The pros and cons of free recruitment systems

ALEX LAMONT • 30 May 2022

1 - What is an applicant tracking system?
2 - What kinds of recruiting systems are there?
3 - The pros of a free ATS
4 - The cons of a free ATS

A free applicant tracking system (ATS) can be a great tool for a business starting out, but is it the right choice for your first recruitment system?

What is an applicant tracking system?

An applicant tracking system (ATS) is a piece of software that helps you recruit staff and manage the application process.

What kinds of recruiting systems are there?

There are two broad categories – premium and freemium.

Premium software is where you pay for a piece of software – whether that’s annually or monthly. In today’s climate, most software companies will sell Software as a Service (SAAS.) This will be a cloud-based solution, where you don’t need to install anything and just access it via your browser. Jobtrain is an example of premium software. Our recruitment software is affordable, and there are no hidden fees.

Freemium is created by combining the words "free" and "premium." Freemium is a type of business model that offers basic features of a product or service to users at no cost and charges a premium for supplemental or advanced features.

See how our ATS can help recruit using your culture


The pros of a free ATS

When you’re ready to dip your toe in the world of recruitment software, you’ll be wary about where to start and how much to invest – so seeing recruitment software that’s “free” might seem like love at first sight! After all, every hiring system is better than an excel spreadsheet and manual emails!

Paying for what you need

A freemium system could let you bolt on features as and when you need them. The argument is that you will only pay for what you need and not be hindered by unnecessary features and functionality that you won’t use.

Jobtrain designs fully configurable ATS’s for organisations like NHS Scotland and Odeon Cinemas, but if you’re a small care home or housing association, that level of complexity is likely to be too much too soon! That's why we've designed JTGO - an out-of-the-box ATS for small businesses.

john-schnobrich-2FPjlAyMQTA-unsplash (1)Using a free trial

Freemium also lets you get to grips with a system before you decide to invest any money into it. You could treat a freemium system like a free trial! However when it comes to recruitment software, things are a little more complicated.

The cons of a free ATS

Free isn’t always free. The free ATS market is chock-full of recruitment systems which claim to be “free,” but will conceal hidden costs for functionality that’s necessary to truly upgrade your recruiting process. Perhaps it’s free for one user, but certainly not for all! The same goes for advertising. You may find that advertising through free recruitment software will be more expensive because it may charge you for posting to job boards! We designed JTGO to give you free advertising to job boards.

Download our free guide to see a great job advert in action!Limited Features

Limiting your cost will limit your features. Not all applicant tracking systems are created equal, make sure you’re not signing up for a glorified spreadsheet or job board! Does it offer CV Parsing? Is there robust reporting functionality which will help your business grow, and your recruitment funnel grow with it?

Owning your data

As part of your agreement with some free applicant tracking system suppliers, they will own the data which your system processes. Make sure you have full ownership of the information you collate and action! This is key for GDPR-compliant recruitment.

Ask if there is a candidate audit trail that you own. Ask where candidate information is captured and held. Ours is stored in two UK data-centres. The servers are held in secure rooms at two centres in London (Telehouse West and Park Royal) with our service provider Access Alto. This provider does not have access to client data. Security is paramount and to ensure malware protection, several security layers have been included to bolster the platform and minimize risk of compromise!

See how our ATS can help recruit using your culture


Limited support

Be sure to check if your ATS provider offers support if anything goes wrong. You don’t want to be left blowing in the wind if a user or candidate locks themselves out of their account! Do you require DBS Checking? Make sure your ATS supports this functionality and helps you with your integration. Both Jobtrain and JTGO offers integration with First Advantage so you can be secure in your checks!

Be wary of hidden costs

Don’t make a commitment only to realise later you haven’t got what you thought you had! We recommend drawing up an internal plan of features you need and features you want so you can make the right comparisons.

Capture-4Check if there’s extra costs for:

Some free recruitment systems will have a limit on the amount of candidates you can process – meaning you might get some great candidates reaching out to you, but your ATS can’t support their application!

If there’s something you’re unsure of, reach out to the provider which interests you! Jobtrain and JTGO have no hidden costs.

Brand representation

As part of  Jobtrain's ATS you can configure your candidate site to represent your colourways, logos, and make the most of the candidate experience. We operate as a silent partner – there are no watermarks on any of the communications you send out to candidates. This is extremely important for how you attract candidates, and how connected they feel to your organisation from application right through to their first day!

In summary

  • An applicant tracking system (ATS) is software that helps you hire and process candidates.
  • When shopping for recruiting software you'll choose between premium (fully paid) and freemium (free and limited) software.
  • Free recruitment systems let you try-before-you-buy and only upgrade for the features you need.
  • Be wary that free systems might give limited features, limited support, have hidden costs, and might not give you ownership of your candidate data.
  • Both of our recruitment systems are affordable, premium software with no hidden costs. See for yourself with a free demonstration!
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