What is an ATS?

An applicant tracking system (ATS) is a type of software that handles the recruitment process and workflow, and keeps your recruitment efforts organized. Think of it as a CRM system that retains and analyzes information related to prospective employees.

What are the advantages?

With an ATS you can:

  • Create an efficient recruitment workflow
  • Compile and organize data such job descriptions, resumes, communications with candidates, interview details and salary expectations
  • Develop a searchable internal database of talent
  • Post directly to selected job boards and social media sites
  • Access analytics and reports on common recruitment metrics such as time-to-hire, sources of applicants, interviews-to-hire and offer-to-accept

Who needs an ATS?

Not all startups need an ATS. Generally speaking, the need is a function of:

  1. The number of projected new hires
  2. The number of people involved in hiring (e.g., admin, recruiters, HR, hiring manager, co-founders and investors)
  3. The need to create a database of candidates with highly technical and/or niche skills (remember that candidates not currently looking might be looking soon—think of how your sales team prospects new customers)
  4. A business model that requires a rapid acquisition of talent

Choosing an ATS

When selecting an ATS, review your startup’s needs and constraints. General features to consider include:

  • Ease of use: Avoid systems that come with a lot of customization, complex features and training—chances are this will not be practical for your startup. You may find it useful to find one with a dashboard that showcases recruitment activities in one place.
  • Cost: Do you pay per user or by the number of employees in your organization? Is there a flat rate for a certain number of licenses?
  • Easy integration: The ATS should integrate easily with social media sites, job boards and your corporate website. If you require access to a specialized job board that is less common than LinkedIn or Indeed, ask.
  • Search capability: Ensure you test the search capabilities during the demo!
  • Integration with your core HRIS: If you have a core HRIS, consider how the two systems will integrate. Make sure you can migrate information from one to the other. Could the ATS be a module of your core HRIS?
  • Offer letter generation: Some systems can automatically draft offer letters by pulling the data from both the job requisition and candidate’s resume. The offer letter is usually based on a previously uploaded template, but the automation saves time and reduces errors.
  • Analytics: Ask about the system’s reporting capabilities. Once you have the analytics (and insights) on your startup’s recruiting process, you can make improvements where needed.

And ask your vendor “common-sense” questions such as:

  • When is customer support available?
  • Is customer support in-house or outsourced?
  • What clients (organizations) do you serve of a similar size?
  • Can you provide references?
  • What is your company’s financial stability?

As with any system, if an ATS is not implemented correctly, it will not work. Communicate clearly to your team what to record in the ATS. Otherwise you may end up with the proverbial system of garbage in, garbage out.

My top picks

  1. Jobvite (used by Shopify and Chango)

Jobvite’s features include its Refer, Engage, Hire and Jobvite Video modules. With a strong focus on social recruitment, Jobvite can post to over 4,000 job boards and aggregators.

  1. Resumator (used by Wattpad and Scribble Live)

Resumator is a simple, efficient tool that caters to small businesses. In addition to a strong mobile site, Resumator is big on social recruitment. While it lists pricing on its site, call for a custom plan.

In addition, consider Lever, BambooHR and TribeHR.

Summary

If your startup is gaining traction in the market and your business model requires rapid talent acquisition to scale, it might be a good time to look for an ATS.

Not ready for an ATS? Even very early-stage startups need to organize recruitment efforts. Use free alternatives such as spreadsheets, SmartSheets, shared drives, and other tools to store and organize data.

Mariana Andrews

Mariana was the Talent Consultant who managed the recruitment component of the MaRS Venture Talent Program. Mariana is a seasoned recruiter and has worked with key startups. See more…