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Call us for a free FastStart Consultation: (844) 675-2849


by Brian Westfall,
Market Research Associate
Last Updated: September 23, 2016

There are hundreds of ATS solutions currently on the market, with different solutions for organizations of different sizes, industries and hiring models. We’ve created this buyer’s guide to help you determine what type of ATS will work best for you. Here’s what we’ll cover:

What Is an Applicant Tracking System?
Overview of ATS Functionality
Benefits of Using an ATS
Applicant Tracking Systems BuyerView | 2014
What Type of Buyer Are You?
Market Trends to Understand

What Is an Applicant Tracking System?

An Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is a core component of a recruiting software suite. It simplifies the recruitment lifecycle by automating the hiring process—from receiving online applications and reviewing resumes, to interviewing candidates and on-boarding new hires. It is believed that approximately 50 percent of all mid-sized companies were using some form of ATS in 2010, and that number is growing as more companies adopt HR technology.

Overview of ATS Functionality

You’ll want to consider an applicant tracking system if your recruiting and hiring process relies on tools such as spreadsheets or handwritten notes to coordinate the process of tracking applicants over the course of the hiring process. Tracking resumes and cover letters manually is not a sustainable system as your recruiting needs intensify, and an ATS can greatly relieve the administrative burdens associated with the recruiting process.

ATS Software Functionality


Applicant tracking Ensures that recruiters can track the progress of all applicants for open roles, from start to finish.
Applicant workflow Tracks where each applicant is in the recruiting process so recruiters can move them from one step to the next and ensure they don't fall through the cracks.
Candidate tracking software & communications Enables recruiters to manage and track email and other communication with candidates to maintain an electronic record of everything.
Interview management Allows recruiters to schedule interviews with candidates and track where they are in the interview process (e.g., if the candidate must pass through several interviews before an offer can be made).
Background checks Allows recruiters to submit candidates for background checks, view where they are in the process, be notified when they pass and, if they fail, the reason(s) why.
On-boarding Helps recruiters ensure all new employees fill out any necessary paperwork/complete any administrative tasks and are set up with the proper accounts, logins and resources to ensure they can perform their job effectively.

An ATS allows you to collect applications electronically through online forms. Screening questions can often be added to these forms to eliminate unqualified candidates, and many ATSs can parse resumes based on keywords chosen by the recruiter.

Once qualified applicants’ information is submitted through the online system, resumes, cover letters and additional information are saved into the ATS database and associated with the candidate’s profile. These features allow you to track candidates easily and manage their documents in one place, as well as store past applicants in the system who might be a good fit for a future position.

Once a candidate is matched, screened and ready to be interviewed, scheduling functionality allows the recruiter to coordinate schedules with the hiring manager and candidate through one system, and the inter-departmental functionality of an ATS allows hiring managers to access candidate data and leave comments. Additionally, some ATS software even initiates background checks, and sorts and stores paperwork during the on-boarding process.

Benefits of Using an ATS

The recruitment process can be arduous for both employers and candidates, but with a functionally robust ATS, companies can save time. From sourcing candidates to tracking current applicants and ultimately hiring the ideal candidate, an ATS will reduce the time and expense of hiring new employees for both HR departments as well as recruiting and staffing agencies.

The real-world results of using an ATS are compelling. For instance, the hiring cycle at KellyOCG dropped from 115 days to 37 days when the company implemented the prominent ATS solution MyStaffingPro. The time saved reduced the cost per hire, which could be as high as $10,847, to as low as $3,300.

In another instance, iCIMS Talent Platform software was implemented at Great-West Life & Annuity Insurance Company, resulting in an overall cost-per-hire decrease of 71 percent. In fact, across Great-West’s 1,700 filled positions, the savings totaled $6.6 million.

Applicant Tracking Systems BuyerView | 2014

Over the years, we've spoken to thousands of companies considering new ATS software. As a point of reference, we thought it would be helpful to provide potential buyers with an overview of past clients' pain points and reasons for switching to a new software system. Key questions analyzed by the report include:

  • What method do you currently employ to track applicants?
  • Where are recruiters looking for candidates?
  • What are the top reasons for purchasing new ATS software?

To view the full report, click here.

What Type of Buyer Are You?

There are two distinct buyer types of applicant tracking software: recruiting agencies and corporate, or in-house, recruiters. Many vendors, such as COMPAS, have separate product lines tailored for each buyer’s needs, but here are a few quick tips to help distinguish which features you should look for depending on what type of buyer you are.

Recruiting agencies should look for ATSs that are candidate-centric. Since a recruiting agency’s full-time job is to source candidates for different clients, being able to compile and search a large database of passive and active candidates is key in order to be able to find the top candidates quickly and easily. Additional features recruiting agencies might want to look for include: contractor portals and timesheets for placed candidates, as well as client profiles and job requests. Some great ATSs that recruiting and staffing agencies should consider include: PCrecruiter, Bullhorn, myStaffingPro and Newton.

On the other hand, corporate recruiters may well value an applicant tracking system that can integrate with their core human resource information system (HRIS), if they currently use one. For in-house recruiters, the ability to share applicant information with the relevant hiring manager, as well as schedule interviews and gather feedback from those same hiring managers within one system can save time and decrease the number of days in the hiring cycle.

Some ATS suites will also integrate with onboarding software features to allow for a seamless transition from selecting a candidate to starting a new employee. Additionally, in-house recruiters may also wish to find a system that allows current employees to recommend candidates directly through the system, making employee portals a feature to consider. In-house recruiters should consider vendors such as iCIMS, BALANCEtrak, COMPAS or Simplicant.

Although these two types of buyers have different needs, it is important to note that the needs of recruiting agencies and in-house recruiters overlaps considerably, and the core functionality of most ATSs will cover the basic needs of both.

Market Trends to Understand

Web-based software is increasingly used for ATS systems. Almost all ATSs are now Web-based, which streamlines the recruiting process for the recruiter, current employees and applicants. With a Web-based ATS, it is easy to extend access to the system to anyone in the organization who is involved in the hiring process.

Resumator Web Browser


ATSs such as The Resumator allow recruiters to view candidate applications in a Web browser


Social recruiting is on the rise. An increasing number of ATSs are beginning to incorporate social media tools and platforms into the software’s functionality. While recruiters have used social applications like Facebook and LinkedIn to enlarge their networks, these sites are now becoming great sources for discovering passive candidates, advertising job opportunities and building talent communities for specific industries. The best ATSs are now developing socal-driven referral programs—allowing current employees to directly refer candidates—as well as tools to monitor which networks are delivering the most candidates.

Bullhorn Mobile


Many vendors, such as Bullhorn, offer a Mobile App


Recruiters are going mobile. Recruiters are quick to try new technologies that make their jobs easier. The prevalence of mobile and video technology as recruiting tools is growing, and the best recruiting software vendors are developing applications with this in mind. Video interview platforms, apps for smartphones and tablets, mobile versions of online job portals—all are emerging rapidly in the recruitment software market.

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