To ATS or not to ATS

That is the magic question

As hiring is becoming more analytical and data-driven, companies have found ways to incorporate technology to help hire and recruit more efficiently. ATS, also known as an applicant tracking system, has become one of the most widely adopted technological recruiting tools to date. In fact, according to data from Capterra:


of recruiters and talent managers use some form of recruiting or applicant tracking system, and


of them say that it has had a positive impact on the way their business recruits and hires.

So, What Does an ATS Do?

In basic terms, an ATS (applicant tracking software) is

a software that helps recruiters track candidates throughout the recruitment and hiring process.

Knowing a basic definition of an ATS doesn’t really help you decide whether you need one or not, right? You really have to get into the nitty gritty and find out what exactly those things are used for. Well, most recruiters use them to:

  • Filter and sort applications
  • Source and attract qualified candidates
  • Maintain communication through the entire application lifecycle
  • Automate manual processes
  • Improve collaborative hiring efforts
  • Improve onboarding

As you can see, an ATS serves a variety of purposes, especially if you attract many candidates or if you are hiring for many positions.

How is it Beneficial?

As a small business owner, your first thought may be that your application volume is manageable and your current process is working just fine. However, ATSs aren’t just for managing applications (as you can see above). In fact, integrating ATS into your hiring and recruitment process may actually help address some of the major recruiting and hiring struggles that small businesses across the country face.

Challenge #1:

Inability to source qualified applicants

Applicant Tracking Systems help expand your reach by assisting in job ad posting AND social recruiting. This will help tap into new candidate pools and target active and passive job searchers. Additionally, ATSs help improve the quality of your job ads and ensure that only the most qualified application materials make it to your desk.

Challenge #2:

Building a pipeline of qualified applicants

With an ATS you can create a database of previous applicants, and you can build quality referral programs. If you ever face a situation of not having enough applicants, you can easily tap into passive candidates.

Challenge #3:

Understanding what a successful candidate looks like

You can use an ATS to analyze your top performers and create job descriptions based on their skills, attributes, and experience. This gives you and job searchers a closer look at what candidates need to be successful in the position.

Challenge #4:

Competing with better-known companies for talent

ATS gives you access to tons of analytics and data on your potential candidates. You may be able to identify trends and discover what could make a candidate say yes.

What are some drawbacks people are starting to notice with it?

Of course, anything with benefits will have some drawbacks. However, with applicant tracking systems, the drawbacks can have huge implications if you’re not careful.

Bad summary example

Applicant Tracking Systems often misread resumes and eliminate qualified candidates.

ATSs often have a hard time reading resumes, especially if they are incorrectly formatted. In fact, a Forbes article states that as many as 75% of qualified job applicants get rejected by ATSs because the resume format can’t be read. That means you’d be missing out on a huge bulk of quality candidates.

Bad summary example

Algorithms can perpetuate unconscious biases.

Your own unconscious biases may be reflected in the algorithms you set. The ATS will eliminate skilled candidates based on insignificant qualities (ex: not having a college degree, not having 5+ years of experience, etc.). Therefore, even if the applicant possesses the skills to be successful, they’ll be eliminated before you even see their application.

Bad summary example

ATS focuses primarily on data and analytical information.

Like most AI, applicant tracking systems tend to be objective – focusing on facts and figures. They are good for figuring out who has the required skills and experience, but they may not be the best at figuring out whether that candidate will gel well with the rest of your staff. So, if you are hiring for culture fit, you won’t be able to rely purely on tech to analyze that for you.

Is an ATS Worth it?

Long story short, yes.

As a small business, you don’t really NEED an ATS. However, having one would address small business hiring challenges and make your hiring process easier, more efficient, and potentially more cost-effective.

But most importantly, ATS systems will put you at the level of your competition (if not above them). You can expand your reach and source candidates quicker. That way, you get to them sooner or at least around the same time as your competitors do.

Additionally, ATS’s ability to facilitate collaborative hiring and streamline hiring processes assist in improving candidate experience. As a result, candidates are more likely to apply to your job openings, even if they are not hired the first time.

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