How to choose an ATS for your HR department: ATS buying guide

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When done right, an applicant tracking system (ATS) can be a powerful recruiting tool. The question is, how do you go about choosing the right one?

With a landscape of ATS options that are constantly evolving, it can be hard to pick the right one and make sure you've made an informed decision. To ensure success, understand your objectives. This means paying attention to data points like feature sets, customer satisfaction ratings, and integrations with existing tools.

Additionally, consider customer support among the deciding factors – will your team receive adequate help if something goes wrong? Making all the necessary considerations in advance can help save you precious time down the line.

Choose wrong, and you'll end up doing the very thing the tool is supposed to support: wasting time.

With so many options on the market, any comparison guide quickly becomes outdated. So, we’ve compiled a framework for how to decide which ATS is right  for you

Here's what we'll cover:

  • What is an ATS: applicant tracking system Explained
  • Growth stage: How the size of your company impacts your needs
  • ATS features to consider: the basics
  • Security: How to keep your data safe when choosing an ATS partner
  • Implementation: Tips for a smooth roll-out
  • Integrations: How to get the most out of your ATS with other software
  • Evaluating ATS vendors: what to look for

What is an ATS?

An applicant tracking system (ATS) is a type of software used by recruiters and employers to collect, sort, scan, and store job applications.

ATS tools are designed to streamline the recruiting process by automating repetitive tasks, such as; posting job ads, screening resumes, scheduling interviews and tracking applicant progress through each stage of the hiring process.

Many ATSs also have built-in resume parsers that can extract data from resumes and automatically populate fields in the candidate’s profile. Additionally, some ATS systems can also be used to assess candidates using skills tests and performance-based assessments.

Alongside this, consider:

  1. Team Tailor
  2. Workable
  3. Freshteam
  4. Pinpoint
  5. Comeet
  6. Ashby

Recent data from TrustRadius highlights that although there are some market winners, the split between market shares is all somewhat similar. 

In addition to automating repetitive tasks and storing data about applicants, an ATS can also help you keep track of which positions have been filled and which ones are still open. This is especially helpful if your organisation experiences high turnover or frequently has open positions.

While Applicant Tracking Systems can be a helpful tool for managing large volumes of applications, they have come under criticism for being biased against certain groups of candidates, such as those with non-traditional work histories. In addition, some ATSs may use keywords to screen candidates, which can lead to qualified candidates being overlooked if their resumes do not contain the right keywords.

To avoid these biases, choosing an ATS that is configurable and allows you to control which factors are used to screen candidates is essential.

Growth stage: how the size of your company impacts your needs

When it comes to selecting an ATS, the size of your organisation is an essential factor. Before you start shopping around for a system, take some time to consider what level of functionality you need now and in the future.

Smaller organisations can get by with essential features such as applicant tracking and resume parsing, while larger organisations may need additional capabilities such as advanced analytics and reporting.

For rapidly growing companies, an ATS with scalability is critical — you want to ensure it can grow with your organisation. Consider the number of recruiters you plan to use the system and any other departments that could benefit from integrating with your ATS.

However, there are a few general indications that it may be time to consider investing in an ATS. For example, you spend a significant amount of time sifting through resumes and applications or need help keeping track of all your candidates. An ATS can help automate and streamline these processes.


Additionally, if you want to improve your candidate experience or make your hiring process more efficient, an ATS can be a valuable tool. Ultimately, whether or not to implement an ATS should be based on your specific needs and goals.

If you are a small business with only a few job openings each year, you may not need an ATS or prefer a less-feature-rich option. On the other hand, if you are a large enterprise with hundreds of job openings and a complex hiring process, you will likely need an ATS that is more robust and can handle a high volume of applicants.

ATS Features: the must-haves, the useful, the nice to have, bespoke

The price of many online HR tools depends on the features you require. The same is true for Applicant Tracking Systems, which can vary widely in terms of price and functionality.

To help you choose the proper ATS for your needs, we’ve compiled a list of essential and optional features to consider.

Essential ATS features: 

These are the core features that an ATS should have to manage the job application process effectively:

  • Candidate tracking: The ability to track and manage candidates through the hiring process, including resume submission, application Review, and interviews.
  • Job posting: The ability to post open positions and manage applications.
  • Resume parsing: The ability to extract relevant information from resumes and add it to the candidate's profile in the ATS.
  • Search and filtering: The ability to search and filter candidates based on specific criteria, such as skills or experience.
  • Communication tools: The ability to communicate with candidates through the ATS, including email and messaging.

Useful ATS features:

These are additional features that can enhance the functionality and effectiveness of an ATS:

  • Recruitment marketing: The ability to create and manage job postings on external job boards and social media platforms.
  • Video interviewing: The ability to conduct video interviews through the ATS.
  • Collaboration tools: The ability for multiple users to collaborate and share notes within the ATS.
  • Mobile compatibility: The ability to access and use the ATS on mobile devices.


These are additional features that may not be essential but can add convenience and enhance the user experience:

  • Candidate portal: This allows candidates to view and manage their applications and profiles within the ATS.
  • Customisation options: The ability to customise the appearance and layout of the ATS.
  • Translation tools: The ability to translate text within the ATS into different languages.
  • Gamification: Using game-like elements, such as points or badges, to motivate and engage candidates.

Specific-use case only:

These are features that may only be relevant for specific organisations or industries:

  • Compliance tracking: The ability to track and manage compliance with specific regulations, such as Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) requirements.
  • Integration with external systems: The ability to integrate with other HR systems, such as performance management or benefits administration.
  • Workflow automation: The ability to automate HR processes, such as employee onboarding or performance review.
  • Candidate assessment: The ability to assess candidates through assessments or tests within the ATS.


How to keep your data safe when choosing an ATS 

When it comes to HR data, security is always a top concern. When selecting an ATS, look for a vendor that takes data security seriously and has robust measures to protect your information.

Some things to look for include the following:

Encryption: Ensure your data is encrypted in transit and at rest. This will help to protect your data if there is a security breach.

Access control: Only give users the access they need to do their job. This will help to minimise the risk of unauthorised access to your data.

Two-factor authentication: This adds an extra layer of security by requiring users to enter a code from their phone or email in addition to their password.

Auditing: Choose an ATS that keeps track of all user activity, so you can easily audit and review any suspicious activity.

ISO 27001 Certification: This certification indicates that the vendor takes data security seriously and has the necessary controls to protect your information.

Customisation: How to tailor your ATS to your specific needs

Every organisation is different, and your ATS should be able to adapt to your unique needs. Look for an ATS that offers a high degree of customisation, so you can change the system as your needs evolve.

For instance, many HR department and teams use existing software, whether it be. Cloud-based, hybrid or on-premise, to manage their processes. Look for an ATS that integrates with existing systems to streamline workflows and gain access to your needed data.

Implementation: Ease of use

Using a new tool can be a significant change for any organisation, and while some confusion is typical, adjusting to a new tool should be manageable.

When looking for an ATS partner, see if you can demo or trial the tool before committing. This will allow you to see how it works and whether or not it's a good fit for your needs.

Check to see how much support is offered during the implementation process. A good vendor should help you every step of the way, from importing your data to training your staff on how to use the system.

Finally, ensure the vendor offers good customer support if you encounter any problems. Additional resources to look for are an active user community and helpful documentation, video walkthroughs and a knowledge base.

Your ATS should play nice with the other software in your tech stack. Look for an ATS that offers pre-built integrations with standard HR tools such as background checking, performance management, and learning management systems. If you already use several tools and are happy, it's worth checking to see if the ATS integrates with them before making the switch.

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