In this complete guide to applicant tracking systems, you’ll learn everything from key features to functionality to business benefits.
No matter the size, forward-thinking companies know one thing: Employee experience matters.
It all starts with the way you treat your job candidates.
We reached out to young startups and found that the recruitment process and streamlining their recruitment tracking is the biggest challenge for these startups. No recruiter wants to use the Google/Excel sheet for this task.
The good news?
With a user-friendly Applicant Tracking System (ATS), a tool for HR managers and recruiters to build a scalable system that saves time, money and wows the pants off their candidates.
This complete guide to an Applicant tracking system (ATS) will help walk you through exactly what an ATS is, how it works, and how to find the ideal applicant tracking system for your growing business.
Section 1: What Is an Applicant Tracking System?
According to Wikipedia:
An applicant tracking system (ATS) is a software application that enables the electronic handling of recruitment and hiring needs. An ATS can be implemented or accessed online at enterprise- or small-business levels, depending on the needs of the organization.
In simple terms, an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is software created to automate, fasten and improve your hiring process. It helps HR managers, recruiters, and hiring teams find, screen, organize and hire new employees.
A modern Applicant tracking system does all the repetitive tasks from job advertising and career site to candidate screening and interview management, an ATS does all the repetitive tasks!
Section 2: Why Are Applicant Tracking Systems Used?
What we meant when we said, ATS fastens the recruiting process. Why do you need to hire faster?
Because the hiring process lasts for 2 to 3 months on average, while the top candidates stay on the market for ten days only.
You probably get hundreds of resumes for a single job profile, making it difficult for recruiters to find the right candidates. How a new applicant tracking system could help? Here are some common pain points an ATS can solve:
- Struggling to sort the resumes
- Drowning in paperwork and spreadsheets
- Employees refer very few candidates
- No time to send personalized responses to applicants
- Creating and managing the career site on your own
- Posting job opening to multiple job boards
- Track recruiting metrics and reports
- Saving and organizing candidates’ profiles for future use
- Upgrade interview process
- Pre-screening questions or assignments
A top applicant tracking system (ATS) impacts your hiring process and results immediately. In the next section, we’ll see how an applicant tracking system works.
Recommended Read: How Does an ATS Make Your Team More Productive?
Section 3: How Does Applicant Tracking System Work?
Applicant tracking system sorts through all the resumes received for a position and turn them into a standard basic format. It takes these standardized resumes and checks them against the job description to see which ones are the best match. This way, when a recruiter or hiring manager is deciding who to interview, they already know who is most likely to be a good fit for the position.
Some best applicant tracking systems offer a chat function, notes field or team collaboration features so that the hiring team members can discuss and make decisions in one central place.
You can also track candidates via a pipeline so all the members of the hiring team can easily visualize each candidate’s status. ATS platforms also offer features like automated text messaging and email auto-responders, which saves a lot of time for hiring managers.
Once a decision has been made, some applicant tracking systems can automatically send offer letters and the onboarding process to a candidate. It created a smooth onboarding experience for your new employee.
How ATS Optimize the Hiring Process
Today, technology is a boon for businesses of all sizes to optimize their hiring processes. The proper recruitment process saves your time and is inclusive enough to enable you to hire ambitiously. Therefore, having a step-by-step hiring process that maximizes the likelihood of a good outcome makes sense.
The most effective way to think of the recruiting process borrows from sales orthodoxy, with a hiring pipeline. Recruiters and marketers have much in common. If you want to be a successful recruiter, you should start thinking more like a salesperson!
Let’s do a simple exercise: Write down the current basic steps of your recruiting process. It probably looks something like this:
It’s a funnel — you get a lot of applicants, you speak with some of them, you meet a few of them, you hire the one you like best. An efficient filtering process will save you and your candidates time.
Rather than floundering with an inbox full of resumes and spreadsheets tracking candidates’ progress, the employee tracking systems enable hiring teams and managers to work together collecting all comments, feedback, notes, social media profiles, or assignment results on the same page. No need for endless email threads.
The efficiency offered by an applicant tracking system takes on added importance when you are hiring at scale or across multiple locations. It can deliver intelligent insights and data into the recruitment results based on locations and divisions to measure relative progress on hiring.
Section 4: Key Features of an ATS
With so many candidates applying to jobs, companies will have to step up their game to attract the most qualified applicants and organize them once they’ve applied. Here are the top features of an ATS and how these can help you succeed in today’s competitive job market.
