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You are looking to learn about or better understand Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). We’ve put together this guide to answer your questions about all things about ATS.

ATS guide for recruiters

What is an Applicant Tracking System?

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An Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is a software application that helps organizations manage and streamline their recruitment and hiring processes. ATS systems are commonly used by businesses, large and small, to handle the various tasks associated with finding, evaluating, and hiring new employees. Here are the key functions and features of an Applicant Tracking System:

Job Posting: ATS allows employers to create and post job openings to various job boards, company websites, and social media platforms. It helps in reaching a wider audience of potential candidates.

Resume Parsing: ATS can automatically scan and parse resumes and application materials submitted by job seekers. It extracts relevant information such as contact details, work experience, skills, and education from these documents, making it easier to organize and search for candidates.

Candidate Database: ATS systems store candidate information in a centralized database, making it simple for recruiters and hiring managers to search and retrieve candidate profiles when new positions become available.

Screening and Filtering: ATS allows organizations to set specific criteria and filters to screen and shortlist applicants based on qualifications, experience, and other relevant factors. This helps in reducing the number of unqualified candidates and focusing on those who meet the job requirements.

Communication: ATS systems often have communication tools that enable employers to send automated email responses to candidates, schedule interviews, and keep track of all communication with applicants throughout the hiring process.

Collaboration: ATS facilitates collaboration among team members involved in the hiring process by allowing them to share candidate information, provide feedback, and collaborate on candidate evaluations.

Interview Scheduling: Some ATS systems offer interview scheduling features that allow employers to coordinate interview times with candidates and interviewers seamlessly.

Analytics and Reporting: ATS generates reports and analytics on various aspects of the hiring process, such as time-to-fill, source of candidates, and diversity statistics. This data helps organizations make data-driven decisions to improve their recruitment strategies.

Compliance and Reporting: ATS can assist organizations in complying with employment laws and regulations by maintaining records of candidate interactions, interview notes, and other relevant documentation.

Integration: Many ATS systems can integrate with other HR and recruiting software, such as payroll systems and onboarding solutions, to create a more seamless recruitment and onboarding process.

Overall, an Applicant Tracking System aims to streamline and automate the recruitment and hiring process, improving efficiency, reducing administrative tasks, and helping organizations find the best candidates for their job openings. It plays a critical role in modern talent acquisition and is commonly used by HR departments and recruitment agencies to manage large volumes of job applications.

What is the primary purpose of an Applicant Tracking System?

The primary purpose of an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is to streamline and improve the efficiency of the recruitment and hiring process for organizations. Here are the key objectives and primary purposes of an ATS:

Manage Job Postings: ATS allows organizations to create, post, and manage job openings across various job boards and platforms, including their own website and social media channels. This helps in reaching a wider audience of potential candidates.

Reporting and Analytics: ATS generates reports and analytics on various aspects of the recruitment process, helping organizations make data-driven decisions, track key performance indicators (KPIs), and improve their hiring strategies.

Compliance and Documentation: ATS helps organizations maintain compliance with employment laws and regulations by storing records of candidate interactions, interview notes, and other relevant documentation.

Reduce Time-to-Hire: By automating tasks and providing efficient candidate management, ATS systems help organizations reduce the time it takes to fill job openings, ensuring they can acquire top talent more quickly.

Enhance Recruitment Strategy: ATS provides insights into the effectiveness of different recruitment channels and sources, allowing organizations to refine their recruitment strategies and allocate resources more effectively.

In summary, the primary purpose of an Applicant Tracking System is to optimize and modernize the recruitment and hiring process. It streamlines tasks, improves communication, centralizes data, and provides valuable insights to help organizations attract, evaluate, and hire the best candidates efficiently while ensuring compliance with relevant regulations.

Why use an Applicant Tracking System?


Organizations use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) for several compelling reasons, as these systems offer numerous benefits that can significantly improve their recruitment and hiring processes. Here are some of the key reasons why businesses choose to use an ATS:

Efficiency: ATS streamlines the entire recruitment process, automating many time-consuming tasks such as resume parsing, candidate screening, and interview scheduling. This efficiency saves HR professionals and hiring managers a significant amount of time and effort.

Centralized Candidate Data: An ATS serves as a centralized database for all candidate information, making it easy to organize, search, and access applicant profiles. This eliminates the need for manual record-keeping and reduces the risk of losing candidate data.


Improved Candidate Quality: By allowing organizations to set specific criteria and filters, ATS systems help identify and shortlist the most qualified candidates for open positions. This results in a higher likelihood of finding candidates who match the job requirements.

Enhanced Collaboration: ATS fosters collaboration among hiring team members, enabling them to share candidate information, provide feedback, and make informed hiring decisions together. This ensures that all stakeholders are on the same page throughout the hiring process.

Enhanced Communication: ATS systems automate communication with candidates, sending status updates, interview invitations, and rejection notices. This ensures a smoother and more professional candidate experience while reducing the risk of communication errors.

Analytics and Reporting: ATS generates reports and analytics on key recruitment metrics, providing valuable insights into the effectiveness of various recruitment channels, sources, and strategies. Organizations can use this data to refine their hiring processes and make data-driven decisions.

Compliance and Documentation: ATS systems help organizations maintain compliance with employment laws and regulations by securely storing records of candidate interactions, interview notes, and other relevant documentation. This can be crucial in case of legal challenges or audits.

Reduction in Time-to-Hire: ATS can significantly reduce the time it takes to fill open positions by automating tasks and improving the efficiency of the hiring process. This ensures that organizations can secure top talent more quickly and stay competitive in the job market.

