How to Pick the Best Applicant Tracking System

What is an applicant tracking system (ATS)?

Applicant Tracking System, a type of candidate management system, is software to track a candidate’s progress from sourcing to hiring. ATS is designed to help recruit employees more efficiently and help companies and staffing firms focus on growing by automating administrative tasks that usually cost time and money. ATS is not only an internal tool; when connected with your career website, ATS will become the communication point between candidates and your company.

So you decided to throw out your Excel spread sheets and move your applicant tracking system on to the whole new level – now what?

How can you choose the ATS for your company?

Choosing the best applicant tracking software can be a confusing experience and sometimes very frustrating. There are many systems on the market, and most vendors can charm you into buying theirs by showing you a presentation or amazing features you probably don’t need. I advise you to forget all these presentations, functionalities, and offers from vendors and focus on the big picture first. Create your own checklist first.

Here are a few important things you need to consider before you choose your ATS.

Why do you need an ATS, and who will use it?

You first need to understand what company you are, in and what your needs are. Are you a freelancer, small company, staffing agency, or large corporation?

Once you determine this, you will need to consider which type of ATS you need. A small company with fifty people has different requests for an ATS than a corporation that has fifty thousand employees across the globe.

Start by asking your ATS vendors who is using their software. If they are focusing on small businesses, they are probably not going to handle big corporations well, and vice versa: if vendors are working only with big corporations, their ATS will likely be too complex for a small start-up.
Sometimes they could tell you that they are doing everything, but I would be cautious with this statement because the system design for a staffing agency wouldn’t be the right system for a small company or freelancer.

Easy usage

Every ATS needs to be intuitive from the start. It could have a million amazing functionalities, but if it’s not intuitive, your managers are not going to use it. Instead, you will spend hours on training and answering questions from your team on how to use it.
Be sure that the employees who will actually be using your ATS are comfortable with it by taking some time to do pilot testing. Also test a few different ATSs before you choose one of them. It’s important that your hiring team is comfortable with the ATS you choose, because the right ATS will help your recruitment team and the whole hiring team.


Accessibility and user-friendliness are some of the most important features you need to consider. Your ATS is not here for only your team, but also for applicants, and both groups are going to access it through phones, tablets, other devices, and through various browsers. If the new ATS is not responsive, don’t invest your money into it. Everyone uses different devices and systems to interact with hiring technology so try it yourself to make sure your ATS is meeting or exceeding your expectations.

Recruitment Capabilities

Is the system able to meet your recruitment needs? Make sure the application submission is easy and quick, and you can transfer your jobs on LinkedIn or any other job board you use.

You can track activities like time to fill, the number of candidates for each role, and time between interview rounds. Confirm that your system is working with social sites like Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Social networking and job posting on social sites is an important functionality for every modern ATS. A good and reliable ATS will also help you handle a high volume of applicants more quickly.

Candidate experience

If a candidate has a poor experience with your ATS, you will be more likely to lose candidates from the process. Slow performance and adding numerous fields that need to be filled out by candidates is only going to frustrate them and can lead to lost candidates and possible hires.

Speed of the application is also one of the really important things you need to consider during your ATS test and implementation. If you plan to use your own ATS and run it from one location, you need to consider using a Content Delivery Network (CDN) to help improve your ATS career page from other locations.


Having the right reporting tools will help you identify the part of the process that isn’t running smoothly. In reporting there should be information about source of hire, time-to-fill, number of candidates in process etc.


One of the most important things for any ATS needs to be scalability. If your organization is planning to grow, you need to choose the right ATS that will be able to grow with you. When you grow from 50 people to 1500 people, you could be stuck with an old ATS that won’t be suitable for you anymore. You will need to start a new ATS and you will invest more money for new trainings, data migration, customization of a new system, etc.

Boolean Search and Data Parsing

If your ATS is not able to parse a candidate’s CV or offer you the ability to use Boolean strings for your search, my only recommendation is not to buy this ATS! Boolean search functionality is key to finding some “hidden” candidates in your database and helping you quickly search candidate details along with the attachments, notes, etc. And if you’re looking for some specific technology (keyword), you won’t find it in your ATS without the right search and parsing functionalities.

Data Migration

Your company is a living organism that is constantly changing and evolving, and when you grow, your requirements of your ATS will, too. Eventually, you are going to change your ATS vendor and you will try out new ATSs. Don’t forget to ask if they can export all records, notes, resumes, etc. so you can take them with you if you cancel the contract with them. Also, ask them what records you will receive and in what format, so you can check with your new ATS vendor for importing data into the new system.

6 Important Questions to Ask Before Choosing an ATS

  1. Is it simple to use?
  2. Can I migrate data from one ATS to another?
  3. Will it scale with me?
  4. Is the company providing my ATS stable, or is it a start-up that is just a few months old?
  5. Can I add new functionalities, or is the company still working on upgrades?
  6. Is the ATS offering data parsing and Boolean search?

Before you waste time searching through vendors and looking for the right ATS for you, you should start with why you want an ATS and what problems it is going to solve. Create your own checklist with your personal requirements before you start your research.

The right ATS makes the recruitment process run smoother and more efficiently.