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A comprehensive guide to ATS

by kathiemurphy

The talent market is always highly competitive, and now more so because of the disruptive changes brought by the COVID-19 outbreak. The way individuals work and are hired by organizations has gone through revolutionary changes during it. Even now, when the effect of the pandemic seems to be fading, the recent great resignation, or reshuffle, as the industry termed it, proved its impacts are here to stay. Therefore, to stay ahead of the curve, organizations need innovative strategies and technologies. So, employing applicant tracking software can be a great way to combat talent scarcity and a tight talent market.

Typically invented to automate a few activities in the recruitment process, it is now capable of handling sophisticated talent management tasks like resume parsing and candidate recommendations. These applications can now do much more than just candidates’ applications and document processing or communication. Especially in remote hiring, it is an essential tool for recruiters. Also, when a large number of candidates are involved, an applicant tracking solution can come in really handy for HR recruiters.

So, what is applicant tracking software?

An applicant tracking system or ATS is a solution that manages the recruitment and hiring process of an organization. In a nutshell, applicant tracking systems are software programs for tracking, filtering, managing, and analyzing candidates. It can be a full-service suite or a simple database with a set of processes, databases, and functionality to streamline talent management and recruiting from start to finish. It typically contains different features to satisfy the needs of the different users, like posting jobs, parsing resumes, recommending, and ranking candidates, sending automated communications like emails, and messages, arranging interviews, etc. for recruiters.

Hiring managers can view candidates’ profiles, take notes, communicate, and collaborate through the applicant tracking system. Candidates can search for jobs, view job posts, apply for jobs, and communicate with recruiters, and managers using ATS. Applicant tracking tools use various degrees of artificial intelligence for sorting candidates. The ATS algorithm can be used for keyword matching to take a deeper look at the candidates’ profiles. Applicant tracking tools are also incorporating machine learning and natural language processing (NLP) concepts. These ensure hiring is completely free of human bias and the candidates who complement the job role and organizational environment is selected for the role. It also enables different stakeholders to connect, communicate, and collaborate to stay abreast of the progress.


How does the applicant tracking system work?

A competent applicant tracking system helps execute each step of the recruitment process, from posting a job to making an offer to a candidate. This includes allowing candidates to create their profiles and apply for the job. It can also help organize and track job applications and track all the activities that are happening around the candidate during the hiring process.

Here are some steps that are common to most hiring processes:

The job requisition can be created and approved within the same system.

Job posted internally and/or externally on the websites, job boards, communities, etc.

Candidates can apply for the position through the website, and job portals, if the functionalities are available, and these candidates are added to the database of candidate profiles. Candidates may need to answer questions related to the positions, like education, and work experience and some systems can be set up to reject candidates automatically based on their responses.

The applicant tracking software may then parse candidates’ resumes and rank candidates according to their suitability for the vacant position.

Recruiters can review the candidates in the system and select candidates to pursue further in the hiring process. The candidates who are not selected will receive automated rejection emails.

Interviews can be arranged, and all the stakeholders will be notified through the same software application through alerts or emails.

Interviewees can take notes and after the interview was conducted, they can submit the evaluation score in the system.

Once a candidate is finally selected to get hired, offers can be sent through the ATS. If the candidate accepts the offer next onboarding activities may start with the ATS or the HR solutions.


Importance of the applicant tracking system

Using an applicant tracking system is important for any organization, irrespective of its size. Because candidates now expect to receive an excellent candidate experience and a user-friendly application process. Secondly, an ATS can automate and streamline the recruitment process for employees who are involved in the hiring process. Finally, applicant tracking software or these applications create a repository of data for future reference. For example, many applicant tracking solutions build a talent pool by storing profiles of the candidates who applied to their organization. Recruiters can access the data from the ATS when a past candidate applies for a job again. Also, when a suitable position opens, these profiles can be utilized by recruiters. These candidates are part of the talent pipeline, and often recruiters maintain a connection with these prospects.


Applicant tracking systems are now widely in use, and these are considered a subset of recruitment management systems.  An umbrella term for technologies that deal with recruitment. Typically, there are applicant tracking systems that are standalone offerings, or they can come as a module or part of a larger software suite. Many HR software or workforce management tools generally contain recruitment and applicant tracking systems integrated into them for managing employee activities. ATSes improve the experience of job seekers and hiring professionals and optimize the recruitment process and talent management process for an organization. Some systems also deploy recruiting chatbots to encourage and help candidates apply for jobs, creating a positive candidate experience.

Advantages of the ATS

An applicant tracking software system is designed to organize and accelerate the hiring process by providing the following advantages and capabilities:

It can manage job postings on different sites. ATSes can post jobs on external and internal career sites, across multiple job boards, and even on social media sites. It also allows recruiters to reuse the job description and manage multiple job postings.

ATS maintains a database of candidates who applied for a job and other data that may be useful for future reference. It accumulates all the information about each candidate, like their details of education.  Experience to their scores in the interview, communications, etc. Offers a single view to make a profile of each candidate.

Applicant tracking systems can also sort and rank candidates according to their suitability for the required position.

It can also send automated responses, alerts, emails, and messages to candidates, prospects, hiring managers, interviewees, and other stakeholders involved in the hiring process.

ATS integration with other applications

Integrating with other applications with ATS enables organizations to migrate various processes and data of the business and recruiting from one application. This will lead to a more efficient workflow and a seamless talent management process. Several aspects need to be considered carefully before integrating new technologies. Like the internal systems and compatibility with the ATS. Also, organizational leaders should find out where the current solution falls short. How to pull different data streams together and make the hiring process more efficient. Presently, ATSes parse applicant resumes, but sometimes they fail to recognize a candidate with good potential. To improve the algorithm and assess other aspects like social media sites, for verifying whether candidates need to incorporate new technologies into ATS.


In the decade, applicant tracking systems have made significant progress. Originally designed to simplify the most routine tasks, they can now hold video interviews, parse applicant applications, and much more.

The future of applicant tracking systems will most likely see an enhancement of the features they presently offer. Examples include a continuous emphasis on usability, out-of-the-box interfaces with additional HR systems, and AI capability enhancements. It is also predicted that vendors will continue to explore ways to streamline the end-to-end process for recruiters. With some job posts garnering hundreds of applicants, everything can be done to simplify the recruiter’s task of screening applications. It also connects with prospects and dealing with hiring managers for faster and more efficient hiring.

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