Ask people in the HR industry what the biggest issue is around adopting a new Applicant Tracking System and many will say it’s the technology itself – that its limitations often stand in the way of an engaging and effective recruitment process.

The reality is that culture has a lot more to do with it. Every department has its own concerns and priorities. It’s perfectly reasonable: everyone has their responsibilities. But it can feel like office politics when waters that seemed so clear get muddied. If a camel is a horse designed by committee, then the ATS has all the promise of a thoroughbred stallion, but can often end up as a temperamental beast of burden.

Avoiding the pitfalls is easier than you think. Once you understand who’s focused on what, you can plan accordingly – collaborating to make sure your horse stays a horse.

Senior Management

Like passing a new piece of legislation through parliament, driving a new technology project is something that demands strong will from the leaders. Senior management will often – and understandably – take a broad view of what you’re trying to achieve. As such, they’ll focus on the results, not the issues or processes.


Data Protection is already a big issue, with new leaks and scandals hitting the headlines every week or two. The GDRP – a new EU regulation – comes into force in May next year (so it will almost certainly still affect us for a while), providing an even more stringent standard. So when it comes to a new ATS that’s designed to store and process candidates’ data, they’ll be looking to ensure the right policies and safeguards are in place.


Of course, they’re going to take a close interest in any new system. They’ll need to look at security implications, how the licences are held and how the contract is managed. Above all, who’s looking after this ATS – managing its integration with their systems and providing support if something goes awry?

Marketing, Communications or Branding

The brand is king. As the guardians of the organisation’s identity, it’s vital for them that any new site offers a consistent vision, reflecting your brand values. Of course, their focus is usually on the consumer, rather than the candidate – a distinction that brand guidelines often don’t account for.

Recruitment Advertising Agencies

For those external consultants working on your attraction strategies and recruitment campaigns, your careers site – and the ATS behind it – are an important part of the process. They’ll want to know if it’s flexible enough to anchor specific campaigns and, much like your marketing colleagues, how it might impact on an EVP.

Web designers

Whether you have the expertise in house, or you’re relying on an external agency to develop your careers site, their priority will be to create a site with exceptional UX and beautiful design. No shame in that. But the divide between a good-looking front-end and a hard-working back-end (where your ATS really comes into play) can be difficult to reconcile. Flexibility is key.

ATS Suppliers

Like any business, the developer behind your ATS is looking to make a profit. Which is hardly surprising. But it can mean that they have a stronger focus on the sale than the support, while account managers or salespeople will never offer the same knowledge as the technical experts. The business will promote their product as a plug-and-play system – ready to use, straight from the box, but getting the most from the system will mean greater integration. And while they’re ready to offer value, it’s usually at the cost of that kind of flexibility.

Of course, in this sense, implementing an ATS is not a unique project. Any major piece of work in a large company will involve collaboration between various departments and suppliers, with competing priorities and agendas. But as long as you prepare for these different issues and work together with a common goal, the end product will be the effective ATS you want.

John Campbell is the MD of Spider online, a digital agency that specialises in developing and integrating technology for the HR sector. If you have questions about how to manage ATS implementation and integration – or any other aspect of your ATS – please get in touch.

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