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What Is an ATS - Applicant Tracking System?

July 17, 2018

In the past few years, the initial stages of recruiting and screening applicants have moved out of the hands of recruiters and other HR professionals and into part of an automated process facilitated by a new breed of recruiting software. 

So, what is this 
applicant tracking system and how does it determine whether an applicant moves past the first step of the application process?

What is an ATS?

An applicant tracking system is a component of talent acquisition software through which businesses can automate areas of the recruiting process to improve the efficiency of recruiters and hiring managers.

By automating much of the recruiting process, businesses reduce the amount of time spent and paper consumed organizing applicant information, in effect increasing the ease with which hiring teams can identify and move forward with high-quality job applicants.

Furthermore, with these systems, hiring teams can easily identify candidates at any stage of the hiring process and maintain contact at vital points during the recruiting lifecycle.

What do applicant tracking systems do?

As an integral part of recruiting software, applicant tracking systems are designed to help hiring teams manage the many stages of the hiring process and facilitate contact with high-quality talent.

1. Job board posting, career portals and social distribution

The first function of applicant tracking systems is to post simultaneously to multiple job boards that come integrated with the chosen recruiting software. The ATS will track the resulting applicants from each of these job boards.

Applicant tracking systems also provide branded career sites for potential applicants to land on through job-opening links shared. These sites can also feature employee testimonials, company news and information about employee perks and benefits.

Distribution of open positions across social networks such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook can help locate candidates that might not be actively searching for openings on job boards or that might already be connected to someone in the company. Many recruiting software products with ATS functionality can integrate with social networks to source and track applicants originating from these locations.

2. Automated application screening and resume tracking

One of the core features of application tracking software is its ability to apply standardized rules and metrics when parsing applicant resumes to identify and rank qualified applicants.

These rules are determined by the hiring team and are often based on the presence of relevant keywords in the applicant’s resume, either relating to desired skills or experience.

3. Employee assessments and prescreening questions

Increasingly, applicant tracking systems include built-in assessment capabilities so applicants can verify their hard and soft skills through quantitative or situational assessments.

This eliminates the need to administer such assessments during in-person interviews, and prescreening questions can be extended for equal employment opportunity, federal contract compliance programs and affirmative action purposes to ensure company compliance.

4. Recruiting software takeaways

Applicant tracking system functionalities in recruiting software streamline the recruiting process by tracking qualified candidates through each part of the recruiting lifecycle and maintaining contact with the most qualified applicants. ATS platforms reduce the time spent by hiring teams on coordinating candidate information, and built-in dashboards simplify the tracking efforts of recruiters and hiring managers.

Some applicant tracking system functionality is also found in HR management suites, also known as HCM software, and recruitment marketing platforms, delivering these key recruiting benefits as part of a larger HR platform.

Looking to integrate an applicant tracking system into your recruiting strategy? Read real reviews from users like you.  

View the Easiest-to-Use Applicant Tracking Software →


Best applicant tracking system software

According to G2 user reviews, as of April 20, 2018, these are the top 10 best applicant tracking system software products for 2018 based on user satisfaction:


best ats software product satisfaction

For the top 10 products listed, we provide an overview and features, the G2 star rating, what users like and recommendations for those considering the product. Let’s check out the ATS solutions with the highest user satisfaction as of April 20, 2018.

1. ApplicantStack

applicantstack best ats software

Image courtesy of ApplicantStack

ApplicantStack provides HR personnel and recruiters with streamlined, cloud-based recruiting and onboarding solutions. Features include online job posting, social media site recruitment, applicant scoring, new-hire check and track lists and more.

What users like: 
“I really like this ATS because it's user-friendly and easily to adjust and configure,” according to an ApplicantStack review by Ettel F.
“The team is very supportive and that helps when you have situations that are unique to your industry. I can update things easily, and they are always continuing to enhance the features. I just really love using this product! We are going to look into using the onboarding feature as well in the near future. Like I said, they are always adding features!”

Recommendations to others considering the product: 
“We are managing our recruiting through ApplicantStack’s easy-to-use talent management system. We have found that we can proactively recruit, keep a repository of old positions, keep active lifelines of employees and keep up compliance requirements. Everything is customizable, so we have full control over workflows and updating everything to meet our needs.

Additionally, the onboarding portal allows us to easily transition employees that have been hired. Again, the system is completely customizable so we can use it to meet our needs. This allows us to use the system the way we want; for our company we actually use the onboarding system for all of our employees, so that they have a place for all their supporting documents and for any new documents that need signatures.” — ApplicantStack review by Bethany D.

2. Lever

lever best ats software

Image courtesy of Lever

Lever provides businesses with ATS and CRM solutions in a single platform. Features include custom career pages, two-way email sync, consolidated multiple job applications and more.

What users like: 
“Lever is a fantastic platform and has helped our team tremendously with making hiring decisions and streamlining our processes. Lever has a super intuitive design (pipeline visibility is very clear at a distance), it integrates well with our other platforms and it's built to support recruiting at every stage of the process. I love the customizability of the feedback forms, and scheduling is super easy as well. I've also really appreciated the customer service and overall implementation support I've received with Lever; their team is super helpful and I've always had my questions answered quickly.” — Lever review by Reema P.

