What is an Applicant Tracking System and why do I need one?

This week we talk you through what an ATS is and how if applied properly businesses of all sizes can revolutionise their hiring process. Saving time, money and improving the hiring experience for all stakeholders.

July 7, 2023

Joshua Ellison

Guest Contributor

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Automation and Artificial Intelligence are accelerating global business toward the 4th industrial revolution and recruitment is no exception. As with countless other sectors, the possibility of delegating repetitive and accuracy-dependant work to machine intelligence can exponentially improve both the cost efficiency of those tasks as well as the time value of their human counterparts. An Applicant Tracking System (ATS) offers the value of AI and automation to one of the most crucial operations of any commercial organisation: the hiring process.

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What is an Applicant Tracking System?

At its core, an Applicant Tracking System automates much of the hiring process including candidate screening and data gathering, communications and interview scheduling, and, in the best cases, a cross-platform interface to improve user experience. 

Obviously the larger an organisation, and the number of roles it needs to fill, the more they can benefit from adopting an ATS. The outlier here is in start-ups or businesses undergoing rapid expansion, especially if they are doing this in an unfamiliar labour market. 

However, due to the continually decreasing cost of such systems and their unprecedented potential to improve hiring efficiency and candidate suitability, ATS’ are poised to become essential for any commercial group to remain competitive in the coming digital marketplace. 

Below we’ve provided a detailed breakdown of the competitive edge that an effective ATS can confer to your organisation.

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The key benefits of an Applicant Tracking system

Time efficiency

The major boon that all automation has in common is that it can free skilled human labour from mundane and repetitive tasks. Not only does this increase the value of individual team members since they can apply themselves tasks not suited to machines, but it also improves job satisfaction and, as a result, reduces turnover and stagnancy within a role.

However, in the case of ATS this value is also multiplied by the sustained accuracy of machine intelligence when collecting and storing candidate information. Alongside ensuring that you have comprehensive records for easy reference during the hiring process, this information can be used to shelve promising candidates to fill future roles if they’re not successful in obtaining the role you’re currently hiring for.

Moreover, robust ATS software can also employ technology like CV scanning, keyword searches, and integrate with job boards to further streamline the hiring process.

A reduction in time will also boost your reputation among would-be hires, at a time when over 25% of candidates feel the hiring process takes too long, and addressing this functionally will distinguish your brand’s reputation in the hiring space.

Reduced costs per hire

Cost per hire can be dramatically reduced by the use of applicant tracking systems. Given that the monthly cost of maintaining a single recruiter can be conservatively expected to number in the thousands of pounds, an ATS that has dramatically lower running costs is obviously preferable from a fiscal perspective. On this basis, Recruiteze has estimated that an ATS can reduce total cost and time to hire for small businesses by as much as 30% and intuitively that value can be expected to climb higher with larger organisations that would otherwise require larger human-led recruitment efforts.

Larger talent pools

D&I (Diversity and Inclusion) practices are becoming increasingly important for the commercial hiring process in pursuit of workplace equality and equity but also because it is proven to improve profitability. Gartner recently found that both gender and ethnic diversity can improve bottom lines by up to 21% and 33% respectively.

ATS’ can promote D&I by removing unconscious biases and focusing purely on characteristics that reflect candidate suitability for a given role. Active D&I protocol also reflects on your company's reputation to would-be candidates and will go further to attract the desirable candidates to your organisation.

Improved candidate experience

Since an ATS allows you to automate the bulk of messages and appointment setting, they create a more efficient and user-friendly experience for your candidates by keeping them ‘warm’ between human-to-human contact.

A 2018 survey by career builder estimated that over 80% of candidates expect a clear timeline and ongoing communications from prospective employers and that 68% of candidates feel that their experience during the hiring process reflects how an employer will treat them once hired. In short, candidates want to feel valued to assure them of a positive working experience once they’ve secured a role, and the best candidates will settle for nothing less.

In addition, even a single negative experience during the hiring process can significantly harm your brand reputation and future chances of securing desirable hires. The Human Capital Institute reported in 2018 that 72% of job seekers that have a negative experience are likely to share their experience online and more than half will actively avoid the brand in question in the future.

GDPR & Compliance

The importance and complexity of GDPR compliance are both increasing and the trend is set to continue. An ATS can remove much of the clerical work needed during the hiring process to protect both your company and your prospective candidates.

An ATS’ Automated software means that you can be assured that all candidate requests and retention responsibilities will be handled in a timely fashion. Additionally, you’ll be able to establish an automatic and accurate ledger of when candidate requests have been met as well as a detailed history of all communications with them.

These are but a few of the benefits an ATS can currently offer when ensuring that you are GDPR compliant and as technology and legislation continues to advance it is likely that more will arise.

The benefits of Applicant Tracking System are proven, and their continued developments means that while their cost will fall over time, their competency will rise. As such, they ought to be on the shopping list of any firm serious about remaining competitive in the hiring space in the future.  

ATS’ are seeing adoption at all scales of business and as of 2018, 90% of all Fortune 500 companies had already invested in their own ATS’ and the trend is set to continue. However, the technology is also readily accessible for SME’s and start-up ventures due to its relatively low cost.

Moreover, there are unique benefits that a young company can take advantage of with an ATS, namely its ability to support the creation of your first job page if you have not built one before.

A smaller company also has a smaller margin of error when it comes to balancing costs and utilising resources plus the benefits to efficiency that we’ve already discussed.

If you’re looking for a place to begin your ATS journey, then we encourage you to get in touch to find out how Stryve’s applicant tracking system can help usher your hiring efforts into the emerging digital marketplace.

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