ATS system helps design your own career page and develop an identity from the beginning of the recruitment process. Candidates can see all the openings on your career page and can apply directly from there. The ATS automates your career page with customized input forms, resume screening, powerful filters, and email notifications.
Customizable Job Board View
An Applicant tracking system inspects and visualizes your recruitment processes better with customized board views for each stage and job opening. You can store all of the applicant’s documents and contact information. ATS tool helps to create searchable candidates’ profiles.
Easy Job Postings on Multiple Job Boards
How will the Applicant Tracking System make sourcing and engagement more efficient? ATS system integrates with popular job boards and social platforms like Monster, Indeed, LinkedIn, etc., so you can easily post your job ads with a single click!
Resume Parsing and Screening
The resume parsing feature of an ATS extracts all the important information and converts it into an easy-to-scan format. The applicant tracking system can automatically disqualify candidates who don’t satisfy your requirements.
Interview Scheduling and Automated Reminders
With a modern ATS, recruiters can integrate interview schedules with Google Calendar. Let your candidates pick the interview slots and reminders for upcoming interviews and feedback hassle-free. Some ATS also offers customizable interview questions within the software.
Forget about creating the assessments manually. ATS can automatically send tests to candidates at different stages of the hiring process.
ATS allows you to Invite everyone from recruiters to interviewers, grant them different access levels, and collaborate effectively as a team. It helps hiring team members easily communicate and make better hiring decisions together.
Analytics and Reporting
Applicant Tracking System (ATS) provides insights into your most important hiring metrics. The analytics can give insights and track career site engagement, social sourcing efforts, and manage advertising campaigns. With ATS Analytics, hiring teams can track all the important metrics to get valuable insights into your hiring strategy and improve accordingly.
Once you have hired the candidates, it is time to begin the onboarding process. An Applicant Tracking System can help you welcoming new hires to the team, introduce them to your company, and explain what to expect. Additionally, you can add resource pages for the new hire to access, including company values documents, employee benefits, leave policy, and other important information.
Section 5: The Benefits of Using ATS (Applicant Tracking System)
According to Capterra’s research, 94% of recruiting professionals say that Applicant Tracking System (ATS) has improved their hiring process.
ATS has the power to improve the three most important recruitment KPIs:
- Time to hire
- Cost per hire
- Candidate quality
86% of recruiting professionals stated that using an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) has helped them hire faster. And 78% of them confirmed that it had improved the quality of candidates they hire, too. (Source)
Here are some more benefits of using an ATS:
Are you spending way too much time posting and reposting my job ads? An ATS lets you automatically post open roles to all your favorite job boards, social networks, and talent communities at the click of a button.
Enhance Candidate Experience
By speeding up your recruitment process, you can get those top candidates before they get snatched up by another company. Also, by sending automated emails which ensure regular and timely communication with your candidates, you can significantly improve your candidate engagement and candidate experience.
Candidates who had a positive candidate experience in your recruiting process will more likely accept your job offer, reapply in the future and refer other high-quality candidates to your company.
With Applicant Tracking System, tasks that previously required many hours of work can now be executed very quickly and easily – or sometimes even done automatically. Some of these tasks include resume parsing, disqualifications of non-qualified applicants, interview scheduling, and email automation.
Applicant Tracking System also saves time by building talent pools, which can be used to find perfect candidates for your future roles and job openings.
Lower Cost Per Hire
Applicant Tracking System saves money simply by saving your precious time. With many administrative recruiting tasks being automated, you need less human hours to fill a position, which makes your hiring strategy more productive and cost-efficient. If you know that referred candidates are your best new hires, there is no need to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on job boards.
Improve Employer Branding
In today’s passive job market, an attractive employer brand has never been so important. A strong brand can make a difference in convincing a passive candidate to join your company. ATS allows you to measure, analyze, and improve your employer branding strategies. Features like fully-branded career pages, for example, allow you to impress candidates and improve your talent pipeline.
Section 6: How to Choose an ATS for Your Business
As you can see, Applicant Tracking Systems offer many different solutions for various recruiting goals and challenges. Therefore, finding the right ATS software is not an easy task.
