Recruitment is one of the most challenging processes in any business. With the cost of making bad hires well documented, recruitment is critical both operationally and financially.
With so much at stake, it’s important to do everything you can to ensure you’re giving your organization the best chance to recruit amazing talent. Using an applicant tracking system (ATS) is one way to improve your chances.
What is an applicant tracking system in HR?
Many ATS tools address multiple recruiting needs, allowing you to source, evaluate, and hire candidates in one platform.
What should an applicant tracking system do?
While all ATS tools have specific features and benefits, the essential functions you can expect to find should be consistent across most platforms. The best ATS tools allow you to do far more than merely “track applicants.”
At a minimum, a great ATS should:
- Allow you to create a branded recruitment portal that you can use to advertise vacancies to internal and external candidates. This feature can motivate candidates who prefer dealing directly with you, rather than going through job sites and feeling like they’re applying via an intermediary.
- Create customized input fields based on your recruitment needs and allow you to use pre-screening questions and skills tests. The information you want to collect for each role (even similar roles) may vary from role to role, so you need to be able to capture the data you want from candidates.
- Have advanced search functions to create shortlists of candidates, whether you use your ATS or another tool for sourcing. This can save you hours of time searching through resumes and reading LinkedIn profiles.
- Include an integrated interview suite where you can schedule interviews, conduct video interviews, and create notes on candidates during the interviews. Why use Zoom when you can conduct an interview within your ATS?
- Have analytics features so you can check the performance of your recruitment process and improve shortcomings. If you’re a large company with ongoing recruitment needs, being able to address any shortcomings and optimize every stage of the process will be crucial to your success.
How to choose an applicant tracking system
There are so many ATS platforms around that choosing one can be confusing. As part of this process, it’s also worth getting ideas from across your team around how they think your recruitment process can improve, and you should get as many team members involved in product demos as possible too.
The rest of this guide will discuss in more detail the specific features you might consider when searching for an ATS, and look at ten of the best ATS solutions.
Understanding your recruitment needs
Before you start your search for an ATS, look at your current recruitment process.
Where are the gaps? Do you need to be able to source candidates more effectively, or do you need to streamline the process once candidates become "active" and job roles become vacant?
Or perhaps the biggest shortcoming of your current recruitment process is that you don't know your weaknesses. But if you select an ATS with prominent features that address things you already do well, you're not going to get much value out of it. You might even end up needlessly disrupting strong elements of your recruitment process!
That's why it’s crucial to identify where there's room for improvement so you can find a tool that will help you enhance your process in those key areas.
Finding tools that will improve your recruitment process
The best ATS software will allow you to be innovative with your recruitment strategy, helping you to stand out against other companies competing for the best hires and giving you the agility to handle future vacancies.
Think about the following as you begin your search for an ATS.
Your Company Size, Industry, and Recruitment Needs
The recruitment needs of a small yet growing business differ from those of a large corporation. For example, if you’re always recruiting because you're continuously sourcing candidates in preparation for vacancies or you have a high employee turnover, you'll need a different tool than someone who’s recruiting for two or three vacancies a year.
And some ATS tools fit specific industries better than others, so you might be able to find tools that specifically address known challenges and shortfalls of recruitment in your niche.
Consider the cost of an ATS and how this fits within your overall recruitment budget. Think again about the price of a bad hire; if you choose wisely, your new ATS for should pay for itself!
It is worth noting that most ATS providers offer custom pricing based on your company size and needs, meaning pricing considerations will often come into the equation later in the buying process. Focusing on what you need in an ATS will put you in a better position to choose the tool that you need, rather than opting for the cheapest option by default.
Remember, the price of an ATS won't necessarily correlate to the quality or the value it will provide to your company and your recruitment process.
Choose an ATS that is intuitive, easy to use, and is something that you look forward to using every day.
It’s crucial that you address the candidate user experience, too.
- What interactions will candidates have with your ATS?
