Applicant Tracking Systems and User Privacy

Applicant tracking systems (ATS) help companies streamline the hiring process.

Although these tools are important for larger companies, unwanted data sharing, blacklisting, and hiring bias can impact job seekers.

But first, some of the benefits of ATSs.

ATSs make it easier for hiring teams to manage and track candidates through the hiring process from start to finish, consolidate and maintain candidate data in one place, automate tasks such as resume screening, scheduling, saves time and reduces costs.

ATSs are scalable. They adapt to the hiring process as needed, handling large volumes of applications and candidates with ease.

They also provide a broader pool of candidates, including passive candidates who might not be actively looking for a job, but can be searched. And there’s the rub.

Privacy and Discrimination Concerns

Applicant data can be shared both within the company and globally, between partner organizations that use the same applicant tracking system.

Applicant data can include resumes, application materials, and notes on candidate interactions to alert companies about concerns regarding qualifications or behavior.

Various attributes within applicant tracking systems (ATS) can be deemed undesirable or potentially harmful to candidates. This information is internal and not publicly accessible.

Some of these negative attributes include “Do Not Hire” flags, negative comments by recruiters or hiring managers, and low compatibility scores determined by algorithms.

People can be unofficially blacklisted by being placed on “do not hire” lists or by having negative notes or attributes associated with their profiles in multiple applicant tracking systems.

Employers that use applicant tracking system generally require applicants use them. Companies may choose to make accommodations for employees who choose not use the ATS but few companies make such exceptions.

To work as an employee at a larger company, one will most likely be required to use the company’s ATS.

Participation in this system means allowing companies to share one’s data among a global network of companies. That can compromise privacy and ultimately impact future employability.

My experience with Applicant Tracking Systems includes being invited to an interview, then being forced to answer a laundry list of demographic questions through ADP, and then being promptly excluded from the interview process. (I’m currently trying to sort this out with ADP.)

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