Applicant Tracking Systems

Attracting and retaining skilled workers has grown exponentially more challenging, according to Manpower Group (, with 54% of companies globally reporting talent shortages—the highest level in over a decade. And, the U.S. Bureau of Labor claims there are 670,000 more job openings than unemployed potential workers (based on statistics prior to the 2020 coronavirus).

Applicant tracking system (ATS) software provides companies with recruiting and hiring tools that assist with human resources, recruitment, and hiring needs. While different systems offer their own unique features, ATS is primarily used to help companies organize, navigate, and hire vast numbers of applicants. What began as a resume parsing software 15 years ago has evolved into a variety of choices for strategic hiring and recruiting platforms.

Today, robust applicant tracking systems can integrate with background-check providers to easily handle checks and authorizations, send offer letters, and predict an applicant’s potential performance within a company.

When an applicant applies for a job online, initially, the resume is processed by an ATS before it’s forwarded to a recruiter or hiring manager. Whether or not that recruiter sees the candidate’s resume could depend on how well the resume is optimized for ATS algorithms.

It’s very common for top employers to screen for several jobs simultaneously. As a result, hundreds of resumes are received for any given opening. An ATS logs these resumes and helps recruiters and hiring managers stay organized and EEOC compliant. While these systems can help to narrow down the applicant pool, the process isn’t perfect and top candidates can still slip through the cracks.

According to Jobscan, a web service that helps job seekers land more interviews by using artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze a resume or LinkedIn profile against a job description, 99% of Fortune 500 companies use ATS as part of their recruiting strategy. KellyOCG, a global provider of workforce strategy and solutions, with operations/expertise in every aspect of the talent supply chain, has determined through a survey that approximately 66% of large companies and 35% of small organizations rely on recruitment software.

It’s common for an applicant’s resume to run through ATS, whether they’re applying directly through a company or by way of job sites, such as Indeed and LinkedIn.

ATS benefits recruiters and employers by providing features, such as:

  • Resume importing and sorting
  • Candidate stage tracking
  • Passive candidate sourcing
  • Job board management
  • Branded career sites
  • Multilingual applications
  • Employee referral management
  • Mobile applications
  • Interview scheduling and video interviewing
  • Interview feedback tools
  • Recruiting analytics
  • Predictive performance analytics
  • Background checks
  • Managing offer letters
  • Monitoring the quality of hire algorithms
  • Building employer brand and engagement through a customizable product
  • Job board management and candidate sourcing capabilities
  • Supporting multiple languages for a great candidate experience
  • Application simplicity via mobile and referral management
  • Interview scheduling feedback features
  • Data and recruiting analytics to determine recruiting effectiveness
  • Integrating with other talent acquisition and management tools

Applicant Tracking Systems…

… simplify managing requisitions and candidates; ATS can also integrate within a pre-existing career site to provide a seamless candidate experience, while automatically collecting and organizing applicant information. On average, companies receive around 250 applications per job opening. Once the application is submitted, the ATS can also rank the resume and application based on the required education, experience, skills, etc.

ATS can also assist with screening and interviewing. It offers video interviewing capabilities and interview scheduling tools that can help recruiters provide candidates with a better experience. They can also integrate with background check providers for easy checks and authorizations, send offer letters, and even predict an applicant’s potential performance within a company. In addition, it’s important for ATS to be mobile friendly and provide applicants with the convenience of applying anywhere, anytime.

How an ATS Works

With all the responsibilities recruiters and hiring professionals must deal with, approximately 75% use recruiting or applicant tracking software. Automation frees them from dealing with small, repetitive tasks, leaving time for more meaningful processes.

Word of mouth is powerful. While it’s important to attract the right candidates for positions within a company, if the application process doesn’t go well, candidates may never again apply for additional openings. And, they won’t hesitate to steer their friends away from such companies.

Most ATS merge with job boards, giving the team the benefit of distributing job postings across multiple job board platforms. ATS can also use automation to assist in filtering applications, screen candidates, and schedule interviews. For example:

  • Help recruiters coordinate multiple schedules simultaneously
  • Allow candidates to view interview availability and choose the date and time that works best for them
  • Dramatically reduce recruiters’ chances for errors disrupting the interview process and improve the candidate experience

Features, such as interview scheduling, help to speed up a recruiter’s time to hire and land talent before their competitors. Scheduling interviews can be time-consuming. ATS software helps reduce the administrative work involved in the hiring lifecycle. And, recruiters don’t juggle just one candidate, but hundreds, if not more. Plus, interviews can be scheduled with the click of a button, on the candidate’s own time.

