Applicant Tracking System: A Complete Guide

By Tressa Shepard - Published on March 18, 2020
A Brief Explanation About What Applicant Tracking System & Its Use

The primary purpose of Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) has been to organize and filter candidates in such a way that it saves the time and energy of recruiters and Human Resources professionals, improves time-to hi. A recent study(1) shows that 75% of businesses are using ATS, and 94% of companies indicate that ATS has improved time-to-hire and efficiency.

What is an Applicant Tracking System?

An Applicant Tracking System is defined as software designed to track and manage candidates as well as reduce the time spent on administrative tasks. Much like a search engine, ATS software scans resumes for keywords and gives the resumes a score based on how closely matched the candidate’s resume is to the keywords of the job description.  The goal is to filter out irrelevant resumes and leave only those candidates that closely fit the specific requirements of the job.

Initially, ATS were given a bad reputation because candidates had not mastered the use of keywords within their resumes and automation was not quite ideal; however, as the use of ATS grew across all types of businesses, candidates learned to adapt. The result is a second evolution of ATS that has cast the software in a new light as innovation has made searching easier and added features that improve the HR professional’s work experience.

How do Applicant Tracking Systems work?

  1. Job posting with One Click:

    A recruiter, talent acquisition specialist, or another HR professional will create and post a job description to multiple job sites from one job posting managed on a career page or dashboard.

  2. Resume submitted, scanned and reformatted:

    When a resume is submitted for a job opening, it is scanned and reformatted to a more basic template that is easier for the ATS to read. The resume is then scanned by the ATS to find keywords and phrases.

  3. Scored:

    The resume is scored and given a percentage based on the number of similar words and phrases as is found in the job description.

  4. Recruiter/Manager Review:

    The resumes with the highest percentage or score are reviewed are reviewed by the recruiter and the best matches based on the recruiter’s insight and ATS score are presented to hiring managers for interview. The resume can be also be pulled up by recruiters and other HR professionals as well as other team members that may be involved in any of the stages of the recruitment cycle.

  5. Automation:

    Many ATS have the capability to email candidates when they are not chosen. They are also able to send links to candidates to schedule interviews as well as a myriad of other options that vary by ATS vendor.

  6. Selection and Onboarding:

    Once a candidate has been chosen for a position, an official offer letter, I-9, W-4, and other onboarding requirements can be managed through the applicant tracking system again this varies by vendor.

  7. Reporting and Analytics:

    The number of candidates, number of candidates interviewed, time-to-hire are some data that can be pulled by an ATS. Reports on the same job title, same department, across departments and more. Customization does vary by product vendor.

( Also read: 5 Ways ATS Can Solve Recruitment Challenges )

Why use an Applicant Tracking System?

ATS is used to shorten the time-to-hire and simplify the recruitment cycle by removing tasks that are automatable, and this reduced time leads to reduced costs associated with vacant positions and improve productivity through faster and more frequent placements.

The software prevents the need to do repetitive, time consuming tasks that take too much time as well as adds additional punch to traditional resume sorting filters and techniques. For instance, rather than just posting a job description and a few qualifying questions as most

Benefits of using an Applicant Tracking System

The simple and easiest reasons why using an applicant tracking systems is that it will free your talent acquisition experts from tedious and time-consuming tasks and allow the HR professionals to focus on more important responsibilities.

In doing this, ATS improves Time-to-Hire

  1. Reduces the timeline of the recruitment cycle and frees up time for more meaningful work as administrative tasks are automated.
  2. Finds more qualified candidates
  3. Delivers a more diverse and knowledgeable candidate pool and ultimately employees
  4. Improves the candidate’s first experiences with your organization
  5. Boosts employer branding through more organized and positive interaction
  6. Costs are reduced through faster hiring times and less time with unfilled jobs going unworked.

( Also read: Benefits of an ATS Recruitment System for Your Organization )

How do I find the right ATS for me?

Fortunately, there are ATS Vendors that cater to startups, small-medium businesses, large companies, and world-wide corporations. If you understand your size and potential growth, business needs, and the most important features that your organization requires, finding an ATS is not always expensive nor cumbersome especially for startups and small to medium businesses.

That said, there are more specific considerations:

  1. Review your recruitment process from start to finish.
    • Tip – Workflow documents have likely already been created by human resources leadership
    • Determine a value for time spent on each task and tasks that are repeated frequently or somewhat frequently?
      • Look at the time spent posting jobs descriptions on multiple sites
      • How much time is wasted taking information from job boards and entering the same information into spreadsheets or other tracking software.
      • Time spent downloading, storing, finding, and sharing resumes to stakeholders

How do ATS score your resume?

The ATS scans resumes for keywords and phrases. Its sole purpose is to find as many words or phrases that match with the job description as possible and give a score or percentage. Unless your resume is tailored to the verbiage of the job description, you may be passed over for positions that you are a great fit.

Who are the top ATS Vendors?

Workday, Taleo, and BrassRing are the top ATS vendors for large organizations. BambooHR and Jobsoid are great choices for small to medium businesses. Only you will know the exact needs of your organization; fortunately, most ATS vendors allow a free trial period to see how you like the software.  Try the demo on your top choices to better understand which fits your exact needs.

Final Thoughts

Applicant Tracking Systems manage your full cycle recruitment process, and while there is not one perfect ATS designed for every business, there are great options available based on your business size.

Tressa Shepard | Tressa Shepard is the Human Resources Manager at Bython Media, a global digital publishing and B2B marketing company that specializes in data-driven, fully integrated solutions. Previously, she was Talent Acquisition Manager at Cisco Systems.

Tressa Shepard | Tressa Shepard is the Human Resources Manager at Bython Media, a global digital publishing and B2B marketing company that specializes in data-drive...


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