How to Pick the Right Applicant Tracking System

Hiring Managers Recruitment Agencies Recruitment Technology
How to Pick the Right Applicant Tracking System

Applicant tracking systems were first developed to help employers scan paper resumes into a database. But like everything else, they’ve come a long way and have developed into one of the most useful tools a recruiter can use daily.  

For those who may not know, an applicant tracking system (ATS) comes in the form of a software solution and is used to streamline and automate recruitment processes from beginning to end. It provides a means of collating candidate data taken from applications and CV’s, a means of advertising job listings, and smoothly moving candidates through each stage of the recruitment process – to name only a few.  

The right applicant tracking system can set you up for success, all in one centralised platform. The common pain points that an ATS can address include things such as low-quality responses to postings, lack of measurement of quality and efficiency, keeping track of and communicating with candidates, and moving candidates through stages of the hiring process efficiently and effectively.  

You can view the infographic here! (Or, if you're already happy with your ATS, head over to our Ultimate Guide to Recruitment Technology to see how you can truly streamline your recruitment process!)

Because of their importance in the world of recruitment, we’ve decided to list a few of the key considerations when choosing your software:



1. Security 

Your ATS is going to house some of your companies most sensitive data. Not only this, it’s also housing the personal data of your candidates – so it’s important to make sure that the platform you use is completely secure and compliant with GDPR. 

2. Budget 

In general, spending more on an applicant tracking system will probably provide you with a more in-depth service and functionality. It’s worth paying attention to what different providers include in their subscription costs. For example, features that come as standard in a package from one provider may cost you extra from another, so make sure you understand exactly what is involved in the pricing structure so you can meet both your needs and your budget.  

3. Company Profile 

Your organisation type will also have different needs than others, which can generally be met by different types of providers. The three main categories using ATS solutions are enterprise, recruitment agencies and SMBs, and different providers may be better catered to meet your needs depending on which of these categories it is that you fall into. For example, agencies should consider industry-specific solutions as they may need additional features such as customer relationship management more than others. And thanks to SaaS solutions, SMBs can still get the benefits of enterprise level solutions in a much smaller scale. 

4. Hosting 

It’s almost definite that whichever provider you choose, the software will come in a ‘SaaS’ form (software as a service). The difference here is that SaaS is built in the cloud and is accessible by browser, so no downloads or IT departments necessary. One of the many advantages of this is that it is accessible anywhere via web browser as long as you have an internet connection. It’s also likely that this will be accessible by mobile, too.  

The benefits here are that there are no bulky downloads or installations on your end, and updates are taken care of by your provider and won’t need to be done manually. Everyone using the platform will always be using the newest version so no one will get left behind! 


Of course, ATS needs will vary depending upon the needs of your recruitment process – so a thorough understanding of the pain points in your process will provide a basis for choosing the best solution for your needs.  

The key components that a modern ATS will (or should) offer are: 

1.Candidate Screening 

For many recruiters dealing with a flow of high-volume recruitment, assessing hundreds of CVs regularly just isn’t an option. In this case, your ATS should come with screening tools that crawl CV’s/applications to find the most qualified candidates for the role.  

While at first glance it may not seem fair to dismiss other candidates or to give favour to those picked out in the parse, it’s a common occurrence that people will apply for roles when they don’t match the given description. Candidate screening via your ATS can help to tackle these issues as they will pick out candidates who match certain criteria such as level of education or length of experience, as well as picking out skills based on keywords used that match the job description. 

2. Career Page Hosting 

This comes in the form of a brandable portal that is likely to be the first touchpoint for your applicants. This is where you can display open positions, and candidates can apply for the role. Many applicant tracking systems will give you the ability to manage this directly from the platform in an easy manner, so it is easy to keep on top of.  

This sits on the front end of your platform, so the information submitted here by your applicants will be stored in your ATS.

3. Data Storage 

For example, each time someone submits their CV for your job opening, this is stored in the ATS even after the position is filled. This gives you the ability to build up a strong candidate pool, especially if you think the candidate would be great for your organisation but just not for that given role. 

Remember to be wary of GDPR here. Many ATS platforms will be built to be GDPR compliant which takes some of the work away for you. For example, compliancy features might include aspects such as candidate data anonymisation – with this you can set expired candidate data to be automatically anonymised so you can store information for analytics purposes without holding the personal data. 

4. Job Listings and Postings 

For many it can be a tedious and time-consuming task to get your latest job description posted to a variety of different platforms to maximise its reach. Now, the most common way to do this is through an applicant tracking system.  

Most of the larger job boards have integrations with applicant tracking systems, meaning that when you create a new job posting it can be instantly posting to all the different websites with a few clicks.  

5. Reporting and Analytics 

Another great benefit of implementing an applicant tracking system is the data insights that they provide. More advanced platforms will give you critical stats that will help you determine what’s right and what’s wrong your hiring process.  

Gone are the days of having to manually create spreadsheets for hours on end to be able to collate data and experience some form of valuable insight. Your ATS should provide you with a range of reporting options that help you analyse and manage your recruitment. Useful insights here should include the likes of time to hire, cost of acquisition, and diversity compliance.  

6. Integrations 

We all have our own approaches to hiring, and this often comes with our favourite tools for getting the job done. A good ATS should have the option to integrate with the applications that you love and already have a solid seat in your recruitment process. From scheduling tools to video interviewing, the ATS you choose to use should complement them. 

It’s also worth mentioning that whoever is providing other tools you use should be able to provide the same. Here at Shine, our platform is built on an open API so we can create bespoke integration packages to suit your needs. 

7. Advanced Searching 

One of the main reasons we probably choose to use an ATS is to find a better way to manage large amounts of information, so it becomes useful when your ATS has advanced searching options. Given how much data is stored in the platform, it needs to be easy to find what you need quickly, something that basic search features would not be able to provide.  

8. Onboarding Tools 

Onboarding is a significant step in the recruitment process and the right ATS can help you optimise the transition period from candidate to employee. Your applicant tracking system can offer features such as automatic emails to candidate references, giving your new employees access to important documents such as employee handbooks, and allow you to collect new hire information via online forms and document uploads (amongst many more features). 

Since the onboarding process can have a direct impact on issues such as productivity and new employee engagement, you can cultivate your company culture right from the start can help to present your friendly and collaborative environment and making your new hires adapt faster.  



Applicant tracking systems are so rich in additional functionality, it would be difficult to go into detail about every aspect available. So, understanding the basics of what you should be looking for in you ATS provider and understanding your own bespoke needs it’s the best starting point for finding the best provider.  

Even issues such as customer service must be taken in to account – each organisation will require a different amount of support when using a new platform, depending on issues such as experience. It’s a common issue that larger SaaS providers often show slower movement on customer-service based issues compared to smaller companies. Alternatively, brand new companies might be extremely responsive but may not have the stability that you need. 

When you feel more prepared to start seeing product demos from different providers, try and pay attention to the additional features that are available as well. For example, are auto-responders and alerts important to you? And to what extent? The same applies to issues such as digital signing, team collaboration, interview scorecards, depth of workflow, support and so on. Like we said, it would be difficult to give detail about every feature available out there. 

Less admin, faster processes, and more control over every area – your ATS decision making process should be an in-depth one, and hopefully you now know where to start! 

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