5 Things You Should Have In Your ATS Messaging to Avoid Looking Like an ***

Kris Dunn Always Be Closing, Business Development, Candidate Pool, Culture, Employee Communications, Good HR, HR & Marketing, Kris Dunn, Recruiting, Resumes, Social Recruiting, Talent Strategy

FOT Note: This post is sponsored by the good folks at CareerBuilder.com, who care so much about the world of recruiting and human resources that they’ve become an annual sponsor at FOT.  Here’s where it gets good: As part of the CareerBuilder sponsorship, FOT contributors get to write anything we want on a monthly basis, and CareerBuilder doesn’t get to review it.  We’re also doing a monthly podcast called the “Post and Pray Podcast,” which is also sponsored by CareerBuilder.  Good times.

Your company wants to be a Best Place to Work.  There’s gold in that designation!  Sadly, if you’re not a Best Place to Work, there’s no festivus for the rest of us.  Want to know why?  Behind the difficult-to-achieve and always-pursued Best Places to Work designation are the following realities:

1.  If candidates could only meet some of your people, they’d love your company.  Which kind of seems consistent with the Best Place to Work thingy.

2. Lawyers, or mythical representations and references to lawyers and legal issues, run your company.

3. As a result, your company seeks to prevent the outside world from knowing, or thinking they know, anyone inside your company.  That’s just risky. 

4. Since your communications and employment branding strategy prevents anyone from getting a view inside your company, you might as well be named “ACME.”

You know what type of candidates want to work at ACME?  Only the desperate ones.  Which is inconsistent with all the stuff you say about upgrading talent and hiring the best.

That’s why FOT is here to help with this post.  You can’t stop the influence of lawyers in most areas of your company, but there are some simple things you can do to encourage candidates to feel like they know who you are as a company.  The bad news is that you’re going to have to take some chances and move away from corporate speak.  The good news is that you can get started with some low-risk areas, and if you ever hear about it from corporate, it will be because someone sent a compliment—not a complaint.  Then the lawyers will get overruled by people who actually have to sell stuff to make the company operate.

I’m talking about your automated messaging in your ATS—the automatic messages that go out to candidates during critical junctures in the recruiting process.  The Big 4 of ATS messaging includes the following communications: 1) The “thanks for applying” reply, 2) the “can we talk on the phone” note, 3) the “let’s set up some time for you to come in and interview live” invitation, and of course, the 4) “Thanks but no thanks” note of closure that tells a candidate that they’re no longer being considered for the job.

Do a great job of drafting these messages that flow out of your ATS, and you’ll have candidates thanking you for sending them a “Thanks but no thanks” note… at which point you’ll know you’ve taken over this piece of territory from the lawyers.

How do you create ATS messaging that makes people feel like they know you?  It’s hard to write the messaging for you—every company has a different vibe—but regardless of style, all ATS messaging that cuts through the clutter and matters has the following 5 things in common:

1.  ATS messaging that matters sounds like it’s written by a friend, or at least someone you could eat lunch with.  There’s a theme across all ATS messaging that fits what we’re talking about.  It’s conversational, informal and sounds like someone you could have a conversation with.  It has a personality.  A simple way to ask yourself if your new ATS messaging meets the burden is this: Can you see yourself wanting to have lunch with the person behind the messages? In most cases, that answer is “NO” in the outside world.  Whatever you write, your job is to have the personality and voice to turn that into a “YES.”

2.  The best ATS messaging makes fun of the fact that computers and machines have made the recruiting game cold and impersonal.  It’s true—the applying-for-a-job game is a black freaking hole.  Connect with candidates and let them know you feel that pain and it pisses you off, too.  You’ll build trust with that simple acknowledgement, done in a conversational and informal way.

3.  The informal nature of good ATS messaging allows you to be straight up and honest with candidates, putting you in a position to under-promise and over-deliver.  Are you really going to keep their resume for 6 months?  What does that even mean?  Tell them what they should do to stay on your radar, which is really on them, not you, and don’t forget to give them a fun idea of what you’d love to see in the future from them as a candidate.

4.  If you connect with candidates via your ATS messaging, it sets you up to connect with them in the future, which is good for your recruiting practice, as well as your company’s business.  No ATS messaging stack worth its salt should be without simple links for a deeper dive on what’s going on in your company.  If you don’t have that, you’ve got another project this year to come up with a better content strategy for your careers site.  Once you have that, you should share the latest articles from your careers site to build on the fact that candidates think they know you.

5.  If you’ve written your ATS messaging the right way, it gets shared.  Bottom line, you know your new ATS messages work when people share them.  Don’t worry, if you do them right, they will.

Some of you are saying the following: “So what?  Cute, but I don’t see the big deal.”  To you, I say the following: You’re rationalizing not being creative or going the extra mile on something that gets blasted to thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) candidates on an annual basis.  #lazy

The bottom line is that ATS messaging in today’s world is a commodity.  But treat it like a key part of your recruiting strategy and you’ll automatically generate interest from candidates who would have never considered you before.  Additionally, the connection will save you $$$ related to the offer negotiation process as well.

I’ll end this post with a wrap-up that matches most of your ATS messaging:

“Thanks for reading this post.  If you’re so moved, please leave a comment at the bottom of this page.  If your comment matches our needs, a representative of FOT will be in touch with you.  If not, please return to FOT often to browse articles that may be of interest to you.  FOT values readers of all shapes, sizes, orientations and national origin.”

It’s sad that ATS messaging has turned into that.  You can do better.  Don’t listen to the lawyers.

RELATED: Be on the lookout next week for the “Post and Pray Podcast” (sponsored by CareerBuilder.com), where we’ll dig into this area deeper.

Kris Dunn
Kris Dunn is a Partner and CHRO at Kinetix, a national RPO firm for growth companies headquartered in Atlanta. He's also the founder Fistful of Talent (founded in 2008) and The HR Capitalist (2007) – and has written over 70 feature columns at Workforce Management magazine. Prior to his investment at Kinetix, Kris served in HR leadership roles at DAXKO, Charter and Cingular. In his spare time, KD hits the road as a speaker and gives the world what it needs – pop culture references linked to Human Capital street smarts.