What is an Applicant Tracking System? And how will it helps in recruiting

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The pandemic has changed almost everything in the world, the work ecosystem being no exception. With the line between work and personal life blurring out, career passions and personal well-being now take precedence over career progression. 

The flexibility to work from anywhere, compounded by inflated employee expectations has made recruitment more candidate driven than ever. To stay competitive and ahead of contemporaries in the war for talent, it’s time for companies to leverage innovative and ingenious ways to attract, engage and hire the most qualified candidates.

Key 2022 trends to hire stellar talent, per Forbes, are, offering remote work, proactively engaging with candidates, data-centric recruiting and using advanced screening tools. With a host of talent acquisition and recruitment technology solutions on offer to enterprise, SMB and start-up level organizations, it’s worthwhile exploring the features and benefits of ATS (Applicant Tracking System), how it measures against a CRM, along with pointers on choosing one that’s appropriate for your organization. 

What is an ATS?

An ATS, Applicant Tracking System, can be defined as an applicant repository, workflow automation and compliance tool which enables recruiters to centrally collect and manage applications through all the recruitment stages. In addition to streamlining the recruitment process, it serves as a selection tool, scanning resumes using keywords and phrases to select potential candidates with specific skills, expertise and qualifications. 

It also helps recruiters create attractive career landing pages, job applications and postings, sharing them on social media, career sites and company websites, helping attract and engage top talent. LinkedIn reports that 75% of recruiters utilize ATS software, and 94% of these recruiters state that it has enhanced their hiring process

How ATS or applicant tracking systems work?

An ATS helps manage the recruitment activities centrally and more efficiently, from creating clear job descriptions up until offering the candidate. It helps collect, sort, scan and rank the applications based on specific skills and other relevant academic and business qualifications. The ATS is designed around the candidate, tracking their progress through the recruitment life cycle.

The ATS simplifies the recruitment process steps to be as below:

  1. A job requisition is created with the pertinent position details such as Title, qualification, skills, expertise & experience
  2. The job is posted via different channels, on the company website, social media, external and internal job boards
  3. Applications are received from aspiring candidates for the position with a suitably formatted resume and responses to questions on their academic and business qualifications
  4. Resumes are scanned and filtered on the basis of keywords and other relevant criteria and ranked accordingly
  5. The selected profiles are then scrutinized by recruiters for fitment and selected for further interviews. The profiles that do not make through this stage receive an automated rejection mail
  6. Key hiring metrics measured based on pertinent data, tracked and reported through the recruitment stages
  7. Interviews are scheduled with hiring managers and other relevant panel and the status and details recorded in the ATS for future reference
  8. Background and reference checks performed
  9. Post selection, the approved candidates are sent the offer 
  10. Offer contract signed digitally by candidate
  11. Onboarding with digital signature on policies, online forms completion and formal induction

What are the differences between an ATS and a CRM?

The ATS and CRM both serve as valuable platforms for recruiters in that they automate, optimize and expedite sourcing and hiring of top talent. While an ATS is focused on automating and streamlining the recruitment process, the CRM works on creating and maintaining a diverse pool of potential and passive talent for recruitment at any point in time. 

In very simple terms, the ATS can be defined as a resume tracking software, serving as a repository of applicants, tracking the status of the candidates throughout the hiring process. It also helps recruiters create job posts on social media, collect submissions, scan and sort through these profiles to find the ones best suited for the open positions.   

In contrast, a CRM is more of a relationship platform, helping recruiters forge and maintain long-term relationships with the candidates, regardless of the final outcome of the interview. In fact, the CRM is part of a wider Recruitment Marketing Strategy, enabling the creation of a talent community, nurturing and engaging with them continuously, helping deliver targeted messaging and activate for any future opportunities.

