Applicant tracking system (ATS) software is an HR tool that organizes, standardizes, and reports on a company’s entire hiring process.
While the human resources team owns the software, hiring managers and interviewers also need access to the software. HR can access the full range of hiring tasks in a single interface from candidate sourcing through evaluation, hiring, and follow-up. Companies can track each part of the application and hiring process in the tool — from start to finish. A business that implements an ATS benefits from a streamlined hiring workflow with job board posting, career site builders, interview tools, approvals workflows, notifications, email integration, and analytics. Applicant tracking systems do not typically provide onboarding tools.
Applicant tracking systems give human resources an organized and standardized recruitment process to follow. A hiring manager approves the job description which a team member posts to the job board. The software connects all relevant documents that candidates submit like resumes, cover letters, and notes to the job description, so hiring teams can make direct comparisons among candidates.
Some ATS options use keyword matching or AI-powered resume parsing to automatically filter unqualified candidates from the hiring pool. Team members review applications, make notes, message other team members, and record candidate feedback right in the software. With approval triggers, workflows, and document storage, HR reps automatically send offer letters, contracts, and follow-up emails to candidates based on approvals or rejections during the recruitment process.
A recruiting software or HRIS software may do the same job as an applicant tracking system, but an ATS cannot handle the scale that these other options are built for. Recruiting platforms are a better fit for enterprise and large multinational businesses that hire continuously. The most powerful HRIS software with an integrated ATS will fulfill high-volume recruit-though-retirement pathways, but only through the direct integration with other enterprise features like performance management, onboarding, training, and benefits administration. Larger organizations may find most ATS systems cannot manage the volume or complexities of these types of hiring needs.
Smaller businesses or those with specialized hiring needs may employ an ATS to find quality candidates and organize the recruitment process. An ATS uses fewer resources across the organization: Your IT team doesn’t have to set it up, it’s easy for HR employees and hiring managers to use, and standalone ATS software costs less than recruiting or HRIS systems.
A company’s recruiting efforts should be as efficient and effective as possible — especially when just one job posting can generate hundreds of resumes. As a company grows, an applicant tracking system is necessary to automate and optimize routine aspects of hiring.
A 2019 Jobscan survey found that 99 percent of Fortune 500 companies employ some form of candidate tracking. These systems help employers dig through mountains of resumes to quickly find candidates with the right qualifications, so hiring managers can spend their time qualifying candidates for soft skills not found on a resume like creativity and collaboration.
ATS tools can also help companies promote diversity initiatives by tracking key diversity metrics that provide insight into the tools and strategies that help the company hire a more diverse employee base. A survey conducted by LinkedIn found that 47 percent of hiring managers are not being held accountable to diversity initiatives. A robust applicant tracking system can improve these metrics.
The software also helps companies respond quickly to job seekers, which increases overall candidate satisfaction. According to one 2020 survey of job applicants, 33 percent did not receive a follow-up email from the company they applied to — a problem easily fixed with automated workflows in an applicant tracking system.
Applicant tracking tools, which streamline the application, interview, and follow-up process, give your company the advantage of improved candidate experience.
Once a candidate completes a job application on the website, the ATS automatically parses and screens resumes according to previously determined keywords. The ATS passes along qualified talent to the recruiting team for follow-up by sending an email or in-app notification.
As the hiring team moves candidates through the recruiting process, the candidate’s resume, interview answers, video interview recordings, and other key documents are saved in a single interface. They can review the assets at their convenience, add notes, up- or down-vote the candidate, and send email or text message alerts to the candidate about their progress.
Many ATS systems integrate with calendars to automatically schedule interviews for each qualified candidate. Offer letters and other document templates can be created to save time, and some systems may also provide background checks or verify paperwork during the onboarding process.
Finally, the ATS database saves qualified applicants for future reference. This helps the recruiting team build a passive candidate pool for future openings.
ATS systems are the company’s digital hub for hiring. It centralizes an organization’s recruitment database by housing all information on candidates, job openings, and placements. Most applicant tracking systems include a career landing page builder where companies can design customizable online job applications complete with employer branding to host on their website.
The following are key components that modern applicant tracking systems will offer.
A brandable portal featuring job descriptions, customized input forms, pre-screening questions, automated resume screening, candidate ranking, and email notifications. Good ATS systems also include a company portal where employees can view job postings, apply, or refer outside candidates.
Some ATS tools will let you host your careers site on a page on your own website, while others will require that your careers site will be hosted on their own platform. There are pros and cons to either option.
The powerful search and sorting feature lets recruiters quickly filter candidate listings and surface resumes or candidates by keywords, phrases, and skills or experience. Since an ATS works as a database of all potential candidates, this information can help HR professionals understand the types of individuals who apply for their positions.