- What do these interactions look like, and how will they make candidates feel?
- Does the ATS offer a mobile-friendly user experience? According to AIHR Digital, over 90% of candidates use a mobile device when searching for a new role.
This is important because if a candidate that has an unpleasant experience, it will reflect poorly on your company overall. If a candidate then tells their network about their experience, your potential pool of candidates could start to shrink.
Not all ATS solutions offer analytics. Depending on the size of your company, you might consider analytics a "must-have" when conducting your search for an ATS. However, if you don’t have an ongoing recruitment campaign, or are just a small company, analytics may not be essential.
With real-time analytics, you can review everything within your recruitment process and focus on what you need to improve.
Analytics within an ATS will help you find things like:
- If your job advertisements aren’t getting clicks, or if candidates click them but don’t apply.
- The overall effectiveness of your job advertising campaigns.
- If a high proportion of candidates drop out of your recruitment process at a specific stage.
- How effective your use of pre-screening and skills tests is.
- How well you engage candidates when following up on aspects of their application.
Find an ATS that allows you to customize and automate reports so you can get the data you need about your recruitment when you need it.
If you’re a small, growing business now, you may hope to be a bigger business, in a few years.
While you need to choose an ATS for the here and now, do what you can to avoid needing to change to another ATS as your business grows and your recruitment needs evolve. Dedicate part of your search to trying to find a tool that offers flexibility and scalability so that you can use it long-term.
Look for ATS tools that offer modular pricing or different tier options, so you can customize your ATS around your needs and change how you use it as your business grows.
What features would streamline and improve your recruitment process, save your company money, and allow you to more easily source and hire the best candidates? Make a checklist of what your ideal ATS looks like and use this as the basis for your search.
Here are some features to consider:
- Automated sourcing
- AI-ranking functionality based on specific keywords or the outcomes of pre-screening and skills tests
- Creation of custom job portals
- Posting to external job boards
- Personality assessments
- Capability for candidates to upload a video resume or a pre-recorded interview
- Ability to create custom workflows around your internal recruitment processes
- Integrations with other recruitment tools
- Ease of collaboration across your team
Choose a partner, not a tool
What makes a great ATS will be different for every organization. But one final thing we encourage you to consider during your search is the relationship with the company whose tool you want to use.
If you approach your ATS search as if you’re looking for a business partner rather than merely for a piece of software, you'll already start to think about building your relationship with that brand.
This approach will help you nurture a more productive working relationship, and get more from your ATS than if you choose a tool, pay your subscription, and never deal with them.
You can begin to decide whether an ATS provider is a good fit from a partnership perspective from the moment you land on their website. You’ll also learn a lot during your call to demo the software.
Another great indicator of whether you can build a long-term partnership with an ATS provider is their customer onboarding and customer success offerings. Do they take a hands off approach or do they continue to help you after you've made your purchase?
Here are some things to look for:
- Training sessions throughout the onboarding phase and as needed
- Comprehensive documentation that will help you make the most of the ATS
- 24/7 customer support
- A dedicated account or relationship manager to give you a consistent point of contact
10 applicant tracking systems to consider
Here are some of the strongest options on the market. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it will give you a head start as you begin your search.
SmartRecruiters is an award-winning, cloud-based enterprise ATS tool that makes it easy to amplify your job posts to ensure you reach the broadest possible pool of candidates.
SmartRecruiters' most significant selling point is that it encompasses all the primary needs of any recruitment strategy. These features can help minimize the spending you need to make on other tools. SmartRecruiters also integrates with hundreds of different tools that you may already use or decide to use in the future.
The core tool is SmartRecruit, which allows you to engage candidates and customize your recruitment workflow depending on your specific needs. As well as advertising roles, SmartRecruit enables you to track candidates throughout your recruitment process, approve applications, and hire selected applicants. Everything from creating a job post to interacting with candidates can be done through the SmartRecruit interface.
