What Is an Applicant Tracking System?
The Applicant Tracking System is specialized software designed for recruiters and employers, enabling comprehensive candidate tracking throughout the recruitment and hiring process. Most of these solutions are cloud-based and operate on a Software as a Service (SaaS) model as modular platforms. They serve various purposes, including:
- Efficient management of job postings.
- Aggregating applications in a candidate database, filtering them, and analyzing them.
- Real-time tracking of the recruitment pipeline.
- Ensuring compliance with regulations.
- Streamlining communication with candidates through automation.
- Automating repetitive tasks to increase efficiency.
How Does an Applicant Tracking System Work?
An Applicant Tracking System was created to simplify the work of recruiters and relieve them of the necessity of performing certain repetitive tasks. These tasks include:
- Assisting in the creation and management of job advertisements.
- Analyzing resumes received to determine if they contain specific pre-defined keywords – therefore, writing an ATS-optimized resume is a bit like writing articles for Search Engine Optimization.
- Storing resumes in a database.
- Supporting effective application selection.
- Tracking the candidate journey in the process.
- Creating reports and analyzes based on collected data and enabling recruiters to make better recruitment decisions.
How Does ATS Software Work in Practice?
When a vacancy opens in a company, the hiring manager needs to define the recruitment needs, i.e., specify the characteristics top candidates must possess to fill the vacant position (professional experience, skills, education, and more). These characteristics should be included in the job description content. The best Applicant Tracking Systems include ready-made job description templates, which greatly facilitate the creation of advertisements.
If the Applicant Tracking System is already configured and integrated with job boards, social platforms, and the company website, the job title and description can be published.
The ATS software aggregates all submitted resumes from potential candidates in a database. Before a resume is added to the database, candidates may be asked to answer additional questions, known as knock-out questions. Answers to these questions allow for an even more precise selection of applications for a particular recruitment. The questions typically have a closed form (multiple-choice fields) and concern the candidate’s qualifications, skills, education, held certificates, and job preferences (e.g., willingness to relocate).
ATS software includes features such as resume parsing, which involves extracting data from resumes and processing them into a unified format. This way, recruiters don’t have to scan resumes individually; the ATS scans those resumes for them. Data parsing in many Applicant Tracking Systems also includes cover letters.
Recruiters searching for the best candidates can easily search and filter resumes to assess candidates’ relevant skills, experiences, and other qualifications. The system can automatically reject candidates who do not meet minimum criteria, such as education level or years of experience.
Hiring teams quickly identify the most qualified candidates and move them forward in the recruitment process.
Additional Functions of the Applicant Tracking System
👉 ATS can assign scores or rankings to candidates based on how well their qualifications match the job description.
👉 Top Applicant Tracking Systems have communication tools that allow recruiters and hiring managers to interact directly with candidates through the system. They can schedule interviews, send automated emails, track candidate progress, send reminders, and utilize an integrated calendar.
👉 ATS automates collaboration for recruiting teams – team members can leave comments, provide feedback, and make notes on candidate profiles.
👉 Applicant Tracking Systems help track recruitment metrics and provide reports and analyses based on them.
👉 Many ATS platforms integrate with other HR software and recruitment tools, such as HRIS, background check software, accounting software, and onboarding software.
Features You Must Look Out for in an Applicant Tracking System
This sounds like a mantra, but let’s say it once again: before investing in any software, be sure to determine your company’s needs. A well-matched Applicant Tracking System enables you to achieve your recruitment strategy goals more quickly.
When making your choice, pay attention to the following features:
Scalability and Customer Support:
It’s no coincidence that these two aspects lead the list. If your company plans to expand and continuously grow its team, it cannot afford to select software that fails to keep up with industry trends or lacks regular updates. An even worse scenario would involve an ATS whose provider does not offer technical support but leaves users with self-guided tutorials. Such applications should be immediately excluded from your wishlist!
Integration and Mobile Compatibility:
Ideally, the ATS system should seamlessly integrate with your HR platform and other management software used by your company. This enables the creation of a coherent ecosystem that streamlines the HR department’s workflow. Accessibility on various end devices allows the recruitment team to foster deeper collaboration and stay up-to-date with evolving processes.