Cost Savings: While there is an initial investment in implementing an ATS, the long-term cost savings can be substantial. The reduced administrative workload, faster hiring times, and improved candidate quality can lead to significant cost reductions.

Scalability: ATS systems are scalable and can accommodate the needs of organizations of various sizes. Whether a company is hiring a few employees or managing high-volume recruitment, an ATS can adapt to the workload.

In summary, organizations use Applicant Tracking Systems to optimize their recruitment and hiring processes, resulting in increased efficiency, improved candidate quality, better collaboration, enhanced compliance, and cost savings. These systems have become essential tools for modern HR departments and recruitment teams looking to attract and retain top talent.

Four misconceptions about Applicant Tracking Systems


1. Buying an ATS is not going to get you an influx of candidates

If you’re currently struggling with attracting candidates for job openings, buying an ATS will not solve the problem. Attracting candidates relates to your recruitment strategy and employer branding, and no ATS will do that for you.

2. Buying an ATS will not solve all your sourcing challenges

Another common recruitment challenge is sourcing candidates. Some ATSs can post your job openings to multiple job boards and save you the hassle of doing this manually. But if you are not making a good first impression with your job descriptions and your application process is overly complicated, candidates will not be rushing to apply for your jobs.

3. ATS Automatically Selects the Best Candidates


One common misconception is that ATS systems have the capability to automatically select the best candidates for a job based on keywords and criteria. While ATS can assist in screening and filtering candidates, they do not make hiring decisions. Ultimately, human recruiters and hiring managers make the final decisions based on the information provided by the ATS. So before adding a shiny new recruitment tool to your tech stack, assess your long-term recruitment strategy and set up an effective process, and then look for an ATS that fits your needs.

4. Buying or switching to a new ATS is time-consuming


HR and recruitment professionals are sometimes reluctant to implement or switch to a new ATS because they fear it requires a substantial time investment and might not be worth the sacrifice. Finding and implementing an ATS does require some time and effort. But finding a solution that meets your organization’s needs and can scale with you as you grow will save you time in the long run — well worth the effort. After you’ve conducted your research, built your strategy, and identified what you need to help you to achieve your goals, you’ll have a better idea of what functionalities you require. You can then start looking for an ATS that will help solve those issues.

How much do Applicant Tracking Systems usually cost?


If you’ve been scouring the internet for your next ATS provider and haven’t been able to find a proper pricing page, that’s because most companies select their rates according to the number of job openings, business size, integrations, modules, and many other factors. Before pricing is adapted for you, you’ll probably be starting with one of the following models:

Subscription-based Pricing: Many ATS providers offer subscription-based pricing models, where organizations pay a monthly or annual fee to access and use the ATS software. The cost can range from a few hundred dollars per month for small businesses to several thousand dollars per month for larger enterprises.

User Licenses: ATS providers may charge based on the number of user licenses needed. Larger organizations with multiple recruiters and hiring managers may incur higher costs due to the need for more licenses.

Features and Customization: The cost of an ATS can also depend on the features and customization options required. Basic ATS systems with essential features may have lower subscription fees, while more advanced systems with extensive customization capabilities may cost more.

Integration: If an organization needs to integrate the ATS with other HR or recruitment software (e.g., payroll systems, onboarding tools), there may be additional costs associated with integration services and ongoing maintenance.

Which ATS type is best for your company?


For the platform type, the main ATS categories are: 

Software as a service (SaaS). These complete, turn-key solution providers host your platform and company data on a cloud-based server. They typically provide set-up, support, and ongoing customer success management to help you get the most out of the product. Many companies are moving to SaaS platforms due to their ease of use and 24/7 access-from-anywhere. 

On-site. These software platforms are hosted on the company’s own IT infrastructure. They provide benefits such as more customized security and data maintenance possibilities but require much more upkeep and IT resources. 

Company size and type generally include the following categories

Enterprise. Large corporations, typically with 5,000+ employees. They operate in multiple locations and have complex recruitment and data management requirements. 

Small or medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Companies with hundreds of employees, possibly in more than one location. They will typically require less powerful ATS features and data storage than Enterprise clients.

Agency. They will typically need large amounts of data storage and applicant processing capabilities due to higher volumes of job applicants.

A step-by-step guide to choosing an ATS


Follow these five steps to choose the ATS that’s right for you: 

  • Assess your needs

  • Set a budget

  • Review options

  • Test drive your picks

  • Make a selection

What’s the history of the ATS?


An ATS was originally a simple system that helped recruiters scan paper resumes into a database to sort and screen them. Before these systems, recruiters would manually collect, organize and parse through each resume that came their way. 

Sounds exhausting and tedious, right? 

Well, it was. And that’s why a digital solution was created. Having a digital repository of resumes and applicant documents helped HR teams organize candidate information more efficiently and enabled compliance with labor and data storage regulations.

As the ATS evolved, it began to morph into a light version of the Candidate Relationship Management (CRMs) we see today. These slightly more advanced Applicant Tracking Systems offered basic resume screening capabilities and could simplistically track an applicant’s path through the hiring process. 

This evolution has continued into the modern ATS platforms we see today, which have become integral to recruitment activities like resume parsing, candidate management, and more. 

The evolution of the ATS is largely thanks to the great strides made in big data, AI, and processing technologies, not to mention the introduction of cloud computing. 

Now that we’re up to speed with where the ATS is in its evolution let’s look at what a modern Applicant Tracking System is and what it can do.

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