How to choose the best ATS for your business

Finding the best talent is critical to the success of your company, and having the right applicant tracking system (ATS) can make all the difference.

A good ATS allows you to manage numerous recruitment pain points. It stores and processes vast volumes of data and includes features such as interview scheduling, resume screening, candidate shortlisting and candidate communication. Better yet, most systems can be customised to suit the size of your business.

But with hundreds of ATS on the market, how do you know which one is right for you? Here, Rachel Hill, HR tech expert and founder of the HR Tech Market, shares her tips on selecting the ideal ATS for your business.

What hiring pain points should an ATS solve?

1. Time to hire

“Paper forms and spreadsheet-based processes slow down time-to-hire and flow much faster if they are put into a system built for those purposes,” says Rachel.

“In big organisations, approval in the form of a piece of paper moving around the business can take six weeks, but with an ATS this can be cut to just two days.”

For example, HR can set up templates in the ATS to automate all candidate communications. With the touch of a button, multiple candidates can be moved to the interview stage, or receive automated offer letters, or begin an automated onboarding process.

“An ATS will greatly improve your process flow (who does what) and automate the heavy manual lifting.”

Rachel Hill, Founder of HR Tech Market


2. Cost per hire

Reducing time-to-hire is a highly effective way of reducing cost-per-hire. The manual processes that previously took up your HR team’s time, such as booking interviews and acknowledging applications, are streamlined.

An ATS will also reduce or eliminate the need to engage expensive recruitment agencies.

“Without an ATS, you often get a situation where hiring managers go to an agency and spend $100k over five hires,” explains Rachel.

“An ATS can bring the cost down from $20k to $1k per hire. Keeping it in-house is much more cost-effective, the quality control is improved, and candidates enjoy a better experience.”

Rachel Hill, Founder of HR Tech Market


3. Quality of hire

A good ATS allows you to control and manipulate large volumes of data, improving the quality of hires. Having a robust database allows you to search for candidates in the system by name, function or skill to ensure you’re approaching the right talent.

Many ATS offer screening tools to sort applications by matching any key features to the job description, while others use inbuilt AI to help score candidates, eliminate irrelevant applications, and create high-quality shortlists.

Additionally, reporting capabilities allow HR to track key metrics such as retention or rejected job offers and act accordingly.

4. User experience

“Think about the different groups of users who will be involved with the ATS,” says Rachel.

“It isn’t only the HR or internal recruitment team; the system will also be used by hiring managers, and (most importantly) by candidates.”

The User Interface (UI) should be mobile friendly, intuitive and provide easy log-ins (or single sign-ins). Candidates should be able to apply from anywhere and approvals should be actionable anywhere.

“The best ATS are three-way: the user can click on a candidate to see their history, click on a vacancy to see who’s on the shortlist or click on a hiring manager to see how many vacancies they currently have.”

Rachel Hill, Founder of HR Tech Market


Features to look for in an ATS

Must-have ATS features can be divided into two broad categories: pre-recruitment and post-recruitment.

Pre-recruitment features

Automated sourcing tools (including advertising)
“A good ATS will give you the opportunity to automate adverts, meaning an ad can be placed on five different job boards with the touch of a button,” says Rachel.

Screening tools
AI-powered shortlisting tools use smart tech to sort applications down from 400 to 10.

Automated communications
Why send out manual communications when you can use in-built templates that are tailored to the stage in the process, and provide a feel for your organisation’s style and brand? These should be standard in most ATS.

The best ATS partner with other services – such as third party background screening providers – to complete tasks the software can’t do on its own.

Post-recruitment features

Automated offer letters
Once you’ve made a hiring decision, a good ATS will allow you to create and send an electronic letter of offer summarising the role’s job title, salary and agreements, among many other customisable fields.

Automated onboarding
An ATS can give new hires access to policies, procedures, welcome videos, payroll details and ATO forms in the time between the job offer and their first day at work.

An ATS can be configured so that a job offer triggers emails to various stakeholders around the business requesting what your new hire will need. “It might send an automated email to IT to arrange a laptop, contact security for a swipe pass, and so on,” explains Rachel.

“What’s your average time-to-hire? How many offers were made this week? How many reference checks were completed? How many candidates have declined offers?” All this data can be provided by a good ATS, continuously improving future ways of working,” says Rachel.

How to consider which ATS is right for you

An ATS can take three to six months to install and customise, inputting your processes, integrations, approvals, testing and checking. “You can’t just buy one off the shelf and away you go,” says Rachel.

An ATS doesn’t run itself
A big mistake Rachel has seen is that businesses assume they can drastically reduce their HR team numbers after purchasing an ATS. “A great platform requires a great team of recruitment specialists to run it and add value to the process,” she explains.

Beware the monoliths
Many of the giant, end-to-end enterprise resource management systems (ERPS) on the market will throw in an ATS module alongside their other functionality, but Rachel warns these are usually very clunky tools that don’t always work. “You’re much better off buying a custom-built standalone ATS,” she says.

Ask around
Talk to multiple vendors, go into HR/recruitment chatrooms, approach industry bodies, and use a tech solutions directory like HR Tech Market to understand the market.

ATS providers rarely publish their pricing online, so request a quote as early as possible. Pricing structures vary and may involve pay-per-user, pay-per-job-opening, or pay-per-employee (based on your company size).

Understand what’s included in the monthly price, as many modules are offered as optional extras. Most price structures are usually based on customisation and implementation fees followed by monthly license/subscription fees.

Finally, always try before you buy – most vendors offer a free demo, while some have a free “basic” option that give you a feel for the software.

A final word from Rachel

“People make the mistake of buying an ATS before they understand what they really need.

“Ideally, you should undertake a recruitment audit first to understand your pain points, decide what you want to automate, what you’d prefer to keep manual, and decide on the service model – will the ATS be manager-led or run by a centralised talent acquisition team?

“Once clear on your needs, only then should you talk to ATS vendors,” she finishes.

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