Staffing Tech 101: How Do Applicant Tracking Systems Work?

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Welcome to Staffing Tech 101. In this series, we’re capturing some frequently asked questions about staffing technology and its benefits for firms. Next up: how do applicant tracking systems work?


True to their name, applicant tracking systems track the activity of your candidates, automating all of the stages that would otherwise require manual data entry. A good ATS will track all activity from the candidate intake through final placement, freeing up your recruiters to focus on building relationships. Because the applicant tracking system is capturing all of this data in real-time, you can also use it for real-time reporting to learn how to improve your processes.

What Do Applicant Tracking Systems Do?

Before we answer how applicant tracking systems work, you might need a refresher as to what applicant tracking systems do.

True to their name, applicant tracking systems track the activity of your candidates, automating all of the stages that would otherwise require manual data entry. A good ATS will track all activity from the candidate resume in your inbox all the way through final placement (and beyond) freeing up your recruiters to focus on relationships. Because the applicant tracking system is capturing all of this data in real-time, you can also use it for real-time reporting to learn how to improve your processes.

How Do Applicant Tracking Systems Work: 6 Key Components

Applicant tracking systems are a critical part of a successful recruiter’s toolkit and each one offers unique features and benefits. Below, we’ll cover how applicant tracking systems work throughout the recruitment process, including:

Candidate Intake

Usually, the first step in the recruitment process is to bring candidates into the applicant tracking system.  Most ATS platforms will offer multiple ways to do this, including importing from a job board or resume parsing,

If the ATS integrates directly with your job board, you can easily import candidates into the ATS in just a few clicks, ensuring all of their information is added to your database without having to manually copy and paste information from one place to another. 

Another method of candidate intake is resume parsing, where a resume is automatically converted and imported into your ATS.  Specific candidate information—name, email address, phone number—is imported from the resume file into fields within your ATS, allowing you to easily search, filter, and access that specific information about a candidate in just a few clicks.

Since the ATS houses all of your candidate records and data, the ability to easily search for and find important candidate data is a crucial function of any applicant tracking system. Most applicant tracking systems offer a search function that allows you to search for any record – candidate, client, job, etc. – by inputting a name, email, or other identifying data into a search bar or field. From the search results, you can click directly into any record or refine your search to dive deeper into your database. 

A robust ATS organizes your search results based on relevance or recency and offers advanced keyword search to help you find exactly what you are looking for. 

Client Management

Managing clients throughout the hiring process is vital in ensuring a successful placement and an overall great candidate and client experience.  Applicant tracking systems can not only help maintain client relationships but can also help streamline tasks during the recruitment process to allow for more time on relationship management in general. 

From tracking email conversations to keeping a record of all notes against a client record, your applicant tracking system plays a key role in client management by housing important client information and making it easy for recruiters, account managers, or leadership to view that information and use it to make important decisions about the business.

Candidate Placement

Another key part of answering the question of how do applicant tracking systems work is diving into how to successfully place a candidate in their new role using the applicant tracking system.  After the interviews are complete, the applicant tracking system enables you to move the candidate through the process to ensure all necessary information is gathered, references are checked, documents are received, and the candidate is ready to start their new job. 

Reporting

Not only does the applicant tracking system organize and manage candidate and client data to ensure a streamlined hiring process, but it also tracks and compiles data in real-time, allowing you to report on critical KPIs in just a few clicks. Since the ATS serves as a single source of truth for most teams, it should be viewed as the central repository for all key business metrics. 

From large-scale KPIs such as gross margin to more involved metrics such as job coverage and win rate, your ATS is filled with valuable information about your candidates, clients, and business as a whole. By diving into these metrics, you can make informed decisions about your organization to ultimately achieve your business goals.

What Makes a Good Applicant Tracking System?

A good applicant tracking system is more than the sum of its parts. That said, some features are particularly important to success.  We surveyed our customers to find out which features they can’t live without.

  • Notes: Every interaction you have with a candidate or client counts, so everything should be in your ATS. Add notes on a record after an initial conversation or second candidate interview to stay organized and keep your team up-to-date.
  • Tearsheets: Use tearsheets to organize your records into intuitive categories, such as “Top Sales Candidates” or “Available Engineers”. Now when you have a job to fill, you can take action immediately.
  • Submission Lists: Submission lists provide your team with visibility into your candidate submissions and open jobs. Filter the list to quickly see relevant information like candidate status and job status.
  • Email Integration: With email integration, you can see all the relevant information about your candidate right in one place, allowing you to add notes, parse resumes, or attach files without leaving your inbox.

What to invest in an Applicant Tracking System? Check out the ATS Buyer’s Guide for everything you need to know to make a worthwhile investment in your staffing firm’s future and request a personalized demo of Bullhorn’s ATS & CRM.

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