September 16, 2016

6 Factors to Consider During Your Applicant Tracking System Comparison

Written by
Jessica Barrett Halcom
Tags: HR

If you find yourself comparing applicant tracking systems (ATS), you probably work for one of three types of organizations: a small to mid-sized business, a staffing agency, or an enterprise. Each of these scenarios will have different needs and require a different set of features.

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As you navigate the myriad options available to you, it’s important to keep in mind those critical elements that will ultimately serve you and your applicants well. Let’s take a look at six important factors to consider during your applicant tracking system comparison.

1. Cost

Certainly one of the most important factors to consider is how the cost of your ATS will fit your budget. ATS vendors commonly set their subscription price based on the size of your company or the number of users, which is good for scalability. But the implementation and training fees of some larger systems can add a substantial amount to cost of ownership.

Other fees might include data migration, integrations/add-ons, custom development, and premium support. Be cautious and attentive as you uncover all of the different fees added above and beyond the base cost of the software itself.

2. Usability

Usability is critically important for everyone who will work inside of your ATS. In addition to recruiters, hiring managers, and interviewers, internal and external applicants will be using it as well. This includes virtually everyone within your company, and those who wish to someday work there.

Having an intuitive system can make the difference between a system that impacts results and one that people avoid using. Outside of your HR team (who will manage with the system the majority of the time), other users will receive very little training, so be wary of products with a high learning curve.

3. Customer Support

Make sure vendors are willing and able to back their product with accessible customer support, both technical and non. Remember that you’re the customer, no matter how complex the support dynamic seems. Will configuration changes require a trained product specialist? Will support agents be in another time zone? Available 24/7? Available through chat, email, phone, and social media?

Some larger, more complex systems may necessitate in-house support, or at least an individual from the IT department assigned to ATS management. Smaller businesses, on the other hand, may prefer working with a cloud-based provider and a small, familiar team of support agents.

4. Career Site Management

An applicant tracking system is primarily a tool for managing the candidate experience. Think about how your system portrays your brand, and consider the options you have to update and change information so that you consistently send the right messages. Make sure your ATS gives the option to quickly and easily update new job postings, not just on your company website, but also with links to social media sites like and popular job boards like Indeed, Glassdoor, or CareerBuilder.

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5. Vendor Reputation

In case you haven’t noticed, there are an overwhelming number of ATS providers on the market, which means you’ll need to compare. There are several things to pay close attention to as you start your comparisons. Take a look at how long companies have been in business and how many people they employ. Notice the industries they serve, and ask whether or not they are similar to your own.

Don’t be afraid to ask for references or case studies from current clients. Do your research to find reviews. As you’re going through this process, ask other industry professionals and independent research firms which ATS system they would recommend.

6. Internal Candidates

One thing that “best places to work” do consistently well is provide an excellent employee experience. Having software that makes employees’ jobs easier and more efficient is always important, and your ATS should be no exception. When an employee is considering a transition, the internal opportunities available should be easy to find, easy to apply for, and easy to coordinate. Look for a system that can generate internal job postings and provides automation tools for scheduling interviews and logging communication.

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Having an ATS that supports your business both internally and externally is a critical component to your candidate and employee experience. Keep these six factors in mind as you decide which system best suits the needs of your organization. Ready to browse specific products? You can use our Product Selection Tool to run an applicant tracking system comparison based on your needs. 

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