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What Is an ATS? Why Hiring Managers Need One ASAP

March 18, 2021


If you’ve found yourself asking what an ATS is, it’s time to learn more about how an applicant tracking system can streamline the hiring process and discover the right ATS for your company’s needs.

As a recruiter or hiring manager, the process of interviewing and hiring can feel neverending.

This is especially true if you’re trying to organize resumes, candidate information, and interviews in an outdated spreadsheet. In order to simplify how you recruit candidates from start to finish, it's in your company’s best interest to utilize an applicant tracking system (ATS)

Companies often implement an ATS into their tech stack to make their recruiters and hiring managers’ lives a little easier. It’s so common for organizations to hire for a multitude of open roles and receive hundreds (or potentially thousands) of applications for one job opening. 

An ATS makes it possible to search through all those applications, resumes, and cover letters to save time and avoid mistakes during the recruitment process.

How does an ATS work?

When potential job candidates apply for an open role at your company, their contact information, relevant work experience, education background, resume, and cover letter are all uploaded and stored in a database. This data can then be moved from one ATS module to another as they work through the interviewing and hiring process.

An ATS will allow recruiters and hiring managers to review applications and send out automated messages to candidates, letting them know their application is within the database. From there, hiring managers can either save the candidate into their talent pool, schedule interviews, or send out offer letters and rejection letters, all through the ATS.

Once the perfect candidate is found and accepts the job, all of their information that has been saved into the system from their application is then used to fill out payroll forms.

Essentially, an ATS is an electronic gatekeeper of sorts as it scans or parses a resume's content into categories or subsections, then searches for specific keywords to determine if the job application should be passed along to the recruiter.

What does an ATS do?

The right ATS can handle a long list of HR-related tasks. Beyond weeding out unqualified applicants so HR professionals can devote more time to whether or not a candidate is the right match, many ATS products have additional functionalities. 

Job posting

Before an ATS can help you track applicants, you need to know where to source candidates. When you’re using an ATS, it’s easy to post jobs on career sites like LinkedIn, job boards, social media, and on your brand’s website.

Make sure the listing you post is chock full of relevant keywords as the applicant tracking system will utilize the information within the post to find the candidates that best fit the description. As jobseekers submit their information and apply for a job, you can start building your talent pool.

Tip: Learn how to write a job description that will attract the right candidate for the role.

Email marketing

Applicant tracking software can also assist in email marketing as you source candidates to apply to an open role. This method often gets forgotten, but consider how many people you could reach if you use email marketing to list the open roles within your organization. 

All you’ll need to do is send a personalized email through the ATS that includes a call to action with the job description and encourage readers of your email to send applications in. Then you can begin to import the resumes you’ve received. 

Resume importing

No matter how you receive resumes, whether through your inbox or recruiting software, an ATS can keep them organized, segmented, and ensure you can find the right resume at a moment’s notice. 

Because an ATS will have a resume importing feature, you can load and accept as many resumes as you want without feeling overwhelmed or mismanaged. 


of Fortune 500 organizations use an ATS as part of their recruitment process.

Source: TopResume

Resume parsing

After your resumes are segmented by department or the type of role, use ATS solutions to save time, meaning you won’t have to read hundreds of resumes to weed out the applicants that don’t have the necessary skills or experience. An ATS can do this for you since it will have a resume parsing feature to help you find the most qualified candidates in no time. 

Candidate tracking

Finally, once you have all of the resumes imported, the parsing tool has sorted which candidates could be a good fit, it’s time to start tracking these applicants as they move through the hiring process.

With an ATS in your tech stack, you can see who’s advancing to the next stage in the interviewing process and who is no longer being considered. As an example, if you’re interviewing multiple candidates for various roles, you can keep tabs on everyone and see data like:

  • Candidate 1: Phone screen
  • Candidate 2: Offer sent
  • Candidate 3: Video interview
  • Candidate 4: Phone screen
  • Candidate 5: Rejected

Even when a candidate is no longer being considered, they’ll remain part of your candidate pipeline and you can access their information and reach out if new opportunities open that they may be a better fit for.

Benefits of using an ATS

Now that you have a better understanding of how an ATS works, let’s explore some of the benefits your company will experience when one is added to your tech stack.

  • Fewer errors: As your organization scales, sometimes important data can end up falling through the cracks. Plus, spotting errors when you’re working within a spreadsheet that has thousands of rows of numbers and employee data can feel impossible. With an ATS, finding these errors – and fixing them – can be done in just a few clicks.
  • Efficiently source candidates: Having existing candidates within an ATS can help your HR department identify qualified candidates already in your company’s talent pool and start the interview process that much faster.
  • Improve the candidate experience: The job market is hot, and when you want to land top talent for an open role, it’s crucial to offer a winning candidate experience. Thanks to integrations offered within an ATS, each step in the candidate life cycle is shortened, the application process becomes streamlined, communication is taken up a notch, and there’s less paperwork to mess with during onboarding.


of recruiters say that using an ATS has improved the quality of candidates they hire.

