A cafe owner and a prospective employee sit at a table and two chairs in front of a window. The man smiles at the woman and holds her resume in his left hand.
If most of your time is devoted to searching for, interviewing, and onboarding new employees, an applicant tracking system can automate many aspects of the recruiting process. — Getty Images/Hispanolistic

Large corporations often use an applicant tracking system (ATS) to automate hiring processes. But small businesses spend nearly 30 hours over one or two months just to recruit one new employee. The best ATS platforms can organize job candidate information and improve applicant experiences.

Cloud-based ATS vendors offer various subscriptions and fees, making them affordable short or long-term solutions for small companies. Learn how an ATS can help your business and explore four options.

Does your small business need ATS software?

Over 40% of business owners had job openings they couldn’t fill, according to October’s National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) report. Indeed, 90% of those trying to hire or hiring said they had “few or no qualified applicants.” And it’s not for lack of effort. Small businesses (SMBs) spend six or more hours searching for job candidates weekly.

It takes dozens more hours to reach, screen, and interview applicants. Nearly 90% of business owners report being directly involved with recruiting, screening, and interviewing applicants. Entrepreneurs spend valuable time handling human resources (HR) instead of sale-generating activities.

ATS software alleviates many issues business owners face. A company can post a job ad to dozens of hiring boards with a couple of clicks. The platform centralizes all applicant information and communications. It allows multiple people to review candidates and leave notes.

Beyond improving recruiting workflows, ATS solutions can impact the applicant’s experience. The systems ensure timely replies with automated responses, and some allow candidates to schedule their interview or answer screening questions online.

[Read more: How to Build a Talent Pipeline]

What ATS features support small companies?

Modern recruitment efforts must go further than a job post, especially since hiring is something your small business will do repeatedly. ATS platforms typically offer several subscription tiers with plans for occasional or consistent hiring. Lower-priced packages support job posting and alerts, whereas more expensive versions include advanced automation tools.

The following ATS features can streamline your hiring workflows:

  • Automatic job posting: Instead of going to dozens of job boards and uploading your ad individually, an ATS system automatically posts it to many sites with one click.
  • Customizable job applications: Use the latest best practices and design a compliant, digital-ready app with built-in editing tools.
  • Text alerts: With ATS software, you don’t need to check your email continually. Sign up for notifications to learn when an applicant applies to your job post.
  • Email templates: Save time and keep messaging consistent with ready-made emails for different circumstances.
  • Candidate database: If you come across a qualified applicant, but they’re not the right fit for the current opening, use the contact management tools to store their details.
  • Career page builder: Whether you want to add a page to your website or create a separate landing page, most ATS platforms have design and hosting capabilities.
  • Employee referral management: Create an effective staff referral program with an employee portal and administrative dashboard.
  • Self-scheduling capabilities: When a potential candidate applies, don’t wait to get an interview scheduled. Connect your calendar and applicants can use the ATS program’s scheduling system.
  • Hiring dashboard: Ensure progress by following the stages of recruiting pipelines for each active job.
  • Screening tools: ATS platforms may offer text and video screening options that can automatically prequalify (or disqualify) applicants.

ATS software alleviates many issues business owners face. A company can post a job ad to dozens of hiring boards with a couple of clicks.

How much does an ATS system cost?

A few vendors offer free ATS solutions with basic features like job post distribution and customizable career pages. Paid plans start at $30 monthly for Zoho Recruit or $49 for JazzHR monthly with annual billing.

Enhanced hiring tools range from $149 to over $400 monthly. Alternatively, some full-service payroll services like Gusto have ATS tools on certain subscriptions.

[Read more: Hiring Best Practices: How to Compare Job Candidates Objectively]

BambooHR: A total HR solution

BambooHR is a complete HR platform. It offers tools to collect and maintain information throughout your employees’ lifecycle. More than 30,000 companies use BambooHR, and over 80% are small and medium-sized businesses.

The ATS program comes with BambooHR Advantage and includes a full set of onboarding and offboarding features. BambooHR integrates with over 125 third-party applications. For additional functionality, you can choose from several add-ons, such as payroll, benefits administration, time tracking, and performance management. You must contact the company for a quote.

