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Critical Features of an Effective Applicant Tracking System (ATS)

Critical Features of an Effective Applicant Tracking System (ATS)

Applicant Tracking System Essentials

HR departments and small businesses alike face major timing issues when trying to fill positions. The time involved to write, post and receive responses to job openings involves many manual tasks, but the recruitment process becomes easier when using an automated system. Here we discuss the benefits of applicant tracking systems (ATS) and the critical features you should look for when choosing one.


What Is an Applicant Tracking System?

An ATS streamlines the hiring process by collecting information and then sorting it based on the criteria you set for your ideal candidate. This makes it easier to sort through resumes received and narrow down the best prospects efficiently. A good ATS also allows you to store and search resumes received for future use while making it easier for candidates to apply.

How Do Applicant Tracking Systems Work?

Applicant tracking systems work in a few different ways:

Collect, sort and store resumes: Using criteria set by your hiring team, the system makes it easier for candidates to apply. It then collects applications, sorts them based on that same criterion to filter out the wheat from the sheaf and then allows recruiters to view the suitable resumes using a process that suits their needs.

Resume search: Recruiters can also choose to store resumes that might not meet the requirements for the specific job applied for but be suitable for the company’s needs. These resumes can then be searched using specific criteria for future job openings.  

Viewing applications: Recruiters can view applications with a quick glance with systems that highlight key qualifications. They can choose the applications they feel are most appealing and read in more detail based on the top skilled and qualified candidates the system shows them.

Rankings: In some cases, the ATS “ranks” applications based on the job description using a scoring system matching the exact job description to the resume. This further narrows down prospects for recruiters to consider.

Keywords: Recruiters can also use keywords to filter applications based on things such as skills, education, previous job titles, software, credentials, etc. It is important for recruiters to think carefully about the keywords they use to avoid screening out exceptional candidates.

Candidate tools: ATSs also offer candidate portal features such as self-service FAQ sections to attract better candidates while reducing calls to HR.

These are some of the basic ways applicant tracking systems work to help sort and identify ideal candidates.

What Features are Critical to an Effective ATS?

ATS systems should make life easier. They streamline and automate the recruitment process using HR best practices, so you not only attract and hire top talent but also start to build an extensive talent database. As a result, you can fill positions quickly as openings come up. Therefore, critical features for an effective ATS should include:

Applicant Tracking

Automatically comparing candidate eligibility against a checklist of suitable criteria streamlines the interview process. You can quickly create a list of prospects you can reach out to immediately before they are hired by a competitor. You can find qualified candidates without time-consuming resume screening so your team becomes far better at filling roles with suitable candidates.

Ease of Application

On the flip side, you also want to make it easier for candidates to apply. Effective systems, therefore, allow candidates to enter their own information into a self-service model that then automatically adds the information directly into your employee database for future reference. This cuts out several steps not only in the recruitment process but also for your onboarding process.

Candidate Criteria

Your ATS should make it easier to understand your applicants at a glance. To do so, you need to easily define the employment metrics to evaluate talent. Not only should the system allow you to define the metrics, but also collect data available for future analysis.


Some ATS software misses the mark because they don’t integrate with your employee database. As a result, they fail to meet both your recruitment and HR needs. A strong ATS solution fills gaps and allows for smooth integration that collect, manage, sort and track employee data from initial application through separation. This reduces manual, time-consuming tasks such as double keying employee data.

Web-based Tracking

Web-based applicant tracking allows candidates to apply online making it easier to submit their resumes for your consideration. The resumes received are filtered to quickly move suitable candidates through the hiring cycle.

Automated Emails

ATS portals that include email-based registration send out automatic notifications, so the candidate always knows the status of their application. This is key as it avoids losing the candidates you are seriously considering due to the slow response time caused by manual processes. 

You can send out timely interview requests or offer letters further down the line. Additionally, your team can access critical recruiting and applicant information on any device, at any time. This entire process ensures candidates can’t slip through the cracks.


Customization is also critical as it allows you to either create a new hiring system or improve your existing process by eliminating manual tasks.

Finding an ATS solution for your organization is easier when you can narrow down your choices based on these critical features.

About the Author

Kayla is the Marketing Manager at Paypro Corporation overseeing all inbound and outbound marketing and sales efforts. She has 7+ years of experience working within the B2B and SaaS based solutions space and thrives on creating messaging and campaigns that introduce products and services to those who need them most.

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