What Is an Applicant Tracking System?

Applicant Tracking SystemThat is an interesting question in the present day and age. The good old applicant tracking system is much more than it was originally intended for.

Why did we need an ATS in the first place?

Businesses have always been hiring employees. Initially when there were only a few different types of jobs and smaller job markets, applicants would find jobs from “help wanted” signs on shop fronts. Advertisements in the local newspapers would be the go to place to find job ads. Hiring was more personal, they could hire easily through personal references.
Before we go into the need for an ATS, we need to see the history of the resume. See this infographic which shows the 500 years history of the resume.

Now that we know resumes have existed for a while now, we can look at the LFPR (Labor Force Participation Rate). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labor_force_in_the_United_States
As per this Wikipedia article, between 1930 and 1950, there was an increase of women participating in the workforce due to the increased demand for office workers and electrification which reduced the time spent on chores. In the US, the labor participation rate increased from 59% in 1948 to 66% in 2005. The participation among women rose from 32% to 59%.
Economists who analyze LFPR for those prime aged workers between 25-54, found that the prime aged LFPR peaked at 84.5% at three times between Oct 1997 and April 2000. The reason we need to look at the LFPR is to understand how the number of resumes or applications increased with time.

With the increase in jobs as well as paper applications, there came a need to track these applications. This article which shows the history of an ATS, states the first applicant tracking systems were created in the early 1970s. Since at this time, there was not widespread internet use, these systems were just a way to store and organize the applications.

From storing resumes, they evolved to be able to scan paper resumes and track the candidate’s workflow to getting employment.

A modern ATS is usually a combination of the following core functionalities:

  • Online Job Publishing System
  • Job Portal Management System
  • Online Job Application Management System
  • Candidate Management System
  • CRM

Let us look at each of these aspects on its own merit.

Online Job Publishing System

To understand the online job publishing system, we need to understand the history of the job boards. This nice infographic details the history of the job board.

So, the first job aggregators started in the 2000s. Also, the job aggregation was happening at a massive scale with the advent of Indeed and Simplyhired around 2004/2005. With the advent of the aggregators the applicant tracking systems started distributing the jobs that were posted on their platforms. This provides a nice way for an employer to distribute their jobs to tens or hundreds of job boards by just posting the job in the ATS.

Here is an article that details how Recruiteze publishes your jobs to the job boards.

Early on, the job publishing was available only with select enterprise ATSs, now it is available with most cloud-based applicant tracking systems. This feature was also expensive early on, now it is more affordable and available for all employers.

Job Portal Management System

The first website created by the inventor of the internet Tim Berners-Lee went live in 1991. The early websites took off when the Mosaic web browser was created in 1993. As the popularity of the career’s pages took off, there was a need to manage the jobs on these pages. So, the online applicant tracking systems were also capable of managing the active job listings on the career’s page. When a job is posted in the ATS it will be displayed on the career’s page. When the job is deactivated or expired, it is removed from the career’s page. This allows the seamless management of your career’s page with the ATS.

Most modern applicant tracking systems allow the creation and management of your career’s page from the software.

Here is how Recruiteze is able to create and manage your smart career’s page.

Online Job Application Management System

With the ability to post and publish jobs to the career portal as well as the job aggregators and job sites there was a deluge of applications received. Statistics show you receive an average of 250 applications per job posting. With that many applications, there surely is a need to manage these applications.

With the modern applicant tracking system, a candidate can apply for a job from the career portal or through a custom online application from a job site. At a minimum, an acknowledgement has to be sent to the candidate acknowledging the receipt of the application. The recruiter has to be notified about the receipt of the application, and the resume and application have to be added to the ATS.

An online job application management system will also allow you to create custom applications with your desired prescreening questions to make it easy for you to reject candidates that don’t match your requirements.

With more and more candidates searching and applying from mobile devices, it is very important that the online application is responsive. Most modern applicant tracking systems offer the ability to manage applications.

Here is an article that shows how you can manage your applications with Recruiteze.

Candidate Management System

applicant tracking systemWith all the applications received, there is a need to manage all the resumes and candidates efficiently. If you receive 250 applications per job you will have soon thousands of resumes and candidates. There is also a good chance all the applications are not received online. Quite a few them can end up in your email inbox. You need a way to add these resumes to the applicant tracking system and manage them.

Once the applications are received, they need to put through a workflow to review, screen, interview, and hire or decline. You need an efficient customizable workflow to manage your candidates. Also, your workflow can be different from some other company. The number of steps involved in hiring is usually different based on the number of people involved and decision makers required.
There needs to be a way to add notes, send emails, and maintain employment information.

The biggest feature you need from a CMS or candidate management system is the ability to sift through the resumes when you need to see them. You need several views of the candidate list:

  • Ability to search candidate resumes by text.
  • Ability to view all applications per job.
  • Ability to view all applications in a specific workflow.
  • Ability to bookmark candidates.
  • List of all candidates.
  • Ability to search a candidate by name or email.

Check out these articles on how Recruiteze candidate management system can help you manage the candidates.

