Applicant tracking systems, (sometimes referred to as ATS) are software systems used by recruiters and talent acquisition professionals to keep track of candidates. Applicant tracking systems track applicants throughout the hiring process, from initial contact, to interview, to hiring. The applicant tracking systems often resemble CRM or Customer Relationship Management Systems, in that they focus on tracking the activities associated with a particular person performed by the user.

Recruiters will often work on applicant tracking systems for most of their day. They are very much like the “supply chain” software for talent within an organization. Sometimes web based and sometimes client server, these complex systems often scale to hundreds of users. Recruiting teams or entire staffing firms share one installation of an applicant tracking system, and they are an¬†extremely¬†strategic and vital aspect of recruiting. Modern applicant systems can automatically import candidate resumes from social media, job boards, and Internet resumes. They store the resume and auto-populate various candidate fields (data about the applicant. The activities that a recruiter performs are then associated with the profile. Most applicant tracking systems are also sophisticated communication systems, allowing recruiters to email, SMS text, page, or even Tweet with candidates.

A more recent development in the history of applicant tracking or ATS software is that they are being used for post-hire tracking as well as candidate tracking. Once a candidate is hired, the same applicant software can now be used for performance appraisals, talent forecasting, and employee management. An interesting topic to note is the necessary legal and administrative functions and compliance required by such pre and post hire software systems. Because applicant tracking systems have to be so specific and narrowly focused in their function and compliance, the industry tends to be quite specialized and divided among a broad expanse of relatively smaller companies.

The selection of applicant tracking systems is a very difficult process because of its importance to a talent acquisition, recruiting department, or staffing firm. Great care must be taken and it is important to have a large user base of recruiters try the applicant system before implementation. Applicant tracking systems can greatly impact a recruiter’s performance and productivity, not to mention potentially impacting the candidate experience. When selecting an applicant tracking system, it is important not to take the decision lightly and seek as much guidance and information as possible.



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