The Riddle of the Applicant Tracking System

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Girl Before A Labyrinth The Sphinx asked Oedipus, “What has four legs at dawn, two legs at noon, and three legs at dusk?” The answer is a man. He crawls, then he walks, and finally uses a cane. Try putting it into human resources and recruiting terms: What required manual filing, only allowed recruiters to post to job boards, and now automates the application process? Applicant tracking systems. Originally, the application process required manual filing by HR professionals, wasting time and money. It evolved into a system that allowed recruiters to automatically file candidate information, but they still posted position openings to job boards manually. Yet, hiring managers still had to thumb through candidate files. Now, applicant tracking systems have matured into delicate systems that keep the company compliant with regulations and are easily searched.


Human Resources professionals maintained job openings and postings. Paper cuts, miscommunications, and filing errors plagued the industry. Resumes and paper applications kept in filing cabinets took up space in the office. Quite frankly, candidate information wasn’t as safe as it needed to be. Job postings were still placed in the newspapers and career catalogs. The face of recruiting changed in 1998 with the birth of the applicant tracking system.

Many small companies are still stuck at the Dawn of ATS. They don’t need to be. It is simply a matter of finding an ATS that not only fits the company budget and the company size. Human Resources Strategist, Steve Boese says:

“The problem for the small business that needs to hire is that they need to complete all the same processes as the large company, but usually with no tools (other than e-mail) to assist them. They spend comparatively way more time than the large organization manually processing paper and resumes.”

Are you crawling through recruitment, still reliant upon email for applicant communication?


Recruiters could digitally file candidate information. But they still placed job openings to job boards manually. Companies would read through applications and resumes looking for keywords and experience to find the dream candidate. Although it was easier than doing the entire recruiting process from beginning to end manually, it still used too much time and too much money.

Have you learned to walk but still inexperienced with an applicant tracking system that isn’t a good fit for your company?


There is now a plethora of different applicant tracking systems to choose from today. Each one has benefits and fits different types and sizes of companies better than others. They have capabilities Human Resources professionals only dreamed of 20 years ago. ATS now maintain legal compliance automatically, are easily searched for candidates, financially available, have reporting capabilities, and so many other features. In short, ATS streamline the recruitment and application processes.

ATS continues to evolve in coordination with the developments in social media. Seventy percent of companies are able to fill job openings using ATS. The growth of the job board increased the amount of resumes any particular position opening receives to around 1,000 or so. They filter more data in less time, automate with fewer resources, and develop recruiting roadmaps. More importantly, they save time, energy, and money for the Human Resources department. Ninety percent of the top companies use ATS to track their candidates. Don’t leave your company in the dust.

Applicant tracking systems crawled their way into a sophisticated system of functions that automatically track candidates and maintain candidate files. They have streamlined the process for the recruiter and eased application for the candidate. It is a safer method of tracking applicant information, versus paper files. Not to mention, ATS are fairly easy to implement.  The hard step in transitioning from traditional recruitment to an applicant tracking system is finding the perfect match for your company.

Have you become old and wise finding the perfect ATS match for your company?

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Sarah Duke is a Content Creator at Red Branch Media, a marketing and advertising firm that serves the Human Resources and Recruiting markets. Red Branch Media has grown from a simple consultancy to a full-service B2B marketing agency. Duke brings a history of Public Affairs experience to Red Branch and enjoys writing about the HCM Marketplace.
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