27 Sep 2021

What you need to know about Applicant Tracking System

A man looking at a woman filling out a paper form.

An applicant tracking system is something that can make your job applications simple or complex, but are you even aware of what this recruiting software is and how you need to use them to your advantage? 

Sending out your resume may seem like the first obstacle that you have to overcome in the search for a job, but there are more than hiring managers that you have to get past in order for job success. Many large companies, as well as smaller businesses and medium-sized businesses are starting to use an applicant tracking system (ATS) to do some of the hard work for them, filtering through resumes and job applications from job seekers before they even go in front of a hiring manager. 

By learning how ATS works and what it will look for with your resume, it will help your business in a number of ways, as there are plenty of benefits. You can get the best talent for your team, save time, save money, and make the hiring process more automated and simpler.

What Is an Applicant Tracking System?

ATS software aims to help recruiters and hiring managers to streamline the recruitment process. It is a vital hiring tool for many businesses, especially for those with a high turnover of staff. An applicant tracking system works by collecting and then sorting through all of the resumes that get sent over for a specific job, matching them as close as possible to the job description, improving the functionality of your recruitment.

Unlike the hiring process that you might be used to, these days when you apply for a job, your job application doesn’t necessarily go straight to the hiring team. First of all, it is likely to go through and be processed by ATS software. If your application or resume is what the software algorithm is looking for will depend if your job application goes further. 

What Is An Applicant Tracking System In HR?

Within human resources, ATS software HR software that is used by those in HR teams, as they can use it for a database for job applicants. One of the main reasons why more and more companies are starting to use an applicant tracking system is that it makes the application process much easier for hiring teams and recruiters, especially for processes like onboarding.

From a small business to a large business, there are often many applications for each job opening. For a human resources team or HR manager, it won’t be realistic that they could look through that many resumes and carefully assess the details of each to find the best applicant. It can save a HR team time, reduce the risk of human error.

Why is it important to have An Applicant Tracking System?

There are a number of reasons why having an ATS system is good for the hiring process. As mentioned, this software can speed up the process for recruiters. The automated communication features of ATS software helps to increase the cycle of recruitment, making it easier for a hiring team to follow up with applicants and take the next steps with the best new hires, making for a much more efficient workflow. 

Other benefits of an ATS include improving the quality of the new hires, as well as improving the process of onboarding, as you can be as specific as you want with the algorithms. It can also make for a much smoother process for applicants, which is a key part of the future success of your small business hiring process. 

Can An ATS Improve Your Organization’s Talent?

If you want to improve the talent of your business by showcasing to you the most qualified candidates, then using ATS software can be a great way to do just that. By using applicant tracking systems, you can get the best new hires and have the best talent acquisition for your organization, as there can be automated matching of job applicants and candidates through the software. That means that recruiters will only engage with the best candidates out of the whole of the application pool.

By using automation of some administrative tasks, recruiters will have the time to go through the refined resumes and engage with those candidates in the selection process. With the time saved, recruiters can gather some more information about each application and make a more complete assessment of each candidate before they reach a hiring decision. 

How Does An Applicant Tracking System Work?

ATS works by collecting and storing resumes and applications in a database, which the HR team and HR manager can then access. A resume can be stored for some time afterwards, which applicants will often get asked to consent to before submitting their application. A hiring manager can then go through the applications and resumes by choosing a variety of methods, which will depend on the ATS system that they are using. 

Some hiring managers will want to see all applications that come in, especially during an onboarding process. When there is a large volume of job applications, this is more of a glance to get an idea about the candidate’s previous work history and who they have worked for before. This process can be something that happens very quickly, which is why it is important to have details of your key skills and qualifications easy to read in a paragraph at the top, part of the sourcing process.

With the majority of applicant tracking systems, you will be able to automatically compare the resume to the description of the job. This then gives all of the applicants a ‘score’ based on how well it suits the algorithms, according to the job description. This allows the hiring team to not have to see all of the applications and just focus on those that are best suited, which will be identified by the software. 

