How to find the best applicant tracking system for your company


No organisation is the same - each will have different requirements when it comes to deciding what is the best Applicant Tracking System. So, how should you decide which is the best ATS for your organisation?

  • Is engaging top talent with your employer brand one of your primary aims?
  • Is the cost of job advertising getting out of hand and needs to be dramatically reduced?
  • Is there an urgency to onboard new hires quickly?
  • There’s a need to curb a run-away spend with agencies

There’s a huge number of Applicant Tracking Systems; some US based and some here in the UK - this guide arms you with all the information you need to select the best Applicant Tracking System for your organisation; for both now and in the future

1. Do your homework

  • Before considering an Applicant Tracking System, analyse your own internal processes. Which parts of it work well and what could be improved? What processes should the Applicant Tracking System support?
  • Think beyond the now - carefully consider what might be required from the ATS in the future, such as integrations with job boards, integrated DBS checking, video interviewing, self-service offers and contracts online, Green Room onboarding.
  • Costs will vary, so be careful! All Applicant Tracking Systems are not equal - the old adage of ‘buy cheap buy twice’ is particularly relevant here. Cheaper ATS Systems may have hidden charges or provide platforms that are not as robust, flexible or secure as those that cost just a little more.

2. How flexible is the Applicant Tracking System?

The ATS should support and flex with your organisation’s existing (and any new) processes, so that there’s no need for radical change to the way you work, whilst improving the ways in which you need to work better.

3. How configurable is the ATS? Can features be added when they’re needed?

Is the Applicant Tracking System a standard solution in its own right (‘off the shelf’), or can you add/remove functionality and configure it yourself to meet your requirements in the future? Check very carefully how easy it is to make changes - and whether there are cost implications when your organisation evolves in terms of locations, number of users, application forms and workflows etc.

4. Can the Applicant Tracking System grow with your needs?

Think about how your organisation might grow in the future - can the ATS provider flex to support this? What other functions can the Applicant Tracking System offer, and what are the costs likely to be in the future?

5. Support - is it provided, and will you be charged for it?

The best Applicant Tracking Systems will provide unlimited support that’s included in your licence fee, find out what is offered and if there are any additional charges.

Find out what support is on offer - for example, is there a helpline and where is the support team based (e.g. UK, US, off-shored)? Is support available to candidates for any technical assistance, should they need it? Are there online help guides available 24/7?

6. Is the ATS intuitive and easy to use for both users and candidates?

An Applicant Tracking System that’s intuitive and easy to use is crucial for successful rollouts both internally and externally for your candidates. How easy is it to navigate around and start simple tasks such as:

  • Raising a requisition for approval
  • Adding and advertising a job on your candidate site, social media, and your job boards
  • Viewing and scoring candidates
  • Communicating with candidates and stakeholders
  • How intuitive is the hiring manager experience?
  • Reporting - are reports and MI included as standard and simple to create?
  • What is the experience like for candidates? Does the candidate portal closely match with your own website’s look and feel, and is the process of searching and applying for vacancies simple and intuitive?
  • Can candidates apply for a job on their mobile without the need to go through the dreaded pinch and zoom?

7. How does the ATS System secure data?

We’ve touch on many elements that make up what are the best Applicant Tracking Systems – arguably, the most important element is the security of the ATS.

There have been many well-publicised data breaches, so it’s vital to closely look at how secure an Applicant Tracking System is. Personal data is your organisation’s responsibility – the ATS provider will be processing and storing this on your behalf. It’s paramount to understand what measures and standards the ATS provider has in place.

The Applicant Tracking System should be ISO27001 certified. This is the main information security standard and is important in assessing how the ATS and its data are hosted. Regular and independent ‘penetration testing’ should be commonplace too to test for security vulnerabilities.

8. Where is the data stored?

Check where the ATS stores data. As a minimum, it should be stored within the European Economic Area but preferably in the UK. There’s an increasing concern about data stored elsewhere (including in the US) where it may not be fully safeguarded against being accessed by local authorities.

9. Speak to current customers

The ATS provider should be more than willing to share details of some of their current clients using the Applicant Tracking System, so you can ask customers directly what they think of the system.

10. Supporting change

Opting to implement a new Applicant Tracking System can often impact way beyond the resourcing team.

Hiring managers and the senior team who may get involved in authorising roles can all be impacted upon. This should all be a positive experience, but often this involves a ‘hearts and minds’ exercise to ensure buy-in from everyone - and this should be supported by a good internal communications and planning programme.

The best Applicant Tracking Systems will be able to help you with this, and it’s important to assess potential partners with this in mind. Can you see yourself working with them, do they match your culture and ethos, and would they have the right credibility in your own organisation?

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