Applicant Tracking System - A Complete Guide for 2020

author Written by Amit Ghodasara July 9, 2019

quick guide to build

What does ATS stand for?

ATS stands for Applicant Tracking System which is a software application for recruiters and hiring managers. This software makes recruiters work easier and quicker with automation and artificial intelligence-based system.

What is ATS?

An applicant tracking system, called ATS for short, is the system which helps recruiters and Hiring manager to manage end to end process of candidate applications. 

Generally, all incoming applications follow the recruitment workflow which contains many stages like following.

Step 1 is "SCREENING" where preliminary research was done including phone screening, pre-screening questions.

Step 2 is "SUBMISSION" where recruiter sends the application to the hiring manager for further review.

Step 3 is about "INTERVIEW" where the hiring manager conducts one or multiple rounds of an interview of the applicant.

Step 4 is about "OFFER" where the hiring manager offers the employment opportunity to the applicant.

Step 5 is about "HIRING & JOINING" where candidates actually join the organization or show a willingness to join the organization.

Step 6 is about "ONBOARDING" where initial joining formalities will be completed.

Why do you need an ATS?

Why do you need an ATS?

Competition for talent is fire than ever, and it's becoming more and more complex and difficult for recruiters to find the best match talent for the organization. As a recruiter, if you wish to crack this evil situation, ATS can be one of the best options. By implementing ATS, you can streamline your recruitment processes pretty well and keep your time of hiring and cost pretty low compared to your competitors.

What are the benefits of the ATS?

There is a popular saying that - Old ways won't open the new doors. Exact the same way, you need to upgrade yourself to be in the race and lead the market. There are many benefits of applying ATS in our daily manual recruiting that can boost your business productivity. The following are the benefits of the ATS system.

  • Streamline recruitment process
  • Source candidate easily
  • Attract and hire a quality workforce
  • Automate your day to day work
  • Keep your talent pool updated all the time
  • Strengthening the employer brand
  • Reduce cost per hire and time to hire
  • Refine candidate experience
  • Centralize all information at one place
  • Automate communication and collaborative platform 
  • Increase recruiter's efficiency
  • Enhance your reporting and compliance
  • Increase transparency in work
  • One side & live video interviewing
  • Keep your portal updated all the time
  • Facilitate faster decision making from anywhere
  • Expand candidate reach with mobile recruiting

What are the important aspects of ATS?

While starting with an ATS, you need to check for certain important aspects that can enhance your regular recruitment and give you the different happy scenario of your recruiting. You need to choose your ATS on the basis of the following aspects.

  • Features
  • Pricing model
  • Compliance
  • List of ATS vendors
  • Support
  • Data migration

What are the most commonly used features of ATS?

Recruiters used to take the technology options for making their manual processes automated and increase the deliverability of a particular recruiter. Here are the most commonly used features of an ATS

  • Job board posting
  • Career page integration
  • Application tracking
  • Recruitment workflow
  • Appointment
  • Task management
  • Email sending

What are the most advanced used features of ATS?

There are so many types of recruitment workflow that companies would follow. We have gone through some common features that any ATS could offer, but now we are talking about the best and advanced level features that can really help to give you a better recruitment experience.

  • Onboarding
  • Two-way email synchronization
  • Vendor management
  • End to end interview management
  • Video screening
  • Offer letter management
  • Resume Parsing
  • Candidate self-service portal
  • Recruitment marketing
  • Automated pre-screening
  • Profile matching using artificial intelligence
  • eSignature
  • Two way SMS & VOIP calling
  • Browser extension
  • Import resume from Mailbox
  • Chatbot integration
  • Recruitment analytics
  • Visual pipeline
  • Employee referral

What are the best ATS systems in the market?

ATS systems are the best way to make your recruitment better productive results. You can choose your ATS according to your company size so you can utilize all the features you want and it would be more economical for you too.

Small-Medium Business with a limited budget

ATS List

Price range between $49 to $100 per job/user.

Big Business with no limit budget

Big ATS List

Price range between $70 to $500 per job/user.

What are the key questions to be asked to ATS vendors?

If your organization is in the market for your first ATS or thinking to replace the existing ATS system, the following are the key questions that you need to ask your ATS vendor who is supposed to offer the ATS service.

Vendor Profile

  • How does the support work?
  • How many clients are using your system?
  • Are most of your customers large or small?
  • How do you differentiate from competitors?
  • How often do you build new functionality or features?
  • Has your ATS won any awards or recognition?
  • Who is the owner of my data?
  • What security measures do you take?
  • Where do you store all the data?
  • Do you offer on-premise or cloud-based option?
  • Do you offer data migration service?