For businesses that need even more from their ATS, SmartRecruiters offers add-ons that enable you to nurture candidates, use AI to rank candidates' suitability for roles, and automate job posting and communication with candidates.
- Integrates with over 350 other recruitment tools and over 200 job boards.
- Uses an intuitive, modern interface.
- Makes it easy to collaborate and share candidate information with team members.
- Offers a freemium option so you can try it out to see what you think.
- Does not support exporting data to use with other tools.
- Candidate profiles appear in different order depending on who is viewing them.
- AI-ranking system can give different results to different team members for the same vacancy.
Greenhouse is a versatile tool that helps take care of recruitment and ensure successful hires hit the ground running via your internal onboarding process.
Greenhouse is easy to integrate with other tools and is compatible with over 300 of them, while collaboration with other team members involved in your recruitment is straightforward and intuitive. You can use Greenhouse to easily plan your team’s workload and ensure everyone knows what part of the process they’re accountable for.
This tool allows you to set up scorecards to help remove any potential unconscious bias from your recruiting. Notifications ensure you stay on track to hit your recruitment goals and engage with candidates when you need to.
A slick analytics interface allows the creation of over 30 different report types, with the ability to export data to Google Sheets or an external business intelligence platform to review your recruitment performance.
- Offers support for every stage of the recruitment process, including the onboarding of successful hires.
- Integrates with over 300 other recruitment and onboarding tools.
- Places a focus on the candidate experience, helping your business put its best foot forward.
- Does not offer freemium option or a free trial.
- Recruiting and onboarding solutions may need separate subscriptions.
- Limited use for long-term candidate sourcing and nurturing.
Recruitee claims to have a client base of over 3,000 brands, including Starbucks, Toyota, and Singapore Airlines.
This tool offers users an 18-day free trial, with sample data highlighted in your account to help you get started. Recruitee has won service awards for its customer support, which they deliver via LiveChat and Helpdesk software through your user account.
Recruitee allows you to set up a recruitment site and provides a job widget for your main business website. Its range of features includes integration with over 1,250 job boards, a built-in video chat platform, and follow-up reminders to ensure you maximize candidate engagement.
This tool also gives you the use of a Google Chrome browser extension for sourcing. You can also create unlimited user accounts, ensuring every team member who you involve in your recruitment can access data as and when they need to.
- Offers a free trial of “Scale,” Recruitee’s mid-tier plan, with most of Recruitee’s functions.
- Integrates with over 1,250 job boards.
- Lowest tier “Launch” plan offers a comprehensive set of features and benefits.
- At 18 days long, the free trial isn't long enough to test "real world" use of the tool.
- Requires an expensive subscription to unlock advanced features.
- While you get API access on the mid-tier "Scale" plan, API support is only available on the top-tier.
Personio is a broader HR business platform rather than a tool dedicated to recruitment. However, it’s range of recruitment features mean it’s still an ATS worth considering.
Personio’s base plans don't include recruitment tools, but they have a Recruiting add-on that includes applicant sourcing and tracking. Personio offers a 14-day free trial to help you learn how it might work within your recruitment strategy.
The sourcing element of Personio allows you to post to over 500 job boards quickly. You can also easily see which platforms deliver the most applicants and the overall performance of your job advertising campaigns.
Personio’s applicant tracking tool makes it easy to gather all candidate data in one place. It's easy to collaborate across your team too. So if more than one team member takes part in the recruitment process, you can gather all feedback on specific candidates in one place. If you integrate Personio applicant tracking with its other HR tools, it's easy to transfer successful candidates' data to other platforms, meaning you're not collecting the same information twice and can make efficient use of the time spent during your hire's onboarding.
- Offers a free trial so you can try out Personio and the various features and integrations available.
- Offers an integrated solution for both sourcing and tracking candidates.
- Saves time across the HR team if you use recruitment tools in collaboration with other Personio software.
- A 14-day free trial is only long enough to view features, not to test how you like the tool in a real world situation.
