A Guide to Applicant Tracking Software Pricing Models
For HR managers and recruiters, it can be challenging to find an applicant tracking system that not only offers the features they need but also fits their budget. Analyzing pricing plans is a good way to start the search and understand the various pricing models available; the features commonly provided with each model; and the associated recurring, additional, and hidden costs.
We’ve put together this comprehensive guide to help you compare the pricing plans of top-rated applicant tracking systems. This guide aims to assist you in determining which plan provides the most value for your software investment. You’ll also learn how applicant tracking tools are licensed and priced by software providers.
How is applicant tracking software priced?
Applicant tracking systems are priced based on various factors: features available, integrations available, number of user seats, types of deployment options, storage capacity, and more.
Types of applicant tracking software pricing models
The most common pricing models for applicant tracking software include:
Subscription license: You pay a recurring fee—usually monthly or annual—to access the applicant tracking software for a set amount of time.
Perpetual license: You pay a one-time license fee to get permanent access to the software and its features.
Free and open-source license: You get the software license free of charge but have to pay for implementation, integrations, maintenance, and additional user seats.
Under the subscription model, per-user pricing is the most commonly seen. You pay a fixed fee for every user seat, and prices increase as the number of user seats increases. Per-user pricing plans are typically of three types, according to analysis by our research team:
Entry-level plans (1-9 users): These plans include limited applicant tracking features such as job posting and candidate sourcing. Their prices tend to start at $8 per month, per member of your hiring team. They can be a good option for small businesses or teams with simple job posting, interview scheduling, and applicant tracking needs.
Mid-tier plans (10-99 users): Mid-range plans cover everything an entry-level plan offers, plus advanced functionality such as resume parsing, custom job pipelines, scorecards based on candidate experience, and mass emailing. Their prices typically start from $80 per recruiter, per month, and can go up depending on the number of hiring managers or members you have in your team.
High-end plans (100+ users): High-end plans include additional premium features such as third-party social media and job board integrations, API access, top candidate benchmarking, and custom team analytics. Per recruiter, per month prices could start anywhere from $144 and go all the way into the thousands depending on the size of your hiring team.
For reference, below is a snapshot of the prices of some popular applicant tracking software tools.
What are the upfront and recurring costs associated with ATS software?
Upfront costs are the initial expenses incurred when you purchase or subscribe to any applicant tracking platform—for example, the cost of a perpetual license, customization, installation, and integration. Ongoing expenses, on the other hand, are associated with using the software, such as subscription fees, customer service fees, and maintenance costs. Ongoing expenses are also called recurring costs. They are typically charged on a monthly or annual basis and can also include the cost of upgrades or additional user licenses.
In the below sections, we discuss, in detail, the upfront and recurring costs for the following applicant tracking pricing models: perpetual, subscription, and free and open-source.
Free and open-source
What it is:
Under this plan, you pay a one-time fee for a permanent license to use the applicant tracking solution. The fee for a perpetual license can vary based on the number of users.
You pay a recurring fee (usually monthly or annual) to use the software for a set period. The typical subscription pricing plan is based on the number of user seats you require for your hiring team per month. You can also choose pay-as-you-go options that allow you to discontinue at any time.
You don’t pay any fee to use basic applicant tracking features in the free software. Open-source software, on the other hand, gives you access to the source code of the software, which lets you modify, use, and distribute the software freely.
Commonly used by:
On-premise deployments where the system is hosted on your internal servers and maintained by your in-house IT staff.
Cloud-based deployments where vendors host the applicant tracking solution on their servers, giving you access on compatible devices over the internet.
Businesses with limited budget and resources, or businesses looking to try out the software before purchasing.
One-time license fee, hardware (e.g., servers), and installation.
Installation and setup.
Open-source software may involve installation and setup expenses.
Monthly, annual, or ad hoc maintenance (e.g., updates, patches, upgrades). Recurring costs may also include fees for premium support services (e.g., 24/7 phone support).
Software subscription fee and premium support fee (e.g., 24/7 phone support, quick ticket response time).
Open-source software can include costs for server hosting, adding additional features, and IT staff hours to modify the source code.
Customization, integration, and IT staff hours (or hiring more IT staff) to maintain servers.
Customization, implementation of unique company branding, and integration with existing systems such as HR, ERP, and recruitment software.
Implementation, customization, maintenance, integration with existing tech stack, training, and premium support costs could apply to both free and open-source models.
What are the additional costs associated with applicant tracking software?
