The ATS is NOT Enough: How Holland Reduced Candidate Screening Time By 75%


Holland L.P. is a mid-size company that hires, during its peak season, an average of 20 people per month. Whereas most companies doing this much hiring separate HR and Talent Acquisition (TA) into two different teams, Holland has one team that is responsible for managing both. The need to conduct talent acquisition efficiently coupled with a legacy Applicant Tracking System (ATS) called Taleo, led to multiple challenges such as inefficient and ineffective screening, lack of hiring manager engagement, substandard applicant experience, limited data analytics and reporting, and lack of actionable Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DE&I) in the hiring process.

After years of analyzing various ATS replacement options, Holland chose to replace Taleo with a new and innovative ATS and screening software called SmartRank. SmartRank brought automation to many areas of the hiring process, and solved some of the biggest challenges the Holland team had been experiencing. 

Transitioning from Taleo to SmartRank took roughly 2 – 3 weeks in total, with the majority of time and energy spent on working with Taleo representatives to export the appropriate files. Once the files were exported from Taleo, importing that data into SmartRank was “very smooth” according to Holland’s Human Resources team.

“I don’t see myself working as many hours after hours as I did in the past to try and play catch up and make sure that I finished the to-do list for the day.”

The Challenges

Inefficient & Ineffective Screening

Holland hires both field and office roles. With field roles they would often receive 200 – 300 applicants, and for office roles such as sales they could receive upwards of 500 applicants for one role. The team would spend an average of half of their day reviewing an “astronomical number of résumés.” Applicants in Taleo were organized chronologically, which meant the team had to manually “read through every single résumé” to find the best candidates.

In addition to the enormous time commitment, it was also very difficult to distinguish between skills and qualifications of each candidate. In many cases, moving candidates forward could be based on “gut feeling.” Since résumés did not provide the necessary context needed on the initial screening, the team would set up additional half-hour phone screens to assess their qualifications, which added more time spent on applicants they were never going to hire.

Lack of Hiring Manager Engagement

When it came to Taleo, there was no relationship with the hiring managers. It was 100% on this team.” The Holland team began their communication with the hiring managers when it was time for an interview. Many of the hiring managers did not have the time to dedicate to recruiting, were not very involved in the recruiting process, and just trusted the Holland team to determine who was qualified and who was not. During the interview process, if the candidates did not have the qualifications they were looking for, it could lead to friction between the Holland team and their hiring managers.

Substandard Applicant Experience

Another frustrating aspect of the hiring process was an inability to connect with every applicant for every role. The team felt like this inability did not give Holland the professional image that it deserved, and applicants would often provide negative feedback as a result. Much of this inability arose from having to manually click every action that needed to be performed for every candidate, resulting in thousands of clicks just to disposition all applicants for one role. The team didn’t have time for all of this manual work, leaving many applicants without an update on their application. 

In addition, the only communication method available through their ATS was email. Many applicants for the field roles don’t regularly check their email, and good candidates were being missed. Texting was the best way to communicate with applicants for field roles, but having the Holland team use their personal cell phones for texting created additional problems such as non-job-related follow up from certain applicants.

Limited Data Analytics and Reporting

Taleo did not provide any types of standardized reporting or metrics. “Reporting options were minimal at best.” In order to provide the necessary reporting needed for upper management, the team would put in hours of manual effort entering numbers into Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. 

Reporting was critical for Holland, so the team would often contact Taleo’s customer support, with varying success. Contacting support meant submitting a ticket and waiting for a response, which sometimes would not come at all. If someone from Taleo did contact the team, this often led to additional tickets back and forth because the contact often lacked the expertise to help the team solve their problems. 

Lack of Actionable & Meaningful DE&I

Ensuring every candidate had a fair and equitable experience was a major goal, but their ATS just couldn’t offer any solutions, which stifled their ability to create any type of actionable and meaningful DE&I changes.   

Holland uses SmartRank for diversity equity and inclusion
Holland uses SmartRank for quality of hire

The Solution

Efficient & Effective Screening

With SmartRank, applicants answered a set of highly specific multiple-choice questions created and approved by the hiring managers. Based on their selected answers, applicants were assigned an objective match score (%) that was used to stack rank them from most to least qualified. 

The Holland team no longer had to look at every résumé one-by-one or conduct phone screens for every applicant. Instead, they could spend their time focusing on only the top-ranked candidates. They were relieved of the burden of having to be a Subject Matter Expert (SME) in every role they were recruiting for, because each candidate’s answers to the hiring manager’s questions told them whether they were qualified or not. 

Increased Hiring Manager Engagement

Hiring managers got engaged in the process of coming up with highly specific questions that reflected the exact qualifications they were looking for. Those new to the process or feeling stuck creating a question, can also use SmartRank’s AI to generate excellent questions with answer options, and even suggested scores for each answer option. 

