technology data, DEI, AI, CRM. So many acronyms, we can throw all over the place, but when a company fails to implement appropriately or they want to jam their 1990s, early two thousands process methodologies into new day tech, how do we as an industry move forward, if we're still playing old carton horse processes and trying to push new technologies. I mean, is this really something that tech can fix, I guess is the question?

Madeline (19m 5s):

It's a great question. I know we've talked about this so much. And the answer, I mean, I think the short answer is no. I mean, you have to think about your processes too. And if you have these broken processes from the 1990s and you haven't done much to reevaluate them, you know, DNI is a perfect example. If you're not thinking about as a core of what you're doing in recruiting to think about diversity hiring and to think about inclusivity and fairness, then you're going to have a really hard time with any technology being able to address that. And I think they, I don't think it has to be one or the other. I mean, I used to think that you have to have your processes fixed and then you invest in technology. I think it can happen at the same time, but there has to be a commitment to thinking differently about talent acquisition than what's been done in the past.

Chad (19m 48s):

Agreed a hundred percent. And, here's the hard question is this where we start getting marketing involved because they really focus on experience and they also have larger budgets?

Madeline (20m 0s):

Yes. And I think we don't take advantage of those opportunities internally, like marketing has done some of this work and marketing understands the importance of experience and, you know, programmatic was one example of that. And yet those conversations don't happen internally. I think the more that companies can facilitate those conversations with marketing, and I don't think there's, you know, a bad, a bad relationship between TA and marketing. It's just that those conversations aren't happening, you know, but I think it's a great example.

Chad (20m 29s):

Yeah. I think it's non-existent to some, to some degree, right? Not, not to a business impact degree. Right? Well, Madeline Larano, everybody, this report is coming out very, very soon. When is this actually coming out?

Madeline (20m 44s):

April 15th is the launch date and yeah. And we'll be promoting it all month so you can follow along and aptitude HCM on Twitter or Matt Tarquin on Twitter too, but we'll be, it's all free too. It's free.

Chad (20m 59s):

Go to We're going to be launching the podcast on Wednesday. So we're going to be teasing this up really, really fat and happy. We will also have the link in the show notes. So definitely click on it, download it. It is a major report and read. So if you are in talent acquisition, if you're in this space at all, and you care about core tech, this is something that you have to dig into. So Madeline, I appreciate you coming on the show. I appreciate you doing all this work because it is a gorgeous report and there are a lot of good pieces of information in here.

Madeline (21m 36s):

I appreciate you having me. You're the first person to see it. So I'm thrilled that you speak so highly of it. Thanks, Chad.

Chad (21m 42s):

I'm stoked for you coming back on and we'll talk about that, that AI matching series later. I appreciate it. We out.

Outro (22m 5s):

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