A Buyers Guide to Applicant Tracking Systems
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A Buyer’s Guide to Applicant Tracking Systems [2021]

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Are you looking for an Applicant Tracking System? There are a lot of options out there. So how do you know which one is right for you? What should you be looking for when researching different ATS providers?

The applicant tracking system (ATS) is the lifeblood of the modern staffing firm, so it’s important to choose wisely.

And that’s why we’re here. To ease this burden, we’ve created a thorough guide to choose the Applicant Tracking System that suits your hiring needs!

What you’ll learn in this guide:

  • What is an ATS?
  • Understand why you need an ATS?
  • How should you choose an ATS provider?
  • Which features are most essential?
  • Which questions should I ask when picking an ATS provider?

Let’s get started:

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What is Applicant Tracking System?

Do you use Excel or other spreadsheets for your hiring needs? It’s time to ditch the spreadsheets. Excel and other spreadsheet solutions are certainly useful, but they just aren’t built with the needs of a staffing business in mind. As a result, you’ll often lose time and potential business in the long run, plus you’ll lack the ability to scale as your business continues to grow. 

An applicant tracking system (ATS) automates an organization’s recruiting and staffing operations and provides a central repository for candidate data—including CVs and applications. An ATS is built to help you better manage every stage in the recruiting process, from application to hire, while delivering greater overall efficiency.

A modern Applicant tracking system does all the repetitive tasks from job advertising and career site to candidate screening and interview management.

Who uses applicant tracking systems?

  • Independent recruiters 
  • Staffing firms
  • Executive search firms Large enterprises 
  • Small and medium-sized businesses (SMB) 

Typically, the applicant tracking software is managed by the human resources department or a hiring manager.

You have an understanding of what an ATS does, but is it worth the investment?

Recommended Read: The Ultimate Applicant Tracking Systems Guide for 2021

Why Should You Invest In an ATS?

An ATS is more essential than ever to manage the candidate-driven staffing landscape. It will refine your workflow to be efficient during each stage of the candidate lifecycle and reduce your recruiters’ efforts for each step. 

An ATS makes it easier to source and find candidates, eliminates time-consuming and repetitive manual activities, improves the candidate experience, and enables your recruiters to make better decisions, and allocates more time to the tasks that matter most.

94% of recruiters and hiring professionals say their ATS or recruiting software has positively impacted their hiring process. (Source)

ATS positive impact

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)

Over 98% of Fortune 500 companies use applicant tracking systems (ATS). (Source)

fortune companies use applicant tracking systems

A small company can save up to $10,000 using an ATS. (Source)

save money with ATS

Today, firms of all sizes are investing in applicant tracking systems to not only better manage their candidate database but their end-to-end recruiter workflows as well.

Here are some quick benefits of using an ATS:

  • An ATS is a long-term investment that both grows your business and grows with your business.
  • An ATS will automate otherwise manual tasks, giving your hiring team more time to focus on your candidates.
  • Want happier candidates? An ATS will improve your candidate experience.
  • A good ATS will track all of your firm’s communication history with a candidate.
  • ATS allows you to measure, analyze, and improve your employer branding strategies.

Understand Your Recruiting Challenges and Requirements

Recruiting challenges

Whether you’re buying for your first ATS or looking for a more powerful online applicant tracking system, the search for any new technology always starts with a big question: What are your recruiting challenges and needs?

To get you started, here is a list of most recruiting pain points:

  • Low-quality responses to job postings
  • Employees are not showing interest in referring candidates
  • Employees are not sharing open positions on their social media profiles
  • Candidates not having an easy way to apply
  • No measurement of quality and efficiency of sourcing
  • No intelligent system for tracking potential future candidates
  • Bad career page and clunky application process
  • Poor interview scheduling system
  • Decisions/offers not documented in a systematic way
  • Manual resume parsing and screening
  • No recruiting metrics and detailed reports
  • Drowning in paperwork and spreadsheets
  • No time to send personalized responses to applicants
  • Manually posting job opening to multiple job boards
  • Need to upgrade interview process
  • Pre-screening questions or assessments

Identifying your pain points is an important first step in the ATS selection process. Here’s a quick checklist to determine your specific needs:

Step 1: Review your recruiting process

  • Document your recruiting workflow steps
  • How often do you follow these steps?
  • Do you use any third-party tools like job boards or social media?

Step 2: Determine what you’re lacking currently

  • What are your biggest pain points?
  • Where does your hiring team spend the most time?
  • What additional features are you looking for?

Step 3: Create an ATS wishlist

  • What would your perfect ATS look like?
  • What features are must-haves, and which ones are just nice-to-haves?
  • Share this list with prospective ATS providers so they can address your specific needs.