  • How is the pricing works?
  • Are there setup fees?
  • Is there any limit on the number of users?
  • What is the cost of a new user?
  • Do you charge based on active jobs or user?
  • Do you offer any startup discount?
  • Do you have any hidden charges?
  • How do you charge for data migration?



  • How is the support works?
  • Do you offer 24x7 support?
  • What are the different support channels do you offer?
  • Do you have a ticketing system to track the issues & suggestions?


User Experience

  • Can I login by using any browser and computer?
  • Do you have a mobile application for Android and iOS?
  • Do your system automatically captures the user activity?
  • Do you offer AI-enabled features? If yes, what are those features?
  • Can I send SMS from my system?
  • Can I synchronize email in my system?
  • Do you offer a live demonstration?
  • Can I do VOIP calls from the system?
  • Does your system automatically track email communication?
  • Can I import resume from my Gmail or Outlook mailbox?
  • Do you have APIs?
  • Do you offer any out of the box integration with any other partners?
  • Do you offer a background check service?
  • Do you offer candidate on-boarding?
  • Is it possible to customize fields and workflows?
  • Is your system GDPR compliant?
  • Do you offer an employee referral program?


User Onboarding

  • Can I customize the system based on my preference?
  • What is your onboard time?
  • Do you offer training when you onboard the user?
  • Do you offer any free tutorial and videos for self-learning?


What kind of integration feature does an ATS offer?

Especially for a big organization, the integration aspect is very important. To run the business, there are one or multiple systems may be integrated with the ATS. The following are the different types of system you may think to integrate with your ATS.

  • HRMS
  • ERP
  • Career Page / Website
  • Background Check Service
  • Online Test/Exam Platform
  • eSignature Platform
  • Candidate Onboarding Platform
  • LinkedIn Recruiter
  • Email Campaign
  • Mass Emailing
  • SMS Service
  • VOIP Service
  • Web Analytics

How does the pricing model work of ATS?

Pricing is one of the important aspects when you start with any ATS. Majorly there are two types of pricing option is available.


Cloud is a more trending and easy-to-go option. Again in the cloud, you have two options.

  • Pay per user
    In this plan, you have to pay based on the number of users and you have the freedom to open unlimited jobs. This is the best option if you have a small team and working on multiple positions. Generally the right fit for recruiting agencies and staffing companies who work on multiple positions for different clients.


  • Pay per active jobs
    In this plan, you have to pay based on the active jobs and you have the freedom to add unlimited users. This is the best option if you have a few jobs and more recruiters and hiring managers involved in the recruitment process. Generally, startup or small corporates can go with this option.


On-premise is a traditional model where the system hosted on your infrastructure and usually, you have to pay the full price of the software. And you can install the system and use it on your own. Usually, big corporates or government firms choose this kind of ATS System.

Who can go with ATS?

Any person who is looking for resources for their team may try out ATS. Overall following types of businesses may go for ATS.

  • Corporate HR/hiring managers
  • Staffing companies
  • Recruiting companies
  • Headhunting companies
  • Executive search companies
  • HR consulting companies
  • Freelance Recruiter
  • Startup companies

What are the best steps to implement your ATS?

To implement an ATS is a big decision and the following could be the right steps to implement. Identify your current business requirement and potential future requirements. The following are the key information you can keep ready.

  • Must have features like email integration, workflow customization etc.
  • Good to have features like VOIP calling, SMS integration etc.
  • List of vendor-related criteria like support hours, office location etc.
  • Budget
  • No of users or no of jobs for a month
  • Tentative start date
  • Create a list and shortlist vendors using the following options.
  • Perform a search on Google with relevant keywords
  • Visit review platforms like Capterra, G2 Crowd, GetApp etc.
  • Take reference from your network who have been using a similar system
  • Post advertisement on social media saying you are looking for ATS option
  • Take demos or trail based on your preference.
  • A trail is best if you wish to explore the system on your own and you have enough time to explore the system on your own.
  • A demo is best if you want to see the overall system and discuss your questions. It is also the best option if you have limited time for software evaluation.
  • If your vendor list is big, you can take demos and only for shortlisted, you can go for trial.
  • A final discussion with the finalized vendor
  • Discuss open questions or any concern.
  • Price negotiation in case price is not in the budget
  • Confirm order, sign contract and get access to the system
  • User onboarding and team training

What are the best steps to switch your ATS?

