Applicant Tracking System (ATS) – A Complete Recruiter’s Guide

Known brand, an interesting job description, skilled recruiters, and a good hiring strategy are not enough to hire qualified staff on time.

You need recruitment technology to streamline the hiring process by automating various processes, such as resume scanning and candidate selection.

A robust applicant tracking software (ATS) lets teams manage headcount growth efficiently and improve the candidate experience. It also helps nurture relationships with a wider talent pool.

However, selecting the right applicant tracking system for your company is easier said than done. Also, since businesses have unique hiring processes and needs, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

Worry not. This detailed guide will help you learn how to select the right applicant tracking system for your organisation. We will explore the advantages, must-have features, and misconceptions about an ATS.

What Is an Applicant Tracking System (ATS)?

An ATS is a software application used by employers and recruiters to manage and streamline the recruitment process. The original definition limits applicant tracking systems to only tracking candidates through the recruitment process. However, modern ATS automates the tasks involved in recruiting, such as posting job openings, sorting resumes, and communicating with candidates.

When a job opening is posted, the ATS tool scans incoming resumes to find those that meet the specified criteria. The criteria may include parameters such as relevant skills, education, and experience. The system will then rank the resumes based on how closely they match the job requirements. Recruiters can review the highest-ranking resumes and decide which candidates to invite for interviews.

An ATS can also help manage communication with candidates, schedule interviews, and track their progress through the hiring process. The system can also generate reports to help employers and recruiters analyse and improve their recruitment process.

Why Use an Applicant Tracking System?

Recruiters need an ATS to enhance their recruitment processes and improve hiring outcomes. It saves a lot of time when compared to conventional application processing and hiring procedure.  

Businesses can greatly benefit from using applicant tracking software for several reasons:

1. Saves Time

Recruiters can automate time-consuming tasks like reviewing resumes, screening applications, and scheduling interviews with the help of an ATS. They can quickly search and filter through candidate databases, easily track their progress, and efficiently communicate with applicants. This saves time and reduces the need for manual effort. It allows hiring teams to focus on more critical aspects of the hiring process.

2. Efficient Candidate Management

With an applicant tracking system, employers can store and manage candidate information in one central database.

Studies show that recruiters spend an average of 13 hours per week sourcing candidates.

An ATS reduces this time by automating resume screening and filtering. It enables recruiters to focus on qualified candidates, increasing productivity. An ATS also makes it simple to search for and access candidate profiles whenever needed. It eliminates the hassle of sifting through piles of resumes or scattered files.

3. Improve Collaboration

Applicant tracking software facilitates collaboration among recruiters and hiring managers involved in the hiring process. They can access and share candidate information, interview feedback, and evaluations within the system, promoting effective collaboration and informed decision-making.

4. Positive Candidate Experience

An ATS enhances the candidate experience by providing a seamless and organised recruitment process. Candidates can easily submit their applications, track their progress, and receive timely updates on their status. Additionally, recruiters can personalise communication, provide prompt feedback, and ensure a smooth interview process. It leads to a positive impression of the organisation and increased candidate satisfaction.

5. Data-Driven Decision-Making

Organisations can make more informed and data-driven decisions during the hiring process with the help of an ATS tool. By analysing applicant data, the system provides insights that help in evaluating candidates and identifying the most suitable ones.

6. Improve Time-To-Hire

Statistics reveal that organisations lose top candidates due to lengthy hiring processes.

An ATS streamlines the recruitment workflow, automating tasks such as resume screening and interview scheduling. This reduces time-to-hire and speeds up the overall recruitment cycle, increasing the chances of securing top talent before competitors.

7. Enhance Candidate Sourcing

Recruiters can optimise candidate sourcing and selection strategies using this tool. By analysing historical data, the system can identify patterns and trends in successful hires. It enables recruiters to target and attract candidates who possess the desired skills and qualifications. Also, it can help identify potential biases in the selection process. It also promotes diversity and inclusion by highlighting candidates who might have been overlooked otherwise.

What are the must-have Applicant Tracking Features?

It is important to know what features to look for when selecting the applicant tracking software for your organization.

Here are some of the must-have features in an ATS.

1. Resume Parsing

One of the most time-consuming parts of recruitment is sifting through resumes to find the most qualified candidates. Resume parsing technology can automatically scan and extract important information from resumes like work experience, education, and skills. This saves recruiters time and ensures that no qualified candidates slip through the cracks.

2. Job Posting

An ATS should allow you to easily post job openings to various job boards, social media platforms, and your career page. This feature should also include the ability to syndicate job postings to multiple sites at once. It helps to reach the widest possible audience.

3. Candidate Database

A system with a searchable database where recruiters can store and manage candidate information is beneficial. This feature allows recruiters to track the status of candidates in the hiring process, including their resumes and interview feedback.

4. Communication Tools

An ATS should provide communication tools to help recruiters communicate with candidates throughout the hiring process. This may include email templates, scheduling tools, and automated updates. It helps ensure that candidates are always informed about their status in the hiring process. Thus, facilitating a smooth recruitment process.

