The benefits of Applicant Tracking Systems and how to choose one

Recruitment software can be a confusing area, filled with acronyms and abbreviations and tech-heavy feature lists and bells and whistles.

We thought we’d simplify things and explain what an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is, how it works, why it can help your recruitment or hiring process and how you can choose the right ATS for you and your business.

Whether you’re a burgeoning or established recruitment agency or an in-house talent team in desperate need of automation and tech tools, it’s important to understand the benefits of an ATS.

Our free eBook below provides a bunch of helpful insights and advice, but if you need more info we’re always happy to help, just contact us here.

What’s an Applicant Tracking System?

An Applicant Tracking System (ATS) manages candidate applicant information and the application process.

In simple terms, this means that an ATS manages and streamlines all steps of the recruitment and hiring process, from when a candidate applies for one of your jobs to when they’re placed in the role.

This includes the entire interview process, all communications and any further steps required like compliance checks, reference checking or background screening.

With an ATS organising your applicant data in one central place, you can streamline the entire application and interview workflow, helping you stay on top of all tasks and information. 

Basically, it improves the quality and speed of your recruitment process at scale.

A Recruitment CRM (which stands for Candidate Relationship Management) or talent management system is all about centralising and collating your talent pool in one place.

This means all info on job seekers and potential candidates for future positions in your company is housed in your recruitment CRM.

This way you can easily source, store and track candidates, helping you boost your proactive recruitment.

With the impact of COVID-19 and widespread candidate shortages, we’re seeing our agency users use proactive sourcing approximately 50% of the time now (compared to 20% pre-pandemic).

That means around half of their candidates are coming from their own JobAdder CRM and half are coming from responses to job ads.

These two tools can be used at different stages of your recruitment process, but ideally you’d want a tool that can do both (like JobAdder).

Your recruitment CRM provides you with a handy place to store all your jobseeker and candidate info and also acts as a recruitment tool for marketing purposes, empowering you to engage and nurture future applicants.

An ATS handles everything after the candidate moves into the applicant process, organising information and streamlining tasks and communications.

Shameless plug incoming… JobAdder offers a full stack recruitment and talent acquisition software solution, incorporating both a Recruitment CRM and an ATS, seamlessly moving from the talent pool to the application process. 

Some Recruitment CRM providers don’t integrate with an ATS or they use a clunky middle man in between. To ensure you’re using the best recruitment software possible, explore how your potential provider’s ATS and CRM work together.  

What are the benefits of Applicant Tracking Systems?

It goes without saying that a move from using Excel or Google spreadsheets and email as your primary source of recruiting to using an ATS would result in immediate time-saving benefits.

Transitioning from one software system to another is a little harder to measure unless you’ve been keeping track of key metrics such as time to hire/fill, applicants per hire or cost per hire from one platform to the next.

Nevertheless, you should expect to see improvements in efficiencies simply from the reduced number of steps you need to take across your hiring process. For example, if you’ve been having to manually upload the same job ad to multiple job boards individually, a system that allows you to post to all your selected job boards at the same time would clearly be a time-saver.

Not convinced? JobAdder’s ATS also has one main dashboard with a drag-and-drop workflow, custom workflows to suit any pipeline and slideout task windows, which means you can work faster with fewer clicks.

One big benefit of an ATS is that it can scan resumes and job applications, easily matching a candidate’s experience with the job posting.

An ATS uses algorithms to scan a candidate’s skills, education, work history and other qualifications. Recruiters can assess and action applications for open jobs seamlessly and efficiently, which means you’re more likely to find the best possible fit for your business when using an ATS.

By using an ATS, you can improve the quality of your hires and quickly identify the most qualified candidates. This streamlined process can also help expedite the decision-making process, empowering you to choose who to hire sooner.

Your ATS should have a mobile app that works across Android and iOS and provides you with the ability to recruit on the go.

This could include messaging and responding to your team members within the app, evaluating candidates, reviewing job descriptions and job ads, reviewing team notes, scheduling interviews and more, all in real-time.

The JobAdder mobile app offers all of the above (sorry for the shameless plug) and it also provides voice-to-text functionality so you can add notes easily and avoid manual data entry. This means that your team’s notes can be organised in one place and be kept up-to-date in real-time, so nothing gets lost.

With an ATS like JobAdder’s, you can sync your Gmail or Outlook email to your JobAdder account. This means you can view all email communications centrally, with any email activity syncing directly back to JobAdder for a consolidated view.

You can also sync your existing calendar to JobAdder, so all your interviews, tasks, meetings and associated notes feed automatically into your JobAdder account.

With these seamless connections, you can quickly schedule interviews in JobAdder, update your calendar, respond to candidates and send follow-up reminders (even via SMS) all within our platform.

The recruitment process can mean endless back-and-forth communications as recruiters, candidates, hiring managers and other stakeholders all play a part in the complex hiring process.

Cut to the chase and remove this back and forth with seamless communications, skills matching and testing, background screening, general assessments and reference checks all connected within your ATS.

