Recruiter's Blog

Your ATS Could Be Doing More Harm Than Good

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Applicant tracking systems save companies a lot of money in terms of time and labor. They are however, not without fault and in a lot of situations, could actually be harmful to your recruitment efforts. Of specific interest for this post are company job listing sites that require candidates to select a referring site when they apply to a job listing.

Let’s get to the point: Self-reporting in Applicant Tracking Systems is wildly inaccurate.

A recent study done by CareerBuilder contends that 8 out of every 10 candidates select/provide the wrong referral source; some purposefully and others unwittingly. A similar study was done by JobsInLogistics with similar results.

It is important to draw special attention to this statistic. If CareerBuilder’s and JobsInLogistics’ numbers are correct, 80% – 83% of the ads posted on outside job boards are not properly recording the referral source. The result? Recruiters who rely on the metrics produced by their ATS could be making decisions on where to advertise based on really bad data.

There are a number of reasons why self-reporting of referral sources are inaccurate. Here are a few of the biggest culprits…



Job seekers often select the source that they think is most likely to get them an interview. Here are a few examples:

1. Job seekers will often select “Employee Referral” as the referring source. In this instance, job seekers are hoping that the recruiter will think that the candidate knows someone at that company and somehow that is more likely to get them an interview.

2. Many job seekers select “Company Site” as the referral source. The thought is that it will somehow make the recruiter think they are very interested in that company, more interested than other job seekers.

3. Simililarly, job seekers will often select a social media site as the referring site in hopes that the recruiter will think that they (the job seeker) follows that company on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc… Again, the thought is that it will somehow make the recruiter think they are very interested in that company.

4. Like numbers 2 and 3, job seekers will select “Search Engine” because they believe that recruiters will think that they were searching for their specific company.



Job seekers are often confused on which source to select.

Let’s say a job board had a direct link to a job listing on a corporate site. Job seekers are on the corporate site when they are applying and can get confused as to the referral source; the job board or the corporate site?

Another example are jobs shared on social media sites. has a large group on We promote the group, screen the people who apply for membership and provide a lot of unique content so that our group members find utility in belonging. When we post one of our customer’s jobs in our LinkedIn group, job seekers might select the referring souce as or they might select LinkedIn. did all the work but LinkedIn might get the credit.

Similarly, we share job listings on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. When a candidate sees one of these jobs on one of our social media feeds, they are confused as to select as the referring source or the social media site



A lot of job seekers select the first referral source or whichever one is the easiest. This issue is magnified when the referral source is “Other” and a response is required of the job seeker. It is easier to select the wrong source than to fill out the “if other” datafield.



A lot of applicant tracking systems trap candidates into one referring site. For example, let’s say a job seeker applies at a company site when they are fresh out of college for a job they are not qualified for and consequently, did not get hired for. A few years pass and that same candidate comes back to the company site to apply for a different position. Already in their Applicant Tracking System, the candidate is forced to login to their old profile and often, does not have the opportunity to select a new referral source.


In summary, if you are relying on self-reporting in your ATS to track candidate sources, you are doing yourself and your company a

What can be done? Ideally, companies that use an ATS would provide links that are both job and job board specific to their advertising sources.  Short of that, employers should ask their applicants and/or interviewees what resources they use to look for jobs. To be clear, not where they found the job for which they are interviewing rather, jobs in general.

Chris Kidd is the owner of,,, and

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