The Pros and Cons of Applicant Tracking Systems

"Candidate Search" website on a computer screen

Are you thinking of investing in an applicant tracking system? Wondering if it’s the right solution to help streamline your hiring process and refine your candidate selections? In this post, we’ll discuss the benefits of applicant tracking systems to help you narrow down the best ATS option for your company. We’ll also cover some of their downfalls to be aware of as you make your decision.

What is an Applicant Tracking System?

An applicant tracking system, or ATS, is a software application that helps organizations manage their recruitment workflows. Just as a customer relationship management (CRM) system helps companies track and optimize their interactions with customers, an ATS does the same with candidates.

An ATS may provide functionality for job posting, application intake, filtering, screening, messaging, interview scheduling, and feedback. It also acts as a database for housing all your hiring-related information and retaining candidate records for the future.

Applicant tracking systems can vary greatly in size and scope. Traditionally, they’ve been used by enterprise-level organizations with a need to manage large volumes of candidates, but more and more small- and medium-sized businesses are adopting them to help simplify their hiring funnel. In a survey of 400 staffing professionals, 45% said they use an ATS to help manage their recruitment efforts.

Related: Everything You Need to Know About AI Recruiting Techniques

Benefits of an Applicant Tracking System

The primary benefit of applicant tracking systems is that when used effectively, they can make life easier, save time, and reduce costs. Here are some of the biggest upsides to using an ATS.

It saves time by automating repetitive tasks

With so many steps in the hiring process—sourcing, screening, interviewing, doing due diligence—the devil is in the details. Small, seemingly minor tasks like sending check-in emails take up exponentially more time as the volume of candidates increases.

Applicant tracking systems can save you major time with features like one-click publishing to all of the top job boards. If you normally go to each job website and post your listing manually, this capability alone could save you hours of administrative time on each position.

Other tasks that can be automated with an ATS include scheduling interviews, sending follow-up emails, and reminding candidates of incomplete steps in the application process like finishing screening questionnaires or submitting references. This adds up to a reduction in labor hours and allows you to focus your energy on the tasks that are most meaningful, like conducting interviews.

It can help screen for minimum requirements

An applicant tracking system can be a godsend for turning that pile of 200 resumes into a much more manageable 20. With an ATS’ resume screening tools, you can set the minimum threshold for skills, education, or experience required for your job and weed out candidates who don’t meet them.

It facilitates collaboration

If your hiring process involves multiple recruiters, or if there are several stakeholders who will weigh in on the best candidate, you’ll love the way an ATS facilitates collaboration. With a team account, multiple users can access each candidate’s profile and make notes, leave ratings or check where they’re at in the pipeline.

Many ATS programs also have scorecards and rating systems that help standardize feedback on a candidate from multiple parties, something that’s tough to do if you’re collecting notes from each person and trying to weigh them objectively against each other.

It accelerates your hiring funnel 

A slow-moving hiring process can kill even the strongest talent acquisition program. According to a CareerBuilder survey, 66% of job seekers said they’ll wait less than two weeks to hear back from an employer before considering it a lost cause and moving on to other opportunities. An applicant tracking system can help keep things moving along expeditiously. 86% of recruiters who use an ATS say it has increased the speed at which they hire.

It can improve the candidate experience

Maintaining consistent touchpoints with your candidates is always a good thing. An ATS helps close gaps in your communication with prospects—both those who are top picks and those who have been eliminated from the running.

As a job seeker, nothing gives a worse impression than applying for a position and hearing nothing but crickets. Even if you don’t intend to hire a candidate, you owe them the courtesy of a response. This is not only a best practice but reflects positively on your employer brand. An ATS can help ensure there are no more crickets in your hiring funnel.

It gives you a strong, searchable talent pool to come back to again and again

With an ATS, all your candidates’ data and activity history with your company is within easy reach. Maybe a strong candidate wasn’t quite right for the first position they applied for but would be a great fit for something that opens up two months from now. Your ATS’ database means you don’t have to start from scratch; it’s easy to go back and pick up where you left off.

It offers powerful analytics features

One ATS feature that, in our opinion, doesn’t get its fair share of credit is the analytics capabilities. Measuring and analyzing your recruitment metrics on a regular basis is crucial if you want to continuously improve your hiring funnel—and avoid falling behind your competitors.

You should always be seeking out opportunities to improve things like time to hire, cost per hire, and acceptance rate, and an ATS can help you handle this.

Related: How To Leverage Data To Improve Your Recruitment Process

Downsides of an Applicant Tracking System

It’s no surprise that the primary downfalls of applicant tracking systems mirror those of any technology: they’re not quite a replacement for a human doing the same job. Here are some of the cons to consider when choosing an ATS.

Computerized screening can eliminate good candidates

For the most part, an ATS is going to stick within the boundaries you give it when screening resumes. This means some great candidates might get eliminated from the running because they only have, say, four out of the five skills you listed as requirements or they’re one year shy of the number of years of experience you requested. Automatic screening can also make it really challenging for nontraditional candidates, like those who are switching fields or getting back into the workforce after taking time off, to make it through.

They’re not immune to technical difficulties

Have you ever used a printer that, for some reason, just decides not to print (who hasn’t)? Sometimes ATS systems experience similar frustrating technical issues. Applications can be rejected, for example, if the scanner doesn’t read them fully. Some users report issues with resumes formatted a certain way or even being rejected because the computer can’t read a certain font.

There’s a learning curve

Like any new program, there’s going to be an adjustment period to get your staff to full proficiency, especially if you’re switching over from a legacy system or currently don’t have any type of system at all. You may experience pushback from team members who are perfectly happy doing things the old way or who don’t have time to learn a new system.

They might require shifts in other technology use

To give one example, most applicant tracking systems integrate with the user’s digital calendar to facilitate interview scheduling. If your whole team doesn’t already use their virtual calendar consistently, this could be an additional hurdle to adopting an ATS program. The same goes for integrating with other software you currently use in your recruiting efforts, like your email platform.

They’re an investment

Most applicant tracking systems use one of two pricing models: pay per user or pay per position. The more robust of a system you need, the more it’s going to cost.

According to software review guide Better Buys, ATS programs typically range from $25 per month on the low end to $500 and up per month on the high end. You can also expect to shell out more for premium features, like batching tools or hands-on training.

The bottom line is that an applicant tracking system is never a replacement for a living, breathing recruiter. Rather, the best ATS supplements your efforts, automating tasks, saving you time, and streamlining the workflows involved in hiring. With the right system, you can hire more qualified candidates faster and provide a better overall candidate experience.

Top ATS Software

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Strengthen Your Recruiting By Enlisting An Ally 

Do you use an applicant tracking system but need help getting more qualified candidates into your hiring pipeline? Maybe using an ATS isn’t feasible for your organization right now, but you still want to strengthen your recruiting efforts. The staffing professionals at 4 Corner Resources can help.

Whether you’re looking for one all-star candidate or have dozens of positions to fill, we can create a recruiting strategy that meets your needs and budget. We’ll act as your staffing partner, helping attract and recruit candidates that will advance your goals and make a lasting contribution to your company.

Get started today by requesting a free consultation

Peter Porebski

About Peter Porebski

Peter Porebski is the Operations Manager at 4 Corner resources. A graduate of the University of Central Florida he has over 10 years of operations and process improvement experience with 7 being in the Human resources and staffing industry. In previous roles he worked to manage and analyze production flow trends and determine areas of improvement in quality control for the commercial retail industry. His areas of interest include web development, information technology, data analysis and reporting. He lives in Orlando, Florida with his wife and two cats.