The applicant’s answers told the recruiting team and hiring managers exactly what they wanted to know about every candidate instead of what the applicant’s résumé wanted them to know. Knowing qualifications upfront greatly reduced the time spent interviewing unqualified candidates and that reduced friction between recruiters and hiring managers.

Improved Applicant Experience

To improve the applicant experience, recruiters made heavy use of SmartRank’s bulk actions, which can be applied on multiple applicants for multiple roles in a single click (or set up to run automatically). Since every applicant has a match score, bulk actions make the process of evaluating and subsequently responding to applicants significantly faster. Holland enabled some of the bulk actions to run automatically, which further improved the speed and consistency of their communication with applicants. 

SmartRank also provides the capability to text applicants, which Holland sorely needed. Holland was able to set up texting templates and use them with bulk actions and the “Invite to Interview” feature that texts an invitation to the applicant in a single click. Texting through the SmartRank application removed the need for the Holland team to use their personal cell phones and improved tracking of applicant communications. 

Robust Data Analytics & Reporting

SmartRank provides 40+ reports on critical metrics such as Applicant Funnel, Time-Based Metrics (such as how long it takes for hiring managers to provide feedback), Diversity, Job Boards (including where the best candidates are coming from), Requisition Events, and Applicant Statistics. 

Data within the application, such as the percentage of applicants that chose each answer option, provided the Holland team with deep insights into how their candidate pool matched their expectations and allowed them to align those better.

Actionable & Meaningful DE&I

With the résumé no longer acting as the main tool for screening, the Holland team was able to enable SmartRank’s DE&I functionality. These features mask applicant demographic data such as name, college attended, years of graduation, their résumé, and LinkedIn profiles, until the hiring manager has expressed interest in a candidate and an interview is scheduled, at which time the demographic data is automatically unmasked.

Holland uses SmartRank for quality of hire

“What would have previously taken me 30 – 40 minutes, is now seriously taking me one minute…”

The Outcome

Efficient & Effective Screening

By automating the screening process, having detailed qualifications on each candidate, and having those candidates stack-ranked and filtered, the Holland team was able to reduce screening time by over 75%, which equated to roughly 3,000+ hours (346+ days) of time savings per year.

The initial phone screen was entirely eliminated from their process, because they were able to have the candidates answer all the preliminary questions to determine what their qualifications truly were. This generated additional time savings allowed the Holland team to schedule the top candidates first and then work their way down the stack-ranked list.

Time consuming…time…time. I mean that is the biggest thing I can say. What would have previously taken me 30 – 40 minutes, is now seriously taking me one minute to send [with] a click of a button.

All this time savings has allowed the Holland team to now focus on special projects related to their HR-related duties such as, employee relations, investigations, reporting, meetings with employees, etc. As one director stated, “I don’t see myself working as many hours after hours as I did in the past to try and play catch up and make sure that I finished the to-do list for the day.

Quality of the hires has also increased greatly, reducing rehires by over 50%. 

Increased Hiring Manager Engagement

The depth of qualifications enabled the Holland team to engage hiring managers at a deeper level, and created more accountability for them to determine their required qualifications, “rather than being on HR’s shoulders.” 

The tension and friction of hiring managers not feeling like they were receiving qualified candidates or in a timely manner also diminished greatly. “SmartRank has taken all that sting out of it because we now can show who, what, where, when, how long, and why.

Partnering and developing questions with the hiring managers has provided the Holland team with more insight into what these roles actually do on a daily basis.

Improved Candidate Experience

Texting through SmartRank was a “game-changer” for the field roles. They were able to get faster response times for scheduling interviews, gathering information, and overall communication with candidates. What once was a 1 – 2 days response time from the candidates, is now hours.

Privacy and personal security concerns were also mitigated because the Holland team no longer provides personal cell phone numbers when texting with candidates.

Robust Analytics & Reporting

Reporting from SmartRank was able to help the Holland team tell the story about how well they were performing in many areas. This enabled them to have conversations with hiring managers or leadership with actual data instead of anecdotal information. As a very data-driven company, this quantitative data is exactly what the team needed to show how much value they were bringing to the company.

Actionable & Meaningful DE&I

Since every candidate answers the exact same set of questions for a particular role, Holland is now able to say that 100% of applicants are given the most fair and equitable screening process that could possibly be offered. 

In addition, with SmartRank DE&I features turned on, the Holland team and hiring managers initially only see Match Scores (%) and rankings based on qualifications, answers to qualification questions, experience, former manager ratings, and some education information, which has almost removed a tremendous amount of unconscious bias from the process.

“SmartRank has taken all that sting out of it because we now can show who, what, where, when, how long, and why.”

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