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Applicant Tracking Systems

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) allow organisations to easily manage the hiring process by maintaining a database of applicant and job information. ATS software can be used by organisations to collect applicant information and then filter, grade and match candidate skills against job requirements. Applicant Tracking software often includes an interface that allows recruiters to manage all of an organisation's job openings. Applicant Tracking software is related to Human Resource software and Workforce Management software. Find the best applicant tracking system for your organisation in Australia.

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Applicant Tracking Systems Buyers Guide

Introduction

Applicant tracking software (ATS) is the name given to software solutions that allow businesses to streamline the process of managing and tracking job applications. These solutions, which are sometimes referred to as applicant tracking systems, will generally serve as a centralised, fully searchable database, which can be used by recruiters to keep all relevant information about applicants in one location, making it easier to explore and analyse.

One of the main ways applicant tracking software can be used is to check the skills, qualifications and qualities of the different applicants against the requirements for the job. This then allows recruiters to score applicants against the job specification so that they can more easily narrow down the talent pool to those who are the best match.

Beyond this, applicant tracking systems can make it easier to perform actions like CV or résumé parsing and candidate profiling. The database can usually be filtered so that candidates who meet certain requirements can be easily identified and separated from those who do not. Ultimately, the value of software solutions of this kind is in making it easier to collect data about applicants and sort through that data so that more informed hiring decisions are made.

Applicant tracking software also has the potential to automate many of the core tasks associated with applicant tracking, screening, and scoring. As a result, businesses can save time and money, allocating those resources to other areas. Moreover, the software can help to prevent some of the common errors made in recruitment, such as overlooking candidates who match the requirements or losing track of which candidates are the best overall fit for the role.

Solutions of this kind are often categorised alongside similar tools on the market, such as recruitment software and job board software. The software can also be used in combination with applications like workforce management software and human resources software. Although features can vary from one solution to the next, most will include similar core functionality and the vast majority of tools of this kind will allow users to perform the following actions:

  • Create a fully searchable database containing relevant information about candidates
  • Track interactions with candidates as they progress through the recruitment process
  • Store candidates' CVs, convert the CVs into different formats and parse them for data
  • Identify the most suitable candidates, schedule interviews, and add these to a calendar

What is applicant tracking software?

Applicant tracking software (ATS) is a type of software that assists businesses by streamlining the process of tracking and managing job applications. Serving as a highly valuable tool for recruiters, an application of this kind will usually function as a centralised database, where important information can be stored and accessed. Most applicant tracking systems will also support the use of a search and filter system to make finding data easier.

Information about advertised jobs can be stored within the software, along with CVs and other data provided by applicants. This then makes it easier for recruiters to sort through the candidates, identify those who most closely match the job criteria, and track their progress and communications with the business through the entire recruitment process.

Businesses primarily make use of applicant tracking systems to aid their recruitment because the software can make it easier to make more evidence-based decisions on which candidates to focus on and which candidates to dismiss. The software can also be used at all stages of the recruitment journey. Applicant tracking systems make it possible to track the candidates for multiple job vacancies at the same time too, which helps companies to organise the information provided, parse CVs or résumés, and view the current status of each and every candidate.

Going further, the best applicant tracking systems will automate some of the less complex and more predictable or repetitive tasks associated with candidate screening and tracking. This can save businesses time and money, freeing up those involved in the recruitment process to spend more of their time on the tasks that really need their attention.

What are the benefits of applicant tracking software?

The benefits of applicant tracking software are primarily focused around its ability to centralise the most important information gathered by businesses and recruiters about candidates who have applied for a particular job vacancy. This can streamline various aspects of the hiring process and can help companies to achieve better overall outcomes. Taking this further, it can be useful to explore some of the specific benefits or advantages that are associated with using high-quality software of this kind, and some of the most significant of these advantages are as follows:

  • Improve the quality of new recruits: by capitalising on the various features offered by the best applicant tracking software solutions, businesses can improve the overall quality of their hiring process and, along with this, improve the quality of their decision making. Through effective use of ATS solutions, recruiters will have the ability to more easily compare candidates against the criteria that has been set out for a job vacancy. This can be especially valuable in instances where there are a large number of applicants because the automation delivered by the software can help to narrow down the talent pool to those who are the best match. As a result, there is a greater chance that only the best candidates will be put forward to the interview stage. Meanwhile, those who are unlikely to be suitable for the role, based on the data provided, can be removed from consideration much earlier on.
  • Boost overall hiring efficiency: both the automation and the convenience associated with centralising applicant data can combine to improve the overall efficiency associated with a business' hiring process. Through automation, candidates can be quickly allocated a score based on their skills, qualifications and other factors, and this can drastically speed up the task of identifying the best candidates, as well as those who are unlikely to be suitable for the role in question. Meanwhile, the main database makes it a lot easier for recruiters and others involved in making the decision to find relevant information about a particular candidate and to find all candidates who match particular criteria. The end result is a faster process, with less time being spent on tasks like résumé parsing. This can be important in situations where a vacancy needs to be filled as quickly as possible.
  • Identify valuable or overlooked traits: one of the less immediately obvious benefits associated with the use of applicant tracking software is the ability to identify valuable traits that may not have been identified when the job vacancy was advertised. Applicant tracking software can make it easier to identify trends among those who have applied for a vacancy, and this can then help businesses and recruiters to pinpoint some of the overlooked skills, qualifications or traits that are common and valuable.
  • Assess different recruitment channels: another significant benefit of utilising applicant tracking solutions is the ability to assess the quality and success rates associated with different recruitment channels. Many software packages will provide integration options with various job boards, social media platforms, recruiting firms, and other similar channels. From there, it becomes easier to see which channels are attracting high-quality candidates, which channels are attracting a high number of applicants, and which channels are falling short. This then allows businesses to take appropriate steps to optimise their recruitment strategy.