Recruiteze: How to Use the Candidate Workflow Feature?
Candidate Management System: How It Can Help Resume Handling Challenges?


The hiring process involves several actors. For a staffing agency the actors are:

  • Client/Customer – A customer provides the job requisitions.
  • Prospect – A prospective client/customer.
  • Vendor – A sub vendor who provides candidates for hard to fill job requisitions.
  • Hiring Manager – Hiring manager provides the candidate specifications and usually makes the hiring decision.
  • Interviewers – One or more interviewers interview and provide feedback for the hiring process.
  • Account Manager – Staffing agency account manager who usually works with the client/customer.
  • Recruiter – There can be a corporate recruiter on the client side involved, depending on the size of the organization. There will be a staffing agency recruiter who sifts through the candidates and short lists the candidates for submission.
  • HR – The HR on the client side, who work on the offer with the candidate.

For a small business the actors can be:

  • Hiring Manager – Hiring manager provides the candidate specifications and usually makes the hiring decision.
  • Vendor – A vendor who provides candidates for hard to fill job requisitions.
  • Interviewers – One or more interviewers who interview candidates and provide feedback for the hiring process.
  • Recruiter – There can be a corporate recruiter depending on the size of the organization.
  • HR – There can be a HR department on the client side who work on the offer with the candidate. It could be the small business owner if it is a small organization.

As you see, there are multiple actors involved in the hiring process. There needs to be a way to maintain the list of the actors, and track communication and notes. This helps keep everyone in the loop regarding all the conversations and increases the efficiency of an organization.

So, applicant tracking systems have also evolved into customer relationship management systems for this purpose.


Now that you have candidates, applications, jobs and users we need reports that show how the hiring process is working. The reports should show how many applications were received and where they were received from. They also need to track how many candidates were interviewed, how many were offered, and how many were hired.

Reports are very important to fix any inefficiencies. Also, it helps track the user activity for an administrator. They can see if a recruiter is doing their job correctly or if they need additional help.

Who needs an Applicant Tracking System?

When the applicant tracking systems were introduced they were mainly used by large enterprises. Now with the SaaS based systems anyone who manages jobs, candidates, and applications can use one.

It comes down to your desire to increase your hiring efficiency. If you are using a recruitment spreadsheet to manage your hiring it is definitely time for you to switch to an online applicant tracking system.

With an ATS, you manage all your jobs, candidates, resumes, applications, notes, and communication in an online accessible system. It also prevents you from losing valuable hiring information if an employee/recruiter leaves your organization.

Check this article on why “Using a Recruitment Spreadsheet Is a Thing of the Past”.

How to choose an Applicant Tracking System?

Now that you know what constitutes a modern applicant tracking system you should be able to choose an applicant tracking system from the myriad of options available out there. For certain organizations, I would say an on-premise applicant tracking system is better. For example there are countries where you receive 2,000 applications for one job. In a given month you can easily receive 15,000 to 20,000 resumes for a small organization. If it a little bigger, it can be a very large number of resumes. There are a lot of disadvantages with an on-premise ATS, especially the fact that they can quickly become outdated. Also, you need someone maintaining the servers, patches, and security.

If you are looking for something mobile, available everywhere, always updated and secure, you should look for an online applicant tracking system.

Once you made a decision on whether to go with an on-premise or online ATS, you will need to short list the features that you need for your hiring process. Do not subscribe to an ATS with every single feature that you may or may not need. There are quite a few ATS systems that offer way more features than you need, they will also charge you more for all the features. Pick the most optimal solution for your business. You should also read reviews on sites like Capterra to understand how your choice stacks up against the rest of them out there.

Check out these articles on how to choose an ATS:

On-premise ATS vs Online Applicant Tracking System
How to Choose an Online Applicant Tracking System?

How much does an Applicant Tracking System cost?

Depending on what you need, you can even get it for free. There are some free applicant tracking systems, which offer a lot more like mightyrecruiter. The catch is all your resumes are part of their resume database and they rent the resume database. You will get resumes and so will your competitor for candidates if they rent the resume database.

Then there is the pricing per job and pricing per user. The price per job can range anywhere from $25 to $60. Then there is the price per user, which can range anywhere from $10 to $120. Yes, there are systems that cost you $100 plus a month.

The big thing you should look for is whether or not they are  distributing the jobs to the major job boards like Indeed, Ziprecruiter and Google. These are the major sources of candidates/applications. Do you really need the job publishing feature?

As we have discussed above, you can subscribe to an applicant tracking system for just one of the functionalities like job portal management, candidate management or tracking. You may not even need the publishing to job boards feature.

Now that you know what an applicant tracking system is and how to choose one. Check out Recruiteze.

Recruiteze Is Capterra’s 2018 Best Applicant Tracking System for Ease of Use and Value for Money

applicant tracking systemRecruiteze offers all the important features for an applicant tracking system. It is available online, all you need is an internet connection and browser. It is a secure, reliable and affordable ATS, which allows you to manage your career portal, jobs, applications, candidates, workflow, notes and communication in one easy to use interface. Try Recruiteze free today!

Try Recruiteze Free Today!