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Applicant Tracking System HR Resources

9 Rules for Choosing a Good Applicant Tracking System

December 29, 2022
7 min read

Your Complete ATS Buyer’s Checklist


Do your human resources or talent acquisition teams currently use an applicant tracking system (ATS)? If so, is it a modern system equipped with tons of features that gets regular updates? Does your provider help you get the most value possible from the system? Are you confident that it’s the best ATS for your business?

If you answered no to any of these questions — or if you’re wondering, “What is an ATS?”, you may be in the market for one. The purpose of an ATS is to expand your team’s capabilities, taking tedious recruiting and hiring tasks off their plates so they can focus on the parts of their jobs that can’t be automated. If your recruitment software isn’t eliminating obstacles and solving problems, there’s a better solution out there.

You have lots of options when it comes to applicant tracking software, but if you know what you’re looking for, you can choose an ATS with confidence. Stick to these nine rules during your search to find the best ATS for your business.

Read @ClearCompany’s 9 rules for choosing a good #ApplicantTrackingSystem before you make the investment:

1. Keep business needs top of mind. 

The first rule on our list may be the most important one to remember when searching for the right ATS software. Your business needs are the reason you’re on the hunt in the first place, so it’s important not to lose sight of them. Stick to this rule more easily by identifying your goals for the software before you start signing up for demos. Setting goals will help you avoid choosing an ATS based on a flashy feature or pushy sales pitch. 

For example, one goal your company may have is to use the ATS to strengthen your employer brand. If the ATS doesn’t offer tools to create branded career sites and consistent job descriptions, you can be certain it won’t meet your company’s needs and take it out of the running.

Tip: Write down the goals your company wants to achieve with the ATS and review them with the project team before each demo so they’re fresh in your mind. 

2. Think about who will use the software. 

The ATS you choose is going to be used by several types of employees, including HR teams, recruiters, and hiring managers,  who all need to use it in different ways. Whether they will use it to build talent pools, send offer letters, or give interview feedback, the right system has tools for every ATS user.

You should also look for an intuitive user interface, especially since hiring managers may use the ATS less often than other members of hiring teams. When you’re vetting software, ask each vendor to demo a few workflows or tasks specific to each user type to see how the user experience compares. 

Tip: Include employees in different roles who will use the ATS to help set goals for the software and sit in on demos. 

3. Get a demo of the candidate experience.

Did you know that 40% of job seekers say a lack of communication from hiring managers is the most frustrating part of the job search? Candidates also dislike filling out long applications and interview processes that last for weeks. A poor experience can lead to issues like candidate ghosting and cause you to miss out on top talent.

Modern hiring platforms have tools to help you create a seamless, engaging candidate experience. Your sales representative can take you through the application process, interview scheduling, electronic forms, and other important steps from a candidate’s point of view. This way, you can be sure the ATS offers the tools you need to design a great candidate experience, including:

  • Mobile and text applications to simplify the process and attract more applicants
  • Virtual interview links that are accessible and easy for candidates to find 
  • Recruiter texting tools for better communication with candidates
  • A self-service portal where new hires can access documents, company information, and other resources

Tip: Look for an ATS with bulk texting and text message templates to simplify texting for recruiters while maintaining fast, personalized communication.

4. Choose an ATS with regular product updates and new feature releases.

Ask vendors about the most recent new releases or updates, when they were released, and if software updates happen on a regular schedule or as needed. Good ATS providers will notify clients of these updates via channels like in-app announcements, emails, or through account managers. They also proactively ensure clients can take advantage of updates by creating help and training materials or meeting with them one-on-one to demo new features and tools.

Tip: Ask providers about the most recent software outage and how it was handled.

Rule #4 for choosing a good #ApplicantTrackingSystem: Look for an #ATS that is regularly updated with new features and tools. Read the complete list of 9 rules:

5. Ensure the ATS integrates with existing HR software. 

Chances are, your team is already using a few software programs to manage HR functions like payroll and benefits administration. You’ll want to look for an ATS that integrates with your current software to avoid the tedious process of manually entering data into separate systems — and the high risk of error that comes with it. If the ATS has an integration with existing software, the data transfer is hours faster and much more seamless.

Tip: Make a list of HR software your company is using, and indicate which programs may be replaced and which are there to stay. Then, you can quickly determine whether or not an ATS will work for your company. 

6. Look for excellent candidate search functionality. 

Applicant tracking systems have always been the place to find applicant and candidate information — but today’s solutions enable recruitment teams to actually leverage that data. Look for an ATS with superior search capabilities so recruiters can search for candidates by skills, location, experience, and other parameters.

A robust search function gives your recruiters the ability to build a qualified candidate pool from applicants who have already shown interest in your company. Often, their experience and qualifications are already verified, which could result in a faster hiring process. You can also speed up or skip the screening process with these candidates.

7. Test out reports and analytics dashboards.

One of the top reasons to use an ATS is to take advantage of data insights. Your entire organization can learn from its people data when you implement an ATS with custom dashboards and reports. Your new ATS can help you answer questions about your recruiting process like these:

  • How does our average time-to-hire compare to similar companies? How does it compare across recruiters, roles, hiring managers, etc.?
  • Which candidate sources are the most reliable? Which have inconsistent results?
  • What qualities, skills, or experience do top-rated candidates have in common? 
  • Are hiring managers scoring candidates fairly?

Tip: If your team is new to measuring HR metrics, ask sales representatives to present use cases for ATS reports and common dashboard configurations.

8. Get client feedback from reviews and case studies. 

Great ATS providers will have clients that want to share their positive experiences and results with the software. Look for success stories from clients that are comparable to your company in size, industry, and other factors and with similar goals, like speeding up the hiring process or adding candidate texting. Search for reviews online and ask sales representatives for case studies to see what clients are saying.

9. Ask for an implementation timeline.

Software implementation doesn’t happen overnight. It’s often a weeks-long process that involves transferring data, training employees, and setting up workflows. And sometimes, vendors can’t start implementation right away. Map out your desired implementation timeline and decide if there’s any flexibility to help narrow down your ATS choices. 

Your team should also decide how much support you want from your ATS provider during and after implementation, like dedicated account managers, training resources, or live chat support. Top ATS providers continue this level of support beyond implementation, helping clients get the most value out of their ATS investment.

Tip: Ask the sales representative if implementations are usually completed on time and what factors might slow the process down.

A new ATS is no small purchase — you need to do your research and properly vet providers before signing a contract. You also have to consider the future of applicant tracking software and your business and choose an innovative system that can grow along with it. If you go into the process with a clear understanding of what your organization needs and these nine solid rules to follow, it’ll be far easier to choose an applicant tracking system that fits. 

Still hesitant to take the first steps toward purchasing a new ATS? ClearCompany’s Applicant Tracking System Buyer’s Guide walks you through the process of choosing a new ATS painlessly. Get the Guide here

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