Here’s a 3-step process:
Step 1: Identify Recruiting Goals and Challenges
If you are planning on investing in a new recruiting tool, you should start by identifying your recruiting goals and challenges. What are your most pressing recruiting challenges? Do they include any of the following recruiting challenges?
- How do you do hiring planning and budget costs?
- How are your job ads written?
- How and where do you post your jobs?
- How do you currently collect applications?
- How do you progress candidates through from applied to hired?
- Do you use pre-screening questions or job-related assignments?
- Do you work with external recruiters?
- Who is on your hiring team (this may differ from one position to another)?
- How many steps does a candidate go through before a final interview?
- Do you conduct background checks before a final offer?
- What kind of data and reporting do you use to improve your hiring process?
Step 2: Research ATS Providers
The next step is to research different applicant tracking system providers and compare their ATS solutions. Keep your recruiting goals and challenges in mind and browse their website to check if they seem like a good fit for you.
How to decide if a certain ATS tool is a good match for you?
Here’s a research checklist that will help you to decide the right ATS solution:
#1: Read the company blog
Is it frequently updated with new posts?
Are blog posts educational and helpful?
#2: Check customer base
Are the client’s clients mostly enterprises or SMBs?
Are there any recruitment agencies in the client base?
#3: Read case studies and testimonials
Read stories why customers love their ATS.
What problems did their ATS solve for its customers?
#4: Look for recent product updated
Does this ATS provider regularly post new updates?
Does the provider make improvements in their product and develop new features?
Based on this checklist, create a list of the best applicant tracking systems. Also, mark all the paid applicant tracking systems and Free ATS.
Step 3: Take Demo
Getting a demo is your chance to see ATS in action, what features it offers, and how it can solve your recruiting challenges. Most ATS providers provide a free, live demo.
During the demo, test all the features and user experience. The ATS should be simple and easy to use.
Section 7: How SpringRecruit Can Help You
Most Applicant Tracking Systems are expensive and unaffordable for small businesses and startups. So they end up using a combination of Excel/Google Sheets and emails, which is not even close to an ATS in terms of efficiency.
SpringRecruit is a free-forever applicant tracking system (ATS). This popular applicant tracking system helps you organize and keep track of all of your job openings, resumes, candidates, and contacts.
Wondering how SpringRecruit can help you? It will:
- Make hiring simple, better, and faster.
- Provide built-in reports and visually appealing dashboards.
- Track every stage of the recruitment process.
- Provide a funnel view to track the candidates.
- Create multiple job postings and customize the career page.
- Customize your recruitment stages.
- Offer social Media Integration.
We’re helping startups supercharge their recruitment game right from the start. Here are some quick features of this free applicant tracking system:
- Customisable Board View
- Automated interview scheduling
- Applicant tracking
- Background screening
- Candidate management
- Resume parser
- Automated assessments
- Multi-user collaboration
- Built-in career pages
- Social media integration
- Advanced reporting
- And more
Hire the best talent, consistently!
Bonus Section: Applicant Tracking System Buyer’s Checklist
Choosing the ATS that makes sense for your recruiting team is a decision that requires a little insider knowledge. That’s why we created this quick checklist to help you.
Does this ATS fit my company profile?
Can each person using the software navigate it effortlessly?
Does this software create a user-friendly experience?
Can you see live reports?
Can the reports be tailored to your specific needs?
Do you understand any associated costs?
Will the job posting tools save you time?
Can the software easily share to social media sites that your team needs?
Does their support actually support?
Will the ATS be able to work with your current career site?
Do you have candidate and referral portals?
Did you read the reviews, create a list of vendors that suit your needs, and research?
Recommended Post: A Buyer’s Guide to Applicant Tracking Systems 
Frequently Asked Questions
Pricing is one of the most important factors in choosing an ATS. There are some common pricing models for ATS solutions:
Pay per user
Pay per position
Pay per module
Choose the plan that suits your hiring requirements the best.
Finding the best Applicant Tracking System for your business is now faster and easier! Compare prices, reviews, features, and get a free consultation to find the perfect software.
Applicant tracking systems enhance recruitment by tracking the most suitable applicants for a job and also help in the onboarding process.
Here are a few factors that you can consider while making a choice:
– Consult with recruiters and understand their challenges and perspectives.
– Determine the ATS priorities of your organization.
– Consider compliance needs.
– Try the free demo and analyze every detail.
– Consider the quality of customer support.