ATS lets hiring teams analyze large data sets from recruitment activities, such as sourcing, screening, interview scheduling, etc., to helping recruiters better understand the difference between efficiency and time wasters.

Finding the Right ATS for Your Company

The system you select needs to align with how you work, making sure it’s not counterproductive to your team. How can you configure the system to meet your needs?

One solution is to get testimonials from clients who use the system you’re considering. Then, create a sample candidate and go through the process as the candidate to determine if it will work in your situation. This will give you a sense of ease of use, branding options, and functionality. Also, ask if there are any tools or options you can use to track the candidate experience or how it’s measured or defined.

Strict reporting policies need to be adhered to. Find out if sensitive data will be protected, determine how secure your data will be, and how frequently safeguards and standards will be updated. If you work in a specific industry, find out about the specifics related to your industry’s compliance and standards that mitigate risk.

Query about your tech stack, the list of technology services you use to build and run one single application, then send it to the representative conducting the demo to determine how he or she can answer your specific questions or offer case studies of other clients utilizing the same integration.

Recruitment Texting is a Must in 2020

If you aren’t engaging your candidates via texting, you’re falling behind. ATS texting helps you leverage the power of many candidates’ preferred method of communication. For example, if a person has set up texting notifications, he or she can see a preview without opening the message. If the text is short, they can probably see the whole message in the notification window.

Level the Playing Field

ATS extracts every candidate’s information and organizes it in the same format. In the profile template, there’s a field for each relevant piece of data. For example, there’s a field for each degree earned, previous job title, and skill.

This type of organization gives you searching superpowers. You can analyze and compare candidates based on work experience, education, or previous employers. Or job titles, skills, or demographic variables.

Then, in terms of resume filtering, the software uses keywords from the job posting and matches them with those found in resumes. Consider how long it takes to read a resume and compare it to an ATS that can parse thousands of resumes in seconds. This process weeds out candidates who don’t have the necessary qualifications and delivers a pool of qualified candidates before you review a single resume.

Screening Questions

An ATS allows you to add screening questions to your application to ensure potential candidates meet basic qualifications, such as education level or years of experience. Some ATS let you create scoring rules that weigh certain questions more heavily, so that better applicants automatically rise in your review queue.

To help further screen potential candidates, you can set up pre-screening questions to bypass those candidates who don’t meet the job criteria. You can ask questions, such as: “Are you able to work in the San Francisco office?” Or you can be extremely specific about the location: “Are you able to work 9 am – 5 pm PST in the office located at 479 Castro Street, San Francisco?” Answers to these questions can be set to “Yes” or “No,” where “No” would be a knock-out question.

Or, while you need to be aware of your state and local laws regarding salary questions, with some states no longer allowing salary-related questions, a work around solution might be to ask a pre-screening question, such as: “The salary for this position is $75,000-$85,000. Is this salary range acceptable to you?” The response would qualify or rule-out a potential candidate.

If you’re looking for candidates with a minimum amount of experience, you can offer the following ranges and ask if they have 1-year, 1-2 years, or 2 years of experience.

Beyond the Job Offer

Once you’ve found the best candidates, the ATS can streamline the hiring process, particularly if you’re using collaborative hiring—a team-based hiring method can structure your recruitment process to get colleagues from other parts of your business more involved. Many jobs require input from multiple decision-makers. ATS consolidates reviews and reports from every stakeholder, so hiring managers can consider everyone’s opinions.

Candidates can also be scored and rated separately, and a good ATS includes collaborative tools and reports, so everyone is on the same page. Want a background screening? Your ATS should be able to provide that, too. After you’ve extended an offer to your prospective employee, many applicant tracking systems offer additional features to help onboard the new hire.


Once the application process is complete, onboarding begins. Your new hire has documents to fill out, resources to review, and forms to e-sign. ATS software should feature an onboarding portal where you can consolidate documents. Through ATS software, your new hire should be able to sign in, review, and securely sign necessary paperwork, and use the portal as a resource to check back on onboarding documentation and company guidelines whenever they choose.

Your ATS may even sync with payroll, so you can quickly get your new hire into the system and properly compensated. Tasks can be created, edited, and managed for both the new hire and the hiring manager. And, with ATS, all of your documentation is secure and accessible in cloud storage.

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