Application Tracking Systems: What are they and why should I know about them?

Application Tracking Systems (ATS) are already a common feature of recruitment for large corporate firms.

Over 90% of enterprise-level businesses use an ATS to help manage their thousands of job applications. If you work for one of these organisations you might be familiar with ATS, but most UK workers aren’t really aware of what Application Tracking Systems actually is.

Application Tracking SystemsIn simple terms, an ATS is a piece of software used by HR and recruitment professionals to track, sort, and contact potential candidates all in one place. If you have any experience with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, it’s very similar but focused on the recruitment lifecycle rather than sales.

As with any type of software, there is a range of solutions with a range of price tags to match. Some advanced systems can essentially automate the entire recruitment process, plugging into online job boards, chasing references, and managing data consent. Some top ATS can also integrate with certain APIs to allow background screening to be automated alongside your recruitment process.

Less advanced systems require a lot more manual input but still provide a customisable interface for managing your recruitment lifecycle. When you consider the cost of advertising a job, time spent by HR, along with the training of your new staff, recruitment is one of the biggest financial burdens for a business. Having a piece of software that can drive the efficiency of this process can help reduce both the cost and time spent on recruitment.

The ATS developer ecosystem is currently undergoing a massive boom. Some predictions suggest that this area of the market will grow by around 10% each year over the next decade based on current performance. As this sector grows so does its availability to a wider range of businesses as solutions are becoming cheaper and cheaper. Some are now even free!

B2B software review platform, Capterra, has reviewed many of these and produced their top 3 free, open-source ATS. While these solutions wouldn’t be suitable for large corporations, they are ideal for SMEs and start-ups. They give you the core functionality with no frills which can go a long way to refining your existing recruitment processes.

If you do consider investing in an ATS, make sure you do your research as there are some inherent drawbacks. Some of the ATS on the market rely on outdated ‘auto import’ software to read candidate CVs. This means something simple, like a formatting error, could lead to a perfectly viable candidate being marked as inappropriate by the system. In a worst-case scenario, this could also leave you open to a discrimination lawsuit.

With this in mind, there are some questions to ask any ATS provider you may approach. The below questions should give you a comprehensive idea about whether an ATS is suitable for your purposes:

  • Does your ATS specialize in tailoring solutions to my industry?
  • Is it possible to customize workflows in line with our existing processes?
  • How many firms currently use your product?
  • Do you provide live or on-demand training support?
  • Would we have access to ongoing resources for using and learning about the ATS?
  • Do you have an open developer ecosystem with partner solutions that integrate with the ATS?
  • Are you investing in improvements to your product?
  • Does your ATS have any unique features that other systems don’t?
  • Does your ATS offer a 360-degree recruitment lifecycle solution?

While these questions cover the key points, you should consider the specific needs of your business and industry before committing to any specific provider. However, now could be the perfect time to consider investing in an ATS. Following significant job losses due to pandemic restrictions, there is a higher volume of job applicants for any given role than ever before. Having an ATS in place could help mitigate some of the extra strain on your HR department!