What are the features of applicant tracking software?

The features of applicant tracking software can have some significant variation, which makes it important for those seeking either a free or paid option to fully explore the individual options available and gain an understanding of what they have to offer. That being said, there are some features that are so prevalent within this software category that they can be regarded as defining, while there are other features that are extremely common and found in most solutions. Some of the most common and important features of an ATS solution are:

  • Candidate tracking: track the progress of candidates throughout the application process in order to make it easier to identify those who show the most potential. On a basic level, candidate tracking can include the collection of all communications with each applicant so that it can be easily accessed or referred back to in the future, along with the creation of notes that can help those involved in the recruitment process to better understand each candidate and what they have to offer. More advanced solutions may also include a variety of tools for tracking different stages in a candidate's development or their progress with assessments, entry exams, or any background checks that may need to be carried out. Ultimately, this all gives businesses a better understanding of where each candidate stands with their application and what steps still need to be taken.
  • Job posting: post advertisements for job vacancies and have them appear on a variety of platforms and channels. As a general rule, job postings will be able to include skills and qualifications requirements. Making these requirements clear to candidates before they apply can help to reduce the amount of time that needs to be spent going through CVs for candidates who do not possess the necessary qualities. The best software will also allow job listings to be saved so that the basic details can be re-used in the future if the same position becomes available. This can be especially beneficial for companies that have a high turnover rate.
  • Candidate profiles: record information about each candidate that submits an application for a vacancy, and store and manage this data through the creation of individual candidate profiles. These profiles then combine to form a centralised applicant database, making it easier for recruiters to find information about candidates when they need it. Information contained within these profiles may include everything from personal details and contact information through to qualifications, skills, certificates, work references, work history, and the names of current employers. All of this data can be made fully searchable, meaning users can find information through a simple search command or through the application of filters to the main candidate database. This then makes it quick and easy to find applicants with specific skills, qualifications, or characteristics.
  • CV / résumé search: store CVs or résumés from applicants and use this as a searchable repository. The best applicant tracking software solutions will allow CVs to be stored in a single location, while the built-in search function will make it quick and easy to find important information contained within those CVs. Users can then use the search feature to find precisely what they are looking for. Generally, the search will allow users to find CVs based on the name on the CV but also based on the information contained within. So, for example, a recruiter could use the search tools provided to identify the applicants that have specific qualifications or keywords listed on their CV or the candidates who have mentioned working in a specific job role in the past.
  • CV parsing: automate aspects of the storage, data extraction and analysis of CVs or résumés sent in by applicants. Many of the best ATS solutions will allow users to store all of the CVs they have received from candidates and then convert them into a standard format, which then makes it easier to extract the most crucial details. Each CV is then given a unique entry within the database, and the parsing tools allow the CVs to be sorted based on rules and logic. The CV parsing or résumé extraction process can also help recruiters to allocate scores to CVs and find specific keywords that may be critical to the recruiting process, such as words contained within job descriptions. This ultimately allows for simple and effective ranking of candidates. Through artificial intelligence and machine learning, the entire process of extracting data and ranking applicants can be carried out without the need for human intervention while still achieving similar levels of accuracy, allowing recruiters to spend time on more complex tasks.
  • Interview scheduling: identify the strongest candidates and put them through to the interview phase of the recruitment process. Interviews can be scheduled through the applicant tracking software, and in most cases, the software will synchronise with any other calendar application being used. This then means that the interviews a business arranges can be automatically added to their main schedule, complete with notifications and alerts when they are close. In the event that an interview needs to be rescheduled or cancelled entirely, this can also typically be achieved through the ATS solution so that all relevant parties are aware of the change.
  • Recruiting firms: integrate applicant tracking software with third-party recruiting firms so that the information and data obtained through each channel will ultimately feed into the same ATS database. The best tools of this kind will automatically convert CVs received through recruitment companies and store them in the standardised format used by the business that is tracking applicants. Integration with recruiting firms can also make it easier to understand which recruitment channels are performing well, which channels are failing to attract high-quality candidates, and where strategic adjustments may be needed to achieve optimal results.

Capterra's applicant tracking software category page makes it simple to sort through the available options, based on the features they contain and the reviews they have received from other users. This then makes the software search a much easier process for buyers because they can filter out the options that do not contain the features they are looking for while ensuring they are only presented with options that could be useful or viable.

What should be considered when purchasing applicant tracking software?

