Previous Article
Next Article

New System Brings Wave Of Applicants

Print Article

A year ago, Lehigh joined the growing ranks of universities using an online applicant tracking system (ATS) through HireTouch to help manage the hiring of classified staff.

Our goal in Human Resources (HR) was to make the process more streamlined not only for HR, but also for applicants, employment coordinators, hiring supervisors, and search committees.

So, how did we do? We sent a survey to staff involved in searches from May 2011 through April 2012 to find out. We received 63 responses from users and wanted to share some of what we learned.

Satisfaction With The System

As with any new software, there has been a learning curve with the ATS. Overall, the navigation ratings from those surveyed averaged about a 3 on a 5-point scale.
Some comments about navigation from users included:

  • The system is very fluid
  • It was difficult to locate and open cover letters and resumes. Once opened it was easy to lose track and have too many open at one time. (Note: Cover letters and resumes are in the “documents” section)
  • We’re asked to communicate with candidates via the system, but the candidates cannot reply directly to us. (Note: This was intentional to avoid a potential onslaught of emails from candidates. Replies from candidates are received by HR and responded to daily.)

In terms of features, overall satisfaction also averaged about a 3. Some comments included:

  • The symbols used for applicant status aren’t easily understood.
  • I liked the online features. This kept everything organized including the documentation for the applicants.
  • Would like to see salary requirements and education level up front. (Note: Users can access the “Bulk Screening” page and compare all applicants for a position by education, years of experience, Banner experience, familiarity with the Microsoft Office Suite, and salary requirements. Because it is not mandatory to supply salary requirements, however, not all applicants will have shared that information.)
  • I can say I really appreciate the move to electronic tools for this process. In the past, the paper-based process was very cumbersome and wasteful. I like that all of the information is at one location.

We also asked respondents about the training they received to prepare them for using the system:

HR has been curious about the impact the system has had on the number and quality of applicants. Even our staff was surprised by the number of applications processed since the start of the system in May 2011:

Total positions filled within the ATS: 154
Total applicants: 14,754 (the average total applicants annually in the past three fiscal years has been about 4,500, so this represents a tripling of total applicants)
Average applicants: 96

Total exempt positions filled: 90*
Total applicants: 6,381
Average applicants: 75

Total nonexempt positions filled: 64
Total applicants: 8,373
Average applicants: 131

*HR started using the system for exempt position searches in June 2011.

We asked users if they had noticed a difference in the quality of applicants they were seeing as a result of the system:

The results show us that the increase in applications has not had a negative impact on the quality of applications. In other words, using an online application system has not resulted in an influx of unqualified candidates.

Issues Being Addressed

Some of the concerns about navigation and features raised by respondents have already been addressed. These include:

  • When looking at application materials for a candidate, users would see that applicant’s materials for every position the person had applied for, causing confusion.

    This has been fixed so that users only see the applicant’s materials for the particular job for which they are reviewing candidates.

  • Automated emails that the system sends to candidates who are no longer being considered for positions felt impersonal.

    Users now have the ability to modify the automated emails before sending them to candidates by selecting Bulk Notices, and “send correspondence” which they can edit.

  • Initial training is often forgotten since users may go months between hiring searches.

    HR is working on system manuals as well as online training guides. These resources will help users refresh their memories about the details of the program if they use it infrequently.

  • There are multiple ways to navigate the system, which can be confusing.

    The new manuals and online guides will offer best practices for navigating the program.

Suggestions For The Future

Survey respondents were asked for their thoughts on improvements for the future of the system. The following are ideas that Human Resources will investigate for possibility and feasibility:

  • Integrating interview scheduling in HireTouch with Lehigh’s Google Calendar system so that the scheduler doesn’t have to duplicate his or her effort
  • Developing a tool to have the ability to rank applicants on a scale developed by the search committee chair and then used in evaluating candidates
  • Developing the electronic process to approve and post a vacancy.

Reflecting on the past year, HR’s Ronnie Blue is pleased. “Overall, the system works well,” she noted. “At this point, 80 percent of users like and appreciate it. Administrative staff like the automation, and the increase in applicants shows we’re reaching a broader applicant pool.”

Lori Claudio, HR Associate for Employment, says that we will continue to look for ways to improve the system. Lori would like to remind hiring supervisors to complete the survey they receive after they complete a search. “That information is very beneficial for continuous evaluation and improvement.”

If you have thoughts or suggestions, you can contact Ronnie at or extension 85020 or Lori at or extension 83916. “I can’t promise we can do everything,” Ronnie said, “but if it’s possible and it will enhance the system, we will try.”

HR News

Workplace Learning & Wellness Programs

View Full Calendar

Spotlight is published monthly by Human Resources. Please address any comments to Hillary Kwiatek, Spotlight Editor, Human Resources, 428 Brodhead Avenue, send email to, or call extension 85165.

Current and past issues of Spotlight can be viewed and searched at: Past Issues.