The advanced search function will help companies sort through their records to fill positions with passive candidates or candidates that may have been poor fits for previous roles. Companies can also use this data to write better job applications to attract better candidates from the beginning.
Candidate profiles include the ability to upload files, documents, and additional information to a candidate’s CV. Assessment tools and reference checking are important components of this candidate information function. Some vendors may refer to the overall workflows of organizing applicant communications as candidate relationship management.
Automatic interview scheduling, video interviewing, and the ability to record and track notes from candidate interviews are becoming increasingly popular. Major ATS systems provide these options or integrations to facilitate digital interviews.
A digital, paperless recruiting process allows you to gather, store, and generate reports to help you pinpoint bottlenecks in your talent acquisition process. You can track your social sourcing efforts and listing engagement and even manage advertising campaigns.
In addition to these basic features, additional functionality and workflow customizations will vary from system to system. These may include website integrations, job ads, document collaboration, event management, rules and permissions, and integrated marketing automation tools. Some vendors will include them as standard, while others may offer them as add-ons.
An applicant tracking system is a major component of recruiting software, though recruiting software generally includes many other tools that increase its talent acquisition capabilities. Applicant tracking systems started as a way to scan paper resumes into a database. The technology evolved to filter, manage, and analyze candidates in the hiring workflow. You can find an ATS in nearly any HR software because it’s a useful tool for businesses of any size.
Recruiting software is best suited for recruiting agencies and enterprise businesses, as it equips users with tools to hire employees at scale: task management, social recruiting, public relations, CRM, billing, and a portal for clients.
Compared to ATS systems, recruitment software is considered a complete solution for an organization’s hiring process. However, the market is changing rapidly and talent management software is at a crossroads. The line between system types is blurring as vendors constantly release new features to differentiate themselves in a crowded market. These next-generation options swiftly become standard, and buyers are left with no obvious way to discern between systems.
Additionally, this constant market transformation creates a confusing lexicon with little standardization amongst providers. For example, you will find some vendors strictly call their solution an ATS, though it could be considered recruiting software since it covers sourcing, tracking, onboarding, and analytics. On the other hand, many vendors market their solution as recruiting software, despite only containing features of an in-house ATS.
The overwhelming number of features and ATS options available and the variety of names companies use to describe these options — hiring software, human capital management, talent lifecycle management, recruiting software — makes performing an applicant tracking system comparison difficult. TechnologyAdvice can help you simplify the process with a custom list of ATS recommendations. Try our Product Selection Tool on the right side of this page to get your free list.
There’s no denying that talent acquisition is a critical and strategic HR function. So while the market fights over definitions and what to call features, we advise that you don’t get caught up on how vendors label themselves.
Keep your focus on the goals of your business — learn what you want your system to do for you.
Answering these questions will determine what you need from a new system, which means you get the best software for your business — whether it’s called ATS, workforce recruiting, or magic hiring pixie dust.
The hiring world is now focused on managing a company’s people network. Today’s HR teams use social media, in-person events, marketing tools, and hiring CRMs in addition to traditional resume tools. The intersection of five key trends drives ATS innovation:
Can you tell if your candidates are qualified or just selling themselves? With online tests, you can validate skills and ensure your candidate is a good fit from the start. Hiring assessments can include skills tests completed in the ATS, personality tests from outside vendors, and custom questions provided by the hiring managers.
In addition to recruiting internationally, easing scheduling conflicts, and improving the candidate experience, video meetings and interviews guarantee authenticity and standardization in the selection process. All qualified applicants will undergo the same interview process and hiring groups can independently evaluate each candidate.
Social recruiting can draw on data from social networks and use personalized messaging, gamification, and automation to target active and passive candidates and improve candidate engagement. Recruiting is moving beyond job postings, so employers must develop a talent pool comprised of fans, candidates, employees, alumni, and even customers. These connections can be used to gain employee referrals and find talent faster.
Also Read: Why Modern Recruitment Goes Past The Resume
The majority of Americans have a smartphone within reach 24/7, so mobile-optimized career pages allow candidates to apply and interview right from their phone. Additionally, HR managers can move away from desktops and laptops and recruit, manage interviews, and qualify candidates on tablets, phones, and other devices. Modern web-based software deployments make hiring anytime and anywhere possible.
An applicant tracking system is no longer simply a repository for resumes. Now that the entire hiring process has gone digital, companies know they can use recruiting data and analytics to optimize their process. Recruiters can predict which candidates fit the position based on their application data. They can also analyze the recruitment marketing programs, candidate experience, mobile apps, and social media usage to increase the likelihood of finding the right candidates.
