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Applicant Tracking Systems Explained – Your Complete Guide to ATS

Applicant Tracking Systems Explained – Your Complete Guide to ATS
Maelle De Francesco

Maelle De Francesco


Recruitment is, unsurprisingly, the backbone of success for global businesses. Without recruiters and other HR professionals, quality candidates would never find their way to the workforce. However, recruiters can spend inordinate amounts of time handling manual tasks that could be automated. These tasks are necessary, but they prevent recruiters from doing the most critical part of the job: connecting with candidates and nurturing the employer brand.

These expectations on recruiters and HR departments mean that companies will often spend vast portions of their hiring budgets on recruitment agencies to help with the hiring process. So, the more time your recruiters spend on these repetitive tasks, the less time they can focus on sourcing top talent. But there is a solution to this cycle.

guide to applicant tracking systems explained

What is an Applicant Tracking System

Simply put, Applicant Tracking Systems (or ATS) are software solutions that companies can use to facilitate and streamline the application process. Once a candidate has applied with the system, the ATS will sort and organize the data so recruiters can take less time sourcing potential applicants for open positions.

While the system is designed to organize the recruitment process, it has also become the go-to system for all communication to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks. The process is seamless for both the recruiter and the candidates.

More than 90% of Fortune 500 companies use applicant tracking systems to improve their candidate pipeline and reduce the administrative burden on recruitment professionals.


How Do Applicant Tracking Systems Work

Applicant tracking software is a way to sort and store applicant data to make the sourcing process more straightforward for the recruiters and hiring managers. For job seekers, this can be advantageous since resumes are stored long after they’ve applied for a job, which means they may be a better fit for something else in the future.

Recruiters then search and sort through resumes using appropriate keywords. This means that candidate resumes optimized for ATS are likely to be sourced and considered first. Once the resume is sourced, a recruiter can evaluate it based on experience and skills matches before determining if they want to connect with the applicant. All of this can happen in about 6 seconds.

Some ATS will provide automatic rankings that will put applicant resumes that better match the search’s specifics at the top of the results.


What are the Benefits of an ATS?

If your business is on the fence about implementing an ATS into your business and recruiting plan, consider these benefits.

Saves Time for Hiring 

Over 50% of the applicants on any given job do not meet the basic requirements for consideration. When a recruiter needs to sift through these resumes, it can take exponentially longer to uncover the most qualified candidates. An ATS allows recruiters to search for the most important skills and only consider those applicants.

Integration with Other Software

To make the most of the AT software, it needs to integrate with other tools you regularly use at your company. That includes job boards and HR software as well as your website and social media. An ATS is best when it works in conjunction with other enterprise software, so every aspect, from hiring to payroll, is seamless

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Easy Job Posting

Since the ATS is intended to make life easier for recruiters, the integration with job boards for easy posting may be the most important feature. For example, if a recruiter is asked to push the open job out to 5 or 6 online job boards, but each one has a separate process, the recruiter saves no time.

Improved Cost Per Hire

The saying “time is money” applies to the recruiting process here. The cost per hire isn’t just dollars spent from sourcing to onboarding a single candidate; it’s spread out over the entire process, including the various administrative tasks performed by your recruiters to make it possible to bring a candidate on board.

Better Inter-Department Communication

An ATS can also help facilitate communications between departments to ensure that everyone is on the same page regarding the hiring program. Recruiters don’t hire in a bubble. Not only can they work with other recruiters on each job, but they will also need to regularly communicate with hiring managers, executives, and departments.

Encourages Collaborative Hiring

An ATS can also facilitate collaborative hiring. This is a method by which multiple people conduct the hiring process within the organization. Think of this as a way to crowdsource talent acquisition. Everyone has input on the interview and hiring process, taking the pressure off a single recruiter.

Enhanced Candidate Experience

Of course, your internal recruitment team isn’t the only group of people interacting with an ATS. Applicant tracking software needs to integrate with your website to provide a seamless way for professionals to apply. It’s very common for top talent to abandon an application process if it’s too complicated or requires too many hoops to jump through.

Developed Employer Brand

Part of the candidate experience is your employer brand. Unlike the customer brand, designed to bring in outside users, the employer brand is designed to attract talent who want to become part of your company culture. An employer brand is comprised of your work environment, current staff, and benefits you offer employees. It’s most often communicated through social media, and your ATS can facilitate this.

Accurate Reporting and Data Collection

We live in a world driven by Big Data. Throughout the last 20 years, companies have been amassing high amounts of data. We’ve only scratched the surface on what all of this data means, and companies are even hiring analysts to parse the information into bite-sized chunks. An ATS gives us tremendous insight into talent acquisition strategies’ successes with data that can inform real-time adjustments.

User-Friendly Interface

Of course, with all the applicant tracking systems in the universe, it won’t provide any of the expected benefits if the software isn’t easy to use. HireHive is in the top 20 user-friendly applicant tracking systems by Capterra. The website rates and showcases almost 300 systems.


Finding the Best Applicant Tracking System

Choosing the right AT software is as essential as determining any other business infrastructure to help your company succeed. Hiring is a core function, so putting yourself in the best position to find and connect with top candidates faster will only help your organization grow the right way.

  • Determine the features that matter
  • Make a shortlist of matching ATS options
  • Schedule demos
  • Compare the solutions based on what can solve your most significant pain points
  • Choose the ATS right for you

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Using an ATS

It can be helpful to consider how the ATS will appear for the applicant and end-user before deciding. Knowing how candidates will interact with it will help you see the system’s benefits and how that integrates with how businesses, recruiters, and hiring managers use it.

For example, the big take-away for job seekers is the use of keywords for their resumes. But job seekers are also learning that they can’t just keyword stuff and hope for the best. Most ATS require the exact keyword. Some job seekers believe they can game the system. However, artificial intelligence at the core of many applicant tracking systems will still mean the best solution for resume visibility is by creating a killer resume.

For the recruiter, this still means that they need to evaluate each resume before contacting a potential candidate. But the ATS will help streamline the process, so time is not wasted reading through dozens, if not hundreds, of unqualified resumes.

In-house, however, the uses of an ATS go much further than just sourcing resumes. Some of the most important features include:

  1. Import and Export: to quickly upload and download information from the system
  2. Universal search: to find things fast without jumping through hoops
  3. Tags: to label information for quick searches
  4. Integration: with your other software or apps to ease of use
  5. Collaboration: for a team of recruiters to access the same information
  6. Messaging: to communicate directly with candidates or send bulk but customized messages
  7. Distribution: to send job posting or advertisements easily
  8. Reporting: to provide data to qualify and quantify the work to decision-makers



Applicant Tracking Systems are not new in the recruiting industry, but technological advancements constantly update the game. Choosing and working with the right applicant tracking software is imperative to reducing administrative functions and improving your recruiting team’s effectiveness.

HireHive has processed over 1 million candidate applications, and companies have hired over 10,000 candidates using our system. International corporations and organizations make up our satisfied customer base.

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More than 1 million candidates from around the world have applied to companies through the HireHive Recruiting software.

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