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Published: Feb 24, 2023 14 min read
Man on call with hiring on a Call center
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*Content includes branded mentions of our sponsor ZipRecruiter.

The phrase “the one that got away” applies not only to romantic relationships but also to companies that miss out on hiring the right candidate for a position. With the current market favoring job seekers, it’s more important than ever that companies are able to find and retain the strongest applicants, by leveraging job posting sites such as ZipRecruiter and incorporating tools like an applicant tracking system (ATS).

What is an ATS (applicant tracking system) and how does it work?

An ATS is a type of artificial intelligence software that helps with your recruitment process. It may either be a cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) system or an out-of-the-box solution that you integrate into your company’s existing system.

While the name implies that it helps you keep track of applicants, it can do more than that. An ATS can help you with the following:

  • Create job postings: While you may know how to write a job posting, doing this for multiple positions can be taxing. An ATS can help you create job postings and even post them for you on job boards.
  • Resume importing: A good ATS lets you import resumes easily from various sources. It can turn hard copies into digital copies with a scan and can import resumes from emails, various job boards and applications sent in via your site’s career page.
  • Resume parsing: The influx of resumes for a job posting can be too much for one person to sift through. With ATS resume parsing, you can effortlessly find the right people for your job openings. An ATS resume scanner can sort resumes according to skills, educational background and work history. It then chooses resumes relevant to the position based on these categories. An ATS resume checker can also help sort resumes for pooling.
  • Organize interviews: An ATS can help keep your interview schedules and data in order. Some ATS systems allow users to schedule and send interview invites to candidates. These systems then apprise interviewers of upcoming screenings along with the resumes of the candidates and even a list of possible questions.
  • Keep track of candidates: The core function of ATS recruiting software is to keep track of candidates that you’ve shortlisted. This will help you see what stage in the hiring process candidates are on, who interviewed these candidates and when they should be contacted again.

Key advantages of using an applicant tracking system

There are many benefits to using an ATS. However, the most significant benefit is that it saves your company time, cutting down considerably on how much it takes to scan through hundreds of resumes. Other benefits of using ATS software include:

  • Reducing the number of people you need for your HR department
  • Helping to streamline your recruitment and onboarding processes
  • Reducing the chances of great candidates slipping through the cracks
  • Enhancing a candidate’s experience with your company through the application process, which can help improve your brand’s reputation
  • Creating a database of potential candidates for other positions that may open up in the future

6 ATS best practices to follow

Using ATS software is one of the main things you need to hire employees quickly and efficiently, so consider the following ATS best practices to maximize your use of the software:

1. Choose the right ATS software

The first thing you need to do is to find the right ATS software for your recruitment needs. Consider the following features in your research:

An easy-to-understand user interface

Not all of your HR personnel using an ATS in their recruitment efforts may be tech-savvy, so an intuitive interface should be on your list of ATS must-haves. This will allow your team to use the system easily for your job posting and candidate pooling needs.

A career page builder

Having a career page on your site can increase your chances of finding the right candidates for your job openings. With this feature, posting job descriptions for open positions and gathering resumes is easier.

Analytic reporting and insights

Analyzing the data collected via your ATS will help you audit your hiring process, showing you how long it takes to fill certain positions and what keywords help find the right candidates, among other things. Analytics reporting can also help you calculate how much it costs your company to hire people, allowing you to streamline the hiring process and reduce costs.

Integration capabilities

Check whether your ATS software can easily be integrated into your existing framework. Look for one that offers HRMS integration, HRIS integration or both. Also consider integrations with other systems such as communications and e-signature tools. Also check whether you can easily integrate its use into your other current recruitment efforts with job sites such as ZipRecruiter.

Data privacy compliance

Data privacy is important for the safety of your applicants. To ensure that all the data you collect via your ATS is safe from security breaches, always choose systems that are General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliant. Otherwise, collecting data from a large number of individuals and storing them in a database may become a data privacy nightmare.

Dependable customer support

Before you sign up with an ATS provider, ask a few key questions regarding customer support. These include whether the company provides training for the use of its software, whether you’ll have a dedicated customer relations manager for your account and if they’ll be available to you 24/7.

2. Align your recruiting approach with your business' unique needs

Different companies have their own way of going through the recruitment process, so not every business uses an ATS the same way. To ensure that your ATS doesn’t hamper any of your hiring protocols, tinker with the system and find out where you can use certain features to benefit your business.

You should also know which keywords to use in your recruitment process. One of the reasons why some great candidates still slip through a company’s fingers is because of a vague or misused keyword selection.