Since hiring transitions into onboarding and talent management, more and more companies seek an all-in-one system that handles other HR processes in addition to applicant track functionality. Vendors that offer a full HR suite can eliminate duplicate data and inefficient workforce management across an organization.
It’s best to view choosing an applicant tracking system as finding a strategic business partner rather than just picking a software vendor. You’ll need a vendor that sustains a long-term relationship and meets your changing business needs. Different business sizes and types may need additional tools, so it’s important to consider common ATS applications to ensure the vendor you choose is a good culture fit. The market is generally divided into three tiers:
Large organizations need an applicant tracking system that integrates with existing HR or ERP systems. Highly complex global enterprises also require strong collaboration, allowing recruiters to share applicant data and receive feedback from hiring managers. Large companies with legacy applications in desperate need of an upgrade should consider integrated suites from one vendor or ensure any new ATS will integrate seamlessly with existing systems.
For high-volume recruiting, staffing agencies need many of the same options as enterprises. But agencies need additional features to handle client needs, such as customer relationship management (CRM) functionality. Agencies should consider industry-specific recruiting software. Keep in mind that applicant tracking software quickly evolves, so purchase software based on its functionality rather than its label.
Thanks to SaaS deployments, small- and medium-sized businesses can get the benefits of an enterprise ATS in a simpler and more economical format. SMBs should put scalability near the top of their requirements list. Judge this based on the amount of available data storage, the pricing of additional job postings, or extra tools available at higher pricing tiers.
Some businesses with no HR department initially sign up for a free applicant tracking system with limited functionality. This can be a great option for startups, but growing companies will eventually need a paid solution to handle more positions, users, and tech support.
As an SMB scales, it can be tempting to upgrade with a vendor in order to circumvent data transfer to another system. But while the current vendor worked for your previous hires, you may need different tools to keep up with your growth. Evaluate your company’s goals and growth projections to see if the vendor will continue to be a good fit moving forward.
Creating executive buy-in is one of the most challenging portions of the software adoption process. To overcome this obstacle, you’ll need to build a compelling proposal that addresses how individual departments will benefit from the new ATS, as well as the company as a whole.
Executives invest in solutions that save or help make money, avoid risk, or serve long-term strategic purposes. To ensure successful adoption and long-term ROI, you must appeal to the differing pain points of your C-level audience so they see the need for an ATS.
Applicant tracking systems streamline administrative tasks, simplify the hiring process, and create one central location for all your workforce data. To create a common language and shared perspective, you’ll need to connect the dots for other decision-makers. You should speak their language and use data to back up your proposal. Below are a few ways to align your initiative.
Talking to your technology leadership before a project starts may feel like overkill, but it’s important to involve them in new requests as early as possible. Your company’s IT department is constantly aligning company goals and infrastructure, security, downtime, data back-up, and so on. IT helps your business function efficiently and stay agile and competitive in the market. Seek their advice early and often to minimize implementation issues later.
CIOs can help ensure that an ATS system aligns with the company’s growth and 3-5 year technology life-cycle plan. They’ll likely be interested in solutions that reduce infrastructure requirements, updates, and support as well as the potential to reduce their needs for internal infrastructure. They’ll eventually manage your ATS anyway, so make the IT department your ally upfront. When HR and IT can stand together behind a new proposal, you’ll have a better chance of buy-in from other execs.
Your CEO is concerned about the big picture rather than the specific functionality an ATS offers. Talent and leadership shortages are a huge business challenge: A 2018 Gartner survey of 168 executives showed that talent shortages are a top-5 concern for businesses in many industries. HR technology can alleviate these concerns.
With data the ATS generates, HR departments can provide key information on applicant conversion rates, how long it takes to review resumes, and interview-to-hire pipelines. These tools can also predict what skills will be needed and help HR plan for those changes. Time saved by automating hiring tasks can then be used to focus on improving strategic initiatives that attract and retain talent.
Do you know how much an ATS costs and how much it can save the company? Have these answers ready when you take that first meeting with your financial officer. Prices vary with inclusions and add-ons, but your shortlist isn’t the only item your CFO needs to see. You should be prepared with ways an ATS will give back to the company. Consider presenting the following metrics and how technology can improve or affect them:
In short, you’ll need to know the potential ROI and prove that a modern system will allow you to continually measure new hire quality and use that information to fine-tune the recruiting process.
Remember, focus entirely on your decision-makers and what’s in it for them.
Ready to find the best ATS system software for your business? That’s where we come in. From guides to reviews to side-by-side system comparisons, product information, and research articles — we’ve done the hard work for you. If you need guidance choosing a solution, we can help with free personalized product recommendations via our Product Selection Tool. Click the image below to get started.