While implementing a new ATS software solution, you may incur certain additional expenses that directly affect your overall cost of ownership. These additional costs are common across vendors and pricing models, so it’s important to include them in your budget.
Data migration: Transferring your existing applicant and recruitment data to a new solution could be time-consuming and expensive. This could lead to additional data migration expenses such as costs for professional consulting, data mapping and validation, hardware or software installation, and data integrity assurance. Therefore, it's critical to assess how much the data migration process costs. Also, check whether the data transfer will cause downtime and, if yes, how much that interruption will cost your small business.
Training: Depending on the complexity of the software, the cost of training for a new ATS platform can range from zero to several thousand dollars. Employing an implementation professional to educate team members and reduce downtime may be expensive, but it will be helpful in the long term. To help buyers save training expenses, most software providers tend to offer free online resources such as a help desk, a knowledge base, FAQs, and instructional videos.
Hardware and IT: Hardware and IT expenses for an applicant tracking system include the cost of buying or upgrading servers to host the software, updating employee PCs or mobile devices to conform to the system's technical specifications, and even hiring IT professionals to oversee and maintain the technology. These expenses are in addition to the software purchase cost. Check with the vendor whether the software implementation would require any extra expenses or infrastructure improvements.
Maintenance and upgrades: Maintenance charges are expenses incurred to keep an applicant tracking system running smoothly and up-to-date with the latest features. These ongoing costs typically occur regularly and can add up over time. Therefore, check if maintenance and upgrade services are included in your software subscription or licensing fees. Alternatively, you may have your in-house staff handle software maintenance and support.
How to choose the right pricing model for applicant tracking software
Choosing the right pricing model for applicant tracking tools can be confusing. Here are some considerations to keep in mind when you decide to buy a new ATS platform:
Determine your budget. You should have a clear idea of how much you can afford to spend on an applicant tracking tool. If you have a small team, opting for a basic pricing plan or even a free or open-source model would make more sense. If a free or open-source ATS solution meets your needs and has an active user support community, it could be a good option to consider. However, if you have a bigger budget or advanced functionality needs, a mid-range or high-end product would be more ideal.
Evaluate your hiring requirements. Ask your recruitment team to make a list of must-have software features, such as candidate tracking, candidate profiles, job posting, interview scheduling, job board management, and resume parsing. Determining features that are absolutely critical for your hiring process will allow you to negotiate a better price with the software vendor.
Consider the pricing commitment: perpetual or subscription. A perpetual license is an expensive investment, but it’s more cost-effective in the long term. If your applicant tracking needs are defined and you want to purchase software for the long run, a perpetual license might be a good idea. However, if you’re looking for a flexible and scalable applicant tracking tool, subscription-based pricing would be more appropriate.
Common questions to ask when choosing a pricing plan for applicant tracking software
Below are a few questions you should ask software vendors when evaluating the pricing plans of the application tracking systems you’ve shortlisted:
Is there a free trial or demo version of the software?
Most free applicant tracking software plans allow you to use the basic features free of cost. If you have a small team, these free features should suffice your recruitment process’s needs. And if you decide to upgrade to a paid plan, you’ll be better equipped to make a decision, as you would have already tried and tested the software.
Besides the software purchase cost, are there any additional expenses?
Some software vendors charge separately for services such as user training, technical support, and maintenance. For instance, if you’re working with a cloud-based solution and don’t have an in-house IT team, technical support would be a priority for your small business. But if customer support services aren’t included in your package, you’ll have to pay more. Therefore, before finalizing any pricing plan, inquire about the additional expenses. The actual pricing plan could be affordable, but such expenses can quickly add up and increase your liability.
Are there any hidden costs for data migration or integration with other systems?
Some software pricing plans include hidden costs such as data migration and integration fees. Even a free plan may have hidden charges such as implementation, training, and data migration costs. To ensure full pricing transparency, don’t forget to inquire about the hidden charges.
Ready to purchase applicant tracking software?
Now that you know how to choose a pricing plan that best suits your budget, it's time to select an applicant tracking system that caters to your unique hiring needs. Software Advice has more than 1,000 products listed on our applicant tracking software category page. You can filter the products by their prices, compare their features, read user reviews, and more.
The products highlighted in the sample pricing options snapshot are shortlisted from Software Advice’s FrontRunners report for applicant tracking software. Only products with publicly available pricing information on their website, as of March 2023, were included in the list. For each pricing tier, we highlight the lowest monthly pricing plan (per user, wherever available) that includes the core functionality of ATS software: candidate profiles, candidate tracking, and job posting.