Selecting only a few filtering keywords for your ATS resume checker will reduce your chances of finding the right people. Not all applicants know how to make a perfect resume that will pass the scrutiny of automated systems, and they may miss crucial keywords if your list is too limited.

3. Automate tasks for a smoother workflow

Freeing up personnel from menial tasks during the recruitment process will give them more time to take on more important responsibilities. Automating basic but time-consuming tasks, like going through thousands of resumes and scheduling interviews for qualified candidates, will help speed up and optimize your recruitment team’s workflow.

4. Ensure that your ATS can receive imported data from your old system

Another feature you should investigate is data migration. If you’ve been using another system for collecting and storing candidate information, your chosen ATS should allow you to import that data quickly and securely.

5. Leverage social media and employee referrals to find ideal candidates

Aside from HRIS and HRMS integration, you should also look into how well an ATS can be integrated into your social media accounts. Can you easily post job openings on your social media pages? Does your ATS let you track how many applications come from these posts?

You also need to find an ATS that helps you keep track of employee referrals. Want to know how to find employees that are highly qualified? An employee referral program can be key to finding quality candidates for your open positions, referred by the great people who are already working for you.

6. Train your recruitment team on how to use the ATS

A tool is only as good as the person who uses it. Even when you have the best recruiting software around, if any member of your HR team doesn’t know how to use your ATS properly, they may inadvertently cost your company a good hire. Training all your HR personnel on how to use your chosen ATS is key to using it effectively.

To get the most out of your ATS, having a training expert on hand is ideal. You can ask what custom features you should add to your ATS and how to streamline the recruitment process. Find a recruiter that knows how to use an ATS so that you’ll have someone who can teach the rest of the team how to use the system optimally.

How much does an ATS typically cost?

ATSs are available in different pricing models, including:

  • Pay per recruiter — This scheme typically costs between $60 and $100 per recruiter per month. Though it may seem like an expensive option at the first glance, it can be great for smaller companies, which usually have only a few people using the platform. With this model, each recruiter has their own user privileges. If your company is relatively small, you may have few stakeholders, especially HR personnel, using the tool. As a result, you may not need to spend much with this pricing model. Another advantage of this option is that your monthly costs remain pretty much the same over time, helping you easily keep track of expenses.
  • Pay per employee — This pricing model generally costs between $4 and $7 per employee per month. You’ll be charged depending on the number of employees in your company. For small and medium companies, this model might be a good fit. While you pay more for the few members of your company who will use the ATS in the pay-per-recruiter model, in this structure you pay a lower fee, but for every employee — regardless of whether they use the ATS. This can be useful if you have multiple hiring managers and interview panels you want to sue the ATS. If you’re a bigger company, look for an ATS that gives out a bulk discount, which can lower your cost to as little as $0.20 per individual per month.
  • Pay per vacancy — Do you have lots of positions to fill? If you do, this isn’t a good pricing option for you. The usual cost for this scheme is between $100 and $500 per month for each active post. Nonetheless, when a position is filled, you won’t have to pay for that post anymore.
  • Pay per applicant — With this pricing model, you pay a fee for each application the ATS receives on your behalf. Whether they’re pooled for future positions or chosen for a current need is irrelevant. Each resume you receive via the ATS can cost you $.01 to $.20.
  • Flat rate — This may be the best pricing model, if you’re sure the chosen ATS you’ve chosen is the right one for you. The cost can vary from provider to provider, with some charging you a flat monthly fee of $200 to $350. Others may let you pay for an unlimited license, but this can cost thousands of dollars.

Have you found the perfect applicant tracking system for your business?

Before you can find the right ATS for your company, you should first ask yourself whether you need an ATS in the first place. If you want a more efficient way to find the right people for key positions in your organization and don’t want to miss out on great candidates while also pursuing a scalable growth strategy, then the answer is yes.

To find the perfect ATS for your company, consider the factors listed above. You should set a budget and check out as many ATS provider options as you can. Also, make sure to ask these providers for a free trial so that you can test-drive the services you think will fit your company’s needs.

From the ATS software that fit your criteria, sign up for the ATS that you’re confident will fit best with your recruitment needs. Your ATS shouldn’t negate the human element of the hiring process.

To ensure that your ATS hiring procedures aren’t too robotic, connect with applicants personally when you can, regardless of whether they’re hired. This will give your company a positive reputation and will encourage people to recommend you to other applicants, even when they weren’t hired.