Bad Reputation: A Rant on Applicant Tracking Systems + How To Be A Better Buyer

Katrina Kibben ATS, HR, HR Tech, HR Technology, HR Vendors, Online Applications, Talent Acquisition, Web/Tech

I’ve been traveling more than usual over the last few weeks, which inevitably means I have to leave the comfort of my favorite airline (Southwest) for more favorable flight times or prices. After one particularly long travel sprint, I ended up on Frontier.

Frontier is one of those airlines that promotes the super cheap flights– the “$10 to Vegas” kind of shit. It always seems like a great idea at first. If you cut the flight price by $100, that’s just more cash for the casino. But then, as you’re actually booking the flight, you realize that you’ve been conned.

With every click, the price keeps growing. First, $10 turns into $40, so you can get the time you prefer. Then, it turns into $100 because they charge you for every single square item you bring on the plane. Then, you have to pay for every single seat, even that row right in front of the toilet. Frankly, I’m surprised they don’t charge per sheet of toilet paper.

Don’t even get me started on the $2.99 sodas and $8.99 beers. For that kind of money, I want a conversation, a cocktail glass, and a snack.

To further insult your empty wallet, they walk you through the add-ons all over again when you try to check-in to remind you that you paid $235 for a $10 ticket, and try to lure you into spending even more. I don’t know who came up with this user experience, but seriously, someone needs a new job.

I say that because as I pondered this paywall of bullshit on their WiFi-free airline (yes, the irony is thick that they didn’t buy that add-on for their planes), I realized it’s not much different than your average ATS buying experience. Think about it. You spend weeks trying to get that budget approved to make the switch. You send over the “we got the money” email, and you’re elated. Ready to get going.

Then, they send back a whole new book of charges. Implementation fees. Training. Seats. Add-ons. Now, your budget is not your budget. The cost is not the final cost, and they still want you to smile and nod like you deserve this bullshit.

This is when so many practitioners tell me, “well, that’s just how it is.” I just shake my head.

Here’s what I’m really thinking: ATS vendors deserve their bad reputation for treating people like that.

It’s bait and switch, plain and simple. A cost is a cost. So when I ask for the price and you know there’s an additional price to plug it in, you should probably tell me about that in the first place. If you sell the feature and it costs extra, you should maybe mention that. It seems pretty simple to me.

But that’s not where we’re at.

Questions you should ask every vendor.

You shouldn’t feel bamboozled when you’re trying to upgrade your systems. It’s already a big deal that you decided to uproot your entire system. You don’t need complicated upgrades and one-off costs to ruin the whole thing.

Unfortunately, the buyer’s regret lasts far longer than the hangover. I hear from far too many people who say, “I just wish I had known to ask this” or “If they told me, I would have…”

While I think some of this chaos is a bit inevitable, I do believe there are some better questions we could be asking to get to the bottom of things before you hit rock bottom.

  • What’s the implementation like? How long will it take, and how much is it?
  • What feature do your demos ask you about most often?
  • What feature do your customers ask for most often?
  • Show me the most basic version, no muss, no fuss.
  • What costs more than that? What’s the package you sell most often?
  • How will you help my team learn how to use this? Is that extra?

What would you add? Leave your crucial ATS shopping questions in the comments!