The fallacy of data driven recruitment when your ATS is crap

It’s that time of the year again. The time for advertising platforms and tools contract renewals. The time when I work with so many spreadsheets that when I close my eyes, I still see Excel cells. And the time when I curse at my ATS for not being able to provide me with the data that I need. 


What data am I looking for? 

  • How many jobs did our clients give us this year? 
  • How many of these jobs did we fill? 
  • What are the jobs we didn’t fill? 
  • Why didn’t we fill these jobs? 
  • What clients gave us jobs this year compared to last year? 
  • What were the new clients for this year? 
  • Did we stop working with any clients this year? 
  • What’s our time to offer? 
  • What’s our time to start? 
  • Where did our candidates come from? 
  • How effective are our candidate's sources? 
  • What are the top candidates' sources for each speciality? 
  • How many candidates did each recruiter add to the ATS, and where were they coming from? 
  • Are we being GDPR compliant? 

Why do I want this information? 
  • Performance assessment – of the team, the individual recruiter, the recruitment velocity.
  • Client satisfaction – are our clients getting the candidates they want, and how long does it take.
  • Forecasting – based on our data, it takes on average X weeks/months to fill a Data Scientist role in Dublin, it takes on average X weeks/months between job opening and offer in this company.
  • Marketing spend – if I’m going to spend 10K, 15K, 30K on various tools and advertising platforms, I need to know what’s my return on investment, right? I also want to know which tools are the most useful for each specialty of recruitment; maybe one gives amazing results for Life Science jobs but is rubbish for IT jobs, so I can then adjust my spent based on the results per speciality and give access to other tools to the team.
  • Battling the “gut feeling” – “oh yeah, LinkedIn Recruiter works very well for us as a business”. But does it really?
  • Trying to figure out which candidate consent has lapsed (and should be removed from the ATS) or is about the lapse (and should be contacted).

So many reasons why I need this data and yet… just to get the list of jobs we didn’t fill, it requires 3 .csv file extractions, manual clean-up and merging and 2 pivot tables just to get a usable list. And I’m not talking of calculating success rates or anything fancy like that. 


So, when a couple of weeks ago, I was watching Olivier Martin’s talk on #RecFestOneWorld, and he was going on and on about what should be measured, what recruiters should know about their performance, using data, I felt like a joke. I don’t have that data for myself as a recruiter, and I’m good at tracking things manually. If I were to interview for a recruiter job today, there’s not a chance in a world I would be able to answer these data driven questions. 

Interviewer: What’s your average hiring velocity, Chloé? 
Chloé: Hell, if I know!  


Unless your company has someone, whose full-time job is people analytics, if your ATS is crap with analytics, you don’t have a chance in hell of being able to provide this data. And these days, that if you are not data driven in your recruitment strategy, you’re basically sticking your finger up in the air to try and figure out where the wind’s coming from. 


Let’s be realistic, if you’re a recruiter and have recruiter-level access to your ATS, your chances of being able to do data driven recruitment are close to 0 if your ATS is crap with analytics. 

If you’re a recruitment manager and your ATS is crap with analytics, you’re either going to spend days exporting spreadsheet after spreadsheets, building pivot tables and calculating velocity and success rates. That’s kind of OK, you just need to know that you will have to plan the time to do that if you want to be able to use the data that you have in your ATS to improve the overall performance of your team. 

If you’re a recruitment manager, your ATS is crap with analytics, you’re not very good with the ins and outs of your ATS and googling how to do stuff with Excel scares you, then you have 3 options: 
  1. Get rid of your piece of crap ATS – though you might be in contract with them for another 2 years and it’s a vast and costly enterprise to do the data migration. 
  2. Hire a People Analytics person. 
  3. Give up, who needs to improve their recruitment team and process, anyway (that was sarcasm). 

To wrap this up so I can go back to my gazillion spreadsheets. Remember that people who are good at reporting or at tech support in general, are just better than you at googling stuff.