BambooHR offers two subscriptions:

  • Essentials: BambooHR Essentials provides an employee record database, benefits tracking tools, time-off management, company calendar, and staff directory.
  • Advantage: BambooHR Advantage adds many features, including an entire ATS program. It includes job openings and career pages, autoposting to job boards, candidate profiles, and autopopulated email templates.

Bullhorn: Recruiting software for staffing agencies

Bullhorn is a cloud-based ATS and customer relationship management (CRM) platform. It has been in business for over 20 years. The company is headquartered in Boston and has offices worldwide. More than 10,000 clients use Bullhorn, and the majority started as small teams of two or three people.

The four ATS subscriptions help staffing agencies place candidates faster and streamline operations. More than 100 technology partners are integrated into Bullhorn. Clients can choose from several add-on solutions, such as recruitment automation, ad hoc reporting, and onboarding. Pricing is available by contacting the company.

Bullhorn’s four subscriptions include the following:

  • Team: The base plan provides applicant, job, and company management, candidate sourcing, job posting, resume parsing, a career portal, email integration and tracking, mass mailing, and standard reporting.
  • Corporate: This package adds unlimited data storage, API (application programming interface) access, LinkedIn integration, an inbox productivity tool, custom fields and workflows, and an NPS (Net Promoter Score) survey tool.
  • Enterprise: At this level, staffing agencies receive advanced reporting dashboards, pulse relationship intelligence, pipeline management tools, activity goals and sales quotas, and lead and opportunity tracking.
  • Enterprise Plus: Bullhorn Enterprise Plus has everything from the Enterprise package but adds advanced reporting objects and visualization.

[Read more: 6 Hiring Tips for When Your Business Is Growing]

JazzHR: Full-featured ATS software

JazzHR’s recruiting software supports unlimited users, which is ideal for collaborating on hiring decisions. The company has more than 10,000 clients and was launched in 2009. It focuses on SMBs and offers a quick implementation process, allowing businesses immediate access to the system.

Aside from ATS plans, JazzHR has several add-ons. For instance, JazzHR can create a custom career page for a one-time fee or handle updates for a monthly charge. Other add-ons include bulk emails, digital offers and e-signatures, advanced visual reports, and candidate texting.

JazzHR subscriptions include the following:

  • Hero: It costs $49 monthly with annual billing for custom job applications, single-click posting to job boards for up to three jobs simultaneously, email alerts, resume parsing, email templates, video screening integrations, and document storage.
  • Plus: For $239 monthly on an annual plan, you get employee referral management, a candidate contacts manager, autosend emails, screening tools, evaluation templates, applicant self-scheduling, and informational reports.
  • Pro: It costs $359 monthly with annual billing for Zoom and e-signatures integration, an offer letter generator, and advanced reporting tools.

Workable: Software for sourcing and employee management

Workable is an all-in-one platform to attract, hire, onboard, and manage employees. It launched in 2012 and has helped over 27,000 companies hire more than 1.5 million people. Workable stands out for its customer support, offering response times within 25 seconds by phone or chat. It also has thousands of tutorials and hiring templates.

The three subscriptions include dozens of features. You can distribute your job post to over 200 job boards, set up anonymized screening, and allow candidates to schedule interviews. All plans support custom hiring pipelines and have a new hire onboarding portal. In addition, Workable offers a 15-day free trial.

Workable’s plans include:

  • Starter: It costs $149 monthly for businesses with up to 50 employees wanting to post up to two jobs simultaneously. Starter allows 200 artificial intelligence (AI) sourcing profile views per month.
  • Standard: Pricing is based on company size. A business with one to 20 workers will pay $299 monthly with annual billing for unlimited active jobs and 1,000 AI sourcing profile views per month.
  • Premier: For a company with one to 20 employees, it costs $499 monthly with annual billing and includes unlimited active jobs, 20,000 AI sourcing profile views monthly, and a hiring plan with requisition approvals.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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