5. Interview Scheduling

An ATS should allow recruiters to easily schedule interviews with candidates and send them reminders and updates. This feature helps reduce the time spent coordinating schedules and ensures that interviews are scheduled in a timely manner.

6. Reporting and Analytics

Reporting and analytics tools allow recruiters to track and measure the success of their recruitment process. These metrics can include time to fill, source of hire, and cost per hire. Having access to these metrics allows recruiters to make data-driven decisions and improve their recruitment process over time.

7. Customization

Every organisation is unique, and so are their recruitment processes. An ATS should allow recruiters to customize their recruitment process to fit their organisation’s unique needs and workflows. This includes customizable workflows, questionnaires, and candidate assessments.

8. Integration with HR Software

The ATS should integrate with your existing HR software, such as an HR management system, payroll system, or performance management system. This integration ensures that all candidate information is synced across systems and reduces the need for manual data entry.

What Is the Process to Choose a Good ATS?

A good ATS can help you streamline your recruitment process, save time, and find the best candidates for your organisation. Hence, it becomes crucial that you choose the right applicant tracking software for your organisation. By following the steps given below, you can ensure that you have made the right choice.

a. Define Your Recruitment Goals

Before you start researching ATS options, it is important to understand your recruitment goals. Consider what your organisation needs from an ATS, such as improved efficiency, a better candidate experience, or more detailed reporting.

b. Identify Your Budget

Determine how much you are willing to spend on an ATS. Consider the size of your organisation and the number of job openings you typically have. Some ATSs charge a flat rate, while others charge per user or per job posting.

c. Research Available Options

There are many ATS options available, each with its own features and pricing. Research online, read reviews and compare features to find the ones that best meet your needs.

d. Consider the Features You Need

Make a list of the must-have features you need in an ATS, such as resume parsing or automatic job postings. Look for an ATS that can integrate with your existing HR software or other tools that you use.

e. Test the ATS

Before making a final decision, test the ATS. Most providers offer a free trial or demo that allows you to test the system before committing to a purchase. During the trial, make sure to test all the features you will be using to ensure they work as expected.

Based on your research, budget, and testing, choose the ATS that best meets your needs.

Which ATS type Is Best for your Company?

The choice of the best ATS type for your company depends on various factors. These factors can include your organisation’s size, industry, specific recruitment needs, and budget.

 Here are a few common ATS types to consider:

i. Enterprise-level ATS

Suitable for large organisations with high-volume hiring needs, enterprise-level ATS systems offer robust features and scalability. They can handle a large number of applicants, provide advanced analytics, integrate with other HR systems, and offer customization options. These ATS types are often more expensive and require dedicated IT resources for implementation and maintenance.

ii. Small to Mid-sized Business (SMB) ATS

Designed for smaller companies with moderate hiring needs, SMB ATS solutions offer essential features to streamline recruitment processes. They typically have a user-friendly interface, affordable pricing plans, and features like resume parsing, job posting, and basic reporting.

iii. Industry-specific ATS

Some industries have unique recruitment requirements, such as healthcare, technology, or finance. Industry-specific ATS systems cater to these specialised needs by offering features tailored to the specific industry. These systems often include compliance tools, certification tracking, and specific job board integrations relevant to the industry.

iv. Open-source ATS

Open-source ATS software provides flexibility and customization options as the source code is available for modification. It allows organisations to tailor the system to their specific needs and integrate it with other tools. However, open-source solutions may require technical expertise to set up and maintain.

Four Misconceptions about Applicant Tracking Systems

There are some common misconceptions about applicant tracking systems that are important for organisations and recruiters to understand. It helps them make informed decisions about implementing and using ATS.

1. ATS eliminates the need for human involvement

One misconception is that ATS completely replaces human recruiters. While ATS automate certain tasks like resume screening and filtering, they are designed to assist recruiters rather than replace them. Human judgment and decision-making are still crucial in assessing candidates’ qualifications and fit for the organisation.

2. ATS prioritises quantity over quality

Some believe that ATS is focused solely on processing large volumes of applications. It leads to a lower quality of candidates being selected. However, modern ATS platforms prioritise both quantity and quality. They use advanced algorithms and keyword matching to identify the most relevant applicants based on predefined criteria. It ensures that recruiters focus on qualified candidates.

3. ATS has a biased selection process

Another misconception is that ATS perpetuates biases and discriminates against certain candidates. However, most modern ATS platforms are designed to mitigate bias by standardising the screening process and focusing on objective criteria. It is essential for organisations to regularly review and fine-tune their ATS configurations to ensure fairness and mitigate potential biases.

4. ATS are complicated and difficult to use

Some may assume that ATS platforms are complex and require extensive training to operate. However, modern ATS systems are designed to be user-friendly and intuitive. They come with user guides, customer support, and training resources to assist recruiters in effectively utilizing the platform’s features.


An applicant tracking system brings immense value to your company and recruitment team. Implementing the right ATS is a way to improve the candidate experience and optimise employer branding.

However, there is a lot to consider when choosing an ATS. Hopefully, the points described above will help you select the best platform for your needs.


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