Learn more about responsive design and why anyone who is choosing a new applicant tracking system should care about it.


This post is about responsive design and why anyone who is choosing a new applicant tracking system should care about it. Responsive web design (RWD) is the latest web design approach aimed at creating websites and applications to provide an optimal user experience—easy reading and navigation with a minimum of pinching, zooming and scrolling—across a wide range of screen sizes from smartphones to desktop monitors.

Pro Tip: Expecting your users to collaborate with you exclusively from a desktop computer or by pinching and zooming on a mobile device should NOT be a part of your ATS rollout strategy in 2015

The mobility of our workforces is creating major challenges for most developers of applicant tracking systems and their users. As remote workforces grow and work schedules become ever more flexible, users expect applications to perform on multiple devices, monitors and browsers. One solution is for vendors to create a different product for every device. This is commonly referred to as an “app strategy:” an iPad, iPhone and Android app, plus a desktop version. Another solution is to design a single, universal product that is capable of adapting to any size monitor or screen, even screen sizes that don’t exist yet. The latter is “responsive:” one application that responds to the environment you are using it in. So, when you log into a responsive application on an iPhone or tablet it adapts to the smaller screen. On a laptop display or a giant monitor, the app expands and uses the entire screen.

At the core of the matter is the idea of meeting people where they are. Meaning, if your hiring managers want to use your applicant tracking system on their iPhone—they should be able to. If your executives want to use a tablet to status candidates or approve an offer—they should be able to. This just makes sense. The technology is here. Your employees should be able to use technology that runs recruiting whenever they want from wherever they are and on whatever device or computer they like. Meeting people where they are is key to user engagement. And user engagement is key to successful hiring.

In most work environments, we don’t even realize how important this issue is because employees have been forced to deal with whatever is provided to them. For the most part, users of applicant tracking systems are apathetic. Employees just assume that when HR and recruiting rolls out an applicant tracking system, it’s going to be just another cumbersome app that they will try to ignore.

A huge part of the problem is that in our personal lives, we have technology that we use on our phones, laptops, tablets, etc., that mold around how we want to do stuff. And, when we come to work, it’s not like we forget that technology should just work they way we want. Employees have griped about applicant tracking systems forever and recruiting practitioners need to know that until now the storm has been pretty quiet. Look out, the winds of frustration are whipping up and we if don’t start making strides to address the issue of meeting people where they want to be with recruiting technology, we can expect a typhoon of frustration.

Responsive design is the new mobile and will prove to be immeasurably beneficial for the recruiting technology industry and consumers of applicant tracking systems in general. Responsiveness is the catalyst that we’ve all been waiting for to truly accelerate the socialization and user adoption rates that  recruiting professional require to be successful. Our industry is once again on the cusp of reinventing itself again and this time with the help of responsive design. Don’t get stuck in the dark ages again. Choose an applicant tracking system that is responsive. If it’s not responsive, don’t buy it.

Responsive design isn’t the magic bullet but it is extremely important. Responsiveness can’t be ignored and needs to by high on your list when evaluating corporate applicant tracking systems.

Here’s your list of knockout questions for folks selling you HR/recruiting software:

Is this product responsive or do you have an app strategy? If there is an app strategy, how often are the apps updated? What platforms and devices do you support? How often do you update these apps? What exactly do the apps let users do?

If this is not responsive, is that on the product roadmap? If so, how long do you anticipate the redesign of the product to take? Know that rearchitecting an applicant tracking system to be completely responsive will take up to, if not longer than, a year of development during which time the vendor won’t be releasing any new features.

Are there any limitations to what areas of the app can be accessed from a mobile device? Make sure that the critical areas of the system are responsive. A good rule is that 80% of the application needs to be accessible on any device 100% of the time.

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