Step 4: Who you want to access the ATS

  • How many people will need to login into the system?
  • Which members of your organization should have access?

Step 5: Calculate your budget

  • What’s your budget for an applicant tracking system?
  • Be sure to consider any budget you may want to spend on additional integrations as your business grows?
  • Are you already paying for job ads or staffing firms?

Recommended Read: 10 Modern HR Software Solutions for Your Business in 2021

What Features Do You Need to Look For?

ATS features

We recommend keeping the following points in mind during your evaluation process:

Automatic Data Capture

The average staffing professional spends less than half of their time actually working with candidates and generating revenue. Most of their day is instead taken up by manual administrative tasks.

The best applicant tracking systems will automatically capture all of your firm’s hiring and recruiting activities. This frees up time for other responsibilities like sourcing candidates and nurturing relationships.

For the most famous example, think of a Fitbit. It automatically captures all of your activity while you go about your day without requiring you to enter anything. And uses that data to deliver insights so you can reach your health fitness goals. 

It works the same way with an ATS. Your firm’s recruiting activity, including candidates communication, gets logged automatically, so you can better understand your business without spending valuable time manually entering your data.

Predictive Intelligence

You can manage your contacts through email or a spreadsheet, but those solutions serve exclusively as data repositories. An ATS with predictive intelligence takes a forward-looking approach to your candidates.

Predictive intelligence will identify problems for your recruiters before they escalate so you can avoid being blindsided by an unhappy candidate. This helps you to make smart decisions with your time, like prioritizing accounts that most need your attention and reaching out to candidates ripe for redeployment.

Text Messaging

Recruiters aren’t the only ones on their phones. Candidates increasingly prefer to be contacted by text message. Look for an ATS with options for Short Messaging Service (SMS) to send texts to candidates directly from your ATS.

Security

Your customer records contain large volumes of data that pertain to you, your candidates, and your clients. If your databases are compromised, your firm’s reputation can suffer. Look for an ATS provider with an exceptional security reputation. The provider should demonstrate a sustained effort to ensure security by using encryption for data transfers and limiting the amount of personal information that can be collected.

Flexibility

The best applicant tracking systems are built with a staffing firm’s needs in mind, but no solution can be perfectly tailored to your business’ specific needs. And your needs will likely evolve as your business grows. 

Look for an ATS that can grow with you and adapt to fit your needs, whatever they may be. Choose an ATS that supports open application programming interfaces (APIs), so you can customize it to best suit your workflow.

Integrations

Here are three important integrations to consider.

Email: Are you using Gmail or Outlook? And do you use your email for everything? If so, look for an ATS that integrates with these leading email providers. 

With email integration, you can view your email inbox directly within your ATS. You should also be able to easily parse in resumes, add notes, and create new tasks and appointments from customer emails.

Job Boards: With job board integrations, you can make postings, search for candidates, add candidates directly, and track metrics—all from your ATS. It saves you time and simplifies what would otherwise be a timely process.

LinkedIn: Look for an ATS with seamless LinkedIn integration so you can streamline your recruiters’ workflow, reduce clicks, and provide a continuously up-to-date view of candidate information in LinkedIn. It’ll save time that would have been spent shuffling from window to window or adding candidates that were already in your database.

Reporting

It can be hard for companies to get basic information on how their hiring is going. An ATS should offer built-in reports that give everyone a front-row seat on the hiring process. At a basic level, that means providing a complete picture of all the candidates who have been considered for a position, including outcomes from phone-screens, interviews, take-home tests, and rejections or offers that have already taken place, along with a run-down of hiring activities scheduled in the future.

A free forever ATS

Recommended Article: SpringRecruit: Feature Release Updates

Conduct Research of ATS providers

Investing in an ATS is a big decision. Make sure you do all of your homework before selecting a provider.

Ask how many clients use their products and determine what type of reputation they have for supporting their product. A good ATS provider will understand your business and show you how their solution will address your specific needs and challenges.

Here’s an ATS research checklist to keep you focused:

  • Study the company blog. Are they educational and useful?
  • Check the customer lists. Are they SMBs or enterprises?
  • Read customer stories and testimonials. Pay attention to the data backed proof
  • Look for recent product updates. Do they continuously innovate their product?
  • Check honest ATS software reviews on Capterra, G2 Crowd, and Software Advice
  • Get a demo to see ATS in action, what features it offers, and how it can solve your recruiting challenges

Questions to Ask your ATS Provider Before Your Buy

Questions to Ask your ATS Provider

It’s crucial to ask the right questions before buying the best applicant tracking software. To get you started, here are a few questions to ask potential providers when considering an ATS.

