Applicant Tracking Systems

Applicant Tracking Systems describe a wide range of software designed to recruit and hire professionals. Combined with the skills of an experienced recruiter, they’re able to process thousands of applications, and help organisations streamline recruitment.


There are many different Applicant Tracking Systems out there, all which offer slightly varying forms of functionality, usability and scoring. The similarity between each system is that they are all designed to, sort and manage high volumes of applications. Funnelling  prospective applications into a system for profiles can be reviewed by HR.


Some Applicant Tracking Systems utilise algorithms, parsing and matching tools which automatically locate applicants that appear to be the best match for a role. The criteria which the system functions on is inserted by the recruiter. Applicant Tracking Systems also enable hiring teams to coordinate with each other, thereby streamlining the recruitment process, allowing for a smoother flow and communication channel regarding prospective hires.

Applicant tracking systems today can help hiring and recruitment teams manage each and every part of the recruitment process. Numerous companies rely on the Applicant Tracking System to coordinate their recruitment drive. The data found in the system is used to filter applicants, test candidates, schedule interviews, check references, manage the entire hiring process, and complete employment offers.


For Candidates

These systems have been known to help save the time of job applicants. Several employers utilise systems which enable job candidates to directly upload their important information such as work histories, references, and work education from their profiles on professional networking sites such as LinkedIn. Whilst candidates have to customise their applications for the varying positions they apply for, being able to forgo the tiresome process of retyping integral data for each application can be a time saver.


An ATS helps to streamline the application process for the candidate. Links can be inserted to applications, enabling easy application for candidates. They are also able to learn more about the company, its values, origin, and any other stages in its hiring process. This helps to increase the excitement factor for the prospective employee as they look forward to working at the organisation.


A streamline hiring process can help endear the organisation to the candidate. This could attract the very best candidate, as well as ensure current candidates look forward to working at the company.


For Recruiters

When candidates apply for a job on a site, their experience, contact information, educational background, cover letter, and CV are updated into the database. This information is then moved from one part of the system to the other. mirroring the applicant’s progress through the hiring process.


ATS enables recruiters to seamlessly review applications, send automated messages to applicants so they know their application has been received, as well as initiating online tests. Recruitment managers can also send rejection emails and schedule interviews using the ATS. HR managers use that very same information to incorporate successful candidates to the payroll.


ATS is an integrated system that helps to streamline the application, hiring, and recruitment process for companies.

ATS’s enable companies to keep track of candidates at all stages of the process; this includes information such as:


  • Where the candidates located the job advert, if on a job site, from the companies website, or via a referral
  • How many applicants are in various stages of the process
  • Total number of applications
  • Applicants awaiting feedback from interviews
  • References outstanding
  • Recruiter/Hiring manager actions outstanding
  • Number of previous applications to the organisation
  • Profile matching (Candidate’s who reapply with new email addresses)


The ATS allows for each step of the candidate journey to be tracked, from initially starting an application through to being hired, or rejected.



While an applicant tracking system can be quite beneficial, there are drawbacks that it’s important for companies to consider. For one, if not used correctly, some may be ineffective in filtering candidates based on the appropriate and relevant key words. What this means is those great candidates who may not communicate their experience in line with the standard industry representation of the role, could miss out due to their communication style.


There are also technical issues that have to be addressed. Certain systems filter out candidates with CVs that cannot be properly scanned/parsed. This tends to happen when a CV takes on a different format to one the system has been taught to recognise, or if the CV is a little more complicated than it can handle.

Applicant Tracking Systems tend to have varying vendor-specific designs, however, the majority of them make use of questions asked during the application process and keywords to rank and filter CVs or applications.


The keywords utilised are sometimes manually entered by a recruitment professional or they might be synchronised to a historical job listing information and job positions, for the sake of continuity.  In certain cases, these programs might also highlight entries that have particular keywords, unique enough to set one candidate apart from the rest.


All Applicant Tracking Systems allow for manual review/ranking. However todays leading recruitment systems allow for recruiters to pre-load specific job criteria into the system, which the system is then able to pool suitable and unsuitable profiles based on this criteria. Specific protocols such as ‘auto reject’ or ‘further consideration’ can then be programmed into the system to support the process.


The involvement of ATS continues after the application stage. The interview stage has been recognised as perhaps the most imperative stage in the hiring process.


Applicant Tracking Systems are usually equipped with teleconferencing features, as well as interview guideline questions to help give the interview structure and shape.


Additionally, certain ATS software are equipped with interview scoring systems which are manually inputted by the interview panel, following the interview.  These scoring systems confer numerical values to responses given in interviews. This helps the system to differentiate one candidate from the pack across all stages of the process.


The numerical values assigned aren’t necessarily the lead criteria when considering hiring, however, they do aid in comparing similarly qualified candidates. The decision of hiring or rejecting will largely come down to a consistent performance across all stages of the process.

Applying to jobs online will nearly always include submitting your application using ATS software. To ensure your chances of scaling through the system’s filters to the hiring manager, optimise your job application by doing the following:


Follow the instructions provided. This is something you have to always bear in mind if you want your CV to get to its intended place. Following instructions means sending in the correct documents such as a cover letter, CV, work history etc. Additionally, the documents you send have to be in the correct format. This means not sending in a PDF when instructions were to send in a Word document.


Don’t forget to utilise keywords. Using the exact keywords mentioned in the job ad ensures your CV is correctly filtered. For instance, if the job requires experience in Microsoft Excel, do not write down Microsoft Office. While a human can understand what you mean when they see Office, a program does not, because it is unable to make assumptions.


Additionally, whatever it is you do, do not try to be too fancy. While a great infographic might impress the hiring manager, the ATS would be unable to read it and would simply filter your application out.

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