A businesswoman smiles encouragingly during a job interview at a female applicant.
An applicant tracking system can help organize and streamline your hiring process, from sourcing and screening candidates to scheduling interviews and following up with candidates. — Getty Images/SDI Productions

Finding job applicants is an ongoing challenge. The latest National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) report noted that “42% of small business owners (seasonally adjusted) reported job openings they could not fill in the current period.”

An applicant tracking system (ATS) helps companies manage the recruiting and hiring process while enhancing candidate experiences. Aside from being a central database, ATS software solutions can automate acquisition tasks and streamline communication. Learn what ATS software is and how it works, then explore the features, benefits, and examples.

Applicant tracking system: what it is, and how it works

An ATS is a technology platform that covers the entire pre-hire life cycle. Small businesses and hiring managers use ATS software to organize the hiring process, from sourcing and screening candidates to scheduling interviews and making offers. The platforms have searchable databases, meaning you can filter applications by skillsets or keywords to find candidates for an opening.

Small businesses use an ATS platform to facilitate workflows, such as:

  • Collecting job applications and resumes.
  • Organizing candidates according to experience or skills.
  • Tracking each applicant’s status in the system.
  • Automating first-stage outreach efforts.
  • Recording notes and interviews.
  • Creating job offers.

You can use an ATS to build a talent pipeline. When you have a job opening, enter your query in the ATS, and the software will sort through the resumes or applications. It pulls prospective candidates for you to review. Many ATS software solutions integrate with email and business phone systems, allowing you to connect with job seekers quickly.

[Read more: Experiencing a Hiring Skills Gap? How to Find Qualified Employees]

Features of an applicant tracking system

According to Aptitude Research, the most critical features companies identify when selecting a provider include “services, customer support, integration, and product capabilities.” Specifically, business leaders want to know how ATS software impacts recruiter, hiring manager, and candidate experiences.

Although recruitment and hiring software features differ, most ATS platforms offer the following:

  • Resume parsing: The software pulls data from resumes, such as academic background, work experience, contact information, and skills.
  • Search function: You can screen resumes by work history, keywords, skills, job titles, education, and more.
  • Multichannel sourcing: Many ATS solutions let you search for candidates and post new jobs on social media and job boards.
  • Integrations: Connect your hiring software to your company calendar or scheduling tools, email marketing platform, accounting program, or business phone system.
  • Reporting and analytics: See how your job postings perform, how long your hiring process takes, and other statistics to continually improve your recruiting methods.
  • Automation: Establish if-then scenarios to automate scheduling, interview reminders, and follow-ups.
  • Collaboration tools: Keep hiring managers and team leaders in the loop with in-app messaging tools.

Although 61% of small business owners were “hiring or trying to hire in July,” 23% said they had no qualified applicants, according to NFIB’s monthly jobs report.

Benefits of implementing applicant tracking software

Although 61% of small business owners were “hiring or trying to hire in July,” 23% said they had no qualified applicants, according to NFIB’s monthly jobs report. An ATS solution is invaluable for companies struggling to recruit better employees and meet hiring objectives. Indeed, Aptitude Research found that improving the quality of hires and speed and efficiency are the top two reasons business leaders invest in talent acquisition technology.

The benefits of ATS recruiting software include the ability to:

  • Automate administrative activities: Reduce manual tasks by auto-scheduling interviews, prescreening applicants, and auto-posting openings.
  • Improve the job candidate experience: ATS solutions hasten employer response times, offer scheduling flexibility, and provide status updates to each job seeker.
  • Decrease time to hire: Speed up your process by completing tasks from a single platform and analyzing where bottlenecks occur so you can continually improve your technique.
  • Attract more applicants: With keyword-rich job description templates, multichannel job postings, and polished, branded materials, an ATS helps keep your pipeline full.

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

Examples of applicant tracking systems

Vendors offer tools for small businesses with multichannel capabilities and artificial intelligence-powered features. You can use a stand-alone ATS platform or a human resources information system (HRIS) with built-in ATS software. In addition, some online payroll services provide an ATS. Along with full-service payroll, Gusto Plus users can access advanced hiring and onboarding tools, including Gusto’s ATS.

A few ATS examples include:

  • Rippling: As a unified management workforce platform, Rippling has robust automation capabilities, customizable email templates, and native scheduling tools. The Rippling Recruiting module provides access to over 25,000 job boards, and users can establish custom hiring workflows.
  • BambooHR: Review and communicate with job candidates from BambooHR’s iOS and Android hiring apps, or use its web-based HRIS software. You can share a job posting on ZipRecruiter, Indeed, LinkedIn, Facebook, and more with a few clicks.
  • JazzHR: Customize recruiting workflows and automate repetitive tasks with JazzHR. It syncs to your email, takes one click to post a new job to dozens of free boards, and lets you screen candidates by conducting prerecorded video interviews.
  • Bob: Although Bob isn’t a conventional ATS, it provides comprehensive workforce planning tools for midsized companies. The system helps businesses manage and track current and future roles, create hiring strategies, and visualize growth. Plus, it integrates with Jobvite, SmartRecruiters, Workable, and more.
  • Greenhouse: With an all-in-one recruiting and onboarding system, businesses can unify hiring operations. Greenhouse lets businesses post positions across over 1,000 large and niche job boards while automating outreach. It offers more than 40 standard reports, over 450 integrations, and mobile apps for iOS and Android devices.
  • ClearCompany: Automate standard recruiting tasks and leverage interviewing tools to save time and improve candidate experiences. ClearCompany offers video, text, and interview scheduling features, including text-to-apply. It connects businesses to hundreds of job boards and lets you create a branded career site.
  • Workable: AI-powered sourcing tools and one-click posting to more than 200 boards help companies reach applicants quickly. Workable has a drop-and-drop career page builder and an engaging employee referral platform, which is ideal for capitalizing on your professional network. It automates your hiring pipeline, offer letters, and approval process.

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.

CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here.

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