When purchasing applicant tracking software, there are a number of factors that need to be considered. After all, recruiters and businesses need to be sure they are acquiring the best solution for their specific requirements, rather than simply opting for the solution that has the widest range of features or the best overall reviews. A good way to achieve this is to ask some key questions and come up with the answers to them. Examples of these questions include:

  • Can ATS solutions integrate with other software? Applicant tracking solutions can play a valuable role in modern businesses, assisting with the management of candidates for current or upcoming job vacancies. However, the software needs to work as part of a wider collection of software packages that are currently being used. For this reason, buyers need to ask themselves whether the solutions they are exploring have the capacity to integrate with their existing range of applications and tools. This could include integration with marketing software, customer relationship management software, database software, workforce management software, and more. Buyers also need to seek out information about how well the software works with their chosen operating system and devices, and whether there may be any compatibility issues that will need to be overcome when setting the software up.
  • How much does applicant tracking software cost? The issue of cost is important when acquiring any software, but with applicant tracking software, it is crucial that businesses and recruiters consider more than simply the initial outlay. Although there will be significant upfront costs with many of the best solutions, especially when it comes to on-premise deployment, the real consideration here needs to be the total cost of ownership and long-term usage. This means giving thought to the continuous costs that may be involved with some solutions, such as cloud-based software that has a subscription fee attached or the costs linked to training employees to be able to make effective use of the software. Another vital consideration here is the costs that may be associated with acquiring technical support or the expenditure that may be necessary over the longer term in order to keep the software up-to-date. With on-site deployment, there could also be a need to spend on additional storage. Meanwhile, with cloud-based solutions, there is potential for onboarding charges or charges based on the total number of users.
  • What is the best ATS deployment method? Another major consideration when acquiring an applicant tracking application is the deployment method that will work best. There are two main options in this area: on-premise deployment and cloud-based deployment, with both approaches having their plus points and drawbacks. On-premise deployment occurs when a business acquires software outright, installs it on company systems, and manages the storage of data internally. It typically has high upfront costs, but there will usually not be a long-term subscription fee. Cloud-based deployment, on the other hand, has very low upfront costs and tends to operate on a subscription-based model, making long-term costs predictable. Data storage and responsibility for keeping software up-to-date are both handled by a third party service provider, but cloud-based solutions offer huge advantages in terms of remote access, data sharing, and the ability to access the software on a wider range of devices.
  • What are the most popular ATS solutions? The question of what applicant tracking systems enjoy the greatest level of popularity is a complex one to consider, but it can be important. While popularity alone is not a guarantee that a particular software solution is going to be suitable for the specific needs of a business, it can be a good indicator of which solutions are being used frequently by other companies. Furthermore, popularity can be valuable in other ways too. For instance, the more popular an applicant tracking system is, the more likely it is that other software solutions will be designed to integrate with the ATS. Additionally, solutions that enjoy a high level of popularity are also more likely to have a wide range of support options available online due to the larger user base.

The most relevant applicant tracking software trends are another key consideration when exploring different options. It is important for recruiters and businesses to acquire a solution that has been designed with an awareness of not only the current recruitment trends but also the trends that are slowly emerging and the trends that are likely to matter the most in the years to come. With this in mind, some of the most significant trends to be aware of are:

  • Remote work becoming more popular: According to a 2020 survey by Gartner, 82 percent of company leaders now intend to allow workers to operate remotely at least some of the time. The growth of remote or hybrid work models has been influenced by many different factors, and its popularity can vary significantly across different industries, but the presence of some level of remote work is becoming almost universal. This can have knock-on effects when it comes to selecting applicant tracking systems and other software solutions because businesses need to be able to operate with confidence that their chosen application can be used by people who may be working from home. This is especially important in situations where those workers may be using their own personal devices.
  • The rise of cloud-based software: Cloud-based software solutions, delivered on a Software as a Service (SaaS) basis, are growing in popularity all the time, and this is occurring for several key reasons. Firstly, cloud-based software can more easily accommodate the aforementioned rise of remote and hybrid work models because data stored in the cloud can be accessed from anywhere, using almost any internet-enabled device with a web browser. Secondly, cloud-based software tends to offer lower startup costs, even if the long-term costs are higher due to the subscription model. This can enable businesses to acquire the software and start to benefit from it without having to make a significant upfront investment. Thirdly, cloud-based solutions are managed by third-party service providers, and this means businesses can pass on responsibility for aspects of maintenance and data security.
  • Résumé optimisation services: As recruiters make increased use of artificial intelligence and machine learning to parse CVs, the concept of résumé optimisation has emerged in direct response. This functions in a similar way to search engine optimisation, but instead of creating content for search engines to find, the content is instead created so that applicant tracking systems score it highly. This will typically include using a standard format, deploying common headings, and including keywords selected from the job description. As applicants become more familiar with this concept and the potential benefits it can deliver, there is likely to be increased availability of paid résumé optimisation services. Businesses need to contend with this, understand that applicant tracking systems are not entirely foolproof, and develop strategies for avoiding situations where well optimised CVs score more highly than CVs belonging to highly qualified people who have not optimised their CV in such a way.