Client Info

1. How many active clients are using your ATS platform?

2. What market size is best suited for companies using your platform, based on company revenue and number of users?

3. Identify three of your top competitors

4. Can you provide case studies of successful customers?

Product Overview

5. Does your ATS work on mobile devices?

6. Is it possible to customize the ATS solutions? Please describe

7. How do you differentiate your product from competitors?

8. What are the core product functionalities of your ATS?

9. Does your ATS come with a defined workflow?

10. Does your ATS leverage predictive intelligence? 

11. Can I view email activity within the ATS?

12. Does your ATS automatically track email communications?

13. Do you offer a free trial?

14. Are all of your ATS features available in a free trial?

15. Do I need a credit card to sign up for a free trial?

Integration

16. What job boards can be integrated with your ATS?

17. What third-party time and expense tools can be integrated with your ATS?

18. What popular email applications can be integrated with your ATS?

19. What third-party onboarding tools can be integrated into your ATS?

20. What background screening tools or partners can be integrated with your ATS?

21. How does your social media functionality work?

Reporting

22. Can data be exported into common formats for analysis using other HR tools or systems?

23. Are these reports customizable?

24. What reporting is shown in recruiter or management dashboard views?

25. What key metrics does your ATS track automatically?

Training

26. How long does it take to get recruiters up-to-speed?

27. Do you offer training for new users?

28. Are there ongoing resources for using and learning about the ATS?

Innovation

29. How often do you build new features/functionality?

30. How often do you release system updates?

31. Has your ATS won any awards or commendations?

32. Does your ATS have any unique features that other systems don’t?

Operation

33. Is your user interface intuitive?

34. Is it possible to customize fields and workflows?

35. Are follow-up contacts, emails, and notes recorded and searchable?

36. Does the system operate in real-time?

Security

37. What security precautions do you take?

38. Do I maintain full ownership of my data?

39. Is your ATS cloud-based or on-premise?

40. How long is the data kept?

41. What is your data retention policy?

Support

42. Do you provide live or on-demand training support?

43. Is the customer support 24-7?

44. How can I contact you if I have a problem?

45. Do you have a free knowledge base or resource?

Pricing

46. Do your plans offer unlimited team members options?

47. How many active job openings can I have?

48. What types of pricing plans (pay per user/pay per position/free-forever) do you offer? 

Pick Your Winner!

Choose a better ATS

Congratulations!

After all these steps, you probably choose an ATS provider which offers the best combination of your preferred features and budget.

Most importantly, an ATS should be simple and easy to use. If the platform is difficult to use, you are wasting time and resources.

Ask these two questions to yourself:

  • How does this tool make you feel?
  • Would you like to use it everyday?

If so, congrats – You’re now the proud owner of a powerful new recruiting tool. Go forth and hire!

ATS Evaluation

We’ve put together a list of all the features you need to source great candidates, run an effective hiring process, pull meaningful reports, and more. This checklist will come in handy when you evaluate your ATS providers:

FeaturesSpringRecruitAdd ATS 1Add ATS 2
Career page integration
Multiple job boards integration
Web/mobile apply
Employee referral portal
Job ad creation and distribution
Resume parsing
Social media integration
Bulk resume import
Automated resume screening
Automated interview scheduling
Interview reminders
Interview kits
Interviewer tags
Create notes
Assign tasks
Add comments
Talent pool management
Candidate profile
Auto-merge duplicate profiles
Bulk email sending
Applicant progress dashboards
Email templates
Offer creation and management
Track recruiting metrics
Customized reports
Export reports
Team performance management
Important analytics

Key Takeaways

Here’s a quick checklist:

  • Take the time to understand your recruiting needs
  • What features are most important to your business?
  • Research ATS providers
  • Schedule demos to better understand the strengths and weakness of their solution
  • Ask questions to determine if the provider is a fit

This process will help you to choose an ATS that helps your business succeed. Good luck!

Try SpringRecruit Free

FAQs

How to find the best applicant tracking system?

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.

What are some benefits of an ATS?

Here are some prominent advantages of applicant tracking systems:

Enhance candidate experience
– Hire faster
– Lower cost per hire
– Improve employer branding
– Effective candidate sourcing

What does resume parsing mean?

This refers to the ATS’s ability to extract important information from candidates’ resumes. For example, one applicant may list their skills at the end of their resume, while another may integrate their skills into their experience section. Resume parsing allows ATS to detect these skills no matter where they are on the resume, ensuring all candidates are evaluated the same way.

Hire the right candidates. Springworks is free-forever ATS! Sign up and start recruiting today

Pawan Kumar

I'm a Content Marketer at Springworks. I've been featured in many reputed publications and online magazines! I'm an avid reader and movie buff. Let's connect on Social Media.

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