And the loser is… see how readers ranked the 10 best and worst job application systems

Yes, many online recruiters — AKA applicant tracking systems (ATSs) — are horrible beasts. They butcher your resume, apply algorithms to gauge your career’s worthiness, and/or leave you stranded, confused, and exasperated. So which one is the worst? And are there any ATSs with redeeming qualities?

Measuring Awfulness

Let’s start with your pet peeves. Understandably, you don’t like wasting time, getting no feedback, being broadly categorized, or left dazed and confused. Yeah, it’s also hard to not wonder where in the corporate black hole your resume lies at any given time. Other notable complaints:

  • Poor ability to resolve non-standard resume formats
  • Tosses out applications if not 100% match
  • Lack of transparency

When it comes to naming names, some of you had no problem giving a “thumbs down” when we asked you to identify the worst ATSs. A full 20.9% of respondents gave Taleo the thumbs down, followed by Brassring (no longer being marketed or sold), iCIMS and Workday. Lever and Greenhouse were the least despised—and in equal measure. 

Of all the things you could change about ATSs, many of you begged for the process to be easier to follow, the status to be clearer at all times, the systems to be more flexible, and for a sense of humanity to show itself on the other end. That’s a good start. Some of the more helpful suggestions were:

  • Connect them with profiles on LinkedIn
  • Create a central ATS that you can use to apply to different organizations
  • Simplify the number of inputs needed/make it one or two steps

If you could give an award for best ATS, it would go to… Workday (27.7%). Next in line for hugs are Taleo (23.5%), and ADP (13.4%). And yes, our readers said that Taleo is second best as well as worst. That’s what the data says. We can’t change that.

You showed an admirable range in reasoning when describing why you voted for best and worst ATSs. This includes everything from the quickly dismissive (“they’re all terrible”) to the contemplative (“candidates are more than keywords”). Other deep-seated disses include:

  • Systems don’t compensate for the incompetence of most HR departments
  • They all take too long
  • Lots of “ghosting”

If name recognition alone was the sole factor to consider, the top share of mind goes to Taleo first (75.4%), followed by Workday (64%), ADP (63.4%), Brassring (52%), and Jobvite (37.2%). Taleo, as you may have noticed, is so familiar that it appears prominently on both the thumbs-up and thumbs-down list.

Methodology and final stats

98.6% of respondents have applied for a job online

88.8% knew that the software used by companies for hiring is called an Applicant Tracking System (ATS).

91.9% claim to have at least some idea of what an ATS does

6.9 is the average rating of difficulty when users were asked how hard ATSs are to navigate

Those are the remaining responses we got to the 10 questions we asked readers in our survey, which saw 358 respondents. Boy, do you have complaints.

Was this insightful? Do you agree or disagree with any of the reader feedback? Let us know in the comments. 

For more insight, check out our Golden Gatekeepers Awards to see how the 10 ATSs ranked across categories like “most jobs,” “most employers” and even “most interesting jobs.” The market is changing and our findings prove it.

See also our interviews with the CEOs running some of these companies — in our “Secrets of the ATS” series.