What is an Applicant Tracking System (ATS)?

Feb 8, 2023
Applicant Tracking, Applicant Tracking Systems, ApplicantStack

When a business needs to hire, it’s important to have the right tools at its disposal. An applicant tracking system is a must, regardless of company size. Explore this type of system and how it can benefit your organization’s recruitment efforts.

What Does an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) Do?

An applicant tracking system (ATS) is a type of software designed to manage an organization’s recruiting and hiring efforts. As the name suggests, its process involves tracking candidates who may be good fits for open positions. Additionally, an ATS houses data and often includes automated workflows to simplify tasks like:

  • Scheduling interviews
  • Notifying candidates of status updates
  • Issuing alerts
  • Sending messages to applicants and those involved in the hiring process

Benefits of an Applicant Tracking System

Many benefits come with using an applicant tracking system to find and bring on top talent. Review a few of these advantages and how they can benefit a small-to-midsized business.

Searches for keywords

While the description of an ATS may make such a system sound like a data organization tool, it can do much more. When seeking top candidates, recruiters, hiring managers, and others involved in the hiring process may struggle to locate talent. Sifting through countless resumés and applications takes a lot of time, and some may not be relevant to the open position.

An ATS can sift through data and make recommendations based on keyword searches, algorithms, and other tools that analyze applications and resumés. With an ATS in place, it becomes easier to review applicant data and select the right candidates to interview.

Posts jobs more efficiently

Another advantage of an ATS is integration with external job boards, which tend to be the most common tools for job seekers. Posting an open position individually on multiple boards can take a lot of time. Some organizations stick to just a few boards, which limits visibility. The ideal hire for a role may not even see a job ad if it’s not posted on the board they use regularly.

Using an ATS makes it easier to push a listing to many boards with a single click. By getting a job in front of additional people, a company will likely receive more applications. Hiring managers can choose from a wider selection of candidates to get the right fit, rather than choosing from a handful of semi-qualified individuals.

Maximizes productivity

Hiring managers and recruiters can easily spend hours looking for candidates manually. But this isn’t a good use of their time. Those involved in hiring can spend less time on these tasks without sacrificing candidate quality. Open roles get in front of the right people, but the automation side of the software saves time and effort.

Boosts company morale

A positive hiring and onboarding experience can make a big difference in the eyes of a candidate considering a new role. And when a business can get good people hired faster, there’s less of a burden on the existing employees to take on additional work. The result is improved company morale all the way around.

How Does an Applicant Tracking System Work?

With various systems available to organizations, it’s important to note that each will have its own list of features and functionality. However, programs within this category tend to share a few key steps to ensure a consistent and straightforward process.

Creating a job requisition

In most recruiting systems, the process begins with the creation of a job requisition. When a company needs to hire, the person responsible for recruiting requests approval for the creation of a new position or the filling of a vacated position. Upon approval, the requestor can create a job listing.

Creating a job listing

The next step is creating a job listing, or the description of the open position. A listing should include several key components:

  • Position title
  • Position location
  • Department
  • Salary range (if applicable)
  • Responsibilities/duties
  • Candidate requirements or qualifications
  • Description of work environment

Of course, a job description should be more than just a bulleted list of details about a role. In fact, it’s more important than ever to appeal to potential applicants and draw them in, encouraging them to apply.

The writing style for job descriptions differs from other business writing styles. Using engaging language can help a posting stand out in a sea of similar content.

It’s also important to consider the legal requirements of a job listing. Make sure to avoid language that could indicate discrimination or hiring preferences. Examples include gendered language (“The individual in this role will use his strength to lift heavy packages, 50+ pounds”) or phrases that may rule out members of a protected class.

Posting the job description

After creating an engaging description, the next step in the process of hiring with an ATS is posting it to various boards. There are hundreds of online job boards, each with its own niche and target audience. It’s helpful to consider which boards might yield the best results. For example, an entry-level tech job might get more responses if posted on a board that caters to recent graduates in the technology sector.

Explore different options, including industry-specific boards and those designed for members of a particular demographic. By posting a listing in the right places, an organization can improve its chances of attracting qualified applicants.

Receiving applications

The next phase in the applicant-tracking system is receiving applications from those with an interest in the role. Some systems can issue rankings to applicants based on specific data, including keywords on the resumés and in the answers to questions on the application.