Advanced Artificial Intelligence Features and Automations:
Applicant Tracking Systems inherently operate on algorithms, but when selecting a provider, look for solutions that enhance AI-related functionalities. This is particularly crucial given the significant advancements AI has made lately.
ATS software can include features such as chatbots to enhance communication with candidates, predictive analysis modules, or advanced tools for analyzing video content and assessing resumes and cover letters. These functionalities can assist in more precise candidate matching for open positions.
A user-friendly and intuitive interface aids the hiring team in quickly maximizing the system’s capabilities.
Effective Resume Parsing:
Efficient resume parsing and automatic data extraction and categorization from resumes streamline the selection process.
Personalized Job Advertisements:
Creating tailored job advertisements that consider specific requirements, roles, and responsibilities makes it easier to attract top talent. Built-in job advertisement templates and job description templates are a valuable addition.
Advanced Candidate Search and Filtering:
A wide array of filters enables quick candidate discovery and sorting based on various criteria, simplifying the process of narrowing down the candidate pool and improving the hiring efforts.
Collaboration and Communication Tools:
Collaboration tools encompass options for rating candidates, allowing hiring team members to leave comments, and sharing opinions about job applicants. Communication can be supported through a shared inbox or a team channel.
Candidate Tracking and Application Status:
The system should enable the assignment of clear statuses to applications and candidates so that, in the case of concurrent recruitments, no recruiters are left in doubt. For example, you shouldn’t encounter a situation where a candidate is placed in two different recruitment processes and the recruiting teams are unaware of it. Each recruiter should be able to track candidates through all stages of the funnel, up to the onboarding process.
The ATS should allow for configuring task sequences that trigger at specific moments, such as sending a reminder to a candidate a day before an interview. If a candidate declines a meeting, it should inform the recruiter to remove the appointment from the calendar.
Data Security and Compliance:
ATS software must meet strict legal requirements regarding the protection of sensitive candidate information and compliance with labor laws. When considering a provider, it’s worth reading user reviews in this regard and requesting references and insights into security certifications and ISO standards.
Extensive Reporting and Analysis Capabilities:
An Applicant Tracking System without reporting and analysis modules is not recommended! Reporting and analysis tools are essential for tracking key recruiting metrics such as time to hire, source effectiveness, and other statistics that enable the quick identification of weak points in the recruiting process.
Enhancing Candidate Experiences:
Creating a positive candidate experience is not a “nice-to-have” but a “must-have” in every recruitment process. Therefore, an Applicant Tracking System should include features that improve candidate engagement and experience, such as seamless integration with the company website, where up-to-date job offers are always posted. It should also be equipped with communication tools for guiding candidates through the various stages of the entire recruitment process, sending personalized correspondence, sending reminders about meetings with the recruitment team, etc. Furthermore, it would be great if the ATS allowed, like Candidate Relationship Management, to take care of passive candidates and active candidates, at least minimally. And it’s worth remembering that the visual aspects of the tools are also crucial for most job seekers!
Other Points to Consider:
📌 Price. Before deciding, it’s worth comparing the full pricing structures of different providers rather than focusing solely on the per-recruiter license cost. Costs may depend on factors such as the number of job openings or integrations with selected job boards.
📌 The possibility of testing the ATS software. It’s a good idea to take advantage of demo sessions or free tool trials before making a purchase decision. What if the tool doesn’t offer a trial version? It’s not worth taking the risk and buying blindly.
📌 The response time from the technical support department. Does the provider offer technical support? Excellent! However, it’s less ideal if the contract specifies a 14-business-day response time to inquiries. In such a dynamic process as talent acquisition, any delay caused by a technical issue reduces candidate experiences and increases costs.
What Are the Benefits of an Applicant Tracking System?