- Its sourcing tool doesn't actively source candidates unless you have a live job vacancy; it's more a tool for gathering applicant data rather than sourcing candidates.
- With a broader focus on overall HR operations, Personio isn’t a dedicated ATS solution.
JazzHR is an ATS that makes it easy to sign up and start recruiting right away. And the tool offers a vast range of customization options, meaning as your recruitment needs and strategy evolve, you can adapt the platform to suit you and your team.
JazzHR makes it easy to identify your top sourcing channels for vacancies and track and nurture and engage both active and passive candidates at specific stages of your process. This tool's ranking feature makes it easy to see which candidates are the best fit for specific roles, while also making it easy to collaborate with other team members.
While the JazzHR tool itself doesn't have a video interview tool, you can easily integrate your platform with one. However, this tool does provide you with ideas for questions to ask, depending on your vacancy, and provides templates to ensure you conduct consistent evaluations of all candidates.
In addition to its ATS features, JazzHR integrates with a variety of HR tools and even point of sale systems, meaning you can use it to integrate your entire business operation if that's helpful.
- Accessible pricing for startups and businesses hiring for the first time, with the ability to lock-in pricing with a bespoke multi-year plan.
- Lowest tier plan offers most of the basic features you need to execute a successful recruitment strategy.
- Personalizes the candidate experience making applicants feel valued throughout the process.
- The 21-day free trial is longer than what most offer but it still isn't long enough to ensure you can complete an entire recruitment cycle.
- Pricing jump from the bottom to mid-tier is significant. It may be too expensive as your recruitment needs evolve.
- Features that some other ATS tools make standard are only available at an additional cost.
Avature is an award-winning enterprise ATS platform. The most significant benefit of Avature is its flexibility. It has the potential to help your recruitment for any role, whether you're filling executive roles, middle management, other professional vacancies, or hiring hourly-paid employees.
Candidate engagement is at the heart of Avature's ATS The tool allows you to create a branded recruitment portal that will attract and engage candidates from the first time they visit your site. If you're recruiting for roles across different departments, you can even create multiple job portals to appeal to the distinct types of people you're looking to hire.
You can use Avature to perfect and post your job advertisements, progress or reject candidates as they move through the process, and search for candidates in your applicant pool using various filters. You can also schedule and conduct interviews from your ATS, while advanced profiling features help you find the very best candidates when you have a handful who would be exceptional hires.
Avature's ATS effortlessly combines with Avature's broader suite of tools to give you one of the most comprehensive recruitment platforms on the market.
- Places candidate experience at the forefront of the recruitment process.
- Integrates with a variety of other apps, including those to assist in background checking.
- Links with other Avature tools allowing you to do everything from planning recruitment events to internal succession planning.
- Does not include integrated applicant sourcing.
- Premium pricing means Avature is likely to be unsuitable for smaller businesses.
- No free trial.
Workable is a versatile ATS platform that gives you the choice of using it by job posting or subscribing to enjoy its full range of features. Workable puts a strong focus on mobile usability from both a recruiter and candidate perspective, meaning you can keep your recruitment moving forward wherever you are while your candidates enjoy an exceptional experience.
You can use Workable to address all your recruitment needs, from sourcing candidates and advertising vacancies through to the interview process and the decision to hire. Workable provides a wealth of expert input, including job description templates, candidate communication email templates, and sample interview questions, to ensure your recruitment is professional and efficient. Workable even provides suggested interview structures, ensuring you’re consistent with each candidate and taking a logical approach to each interview.
Workable also features a range of automations, including hiring planning and reporting, to help ease your workload while you look for exceptional hires.
- Gives you the flexibility to hire per job or subscribe to create ongoing recruitment campaigns.
- Provides over 700 job description templates to help get your job ads live quicker and over 390 sample interview questions to help you hire the best candidates.
- Over 70 third-party integrations, including other recruitment and background checking tools.
