Rhona Barnett-Pierce


Image of Rhona Pierce, a Black woman, and the words Your ATS: More than just storage

Leverage ATS Data for Effective Candidate Sourcing

​When it comes to finding candidates, we usually like to take the most complicated path. No? Only Me?

Well, if you’re like me, you’ve had to learn the hard way that when you have limited resources and impossible timelines, simplicity is the way to go. We often get so caught up in devising the perfect sourcing strategy that we overlook the goldmine of candidate data sitting in your Applicant Tracking System.

Your next great hire could already be in your ATS.

Some of the best hires I’ve made were past candidates who had the skills and experience we were looking for but didn’t quite fit the initial role at the time.

Today, I’m going to show you how to leverage your existing ATS data for your sourcing efforts.

The Value of Your ATS

Your ATS is more than just a repository of past applications. It’s a treasure trove of potential talent. These candidates have already shown interest in your company, and many may have developed new skills or gained relevant experience since their last application.

Unfortunately, many talent acquisition professionals underutilize this valuable resource.

The primary reason is a lack of awareness of the ATS’s full potential.

Here are other reasons why people struggle to leverage their ATS data effectively:

  • They’re overwhelmed by the volume of data in their ATS
  • They lack a systematic approach to organizing and categorizing candidates
  • They’re too focused on new sourcing channels and forget about past applicants
  • They don’t have the right tools or knowledge to efficiently search their ATS

But don’t worry! I’m going to explain how you can overcome these challenges and get the most out of that very expensive ATS you’re already paying for.

Here’s how step by step:

Step 1: Conduct regular database clean-ups

GIF of Michael Scott from the office and the words: "Cleanup on aisle five."

This step is important because it ensures you’re working with current, relevant data.

Set aside time each month to review and update your ATS data. Remove duplicate entries, update candidate information, and archive outdated profiles. This will make your subsequent searches more efficient and accurate.

Step 2: Implement a robust tagging and categorization system

GIF of Stephen Colbert and the words: Tag, You're It!

Many recruiters go wrong here by using vague or inconsistent tags, making future searches difficult.

Create a standardized system for tagging candidates based on skills, experience, and potential fit for future roles. Be specific and consistent. For example, instead of just “sales,” use tags like “B2B sales,” “SaaS sales,” or “5+ years sales experience.” This will make your future searches much more targeted and effective.

Step 3: Create talent pools based on specific criteria

GIF of young Dylan and the words: Your boy got skills

This step helps you quickly access relevant candidates when new positions open up.

Group candidates into talent pools based on specific skill sets, experience levels, or potential roles. For instance, you might have pools for “Senior Java Developers,” “Marketing Managers with Fintech Experience,” or “Potential Sales Leaders.” Regularly review and update these pools to ensure they remain relevant.

Step 4: Set up automated alerts for matching candidates

It's a Match GIF

By doing this, you’re ensuring that you never miss a potential match, even as new roles come up.

Configure your ATS to alert you when a candidate matches new job criteria. This proactive approach can save significant time in your sourcing efforts. For example, if a new “Senior Product Manager” role opens up, you could receive an alert about all candidates in your ATS with relevant product management experience.

Step 5: Develop a strategic outreach plan

GIF of Jim Carrey typing and the words: Email Sent!

This is the step where most recruiters drop the ball; they reach out to candidates without proper context or personalization.

When contacting past candidates, personalization is key. Reference their previous application, acknowledge any updates in their profile, and clearly explain why you’re reaching out now. Be transparent about the new opportunity and why you think they might be a good fit. This approach respects the candidate’s time and increases the likelihood of a positive response.

Also, you can’t just reach out when you need them (aka when you have an open role). You have to nurture your pipeline. (More on how to do this in the upcoming season of the Throw Out The Playbook Podcast.)

By following these steps, you’ll transform your ATS from a simple database into a powerful sourcing tool. You’ll be able to quickly identify and engage with high-potential candidates, reducing your time-to-hire and improving the quality of your hires. Remember, your next star employee might already be in your ATS, waiting for you to reach out!

When was the last time you sourced from past candidates in your ATS?

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