Another common way that a recruiter can filter the applications and automate the job application process is by using key terms or works. If a manager was looking for an admin assistant with experience, then they are likely to want to put those as the keywords in the software. Any applications where these words aren’t even mentioned will be dismissed. Of course, more than one term can be searched for, such as admin assistant and administrative assistant, as well as including key skills of the job, so that a combination comes up.

From an applicant's point of view, if they are able to predict the keywords, then they are much more likely to have success with their application than those that don’t. This will usually be done by closely analyzing the job description. 

How Do You Know If Your ATS Is Working?

If you choose to use ATS, you need to know that it is working, as it is a key part of your HR software. One feature of ATS is that you can get tracking links for the jobs that are currently on your job board, to see where the majority of candidates are coming from and which of those job sourcing or job board channels are working the best (such as social media channels like LinkedIn, for example, as well as other career sites that you post to). By doing this, you can see where you need to invest more money and time in your recruitment, so that you can find the top talent for your new hires. 

Another thing that you can check on with your ATS is looking at job applicants and where they are in the hiring process. If there are some areas that are taking longer than others, such as interview scheduling, then you will be able to take steps to improve the process (such as reducing how many keywords you use as you might be using too many that doesn’t filter out candidates very well). You can also look into parsing for your ATS, to improve any components that aren’t working well. At the end of the day, one of the ways to see if this is working is by seeing the candidates that you are left with. If they are fit for the role and have skills and experience that match the job description, then it shows that the ATS is doing its job.

What Kind Of Companies Use An ATS?

As a small business, the hiring process can be made simple with spreadsheets or going through applications by hand, knowing what metrics to look out for. When you have more applications and more roles to fill, then an ATS can help the process and make sure that your business is ready and prepared for growth. The recruitment process can be long and it means time and money taken out of the business. With a system in place that can centralize and automate the hiring process, you won’t miss anything. 

As a larger company, knowing what you are spending your money on can make a difference as it will show you if you are spending your money in the right areas. By having the data that will show how effective or ineffective something is, you will have the data that will help you to back up your business decisions and improve the functionality of your recruitment. You will then be able to make sure that your job vacancies and any job posting are being seen by the best candidates in the places that are performing the best.

How Can You Improve Your Applicant Tracking Software?

One of the ways that you can look to improve an ATS is by looking at the options that are available to you. Is your recruitment process and software allowing you to have a seamless and more streamlined candidate experience? They aren’t likely to recommend you for referrals if they have an unpleasant experience. If they find it difficult to go through the process, it can put them off wanting to even work for you should they get offered the job. 

With digitized ATS templates, sometimes one of the things that you need to do is start by starting with a solution in order to get going with the process. With this, though, you need to make sure that it is a solution that will work for your needs. For example, with HR software in place and an applicant tracking system, you can build something that works exactly for your staffing needs. By choosing what you automate, you will have a workflow that works for your business and has defined steps that work as you need it to. 

ATS solutions are all about data and being able to rely on it. If you can’t work out if the data is working or not, then you need to see where things can be improved to make them work for you. By having the best ATS software in place, your team can have the time to focus on the things that will truly grow the business, rather than anything else. You could also look to improve recruitment marketing to make sure that you are able to reach the best talent, as well as using your HR process to improve performance management.


It is clear that ATS is here to stay. Even by improving rates in unemployment, it won’t be the end of using this kind of software for the job application process. There are many outdated systems that some companies use, but with many seeing the benefit from using ATS, such as helping them get the best talent and improving the experience for candidates, it makes it a no-brainer for businesses of all sizes. 

Ranking systems and this kind of automation for business aren’t going to be going anywhere. They are just becoming more specialized and technical, as this kind of software starts to leverage artificial intelligence. For those people applying for jobs, being aware of these systems and software will help them to optimize their resumes to get the first step of the process, to then be seen by someone in person. With so much success with these ATS systems, they are here to stay. 

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