Source: HR Vendor News

Top 8 application tracking systems for your business

Applicant tracking systems are used by recruiters and hiring managers to streamline how they hire new talent. These popular tools are able to manage the recruiting process from start to finish, from hosting the open role on your website to scheduling interviews. They also reduce time-to-hire, thanks to features that quicking read resumes and scan cover letters while screening potential applicants for certain skills.

ATS tools also store all critical applicant information in one place, so recruiters can easily access their talent pools when a role opens up.

In order to be included in this category, a software solution must:

  • Collect, organize, and screen resumes, as well as other candidate information
  • Allow communication between the candidate and the hiring manager or recruiter
  • Maintain talent pools within a specific workflow

*Below are the eight leading applicant tracking system providers from G2's Winter 2021 Grid® Report. Some reviews may be edited for clarity.

1. Paylocity

Paylocity is an all-in-one HR system that streamlines every task an HR professional sees on their to-do list. Since so much can go into the recruiting process, Paylocity makes it easy to maintain and track all candidate data while simplifying the talent acquisition process, starting from when candidates first apply to when they accept an offer. This allows your recruiting team to save time and attract the right candidates.

What users like:

“I love the overall user face and having one system for all my HR and payroll needs. The fact that it integrates with other platforms is also a plus. Paylocity stays on top of its product for enhancements and changes. They invest a lot in their training and help section with education and tools to help support their vast products.”

- Paylocity Review, Nicholas D.

What users dislike:

“As for the recruiting feature of the software, I would like to see the calendar integrate with the Google Calendar. That way when you schedule an interview, it is also reflected on your Google Calendar. Another feature that would be nice is if you would be able to import your information from another Application Tracking System when transferring over to this service so you don't lose all the gathered data you have from the previous Application Tracking System.” 

- Paylocity Review, Brittney D.

2. Zoho Recruit

Zoho Recruit puts the needs of recruiters front and center as it offers complete solutions for both in-house recruiters and staffing agencies. Users of this tool are able to source, track, and hire the best candidates using customizable approaches. Plus, it’s easy to automate tasks like sending emails, updating each candidate’s status, and more.

What users like:

“The best feature about Zoho Recruit is the ease of usage and customization, which can be done across the platform. I pivoted from a different ATS + CRM, the pricing is less than half of what I was actually paying earlier. In every aspect, technology and smoothness are astounding. Really, no complaints of any kind. The Zoho Recruit has deep integration with the Zoho suite of applications. The sync between Zoho Cliq, Zoho Sheets, Zoho Docs, Zoho Spreadsheets is too good.”

- Zoho Recruit Review, Saurabh M. 

What users dislike:

“Zoho Recruit doesn't track all the rejected profiles at one place. It can also be a little complex to use when you deal with stakeholders. I would like it if Interview scheduling needs to be improved because we deal with multiple business heads.“

- Zoho Recruit Review, Digvijaya S. 

3. Lever

Looking for software that is one part ATS and one part CRM? Look no further than Lever. This makes it possible for hiring managers and recruiters to use a single platform as they source, nurture, and manage candidates. 

What users like:

“Nothing can ever beat an accurate reference check of a candidate, and Lever does the job perfectly. Managing job applications have become easier with the Lever software. It also allows us to easily schedule an interview for potential candidates. The integrated emailing feature has been proved to be a valuable feature for us. Real-time reporting options help to keep up with the workflow. Navigating the software is extremely easy. Lever makes the hiring procedure way easier. The software takes care of everything starting from applications to interviews to end feedback.” 

- Lever Review, Amit S. 

What users dislike:

“Permissioning and the lack of a dedicated manager dashboard view is the biggest weakness of the platform.” 

- Lever Review, Scott P.

4. Greenhouse

For a complete handle on hiring for what’s waiting around the corner, choose Greenhouse. This powerful ATS supports excellent candidate interactions at every touchpoint within the hiring process. It also eliminates the burden of keeping everyone on the hiring team engaged and up to speed. Best of all, Greenhouse is a leader in diversity, equity, and inclusion, as it helps to reduce bias and create a fair hiring process.

What users like:

“Scorecards and interview plans within Lever have made a huge difference in our recruitment efforts. Customization of interview questions and getting quick feedback. The candidate relationship management has also been helpful by being able to add prospects into specific departments so we do not lose them once rejected from other jobs. Greenhouse also helps by adding follow-up reminders as well to keep in touch with candidates on a regular basis, and having automatic emails to send out.

Greenhouse helps us stay consistent in regards to numerous things. Legal questions, making sure there is no discrimination, etc. I also love the updates where we can have automatic knock-out questions, for example, if they are not local greenhouse can now reject them without my review. I also love the new auto transition stages with Calendly.”

- Greenhouse Review, Rachel R.

What users dislike:

“I wish there was more customization, or options, or questions when I am referring someone to my organization. I don't know if that's set up by my company, or what level that is controlled by. But I often wish there were more that I could include or details about why someone may not have moved forward in the process.”

- Greenhouse Review, Tara F.