You may be able to set up an automatic rejection process based on answers. For example, if knowledge of a specific coding language is a requirement for a developer role, any candidate who indicates that they don’t know that particular language would be automatically rejected.

The application phase can remain open for as long as needed. The length of that period often depends on factors like the quantity of applications received and the need to fill the role within a specific timeframe.

Undergoing the review process

Anyone granted access can view applicant data and determine whether to move each candidate forward in the process. Moving someone to the next phase should be simple. A recruiter or hiring manager can select which candidates to interview and which to reject.

Upon interviewing each candidate, those involved in the process can take notes to reference when reviewing all candidates. Keeping those notes within the system makes it easier to recall what was discussed during the interview and whether to move forward.

Sending notifications and follow-up

It’s important to keep candidates in the loop throughout the process. But sending emails to everyone who applied isn’t a good use of your time. With an applicant tracking system, the hiring manager and recruiter don’t have to worry about notifications or follow-up messages. Automatic notifications keep candidates informed of their progress and whether they’re moving forward to the next phase.

For example, if you select a candidate to interview, the system can automatically send a notification requesting to schedule. If you decide not to move forward with a specific applicant, they can receive an email or even a text message informing them of the decision. Each company can establish the messaging for these notifications to adhere to its brand and voice.

Extending an offer

Upon selecting the best candidate, the final step in the recruiting process is extending an offer. Using an applicant tracking system even makes this step easier. You can tap into pre-built templates to ensure that offer letters are thorough and informative.

When your selected candidate accepts the job, their information remains in the system. You can flow it into your company’s HR system to minimize errors from manual data entry. Additionally, you can use this information to stay in contact with the applicant until their first day of work.

Managing candidate data

Of course, every individual who applies for a job with your company won’t get hired immediately. But if an applicant has skills or experience that make them a good fit for another role in the future, their data remains within the system. You can reach out if a job opens up that aligns with their skillset, rather than starting the entire process over again.

Creating an account/onboarding

Bringing a new hire on board is a key step in the hiring process. Doing so successfully could determine how the employee feels about their role and the organization overall.

According to a recent Gallup survey, approximately 12 percent of employees think their company did a good job onboarding them. With so much room for improvement, it makes sense for companies to invest in onboarding efforts. After all, a poor onboarding experience can be the difference between an engaged employee and one who bails out for another role.

Employee turnover can cost a company up to nine months of an employee’s salary to find and bring on a replacement. This is an expensive undertaking for any business. But for small companies, the cost could wreak serious havoc on the budget. Onboarding is something that no business can afford to ignore.

With an applicant tracking system, onboarding becomes more seamless and consistent. ApplicantStack Onboard makes it easy to:

  • Import hires from ApplicantStack Recruit
  • Upload new hire forms (W-4, I-9, etc.)
  • Create and assign tasks to track progress
  • Invite new hires to view documents, input their information, and complete paperwork
  • E-sign documentation
  • View and download reports to measure onboarding success

Not all applicant tracking systems include onboarding functionality. But given the importance of this process in employee retention and engagement, it’s essential to choose one that does.

FAQ about Applicant Tracking Software

Still have questions about applicant tracking? We answer a few of the frequently asked questions around these systems below.

What should you look for in an applicant tracking system?

Every business might have its own unique hiring and recruiting needs, but some of the best features to look for in an ATS include:

  • Pushing job descriptions to boards
  • Automated processes (notifications, applications, etc.)
  • User-friendly interface
  • Onboarding capabilities
  • Integration with other systems (HR, payroll, benefits, etc.)

When should a business use an applicant tracking system?

An ATS can benefit any business that plans to hire. This software is designed to organize candidates to simplify the process of hiring. It can also filter out applicants who don’t meet the qualifications for a role or highlight those who might be a better fit based on skills and experience. If your company has employees (or will hire employees in the future), an ATS is beneficial.

ApplicantStack is the applicant tracking system that’s built for small business needs. It doesn’t skimp on features or functionality, but it’s priced to fit into the budget of just about any company. Still on the fence? Try it free today and find your next hire faster and more efficiently.

Make Recruiting and Onboarding Easy

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