The implementation of an Applicant Tracking System brings benefits to both small and large companies. Key advantages of using this solution include:
Efficiency, Time, and Financial Resource Savings:
Applicant Tracking Systems simplify many manual tasks, such as creating job titles, writing job descriptions, analyzing resumes, sorting candidates, and scheduling interviews. They enable automated job posting and simplify the application process, saving recruiters and hiring managers significant time and recruitment efforts. These efficiencies lead to reduced recruitment costs, including the elimination of expenses related to physical document storage, as all data is stored either in the cloud or on the company’s server.
ATS also offers predictive analysis capabilities, allowing for the assessment of which communication channels and job boards yield the most candidates. This helps in allocating financial resources more effectively, thereby cutting unnecessary expenses. Its integration capabilities with other HR software further reduce company costs.
Improved Candidate Management and Expedited Recruitment Processes:
The Applicant Tracking System enhances the organization and sorting of candidate data, making it easier to manage and track candidates throughout the recruitment process. By reducing administrative bottlenecks and automating tasks, ATS facilitates filling vacancies more swiftly.
Higher-Quality Candidates, Promoting Diversity and Inclusion:
Applicant Tracking Systems screen and evaluate candidates based on predefined criteria that prioritize diversity and inclusion while eliminating biases. This results in only the top candidates remaining in the recruitment funnel.
Enhanced Collaboration Among the Recruitment Team:
Applicant Tracking Systems enable real-time collaboration among multiple team members in making recruitment decisions, sharing insights, and facilitating seamless communication within the platform.
Ensuring Compliance with Standards and Eliminating Human Errors:
Applicant Tracking System assists companies in maintaining high recruitment standards, ensuring consistency, and complying with employment regulations. Additionally, it simplifies the retention of comprehensive candidate documentation for potential audits. The use of automation also reduces the risk of human errors in tasks such as data entry or document management.
Centralized Data, Talent Pool Building, and Advanced Analytical Capabilities:
All candidate information, communication history, and job postings are stored in a central database. This provides access to a talent pool for future recruitment needs and facilitates data analysis and reporting. ATS’s ability to analyze historical data and predict trends empowers hiring managers to make data-driven decisions that are free from bias.
Customization to Meet Company Needs and Size:
Many Applicant Tracking Systems offer customization options, allowing organizations to tailor the platform to their complex recruitment processes and adapt to the company’s growth rate.
Enhancing the Job Applicant’s Experience in the Hiring Process:
Applicant Tracking Systems can provide job applicants with a positive experience through timely updates, clear communication, and a user-friendly application process.
Increasing Company Competitiveness:
Utilizing the best Applicant Tracking System enables companies to reach top candidates more quickly, expedite the hiring process, save costs, and ultimately enhance their competitiveness in the job market.
Major Misconceptions About Applicant Tracking Systems
There are several myths associated with Applicant Tracking Systems that need clarification:
All Applicant Tracking Systems Are the Same:
Claiming that all ATS systems are identical is like saying all recruiters possess the same skills, which is clearly untrue. Like any ATS software, they vary in features, design, and integration capabilities.
Applicant Tracking Systems Only Screen for Keywords:
Applicant Tracking Systems do match candidate search results to keywords, but they do more than that. They analyze resumes from various angles, considering context, synonyms, and other factors defined by the recruiter.
Applicant Tracking Systems Are Expensive and Complex:
Firstly, they should be complex! Even those eventually used by small companies should have robust functionality. Secondly, the market quickly determines software prices, so there are always options available to fit various budgets.
Applicant Tracking Systems Eliminate Human Involvement:
This is perhaps the most serious accusation against ATS systems, and it’s entirely unfounded. While ATS automates many administrative tasks, it still cannot assess a candidate’s soft skills, build a relationship with them, and, most importantly, make the final hiring decision.
Applicant Tracking Systems Automatically Filter Out All Unqualified Candidates:
That’s not how it works. It’s true that ATS can be configured to evaluate candidates based on specific criteria. However, recruiters can always review applications from candidates who don’t meet all the requirements because the ATS doesn’t automatically delete any resumes!
Applicant Tracking Systems Are Biased:
Biases stem from people, not algorithms. If the tool is improperly configured, it can produce skewed results. The key is to properly define the criteria that candidates must meet.
