The common misconception is that an applicant tracking system, or ATS, is only meant for large companies, but almost any business could benefit from using one. Don’t assume they’re too expensive either. Applicant tracking systems come with varying features, fees, and payment options so anyone can afford them.
If you own a small company and wonder if you need an applicant tracking system, it is definitely high time to move away from spreadsheets and use a far more efficient system, available to all your users from anywhere. Plus, it allows you to become a paperless hiring organization.
Check out this article on why it is time to move away from a recruitment spreadsheet.
An ATS is on-premise (stored locally on your PC) or cloud-based (stored on a secure external server for remote access by owners and authorized persons) software that helps business owners streamline all of their hiring efforts, from accepting applications, selecting candidates, interviewing candidates, to onboarding.
Common features include:
- Accepting, storing, and sorting resumes
- Allowing resumes to be searched by a variety of parameters
- A custom careers page
- A custom job page
- Resume formatting to make resumes easier to read
- Custom emails
- Automated responses
- Tracking each candidate’s progress through the hiring process
Features vary greatly depending on the ATS itself, but the idea with all of them is to automate and streamline as many tasks as possible to make hiring more efficient, so you can hire better candidates, save on hiring costs, and spend more time doing other things for your business.
Hiring involves a lot of actors, notes, and communication. Without an efficient way to manage all the factors involved, the information will be scattered between emails, documents, printouts, and memory. You will not be able to effectively analyze whether your hiring process is efficient and is working.
The primary actors involved in a hiring process are:
- Hiring Managers – The hiring process usually starts when a hiring manager needs one or more new resources. This can happen when an existing employee leaves, the workload has increased for the current team members, or there is a new project in the pipeline.
- Decision Makers/Approvers – Depending on the organization’s size, decision-makers may either approve or disapprove of a new job requisition. Decision-makers can also be involved in approving the hiring decision to make an offer to an applicant/candidate.
- Recruiters – Once a job requisition is approved, a recruiting company or recruiter gets involved. They will gather the hiring manager’s detailed job requirements and post the job on the various job boards. Once the applications start coming in, the recruiter reviews the resumes and does preliminary screening before submitting them to the hiring manager to get feedback. If the hiring manager requests an interview, the recruiter schedules a suitable time with the applicant and one or more interviewers.
- Interviewers – These are the current employees who either conduct a phone interview or an in-person interview and provide their feedback on the applicant.
- Candidates/Applicants – Candidates apply for open positions if they come across the job from either the company’s career page or one of the job boards where the job has been advertised.
- Human Resources – Human resource administrators work with management, negotiate compensation and benefits, set up onboarding processes, and conduct orientation.
With so many people involved, there is a lot of communication and notes that are distributed across individual emails, memory, and notebooks. For this reason alone, you should sign up for an applicant tracking system. But there are a lot more reasons that justify the use of an applicant tracking system.
A typical staffing agency commission is about 20% of the first-year salary, so there are definitely pros and cons of using a staffing firm.
Here is an article that discusses the benefits of using a staffing firm for your hiring.
Here is another article that discusses the difference between in-house recruiting and a staffing agency.
If you are a small company and you are willing to put in a little extra effort, you can save thousands of dollars in commissions. This is especially true for startup companies, which may not have a lot of cash to burn during the early stages.
Small businesses need an ATS as much or more than a large company. You don’t need to waste a second or a penny. You may never have had a careers page before, and having an ATS to help you create one could be a lifesaver.
With a small company applicant tracking system, like Recruiteze, you can post and publish your jobs to numerous job sites, including Indeed, ZipRecruiter, Google, LinkedIn, and a number of other job boards for free. This job posting and publishing is included in the monthly price of the applicant tracking system.
Most applicant tracking systems are mobile responsive, meaning you can use them on any device, which will help you optimize your hiring process to reach a broader range of candidates in a way they will actually respond to(most applicants use mobile devices at least some of the time to find a job).
We describe one of the benefits of a careers page designed with an ATS for small business on the page for our ATS, Recruiteze,
“Your custom responsive careers page and application allows candidates and customers easy access to information and creates a level of professionalism expected in today’s marketplace.”
There are so many ways an ATS will save you time. Applicant tracking systems can post and publish a new job to many online job boards in an instant. They can automatically send a considerate rejection letter to candidates you can’t hire, so you can provide a great candidate experience and still tackle everything you need to do.
If you have a partner who handles the hiring of candidates for certain jobs, the ATS can send them directly to that partner.
In one of our posts on recruitment productivity killers, we pointed out emails and candidate administration functions as two of the top 5 time sucks. These two areas are some of the primary focuses of applicant tracking systems.
An ATS will send automatic emails to candidates for rejections, invitations to interview, updates on job status, and more. It’ll also help you schedule interviews, prepare for interviews, organize candidate information, track candidate progress, and more.
As a recruiter, you will always have to deal with candidates. That will take lots of time, and it won’t be really productive. However, the more organized you are, the more efficient you will be. That is why ATS for small businesses is so crucial! The minimum amount of time is wasted.”
Here’s a quick example of benefits of using an ATS for small businesses to post and publish jobs:
- Post to multiple job boards with one click – With an online applicant tracking system that supports job publishing, you can post your job and also publish to all the popular job boards with a single click of a button.
- Save time – Since you do not create accounts with every popular job board and post them individually, you save at least 6 hours of time in the process.
- Employees’ time is better spent – Time is more valuable since it increases the productivity of the employees to do more useful things that help the bottom line.
