February 28, 2017

Recruiting Software vs. Applicant Tracking Software: What’s the Difference?

Written by
Rachel Blakely
Tags: HR

To help your business grow, you need to find qualified employees. Finding and hiring new employees takes significant time and energy. You might have to sort through hundreds of resumes before you can fill an open position.  

If the hiring process gives you a headache, you might be looking for an easier way to track and manage candidates. Consider using an online tool like an applicant tracking system or online recruiting software to help with this process.

Believe it or not, there are differences between the two. The software you choose depends on your particular business needs.

Applicant Tracking Systems

An applicant tracking system (ATS) is a software application that speeds up the hiring process. A good applicant tracking system provides the ability to sort and manage candidates, as well as post job openings, look at resumes, and find the most qualified candidates to interview.

ATS could save you a substantial amount of time and energy when looking for employees. Here are some ways an ATS can handle your business needs:

Post Job Openings

Applicant tracking systems let you add positions to public job boards and social media to attract qualified candidates. The ATS might also help you streamline the process of receiving applications, since you can sort them based on your preferred criteria.

Import Resumes

When you receive resumes from candidates, you can import them directly into your ATS. Instead of stacking paper resumes on your desk or having dozens of emails with file attachments cluttering your inbox, ATS makes all resumes easily accessible and organized. The software will automatically check for duplicate records from a person or company.

Parse Resumes

Where a resume import only pulls in the original resume file, resume parsing lets you extract information like skill sets, experience, and contact information. Parsing takes information from each resume and enters it in the same format to help you compare qualifications.

For example, you’re hiring a new engineer at your firm. In your job posting, you state that candidates must have at least a master’s degree to be considered for the job. You receive three resumes, with each candidate having different levels of education:

  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Master’s degree
  • PhD

Your ATS’s parsing feature can automatically show you which applications to disregard. If the new employee needs to have a Master’s degree, you would not ask the candidate with a Bachelor’s degree to interview. If you receive 150 applications for one position, this feature can save you hours every week by eliminating the need to sort resumes manually.

Track Candidates

Track multiple candidates in an open job order. Tracking candidates lets you see who you are considering for each open position, and where they sit in the pipeline. When you’re ready, mark if a candidate is offered a job or not. This simplifies the hiring process and lets you hang onto promising resumes for future job positions.

Typically, buyers can choose to implement applicant tracking software as stand-alone solution, or paired with a broader software suite, like a human capital management (HCM) platform or even CRM software, in some cases.

Recruiting Software

Where ATS focuses solely on tracking applicants, recruiting software helps connect candidates with their clients. As a result, recruiting software includes ATS features in addition to scheduling, email marketing, multiple users, boolean search, and mobile capabilities. If you work for a staffing agency or as a dedicated recruiter, consider using online recruiting software.

Most modern recruitment software pairs applicant tracking with customer relationship management (CRM).

As a recruiter, you should be able to use web-based recruitment software anywhere, anytime, as long as you have an internet connection. If the vendor offers a native mobile app, even better.

Take a look at some of the functions of basic online recruiting software:

Applicant Tracking

If you purchase online recruitment software, you gain all the benefits of an applicant tracking system in addition to features that are specifically for recruiters. This gives you the ability to:

  • Post job openings
  • Import resumes
  • Parse resumes
  • Track candidates

Advanced ATS Features

Applicant tracking software alone might not be enough to meet the needs of a recruiter. As a recruiter, you help fill jobs for all kinds of industries — not just one particular business. The job orders you fill could be anything from law firms to schools.

Online recruitment software tracks applicants on a larger scale. You can post job openings for multiple businesses and parse and sort resumes for different industries.


With online recruiting software, it’s easier to keep in touch with your clients and job candidates. Online recruitment software lets you schedule workplace activities, so you can work out of one system and avoid losing information. Schedule events like:

  • Phone calls
  • Emails
  • Interviews
  • Candidate start dates

Email Marketing

Email marketing features let you send out templated to multiple candidates, based on custom triggers. For example, you could email 200 possible candidates letting them know that a business is looking for a new salesperson, or send an automated follow-up to any new applicant who submits their resume. Using a recruitment solution with built-in email marketing will help you fill job orders faster and keep candidates engaged throughout the process.

Multiple Users

Online recruitment software is designed to connect recruiters, candidates, and clients. Many recruitment systems allow for multiple users and custom access controls/user permissions. If given (limited) access, other recruiters and stakeholders gain visibility into your candidate pipeline. The ability to exchange candidate information within the software helps improve collaboration between job decision-makers and, again, speed the process of filling job orders.

Boolean Search

Many online recruiting software programs have a boolean search feature. With a boolean search, you can quickly find applicable candidates that are already in your database.

Search position titles, areas of study, skills or locations, and the boolean search will bring up resumes that match the exact keywords you enter. You can also specify keywords you do not want resumes to contain.

For example, you’re looking for a marketer who can work with Adobe InDesign. If you use the boolean search, it will bring up candidates who list marketing and InDesign on their resume.

Which Should You Choose?  

Both applicant tracking systems and recruiting software tools can help kick your hiring process into full gear. Instead of wasting time reading and organizing resumes one-at-a-time, let the software do the hard work.

If you’re a business owner or HR manager for a small company, consider using a simple applicant tracking system to speed up the hiring process. If you’re a full-time recruiter wanting to streamline the hiring process and fill job orders faster for your clients, consider using online recruiting software. You’ll get all the advantages of an applicant tracking system, in addition to customer relationship management, email marketing, and collaboration features.

If you still can’t seem to find those top-notch employees (even with the right software tools), it might be time to get help from a recruiter or staffing agency.

Rachel Blakely is a content writer at the Patriot Software Company, which is the parent company of Top Echelon, LLC and Patriot Software, LLC. Top Echelon offers recruiting software with both an applicant tracking system and CRM to help recruiters make more job placements. Patriot Software provides affordable online accounting and payroll software for small businesses.

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