Recommendations to others considering the product:
“We've increased our hiring efficiency by 30 percent. This is huge when you hire at the scale that we do (several thousand a year). With Lever Nurture, we've also been able to scale back our external CRM costs while keeping all candidate touchpoints and history in our ATS database. Our email response rates have increased considerably and having the collaborative visibility across our recruiting team has helped streamline our efforts.” — Lever review by Johnny S.

3. BreezyHR


breezyhr best ats software

Image courtesy of BreezyHR

BreezyHR is an end-to-end recruiting solution. Features include candidate management, email and scheduling, job boards, candidate sourcing and management, career portals and team collaboration.

What users like: 
“I like being able to see how long we are taking in each stage of the hiring process. The layout and colors of the website are pleasing to the eye, and I like that you can perform multiple actions from a candidate's profile — send them an email, arrange a meeting, ask your team to submit scorecards, etc. The best feature is probably the Google Calendar integration. When you schedule an interview with a candidate, you can view your coworkers' availability directly through this feature. Additionally, the email templates (e.g., Set Up Phone Screening, Reject, Technical Phone Interview) are very useful for saving time, and combined with scheduled emails, makes it a no-brainer to use.” — BreezyHR review by Lillian C.

Recommendations to others considering the product: 
“BreezyHR is great if you have multiple teams,” according to a BreezyHR review by Vasili K. “We have local and global teams. You can create multiple job boards and keep tons of data under account. We got set up in a day and moved in from another system (20+ positions +10 years of applicants) in less than a week.”

 4. Zoho Recruit


zoho recruit best ats software

Image courtesy of Zoho Recruit

Zoho Recruit provides businesses with recruiting and ATS solutions. Features include a customizable career portal, job boards and social sites postings, resume parsing, analytics and reports, search and categorization tools, email sync, activity stream, Zapier integration and more.

What users like: 
“Zoho Recruit is very cost-effective for small businesses,” according to a Zoho Recruit review by Lindsay W. “The fact that they also offer additional services (Project, CRM, etc.) is also very efficient for small businesses. They offer unlimited job postings, which is a huge plus for a staffing agency.”

Recommendations to others considering the product: 
“You should know what you want Zoho to do for you before you start, there are so many options, you can get lost in deciding what you want to include. Regardless of your company size, Zoho Recruit brings the entire recruitment process together in one easy-to-use package and allows for a more streamlined approach to hiring.” — Zoho Recruit review by David G.

5. Newton ATS

newton ats best ats software

Image courtesy of Newton ATS

Newton ATS helps businesses manage every aspect of the hiring process. Features include a branded careers page, interview scheduling, intuitive dashboards, background check tools, offer letter creation and management, reporting and more.

What users like: 
“There is a lot to like with Newton,” according to Newton ATS review by Keith P. “We all love the speed and simplicity of posting new job openings and the management of existing job openings and candidates with Newton's highly effective workflow. It has dramatically reduced the amount of time it take to manage the process, which allows us more time to focus on ensuring that we are selecting the right candidates for our jobs.”

Recommendations to others considering the product: 
“First and foremost, make sure you have specific criteria on what your company wants out of an ATS, such as ease of use, buying software vs. SAAS (software as a service), mobile optimization, search engine functionality, etc. This will help in evaluating all vendors evenly and to create a business case on which ATS stand out for consideration.” — Newton ATS review by Frank G. 

6. iCIMS Recruit


icims recruit best ats software

Image courtesy of iCIMS Recruit

iCIMS Recruit is an enterprise-level recruiting software. Features include ATS, candidate relationship management, onboarding solutions and more.

What users like: 
“The system has a great customer support line/ticketing system,” according to an iCIMS Recruit review by Amanda D. “Almost all of my questions or system updates can be answered over the phone. If not, they are prompt in putting in a ticket for their technical team and I receive a quick response back. The platform itself is also easy to learn and utilize, along with having opportunities to customize the system to work best for your team.”

Recommendations to others considering the product: 
“The dashboard is a great tool and it was something I highly value. The scalability and flexible customization are perfect and easy to implement. Candidate management within iCIMS Recruit is easy to use with great automation functions that work with your process.” — iCIMS Recruit review by Jon K.D.

7. Greenhouse

greenhouse best ats software

Image courtesy of Greenhouse

Greenhouse is a recruiting solution complete with ATS, CRM and onboarding. Features include tools to support diversity and inclusion, a flexible platform from startup through enterprise, collaboration solutions, job and offer approvals, scorecards and more.

What users like: 
“Greenhouse makes applicant screening, interviewing, rejecting and hiring a breeze with an extremely intuitive interface. The collaborative features make it easy for multiple interviewers to see thoughts, notes and scoring of other interviewers. The time estimate is a really helpful feature for reviewing resumes based on your prior ‘minutes per resume.’ Greenhouse will let you know how much time it will take to get through your next group. It allows you to block off time without having to stop midway through. Overall, it’s a very well-thought-out solution with many features to make the process a breeze and is definitely the best tool I have used to date.” — Greenhouse review by Ryan V.