Also read: 7 Major Benefits of Recruitment CRM

Features of an applicant tracking system

The main objective of an ATS is to streamline recruitment via automation of repetitive tasks and centralized repository management. While different ATS offer different features, the ones offered by most ATS systems are given below:

Salient Features

  • Job posting – ATSs help create and post jobs, helping save precious time and effort with pre-designed job requisition templates. Some allow a hosting of a career/job opening page either on the company website or off their platform.   
  • Social media integration – ATSs help instant posting and tracking on social media, career sites and job board, helping maximize reach, increasing chances of finding the right talent 
  • Collection and sorting of applications – Sorting and screening of profiles received for a posting based on keywords and phrases. Extensive use of AI to shortlist for specific skills and expertise. 
  • Consolidated storage of profiles – ATS serves as a repository of all the resumes received for various applications. Central storage enables effective tracking and reporting on progress and also ensures compliance. 
  • Collaborating with teammates – Most ATSs facilitate collaboration with other team members to make the hiring more objective. Different roles with varying access can be assigned to team members to help hire the right candidates and earmark others for other roles 
  • Messaging and interview schedulers – ATSs can enable communication with and schedule interviews for shortlisted profiles quickly and easily. A recruitment chatbot helps further this cause through prompt and effective interfacing and query resolution. Automated notifications and reminders help with efficient interviews and further steps. 
  • Onboarding – An ATS expedites the hiring and onboarding through curated pre-onboarding content on the company, the teams and role expectations. It also provides detailed information on compensation, benefits and other pertinent information. The formal onboarding forms can be completed online by the candidate. 

4 Key Benefits of ATS

A feature-rich ATS can significantly reduce recruitment cost in terms of effort and hiring candidates faster. The core benefits of integrating an ATS into the recruitment process are: 

  • Enhanced Brand image
    • Compliance with local rules and regulations related to sourcing & hiring locations, and other laws protecting candidate data  
    • Improving diversity and inclusion in the recruitment process through blind recruiting and monitoring key diversity metrics
    • Great candidate first impression by crafting a compelling brand story on the customized landing page followed by higher candidate engagement
  • Improves efficacy of recruitment team, reducing recruitment cost  
    • Enables creation and re-use of crisp job descriptions with pre-designed templates for multiple positions, saving time and effort to post a job requisition
    • Automated interview scheduling, responses, notifications and other communication with candidates helping save recruitment time and effort
    • Better communication and collaboration amongst recruitment team members facilitating better hiring and higher team morale
  •  Centralized tracking of prospective candidates
    • Consolidated repository of applicants, passive and potential candidates for future openings
    • A single platform view of a candidate with all pertinent information about their candidature, from their profile, activity, to the positions applied and communications
    • Status and progress reporting and tracking, enabling recruiters to resolve challenges and engage better with candidates
  • Improved quality of hires
    • Faster outreach to candidates by quick posting, managing and tracking of job ads on the organization’s internal and external career sites, on social media and other career/job sites
    • Scanning and parsing applications to find best suited candidates for the job requirements using algorithms and AI

5 Key Benefits of CRM

A CRM recruitment system is based on the philosophy of creating a customer-like experience for candidates. It is more strategic in nature, closely aligned to the recruitment strategy, driving higher value out of the recruitment process based on longer and stronger relationships with candidates.       

While there are overlapping features and benefits of ATS and CRM recruitment systems, some of the advantages of the CRM are captured below:

  • Efficient sourcing of diverse talent – CRM helps create a Talent community of diverse & top talent for future hiring leveraging social media, career sites and other job boards. It helps in activating passive and potential candidates via timely notifications, alerts and other relevant content communication. Better candidate experience also helps with further talent referrals.    
  • Higher organizational productivity – Fosters higher collaboration amongst recruiting team members through a consolidated view of all the candidates with their hiring status, progress, challenges etc. A positive candidate experience also encourages talent to be more creative and productive, fostering healthy competition and innovation amongst the peers, directly impacting the business success. 
  • Superior candidate experience – Optimized and streamlined hiring processes enable recruiters to have more meaningful interactions with the candidates enhancing the candidate experience and thereby conversions. Automation and AI in CRMs also help improve the efficacy of candidate interaction, with valuable feedback being captured with candidate surveys all through their candidature 
  • Enhanced brand image – A par-excellence candidate experience and real-time stats, reports and insights, enables the hiring team to intervene appropriately to promote a strong brand image 
  • Advanced hiring analytics with dashboards – Measuring and tracking key hiring KPIs with a well-designed dashboard provides a comprehensive view of the candidate journey, while also measuring and improving cost-efficiency of the recruitment process

