A lot of work and planning goes into your recruitment process, from sourcing candidates to reviewing CVs and conducting interviews. Keeping track of each step – and multiple candidates – can be overwhelming, especially when you’re hiring at scale. In fact, making one hire takes larger companies an average of 94 candidates, and some roles double that. If your company has 100 jobs to fill, that’s 94 candidates per job and 9,400 applications needed to be successful. How can you keep up?

This is where your ATS comes in. What is an ATS? And how does an ATS work? We break down the role of ATS in recruitment, why you should consider using one and how to determine which ATS is right for you.

What is an ATS?

Aa applicant tracking system, or ATS, is a tool that enables your company to track and measure each step of its recruitment process. An ATS collects and stores information about your applicants, such as where they were sourced and which stage of the application process they’re in. 

Modern applicant tracking systems are more than a glorified spreadsheet. Today’s ATS includes end-to-end hiring solutions, like scheduling tools, candidate relationship management (CRM) software and seamless integration with your human resource information system (HRIS). 

How does an ATS work?

When a candidate applies to a job, their information is uploaded to your ATS database. Typically, this includes details like their contact information, qualifications and CV. 

Your recruitment team can use the system to review CVs, send automated messages to candidates, schedule interviews and share new-hire paperwork – and much more, which depends on the features and capabilities of your ATS provider.

Let’s say you’re recruiting for a graphic designer role. First, you create the job description, using your ATS to automatically post on job sites and other outlets. As applications come in, you search and sort new applicants and past candidates – who have been saved in your ATS database – to create your initial shortlist. Knowing this role requires graphic design skills, you create a search filter to find candidates with this specific skill set. 

Once you’ve created your shortlist, you set up ATS-automated emails inviting applicants to take an online assessment. Not only does this automation save time, but you are able to keep track of each candidate touchpoint.

An ATS streamlines the hiring process

Your hiring managers can then use the ATS to identify which candidates pass the initial screening phase and select blocks of time for interviews. Many applicant tracking systems feature automatic scheduling tools or interfaces that allow candidates to log in and select interview times, manage paperwork and view their status. 

You notice that one promising candidate hasn’t selected an interview slot yet, so you make a note to follow up. Because so many cumbersome manual tasks have been automated, you now have time to do some research on this applicant and get in touch with them in a personalised way. 

As interviews progress, the recruitment team leaves notes and ratings for each candidate in the ATS, which the team can reference for their final selection. Now you’re ready to make an offer – and your top candidate accepts! 

In addition to a welcome email from the team, your new employee has new-hire paperwork and payroll information automatically sent to their inbox, thanks to your ATS-HRIS integration.

Why should I use an ATS in recruiting?

As the previous scenario illustrates, using a streamlined ATS in recruitment delivers many benefits:

It saves time. Not only does an ATS make your applicant pool easily accessible in an organised, searchable database, it also includes features that automate manual tasks. This frees recruiters to spend more time on high-value activities, like personalised outreach and relationship-building. 

It helps you recruit more effectively. Collaborating and communicating with your talent organisation is easier with a centralised applicant tracking system. Robust analytics show your hiring team which sources are most fruitful, how long applicants take to move through the pipeline and other insightful metrics that can make your recruitment process even more effective.

It improves the candidate experience. An ATS allows you to stay on top of each applicant’s position in the recruitment process. This tracking minimises the ‘black hole’ – when candidates don’t hear back from employers. CRM tools, a key component of your ATS, help recruiters follow up in a timely manner and build relationships with clients.

How do I know which ATS is right for me?

With so many options available in the market, selecting the best ATS for your company can feel overwhelming. Where to start?

Understanding the ins and outs of your own hiring process – including your pain points – is an important step in determining which features and capabilities will work best for your team. Make sure the solutions you choose can easily integrate with your HR tech stack (such as your HRIS and payroll systems) and determine what ATS investments realistically align with your recruiting budget.

Once you’ve selected the right ATS for you, an applicant tracking system becomes an important tool in managing your candidate pipeline so you can quickly and effectively find the next great candidate you want to hire.