What Is Applicant Tracking Software?

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The NBA draft is one of the most intensive hiring processes out there.

Team managers and executives pick players they think will perform the best on the court. Before they do that, though, each team has to identify its needs and determine who will be the best fit.

What position(s) do we need to fill? How do we measure potential? How will this player help our team?

applicant tracking

Maybe your office isn’t quite as exciting as the NBA (or maybe you’re like me and find your job way more interesting than sports), but your hiring process isn’t so different than a draft pick.

Unlike the NBA, however, you’ve got a special tool that can help you through the selection process. It’s called applicant tracking software (ATS), and it aids businesses by organizing and automating the hiring process.

In fact, the right ATS could even be your next all-star. But only if you know what it is and how to use it.

Before you can successfully implement this solution into your workflow, you need to know what it can do. And that’s exactly what we’ll cover below.

All screenshots in this piece come from Capterra’s Top 20 Most Popular Applicant Tracking Software infographic.

Applicant tracking software: What it includes

Like any good player, applicant tracking software can play multiple positions.

Some systems perform a few tasks solely related to applicants, while others handle everything from the recruiting phase to onboarding. Most can be configured to meet your company’s specific needs.

Let’s examine the primary components of a good ATS. First up is…

An applicant tracker

Stay with me! I promise I’m not messing with you.

Applicant tracking describes the process of following a job applicant from one stage of hiring to the next. The primary function of applicant tracking systems is to help you keep track of which applicants are in what stage, so you never get confused and leave a candidate in limbo or suffer through an interview while holding the wrong resume.

To do this, an ATS stores changes made to an applicant’s status, documents, and information exchanged. It also records which user made each change, and that’s a huge help when you’ve got a hiring team all working in a system at once.

A candidate profile in Jobvite

A candidate profile in Jobvite (Source)

An automated email sender

What about those times you decide to take a different direction? Those awkward rejection emails are no fun.

What if you had to write only one rejection letter and could let software handle the rest? A good ATS lets you do just that. You can set up an automated email in your system that will go out to any rejected candidates, freeing up more time and brain space for you and saving candidates from the limbo of never hearing back.

A candidate filter

Sometimes, people apply for jobs they aren’t truly qualified for. Maybe it’s an accident, maybe they were feeling lucky. Either way, that application is now your problem and is clogging up your process.

An applicant tracking system can help you solve that problem by removing unsuited applicants from the candidate pool before you ever have to see their resume. You can automate the weed-out process, separating common players from all-stars.

The software will also act as a ranking tool, placing the best options for open positions at the top of the list. Just make sure you calibrate your keywords, and you’ll make your job easier for yourself.

A data analytics system

You think you’ve got your hiring process down to a science. But do you? The only way to know for sure is data analytics, which an ATS can provide.

This feature captures your team’s productivity levels, what your applicant rates are, how long candidates spend in each step, and overall applicant satisfaction. It’s a vital tool for any hiring team looking to keep getting better.

Newton AnalyticsData analytics in Newton (Source)

A digital storage facilitator

Applicant tracking software stores all of the (many, many) documents related to applicants in its database. Users can pull any file or piece of information on a candidate from one central location, instead of shuffling through endless papers and folders.

Using the cloud, this information can be accessed via a tablet or smartphone for interviews and comparison meetings. All of this means that you never have to stand by the copy machine watching it slowly print again.

An interview scheduling tool

Accidental scheduling overlaps can be banished from your life by an ATS with an interview scheduling tool. Some systems are entirely in-app, while others may integrate with Microsoft Outlook or Google Calendar.

Either method lets you schedule your candidates for interviews based on the best possible time slot for both you and them, often using an attractive visual display. Reminder timers save you from being late to or unprepared for your interviews.

Interview scheduling in JobScore

Interview scheduling in JobScore (Source)

A job board poster

Forget clicking through a dozen job boards and copy/pasting the same info over and over again. ATS users can post open positions to multiple job boards with one click and manage all of a company’s job postings from a single interface.

If you’re interested in adding in a Tweet or a Facebook post, look for an ATS with “social media integrations,” which let you do the same thing across your preferred social channels.

An onboarding tool

Some applicant tracking systems stop when a hire is completed. But some see that new hire all the way through the onboarding process as you help them acclimate to their new position through training modules and performance tracking.

(If your ATS doesn’t offer this feature and you want it, you can also look into onboarding software.)

A requisitions manager

Stop fielding emails from every department lead in the company asking when a new hire will be found. ATS follows a requisition from the moment a department identifies a hole in its lineup to the time a new hire is selected (and sometimes beyond).

Anyone with access to the software can view the requisition and know how close you are to filling the position, eliminating pesky, nagging, or worried emails asking for updates.

How will you use applicant tracking software?

Ready to add an ATS to your team? Your next step is exploring Capterra’s applicant tracking software database to find your best match. The database offers a powerful filtering tool, letting you search by feature and compare options side-by-side.

Got questions? Concerns? Really excited about basketball season? Tell me about it in the comments below, or tweet me @CapterraHalden.

Looking for Talent Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Talent Management software solutions.

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Halden Ingwersen

Halden Ingwersen is a former Capterra analyst.

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