If you were to have stepped into the University of Wolverhampton’s HR & Recruitment office several years ago, you would have seen a highly manual recruitment process. You would have watched team members filling envelopes with application packs to send to candidates, and seen a vast excel spreadsheet on someone’s computer screen.
Now, the University’s recruitment processes look very different. The team implemented an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) a number of years ago, which has enabled them to automate and streamline their recruitment activity, from screening candidates to requesting references.
From virtual assistants to instant messaging, we’re surrounded by promises that technology will transform the way we work. In the constantly-shifting world of Higher Education recruitment, does applicant tracking technology live up to these promises?
You should expect reduced manual processing
Since implementing their Applicant Tracking System, the University of Wolverhampton Recruitment team have seen significant benefits in time and costs. Here’s just one example: previously every single job had to be manually uploaded to the University’s website, which was a hefty weekly task. Now, the team have job templates set up and ready to go within their ATS, so can push vacancies live to their careers site every day, quickly and easily.
The Wolverhampton Recruitment team also wanted to streamline their use of job boards. Before using an ATS, they had to log in to each job board and copy and paste the individual vacancies. Now, they can send jobs automatically to boards such as jobs.ac.uk, from within their ATS.
In a similar vein, the University of York have significantly reduced administration by enabling candidates to self-select their interview slots online. On average, it is believed that 12 minutes of admin can be saved per interview* – which translates to huge time and cost savings for Universities using this feature.
Expect candidate experience to improve
Last year the University of York processed 14,000+ applications through its ATS. With roles from teaching staff to facilities management, the Recruitment team knew a blanket application form would not capture the information they needed, nor provide a positive experience for candidates.
Instead, the team use their ATS to configure bespoke online application forms for different vacancies. These forms can include questions for which each answer choice carries a certain weight. This then assigns a ‘score’ for each candidate within the ATS and enables the team to quickly identify strong applicants during screening.
This level of configuration is particularly valuable for academic and research roles, which have multiple education, qualification and achievements criteria.
Take control of your referencing process
Relying on manual methods to collect references can be an incredibly time-consuming process: Sending emails, providing reference sheets as separate attachments, monitoring and chasing referees and then assembling returned references into a suitable format for interview panels, or Hiring Managers.
With an ATS you should expect to move your referencing process online and configure it to suit your organisation. The University of York were able to measure the impact of their automated reference collection process, and calculated that they have saved 0.5 FTE in reduced administration.
Meanwhile, the University of Wolverhampton have been able to set up bespoke reference processes for different role categories: ‘Senior’, ‘Academic’, ‘Support’ and ‘Professor’. This has meant that the recruitment team can configure an online process and workflow to capture exactly the type of data they need, whilst also delivering a positive experience for referees and candidates.
Expect a more responsive and efficient recruitment process
The HE recruitment landscape is one of constantly shifting goal posts. There are organisational restructures and budget restraints. There’s the continual need to fill posts quickly as funding arrives, professors leave, courses are restructured and student numbers fluctuate.
You shouldn’t expect an ATS to solve these kinds of hurdles. But it should give you the tools you need respond to these challenges quickly and proactively.
You should expect an Applicant Tracking System to free up your team’s time by reducing administration and enabling them to focus on strategically valuable work. You should be able to configure screening and shortlisting processes that allow you to identify talent quickly and effectively.
Perhaps most importantly, you should expect an ATS to evolve in line with your organisation’s needs – whether that’s through campus expansion, a department restructure or new policy and procedure.
That’s a lot for recruitment technology to live up to. But some systems do.
Thank you to the University of Wolverhampton and University of York for their input in this piece. Both Universities use Hireserve ATS recruitment software, as do a high number of other Higher Education establishments across the UK.
*Stats from analysis by Hireserve and customer feedback