ATS has an automated and optimized approach to screening profiles, whereas CRM serves as an effective conduit to passive and potential candidates, activating & engaging with them ahead of a hiring spree. 

With candidate experience being a key hiring goal, there is value in integrating them on a single platform enabling data-driven decision making with a robust talent pipeline. 

How to choose an ATS

The recruiting requirements of organizations differ based on the size, industry, hiring budget, scale of hiring and business strategy; hence the need to perform a due-diligence before selecting one that best fits their unique hiring needs.

Key aspects to consider for an ATS:

  • Simplicity and ease of use – An ATS should be designed with a superior candidate experience in mind. In accordance, it must be aesthetically designed, easy to implement and intuitive to use for the candidates as well as the recruiters and hiring managers. 
  • Affordability – The cost of an ATS can be justified on the basis of the repeated administrative costs, lost talent opportunities, cost of bad hires into the organization. That said, it is important to understand the upfront price of an ATS as well as the other elements that would inflate the total cost of ownership later such as integration, customization, training and support costs.   
  • Reputation & customer reviews – Online reviews, customer testimonials and other references such as case studies can help understand their platform effectiveness and other shortcomings. Reviews on customer support must also be considered.
  • Enable higher Diversity & Inclusion while hiring – DE&I being important hiring goals for organizations, an ATS should have the ability to implement and drive Diversity & Inclusion with appropriate questions in the candidate application forms and reporting on key diversity metrics through the process. ATS with the blind recruiting functionality built-in reduces hiring bias by anonymizing applications and masking/hiding information that could lead to a bias.   
  • Ease of integration – An ATS that interfaces and works well with the existing organizational recruitment and HR systems is vital to continuing business operations as well as derive value from the new platform. It must also easily integrate with external software and sourcing sites. 
  • Compliance & data security – An ATS is invaluable in that it helps automate, program recruitment processes to be compliant with the employment laws and regulations in all the regions they operate. It also helps eliminate bias and other discriminatory practices through automated screening. Consolidated candidate data helps in easy reporting for compliance as well as ensure security of personally identifiable data. Advanced data security practices help the ATS be a preferred choice for employers. 
  • Configurability and customizability – In addition to simple integration with the existing Tech stack, an ATS must also have features that can be customized and configured with ease per customer needs. On that note, it is also important to look for an ATS partner with focus on continuous evolution of the platform in tandem with the market for it to add value to the customers. 
  • Customer support – Effort must be taken to understand their customer service and level of support for effective ongoing operations. Parameters to consider would the mode of support (mail, call, chat etc.) support timings, languages, time-zones and technical support). It is worthwhile to list out clearly the support requirements and validate the ability of the ATS partner to fulfill them.

 Wrap Up

78% of recruiters say using an ATS helps recruit better candidates, faster, per Gartner. With the highly competitive talent market, it is very important for organizations to rethink their recruitment strategy and make candidate engagement and recruitment efficiency a priority. 

In light of that, an ATS becomes a powerful Talent Acquisition tool by automating, rationalizing the recruitment processes and building Diversity, Inclusion and being Bias-free into the hiring process early on. 

All of these robust practices enable the creation of a strong, engaged talent pipeline, directly impacting the company bottom-line through accelerated hiring, reduced hiring costs, all the while building a strong brand presence.

Recommended Reads:

Recruiting CRM v/s ATS (Applicant Tracking System)
10 Major Benefits of Using an ATS

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