- The 15-day free trial isn't long enough to test whether Workable delivers throughout a recruitment campaign.
- Workable only offers annual subscriptions, so it could be expensive for smaller businesses.
- Doesn’t provide application history for candidates who have applied to your company before.
Jobvite is a multi-award winning ATS tool boasting a blue-chip client list, including LinkedIn and Universal Music Group.
Jobvite ATS design puts you in full control of your recruitment process, giving you the tools to create compelling and engaging career sites to begin to capture candidates' data and curate pools of applicants.
Jobvite provides intuitive dashboards that allow you to measure things like candidate engagement and suitability for your roles. At the same time, you can create templates to progress candidates or reject their application professionally and at the click of a button.
Jobvite's interview tool doesn't include a video call function but does provide you with interview kits and evaluation forms that allow you to measure each candidate's suitability consistently.
- The Jobvite ATS integrates seamlessly with other Jobvite tools, enabling you to build the tool around your needs.
- Allows you to focus on driving your recruitment strategy yourself, which may help you become better at sourcing and hiring candidates.
- Claims to reduce recruitment costs by 30% and time to hire by 27%.
- Doesn’t support posting to external job boards.
- Features that other ATS platforms make standard are only available at an additional cost.
- Doesn’t offer a free trial.
iCIMS is an enterprise-level, cloud-based ATS solution. iCIMS's most unique selling point is its social sharing features and reporting. With 79% of candidates reportedly using social media as part of their job search, using Facebook and Instagram to share your job posting might prove to be even more useful than a traditional social business platform like LinkedIn.
iCIMS uses a comprehensive set of automations to reduce as much of your workload as possible, enabling you to focus on the highest value tasks like getting to know candidates and conducting interviews. In addition to social automation, you can use iCIMS to have job posts ready for when vacancies arise and then use iCIMS to advertise them at the click of a button.
iCIMS makes it easy for your recruitment teams to collaborate on recruitment campaigns, and it seamlessly integrates with other iCIMS HR tools to give you a comprehensive hiring and HR management platform.
- Provides "one-click" application functions, which iCIMS says generates 15 times more completed applications.
- Allows you to automate job postings at scale whenever vacancies arise.
- Offers detailed analytics so you can monitor the performance of all aspects of your recruitment.
- Features that other ATS platforms make standard are only available at an additional cost.
- Doesn’t include candidate sourcing functions.
- Doesn’t offer a free trial.
Lever bills itself a talent suite rather than an ATS, but all the features you would expect to find in an ATS are here.
Lever places most of its focus on the relationship building aspect of recruitment, helping you build rapport with candidates through various communication methods before you make a hiring decision. Lever utilizes intuitive dashboards to give you performance visibility across every aspect of your recruitment process, ensuring you deliver a fantastic experience both for recruitment teams and your candidates.
Lever allows you to choose from a range of product solutions around its ATS, from the basic tool to a more comprehensive platform addressing 15 different parts of the hiring process.
However, even Lever's "Starter" package offers all the essential features you need from an ATS: a Chrome extension for sourcing, comprehensive interview planning and support tools, and syndication to hundreds of job boards.
- All plans offer the basic suite of features you would expect from an ATS tool.
- Advanced analytics tell you everything you need to know about your recruitment, including what it costs your business and the quality of the candidates in your pools.
- Makes it easy to nurture relationships with candidates even when you’re not actively recruiting a role that fits their skills and experience.
- Sourcing tool integrations only available with higher-tier plans.
- API access is only available on the highest-tier plan.
- Doesn’t offer a free trial.
Choosing an applicant tracking system for your recruitment needs
There’s a lot to consider when choosing an ATS, but the most significant decision to make is whether you want all your ATS to meet all your recruitment needs, or whether you're happy with an ATS you can integrate with other tools, which you may or may not already use.
Once you decide on your approach, you're ready to begin your search. Use our features checklist to determine your most vital "must-haves" in an ATS system, find some promising platforms, and start booking demos!