Applicant Tracking Systems Don’t Enhance the Candidate Experience:
Quite the opposite! A well-configured ATS improves the overall candidate experience during the application and recruitment process. It provides a swift application process and keeps candidates informed of their status.
Applicant Tracking Systems Are Only for Recruitment Agencies and Sourcing External Candidates:
ATS systems are not exclusive to agencies and are not limited to managing external candidates. They can be implemented by any company that regularly conducts recruitment for all types of positions.
How to Go About Applicant Tracking System Implementation?
Here’s how to implement an ATS in a company, step by step:
Step 1: Assess Needs and Set Goals
Review the recruitment strategy and identify the company’s needs for automation, considering factors such as company size, the potential number of candidates, and the complexity of recruitment processes.
Step 2: Determine the Available Budget
Applicant Tracking System solutions vary in cost, and when choosing software, it’s crucial to consider their cost within the company budget.
Step 3: Choose the Right Software
Test alternative solutions, use demo versions, and gather feedback from other companies using the chosen ATS.
Step 4: Configure and Customize the ATS for Company Needs and Integrations
The Applicant Tracking System should be properly configured and tailored to the unique recruitment processes in the company. If the company uses various HR tools, they should be integrated with the ATS system. Before launch, the entire recruiting team and HR department should complete product training.
Step 5: Data Migration, Software Testing, and Pilot Phase
Before launching the Applicant Tracking System, ensure the correct migration of data from existing company databases and the security of confidential information.
The next step is testing, which helps identify and resolve any software conflicts. If possible, implement a pilot phase with a small recruiting team to ensure smooth and trouble-free future recruitments.
Step 6: Launch and Implementation
After completing testing and the pilot phase, the ATS can commence full-scale operation. Remember to conduct periodic training sessions on the product when the provider introduces system updates.
Step 7: Maintenance of ATS and Software Optimization
A good practice is to designate a person in the team responsible for monitoring ATS workflow and receiving information from other employees about malfunctions, etc. Gathering feedback from the HR team and candidates is valuable for identifying issues and implementing repair plans promptly.
Step 8: Keeping Up with Trends
No one claims that the chosen AT must stay with the company forever. Technology changes rapidly, and it’s essential to track trends to maintain competitiveness. If the provider doesn’t develop their software, even if their ATS is the cheapest on the market, it’s better to look for something newer that provides greater computing power, database capacity, and a broader range of integrations.
Implementing an ATS is a significant investment in the recruiting process, and proper planning is crucial.
Applicant Tracking System: FAQs
How Much Do Applicant Tracking Systems Cost?
It depends. No one likes this answer, but it’s really difficult to give a different one in this case. You can find free ATS software and those costing >$100,000 annually. Pricing models include pay-per-job, pay-per-recruiter, pay-per-employee, and flat fee.
Several factors influence the cost of an ATS, such as:
Number of Users Utilizing the System:
The cost of the system depends on the number of licenses purchased, so the more users, the higher the cost can be. If your number of users exceeds the package offered by the provider, you may incur additional charges as a result.
Pricing Model and Contract Length:
Providers offer various pricing models, such as monthly subscriptions, annual contracts, or fees for each job posting, so the cost of the Applicant Tracking System will depend on the billing method.
Customization and Features:
Some Applicant Tracking Systems offer different service levels with varying levels of customization and functionality. Higher-tier packages, which come with more features, often incur higher costs.
If you require different integrations with your HR software, background check services, or external tools, this will be a determining factor in the final implementation and maintenance cost of the Applicant Tracking System.
Support and Training:
Some providers may charge additional fees for extra product training and possible technical support.
Some providers may add extra charges for additional data storage or increased data bandwidth.
💡 The cost of the Applicant Tracking System should not exceed your recruitment budget because it is not the only tool used in the recruitment process!
What Is an Applicant Tracking System, and How Does It Differ from Other Recruitment Software?
Applicant Tracking System is a type of software that streamlines and automates various aspects of the recruitment process. Its primary function is the efficient management of job applications and tracking candidates throughout the process.