It’s crucial that your ATS has an open API that allows easy connections with other tools in your recruitment system. For instance, JobAdder has a partner marketplace of more than 150 partners, ensuring quick integrations with your back office tools.

This way, you can assess and check applicants all within JobAdder, removing frequent delays for background or reference checks and boosting your hiring efficiency.

With an ATS, you can quickly message candidates, either one-on-one or in bulk. You can communicate with candidates about their application and how it’s progressing or ask them for more info.

You could also send job openings and company updates to candidates that have expressed an interest in your company in the past. This ensures your candidates feel much more involved in the hiring process. Don’t underestimate the importance of consistent communication!

Your candidates will appreciate it, your employer brand will get a boost in their eyes and even if they’re not successful they’ll associate your company with a pleasant experience.

Onboarding new employees can be complex with a bunch of procedures and processes that need to be followed.

An ATS can automate how you collect employee information, how you track the training progress and how you manage the checking and storing of personal documents.

It can also ensure compliance by offering configurable mandatory compliance rules for every job, plus global compliance settings, which means you can place candidates with confidence and get them set up for success quickly.

How to choose an Applicant Tracking System

There are a bunch of questions you should ask when you start comparing ATS providers and choosing an ATS for your business, including:

  • What do you want out of your recruitment software?
  • What are your goals?
  • Why are you changing (from spreadsheets or another ATS) in the first place?
  • What existing features can you not do without and what is your utopian idea for a super-efficient and profitable recruitment process?
  • How do you rank each in terms of importance?
  • Is it essential or nice to have?

Strengths could include:

  • The supplier brand and reputation
  • Patents and intellectual property held by the supplier
  • Sales and Support location
  • Key employees and experience
  • Advanced technology or leading-edge processes, and QA

Weaknesses could include:

  • A lack of expertise, skills or funding for the software
  • Aging infrastructure and technology, no innovation or progression in functionality
  • An inflexible workforce or delivery/support infrastructure
  • Communication restrictions (email only for support etc)

Opportunities could include:

  • New markets the software supplier approaches
  • New technology and innovation
  • Changes in customer support and success
  • Events, webinars and conferences for education
  • Evolving knowledge base through client contribution to evolve the product and service

Threats might include:

  • New regulations at the state or federal level restricting functionality or data
  • New competitors emerging
  • Operating system and hardware changes
  • The state of the economy in particular market sectors

Comparing features is an inevitable part of your decision-making process. This is crucial when considering features and processes that form the baseline of what you need to even consider a product in the first place.

When it comes to your shortlist of providers, most people take into consideration time-saving and money-making features that exist in front-office automation or back-office efficiencies.

But what about your long-term growth plans? It’s equally important to consider the product roadmap and whether this aligns with the rate of growth your company is aiming towards.

Though due diligence should be done to ensure that features actually work for you and function properly, it’s also important to consider the ability your considered product has to support and accelerate the long-term goals of your business.

It’s can be costly and disruptive to switch systems, making it a decision that should be made with future-proofing in mind.

Start with a list of requirements that you need. Rank the features or items that you want with different rankings of importance, research the providers’ websites and check out their reviews on G2 and Capterra.

Don’t get caught up in the detail during early demos. You don’t want to demo every system for five hours or you’ll lose focus and interest.

Conduct a high-level evaluation and then drill down on further calls, removing suppliers at each round until you have three or four options. It’s then time for due diligence, details, deep dives and a little bit of a gut feeling.

Try not to start with a budget and instead align it to value. Ideally, the evaluation process should start without a strict budget in mind.

You can purchase solutions for $25 a user a month or build technology stacks that cost $400 per user a month, but if you can hire 50% fewer people and make 100% more money with the latter it’s much, much more profitable and budget, in a simplistic form, goes out of the window.

When it comes to shortlisting your top options, while there are a number of providers out there, generally once you get through your must-haves and key nice-to-haves and understand why you’re leaving your current provider, it’s pretty easy to narrow the field down to three or four candidates.

This is an integral part of the valuation process as you need to ensure your data is moved across and tested at multiple stages, the system is configured to your liking and your users have regular access to training.

Many providers overpromise and underdeliver here and some providers use third-party implementation to accommodate this.

You need to ensure your chosen provider has the right processes in place, a dedicated team, your goals are clearly aligned, and there is honesty, accountability, and clarity at each stage of the process.

Choosing a new Applicant Tracking System, or finally making the move from Excel to an ATS, is a big decision and a big investment for your company, your recruiters and your candidates.

You now know the benefits of Applicant Tracking Systems and how to choose the best ATS for you, and with this knowledge, your decision-making process can become more streamlined and effective.

Remember that the ATS you choose needs to show reputable long-term success, and the potential to grow not only your hiring efforts but also your business.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the ATS switching process, check out our eBook here, or get in touch with our friendly team.

Not sure what’s involved in switching your ATS? Download our step-by-step guide.