It is a big decision to upgrade your existing ATS and here are the steps to be followed to do it without any hassle.

Create a list of required features and functionality you need in a new system. Think about both your must-haves and nice-to-haves in this process.

Step 1:
Identify which ATS suits you the best.

Step 2:
Schedule demos or take a trial of different systems.

Step 3:
Narrow down your list and create the final list of vendors.

Step 4:
Check reviews and do reference check if possible.

Step 5:
Price negotiation.

Step 6:
Sign the contract and finalize launch date.

Step 7:
Data migration

Step 8:
Test new system

Step 9:
Train your team

What are the potential problems you come across when you start with ATS?

Sometimes, recruiters get used to using the traditional approach of recruiting and they may find it difficult to manage it with the technology option. Recruiters may face the following problems while going for an ATS for the first time.

  • The system is not user-friendly.
  • The system is unavailable or down
  • Certain features or functionality may not work as explained during the demonstration
  • Vendor may ask for some hidden charges
  • Vendor raise the price
  • Support doesn't respond on time or unavailable
  • The training was brief and not personalized with your business requirements
  • Slow down your business and make recruiter's life more challenging
  • Adversely affect the motivation of the team
  • Poor candidate experience
  • Loss of applications
  • Conflict of schedule and dispute

What are the myths of ATS?

There is always a good decision to start with an ATS but still why many recruiters differ with this fact? Here are some myths about ATS which cause recruiters to remain away from ATS.

It is meant for big companies only

  • Implementing an ATS is an added cost, not cost saving
  • Confusion between ATS and Job board
  • ATS start requires significant time
  • Publishing jobs on the website and getting CV in an email is the complete online solution
  • If we start with ATS, information may not be accessible all the time
  • Difficult to train team

How the ATS looks like?

The following are some the screen layout of ATS.


View Dialouge



What are the alternatives to an ATS?

If you still do not want to use the ATS for your firm and work manually for some time, you can use the old ways to manage all the information and do recruiting. You can even use Excel and Google forms to manage candidates information. You can build your own type forms.

If you are a very small company and only want to manage the candidate and client relationship, you can use a CRM Software too.

Where can I find the most accurate applicant tracking system reviews?

The following are some of the most widely used review platforms where you can check reviews about different ATS system.

Review Platforms

What is the on-premise and cloud option of ATS?

When selecting your ATS, the most crucial question is whether you want to go with cloud option or on-premise option.

In the case of the cloud option, your software will be hosted on the vendor's cloud infrastructure.

While in the case of the on-premise option, your software will be hosted on your local server or machine.

In recent times, cloud option is more trending and more common compared to the on-premise option. But there are still many reasons why companies should go with a traditional on-premise option. After identifying the pros and cons of both the options, I think one can make a better decision for their business. Here are the pros & cons of both the options.


Cloud Option - Pros

  • No hardware investment
  • No setup
  • Easy to start
  • Predictable subscription cost
  • Quick updates
  • Greater stability

Cloud Option - Cons

  • May end up spending more money in the long run.
  • Limited customization options
  • Price hike any time

On-premise Option - Pros

  • Less expensive in the long run
  • Full data security
  • Full flexibility in customization
  • Full control over the application

On-premise Option - Cons

  • High upfront investment
  • Hardware and administrative expense
  • High risk to meet future needs

What is the role of AI in ATS?

The role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is to make the job of recruiter easier, faster and better. The following are the areas where AI showcase its great importance.

Profile matching

The hardest and time taking part in recruitment is to screen thousands of CVs effectively and identify the best matching candidates. AI can be used to pre-screen your all incoming CVs and identify the relevant profiles.

Job matching

Simile to profile matching, AI can also help you to identify the best job to the candidate.

Resume Parser

To identify all the key information from the CV is a tedious job and can be addressed well with resume parser. By using AI algorithms and techniques, you can enhance your parser to a great extent.

What is the importance of GDPR in ATS?

GDPR is reform in Europe which enforce how the private data of EU citizens is used and stored online, anywhere in the world. As ATS store valuable information about the candidate, it is very important that your ATS is well compliant as per the GDPR norms. Here are a few key functions ATS systems should have to meet the GDPR compliance.

  • Send consent request to candidates
  • Consent history management
  • Allow the candidate to download their information
  • Allow the candidate to send the request for erasing
  • Consent expiry tracking
  • Show & agree to terms & conditions before application submission

We tried to cover the most important aspects of ATS but still if you think to know more please write to us on [email protected].



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