Here are some features that distinguish ATS from other types of recruitment software:
➡️ The Applicant Tracking System focuses on collecting candidate applications, processing the data within them, and managing candidates throughout the recruitment process. It does not analyze the job market, forecast workforce demand, build relationships with candidates, or manage passive and active candidates.
➡️ It is not accurate to describe the Applicant Tracking System as only a CV database because, unlike regular databases, it provides features that facilitate the flow of the recruitment process and smooth collaboration with the recruiting teams.
➡️ When selecting an ATS, it offers features to monitor the candidate’s progress in the recruitment process, schedule interviews, etc. It does not cover HR management aspects such as training modules or employee evaluations, although most Applicant Tracking Systems on the market easily integrate with HR platforms.
➡️ ATS tracks the effectiveness of recruitment sources and other activities related to candidate acquisition. Other recruitment software includes KPI analysis functions related to hiring, employee retention, etc.
➡️ ATS integrates with various job portals and job boards, including social platforms like LinkedIn. Unlike job posting management software, it provides features to track the candidate’s journey throughout the recruitment funnel.
➡️ ATS has functionalities that allow the initiation of the onboarding process for a new employee, but it certainly does not replace specialized HR software in this area.
These are just some examples of the differences between ATS and other types of software. The choice of a solution should always be based on the specific needs and priorities of the organization in the recruitment process.
Can You Integrate Applicant Tracking Software with Other Recruitment Automation Software?
Certainly! Most Applicant Tracking Systems available on the market have integrations with various solutions, such as:
✅ Job boards, enabling direct posting of job ads from the ATS to multiple job boards and tracking ad performance from one place;
✅ Background check and candidate screening software, automating the verification of candidate qualifications;
✅ Interview scheduling tools, automating the scheduling of interviews by synchronizing available time slots for interviewers and candidates;
✅ Assessment and testing platforms, facilitating the evaluation of candidate skills and competencies;
✅ Onboarding software, ensuring a smooth transition from recruitment to the onboarding stage;
✅ Company website integration, providing full synchronization of job listings and a seamless flow of applications between the website and the ATS, improving the candidate experience;
✅ Communication tools and email inboxes, facilitating the flow of information not only between recruiters and candidates but also among other hiring stakeholders;
✅ Candidate Relationship Management software, making it easier to manage passive candidates and convert them into active candidates;
✅ Various HR platforms, e.g., HRIS systems, enabling comprehensive management of employee documentation when the hiring cycle transforms a candidate into an employee.
ATS providers offer different integration possibilities with various types of software. Before deciding on an ATS, it’s worthwhile to determine integration options to address all company needs and optimize the costs of maintaining the technological stack.
How Do Hiring Managers Use ATS to Find Candidates?
Here are a few ways in which hiring managers leverage ATS for identifying and evaluating potential candidates:
✔️ Creating Job Postings: Crafting job postings with optimized job titles and descriptions that include required qualifications and any other pertinent information about the position.
✔️ Convenient Customization and Specific Selection Criteria: Easily customizing and defining specific criteria for candidate selection tailored to the vacancy’s needs, encompassing education, work experience, skills, certifications, location, etc.
✔️ Efficient Selection from Collected Resumes: Streamlining the selection process by efficiently filtering through collected resumes, narrowing down the pool of candidates.
✔️ Quick Assessment of Top-Ranked Candidates: Rapidly assessing candidates highly ranked by the ATS system, facilitating the identification of top talents.
✔️ Collaboration and Smooth Team Communication: Convenient collaboration and seamless communication within the hiring teams, enabling faster decision-making on hiring the selected candidate.
✔️ Easy Overview of the Recruitment Funnel: Conveniently monitoring the entire recruitment pipeline and tracking each candidate’s progress in the process.
✔️ Utilizing Analytics and Metric-Based Reports: Leveraging analytics and reports based on recruitment metrics facilitates the evaluation of the hiring process and the swift identification of problematic areas.
ATS systems enable effective management and evaluation of candidates, enhance candidate quality, and support hiring managers and other stakeholders in making more informed decisions in the realm of recruitment.