Recommendations to others considering the product: 
“Greenhouse is a great ATS for midsize to enterprise organizations, or small businesses who plan to grow or are in a high-growth mode. We utilized Greenhouse to grow from 0 to 1,600 employees within three years.” — Greenhouse review by Christian F.

8. Crelate Talent


crelate talent best ats software

Image courtesy of Crelate Talent

Crelate Talent provides staffing and recruiting agencies with all-in-one recruiting and ATS solutions. Features include ATS, recruiting CRM and marketing, email and messaging, candidate portal, data insights and more.

What users like: 
“Managing the workflow — looking at where each search is and moving candidates,” according to a Crelate Talent review by Martin M. “The ability to get up and going and using the solution takes no time at all. Every time I tried to use another system, the time it took me to change my flow to work with the new system drove me crazy. Also, they come out with new updates all of the time that makes the product better. Tech support is easy to reach and they make you feel special — like you're the most important customer (even though I am a small shop).”

Recommendations to others considering the product: 
“Ensure that you spend extra time working with the Crelate team to set up your workflow stages before you start accepting applications,” according to a Crelate Talent review by a user in the hospitality industry. “Incorrect setup will make it difficult to track activities or develop KPIs.”

9. UltiPro

ultipro best ats software

Image courtesy of UltiPro

Ultimate Software’s cloud-based UltiPro provides companies with human capital management solutions. Features include human capital and talent management, payroll and benefits administration, tax management, AI and machine learning, mobile app, time and performance management, onboarding and more.

What users like: 
“Ultimate Software has allowed our company to do more with our HR information in a shorter amount of time. We are able to create reports to give to upper management, department heads and supervisors in a timely fashion versus our previous HRIS system. We have the ability to onboard employees with little worry, and the software is cloud-based so we don't have to worry about, ‘will we be able to get it to open on a machine in any of our offices?’ There is so much we can do that it is makes me think why did we wait so long to upgrade systems!” — UltiPro review by Allison B.

Recommendations to others considering the product: 
“Make sure you are thoroughly ready for your implementation by knowing what your expectations are and what you want to achieve by going with UltiPro. It's important to be confident in the implementation team, making sure they understand your needs and your organization. We had to commit more resources from our corporate and HR/payroll teams after implementation than anticipated, but that's with moving from a service bureau to a SaaS environment.” — UltiPro review by Jeana D.

 10. ClearCompany


clearcompany best ats software

Image courtesy of ClearCompany

ClearCompany provides businesses with talent management solutions. Features include applicant tracking, onboarding, performance, talent OS and more.  

What users like:
“ClearCompany has drastically made our hiring and onboarding process better,” according to a ClearCompany review by Nick H. “We used to be completely paper-based even as late as two years ago, and the ClearCompany platform has allowed us to develop a more robust hiring process from beginning to end.”

Recommendations to others considering the product: 
“ClearCompany is probably a good solution if you need a hiring pipeline management platform. It's complex, but gets the job done when it comes to getting people into the pipeline, communicating with them, and initiating and following up on hiring process steps. If you are looking to augment your basic hiring process that might be happening via email and phone calls only, this is a solid platform. If you want to improve hiring practices around diversity, equity, and inclusion, or to support building out a greater candidate pool well and regularly, it doesn't seem like this is the right fit, though I'm not sure there are sufficient controls within any/many systems to do so.” — ClearCompany review by Tyler R.

But these aren’t the only products to consider when looking for ATS solutions! Here are some additional products with at least 10 verified reviews that users have awarded high satisfaction scores (as of April 20, 2018).

Product Name: JazzHR
G2 Star Rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars
Total Reviews: 70
User Satisfaction: 87 percent

Product Name: Jobvite
G2 Star Rating: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Total Reviews: 233
User Satisfaction: 87 percent

Product Name: SmartRecruiters
G2 Star Rating: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Total Reviews: 193
User Satisfaction: 86 percent

Product Name: BambooHR
G2 Star Rating: 4.2 out of 5 stars
Total Reviews: 251
User Satisfaction: 83 percent

Product Name: CATS
G2 Star Rating: 4.4 out of 5 stars
Total Reviews: 78
User Satisfaction: 82 percent

Product Name: COMPAS ATS CRM
G2 Star Rating: 4.4 out of 5 stars
Total Reviews: 78
User Satisfaction: 82 percent

Product Name: Recruitee
G2 Star Rating: 4.4 out of 5 stars
Total Reviews: 50
User Satisfaction: 81 percent

Product Name: ADP Workforce Now
G2 Star Rating: 4.1 out of 5 stars
Total Reviews: 1,325
User Satisfaction: 81 percent

Product Name: Recruiterbox
G2 Star Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Total Reviews: 34
User Satisfaction: 80 percent

Product Name: RecruitBPM
G2 Star Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Total Reviews: 21
User Satisfaction: 80 percent

Next steps for selecting the best ATS

Interested in HR tools but not the cost? Check out our user-recommended top 5 free HR software. 

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