5. BambooHR

BambooHR is a cloud-based SaaS tool that provides HR help to small and medium-sized businesses that have outgrown their spreadsheets. It makes it possible for HR teams to track and manage essential employee information and make smarter recruiting decisions.

What users like:

“BambooHR provides us with time-saving performance management, gets accurate results, makes the most relevant decisions, and converts them into real and reliable results for our company. It organizes all the information related to our consultants and implements it in a single, centralized and secure database, making everything faster and more efficient.”

- BambooHR Review, Robin Y.

What users dislike:

“I think the tool falls short as a 360-degree HR solution. We currently use other tools for employee engagement, review cycles, weekly catch-ups, and even cloud storage services that help us keep info more organized.

I'd wish they had a stronger sales and onboarding team to guide us through all the things we are not aware of that bamboo HR can offer. It can certainly benefit their game to engage more people to use their tool. We could go from once every week to an everyday tool if it was our ATSm Perks management system or any other of the functions we don't know yet.” 

- BambooHR Review, Carlos P.

6. SmartRecruiters

SmartRecruiters is a talent acquisition suite utilized by companies interested in making only the best hires. Not only does it help to streamline recruitment marketing, but this cloud platform can also offer collaborative hiring tools. This powerful ATS gives users an easy way to provide an amazing candidate experience while hiring managers can save time in finding the right person for open roles.

What users like:

“It connects you to a pool of candidates easily, has all the needed functions for the full recruitment process, and the preset templates are so helpful to make your job quicker and make sure that you share a reply for every candidate. Love the fact that it links directly to your email! The notes section is really helpful especially that you are able to write notes for yourself, while reviewing applications you tend to forget what makes the candidate special. The selection menus are awesome as they help in finding valid reasons for refusing or accepting candidates' Love the fact that you could use between friendly and formal.”

- SmartRecruiters Review, Stephanie S.

What users dislike:

“Most of the time we have multiple recruitments going for different and similar job opportunities. If I as the "Hiring Manager" come across a good candidate during the interview steps for the vacancy I'm hiring for, but realize he does not fit mine, but at the same time would like to recommend him to another hiring manager for a different role, I hit a block in SmartRecruiters. If you are playing the "Recruiter" role I believe you can, I'm not really sure how the role-based security works here! but it's something I can look past.”

- SmartRecruiters Review, Buddika H.

7. iCIMS Talent Cloud

iCIMS Talent Cloud is a cloud platform built for recruiters that are looking to manage their end-to-end talent hiring lifecycle in one unified platform. It was designed with the evolving needs of employers in mind as they look for the right people to fill roles within their organization.

What users like:

“It is very easy to maneuver around iCIMS! Whether you are an experienced recruiter or just starting, it is easy to move your candidate through the recruitment process.”

- iCIMS Talent Cloud Review, Brittany B.

What users dislike:

“Offer management tool--although new--does not allow you to send offers in bulk. This is a huge miss. Additionally, iForms are not fluid and take a long time to finish. It's a bit disappointing that iCIMS has not provided a solution to allow company admins to create custom iForms at this point or a functional equivalent. Next, reporting is difficult to navigate through to find the correct variables. Finally, there are not a lot of great options for configuring custom alerts/notifications/emails at various stages.”

- iCIMS Talent Cloud Review, Barrett C.

8. Paycom

Users of Paycom enjoy a full HR solution in one centralized database. In addition to helping HR professionals hire new employees, it also assists with tasks related to time and labor management, payroll, and more. And since everything in one location, Paycom eliminates redundant data entry and the integration of more than one system. 

What users like:

I cannot say enough about the product, the service we received, and all that Paycom offers. From our initial meeting through implementation, Paycom was in constant contact – schedules with timelines were created and put into place. Weekly meetings were set up with the implementation team. I have worked with many HRIS systems over my career and I have to say that Paycom is the best system I have used so far. We use Paycom for Payroll, Benefits, Performance Management, Onboarding, Talent Management, and so much more. 

The system is easy to use and navigate. Our employees are able to use the system with little to no assistance. Most of our employees use the phone app to complete tasks, request days off from work, sign off on documents, etc. Every day, I learn something new that is within the system that we can utilize to save time and streamline processes.”

- Paycom Review, Lisa F.

What users dislike:

“I don't always receive the support I need to navigate the tool and utilize it to the best of my ability. The tool is robust, and there is more than one way to do things. Paycom offers a specialist to assist, however, they do not respond to email questions within the same day. You have to call to get a question answered immediately.”

- Paycom Review, Nicole N.

A hiring manager's best friend

The right ATS can do wonders for your recruiting team. It’ll be easier to find top talent and getting them from the interviewing stage to the onboarding stage is faster than ever before. There’s never been a better time to start using an applicant tracking system. Your HR team will thank you!

Now that recruiting candidates has become more streamlined, take the time to boost your recruitment marketing strategy to attract top job seekers to join your organization.

Give your hiring process a boost

Utilize applicant tracking systems (ATS) to streamline how your company recruits and hires top talent.

Give your hiring process a boost

Utilize applicant tracking systems (ATS) to streamline how your company recruits and hires top talent.

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