- Receive applications in one place – When you post to the various job boards using an applicant tracking system all your applications come into the database of the applicant tracking system.
- Build your database – When you receive applications to your ats database, you are building a useful list of candidates. This can help in your future hiring.
- Automated acknowledgment – When you receive an application, an acknowledgment is automatically sent to the applicant. This shows you are a professional organization, this also saves you time responding to each and every applicant personally by automating this process.
This is another huge benefit for a small company. You save time, money, and increase your hiring efficiency.
Every organization uses a different hiring workflow. A workflow is a set of different stages that a candidate is taken through before your company makes a decision to either hire or reject. With Recruiteze, we have created numerous custom workflows for our clients.
For a small company a simple workflow could be:
- Application Received – As soon as a candidate applies to a job, the state could change to Application Received.
- Application Reviewed – Once the application is reviewed by a recruiter, the state can be changed to Application Reviewed. The candidate can be rejected after the review or proceed to the next step of phone screening.
- Phone Screen – During the phone screen, the recruiter evaluates the skills, experience, and communication fit for the position. The candidate can be interviewed after this step, or rejected.
- Interview – This can involve one or more interviews. The candidate can be selected for an offer or rejected at any step.
- Offer – If the applicant passes the interview phase, an offer can be extended.
- Candidate Accepted Offer – The state changes to accepted offer if the candidate accepts the offer.
- Candidate Declined Offer – The state changes to the declined offer if the candidate declines the offer.
- Rejected – A candidate can be rejected from any of the steps outlined above.
- Withdrew – The applicant can also withdraw the candidature at any time.
The outlined workflow is more commonly used among the small companies using Recruiteze applicant tracking system. A customizable workflow is very important for an applicant tracking system. All the hiring metrics can be derived from the workflow.
You can run reports like how many applications received, from which sources, how many were interviewed, how many were offered employment, how many were rejected and hired.
Based on everything mentioned above it is very obvious why businesses use ATS and why they are so cost-effective.
In a previous post on myths associated with applicant tracking systems, we highlighted this aspect of applicant tracking systems:,
Customers actually save money when they equip their organization with a modern Applicant Tracking System. The ATS will not only minimize the time and effort involved in the recruitment process but also boosts the efficiency of in-house teams without increasing the headcount of the HR team.”
Consider the money you are spending on talent acquisition drive without the software. Keep in mind this cost is due wherever you go for a recruitment drive which may be multiple times a year.
Poor hires cost a business a lot of money. Not only did you waste the investment you made with the original hire because they may not have even made you enough profit to cover the cost of hiring and training them, but your whole business saw a drop in productivity and reputation.
No business needs this, but small businesses can afford it even less.
Also, if you’ve got a lot of competition, you want to stand out among the crowd. If you can have a faster hire time and more options for candidates to apply to your jobs, you could tip the balance greatly in your favor. People will tell their friends and family, “if you want a job, try them”. They’ll hire in a week versus that company over there that never responded to me or hired me after a month.
Just imagine having to reply to every one of the 250 applicants that apply for a job. It can get pretty taxing. With an applicant tracking system, an automated acknowledgment goes out to each applicant with instructions and next steps. It also makes the company’s hiring process look far more efficient.
Also, at each step of the workflow, if proper email templates are set up, a personalized email can be sent out to the candidate with the click of a button. This saves a tremendous amount of repetitive time. It also streamlines the communication across everyone involved in the recruiting process.
Just imagine having to sift through spreadsheets and emails to find out feedback and notes. If all your notes and communication are maintained in an applicant tracking system, you will have all information about the candidate in one place, no need to sift through emails, spreadsheets, and notebooks.
If you are outsourcing the recruitment to a third party, you need to calculate additional costs as well.
The chances are good that the figure you just calculated is a lot higher than you actually expected.
Recruiting costs a lot of money, particularly when you factor in the not-so-obvious costs associated with training and rehiring employees. If you can optimize this process, your ATS will probably actually save you money, rather than being an additional cost.
The most likely pitfall you can run into with an ATS for a small business is that a poorly chosen ATS can be more hassle than it is worth. If you don’t understand it, pay for more features than you need, or have to get multiple applicant tracking systems because one doesn’t serve all your needs, you may find yourself more frustrated than helped.
Prepare to do some research. You’ll need to:
- learn the features applicant tracking systems offer.
- determine which features you have to have, would like to have, and don’t need.
- compare the features of different applicant tracking systems.
- compare the customer service and security policies of each ATS you consider.
- consider month-to-month billing rather than contracts.
- look for varying payment plans that will offer you only the features you need.
- try any free trials and demos offered to you.
Don’t assume the most popular or most feature-packed option is the best applicant tracking system for you. It may be much more than you need, in both functions and cost. If it’s too burdensome, you’ll probably stop using it.
Read our previous post on how to choose a small company applicant tracking system in which we cover several things you need to consider about your business when choosing an ATS.
Use free trials to learn for yourself what features do and to get a feel for an individual applicant tracking system. Also look into any demos offered. This way you can see the ATS in action and ask questions before purchasing.
You can’t skip on security. If your data is lost or hacked, it could be devastating for a small business. Some people have been put out of business because of the financial and reputation damages associated with a data hack.
Choose an ATS with options for you to change plans and customize it so the ATS can be as flexible as you are.
You might want to read reviews from users of applicant tracking systems you are considering. It will give you a user-end view of software and help you get an idea of what you may or may not like about it. If you’ve never used an ATS before, you can foresee problems similar businesses have and what they learned about choosing an ATS for their needs.