From lecturers to campus maintenance, we know university recruitment teams are handling a vast range of roles.

We also know that hiring the best talent – across all areas – is essential to upholding an outstanding academic and pastoral reputation.

So where does an ATS (Applicant Tracking System) fit into this? Today we’re focusing on three key tools every Higher Education hiring team needs in their arsenal.



  1. Automated reference requests

Collecting references can be a significant drain on time and resources, particularly for academic positions.

An ATS designed for university recruitment teams should provide automated reference requests. And it should work something like this…

You can trigger the reference collection from within your ATS. This automatically sends a reference request to the referee’s email address. Reminder emails can also be automatically generated at certain points throughout the process.


“[Automated reference collection] has saved us about 0.5 fte resources, whilst improving the customer experience for referees…I can’t now conceive how we ever got by without it!”

 – University of York


The referee can then complete the reference via an online form, which feeds back into your Applicant Tracking System. What’s more, you should be able to configure different types of reference request for your different roles – so you can configure bespoke reference processes for academic, operational, support vacancies and more.

Crucially, all communication and data takes place within the ATS, so it’s efficient, connected and secure.


  1. A Hiring Manager Portal

As a Higher Education establishment, it’s likely you have a wide range of internal stakeholders involved (albeit perhaps reluctantly at times!) in your hiring process.

A powerful ATS for universities should provide tools to support your Hiring Managers during the recruitment journey. How about a dedicated Hiring Manager Portal, for example?

Applicant Tracking Systems can appear complex at first glance, especially those with high levels of functionality. Our Hiring Manager Portal has been developed specifically for non-technical or ‘casual’ users – who should require very little to no training.



Designed to be as simple and intuitive as possible, Hiring Managers can view candidates at a glance, shortlist and comment, and manage interview schedules.

Recruitment teams often notice a significant reduction in admin and workload when Hiring Managers are engaged with the recruitment process. When they are confident using technology like an ATS, and feel empowered to do so, Hiring Managers can often drive key elements, such as shortlisting and interview management.

For more on this, check out this inspiring case study from Lincolnshire County Council. The council has empowered 300+ Hiring Managers to self-serve, freeing up the recruitment team to work on more strategic, value-add activities.


  1. A pre-employment checks module

Over the years, we’ve noticed lengthening gaps between when a candidate is offered a role, and when they begin their first day.

Today, more so than ever, the competition for talent is fierce – and so it’s crucial to ensure university HR and Recruitment teams can complete pre-employment and onboarding actions quickly and effectively.

We’ve also heard from clients that this pre-first day period is traditionally when information begins to be processed outside of the ATS. New starter data is often collected and managed in spreadsheets, resulting in increased administration, a higher risk of user error and less security.

So, what’s the solution? Well, often Applicant Tracking System functionality stops at the point of hire. Some however, like Hireserve ATS, provide a pre-employment checks module.

Hirechecks is designed to help in-house recruitment teams to collect, record and store new-starter data and actions.

From recording evidence of Right to Work checks, to assigning tasks to internal stakeholders, Hirechecks enables a university recruitment team to keep track of all new starter and onboarding processes. This can significantly reduce the gap between offer and first day, reducing the risk of counter-offers and losing talent.



These are just three of many ATS tools we’d recommend to university HR and Recruitment teams.


Each tool should significantly reduce administration during key stages of your hiring process, in turn lowering associated costs and resource.

Crucially, each Higher Education establishment is different, and you’ll have your own unique and potentially complex recruitment needs – not to mention budget considerations! So if you are considering a new Applicant Tracking System (whether your first or a replacement), we would urge you to look for highly flexible software that can support you long term.

If you’re a university and think you need a recruitment software refresh, why not talk to us? We have over two decades (yes, that makes us feel a tad old!) worth of experience in the Higher Education space, and work with organisations such as Cranfield University, Liverpool John Moores University, the University of Aberdeen and many, many more – both in the UK and internationally.


About the author

Tristan Potter

From candidate experience to flexible working, and from supporting graduates to ATS reports; Hannah's written it all over the years! Hannah has contributed to publications as diverse as The Guardian, UK Recruiter and University Business. She is also the wordsmith behind our whitepapers and guides, from GDPR to Employee Volunteering.