John Bell, reThinkData: Pushing the ATS candidate abandonment agenda

One of the hot topics at The Job Board Summit 2015 – North America was the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) issue and we all know the story. “When a job candidate applies for a job on a recruitment website, it shouldn’t be a nightmare to complete the registration and application forms on the client’s applicant tracking system website—but most often it is”, says John Bell, Founder and CEO of reThinkData.

A staggering percentage of job candidates abandon online applications before completing the process. Recent surveys and white papers have found this abandonment rate to be upwards of 90% for many companies. How can this be a good candidate experience?

No matter how you slice the data, high candidate abandonment rates are a wake-up call for the entire online employment sector. We need to slash abandonment rates for the benefit of everyone involved—not just candidates, but employers, ATS providers, and recruiting sites and job boards across the globe.

reThinkData LLC is sponsoring an industry-wide initiative called The Connection Alliance. The Alliance consists of recruitment sites, job boards, consultants, ATS providers, and employers who share a sense of urgency regarding the need to improve integration and the candidate experience.

You can check out the Connection Alliance Roster and register your company with Alliance online at You can also view a short three minute video that capsulizes the issues and introduces reThinkData’s industry-wide, ecosystem solution, SimpleAPI.

John agreed to answer a few questions on the subject and these provide excellent insights into the magnitude of the issue.

The Industry has known about and understood the abandonment issue for over 20
Years. In your opinion why has no one addressed the issue?

There has been a disconnect between job boards and ATSs and it’s not just technology, but communications as well. Generally job boards don’t talk to ATSs, and when they do often times no one is listening. Rightly so, ATSs are employer-facing organizations and respond to their customers’ needs. Employers are unaware of the extent of the abandonment rate because often candidates that abandon the application process are not accounted for.

With Gerry Crispin so passionately fighting the Candidate Experience issue and the growth of the Candee Awards globally why are others not also pushing the agenda and why don’t companies themselves put pressure on the ATSs?

I love Gerry’s enthusiasm for the candidate experience, it’s been his mantra for 20 years. He has been absolutely right all along; it’s all about the candidate. The disconnect between job boards, recruiting sites and ATSs, as we have coined it, is but one part of the total problem – albeit an important part.

To date, most of the discussion I’m hearing is about the poorly crafted application form, itself. “It’s too long… it’s asked the wrong questions… it doesn’t engage the candidate with the employer’s brand promise”. The application form could be improved, but it is usually a product of the employer’s design, not the ATS provider. We are addressing the abandonment rate which is happening sometimes before the candidate even sees the application form. Candidates are dropping out once they understand the task before them, which happens when the candidate is re-directed from a job board or recruiting site and lands on the ATS platform.

In general, the employers I’ve spoken to are shocked at the high abandonment rate, as they have not seen ATS data that supports the problem. Without pressure from their clients ATSs are not under pressure to address the problem.

Several of the largest job boards are developing proprietary candidate application solutions and are having some success with ATS integrations. But, it’s not an ecosystem solution, which is what is needed in my opinion if we are going to demonstrate a lift in employers’ online recruitment advertising ROI, and recruiting sites’ value proposition.

What is the real issue with the ATSs – I’ve heard noise for 15 years – John what’s your take?

The ATSs listen to their revenue generating customers. Employers have not put pressure on their ATS, but more are becoming aware of the issue because job boards are telling them. We are having good success with ATSs that are eager to differentiate themselves from the competition. For these players it’s a ‘when can we connect’ versus ‘why should we connect’.

What are 3 Key Benefits of Improving this Process?

1) Companies- more candidates for less $$, better user experience which compliments the company’s employment brand promise, better data for smarter media buying.

2) Job Boards – Improved value proposition (getting credit for all candidates delivered to the ATS), better data at renewal time and for long range planning, and a lift in community building by producing happier job seekers when they apply through a connected experience.

3) ATSs – more applicants entering their post application ecosystem, better user experience which benefits their customer and their customers’ budgets, a simple solution to a very complex and potentially expensive “integration cluster” without a middleware solution reducing the potential for 100’s of one-off integrations and on-going service relationships.


Silver Sponsor of The Job Board Summit 2015 – North America

LOGO_J2C_orange   TopResume (TalentInc)

Gold Sponsors of The Job Board Summit 2015 – North America

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