Applicant tracking systems and candidate relationship management systems are two popular solutions that can help your in-house recruitment team streamline the hiring process. But what are the similarities and differences between these two types of software? And which one is more suited to your organisation’s recruitment needs?

Here’s everything you need to know about CRM and ATS software and how to choose between the two.

ATS Explained

An applicant tracking system or ATS is one type of software used for recruitment. It streamlines and automates tasks across the entire hiring process, from the moment the job listing goes live to employment contract e-signatures and onboarding. As the name suggests, one of the key features of an ATS is its ability to organise and track candidates’ movement through the hiring process, making it easier for recruiters and hiring managers to screen and evaluate candidate profiles, schedule interviews, and quickly perform background checks and reference requests.

Benefits of an ATS

Save time for recruitment teams

Automating many aspects of your hiring workflow, ATS software allows recruiters to focus on hiring top talent instead of getting bogged down in admin. The time-saving benefits of an ATS start from the moment you’re ready to publish a vacancy — a good applicant tracking system will integrate with job boards and social media platforms like LinkedIn to automatically publish your job ad.

And it doesn’t stop there; an applicant tracking system can save time and speed up your time to hire throughout the process. There’s no need to spend hours sifting through CVs when automated candidate screening can shortlist the best applicants in the blink of an eye. Plus, by making it easier than ever to share promising profiles with hiring managers and other hiring stakeholders in the click of a button there are no more delays in the process.

In short, an applicant tracking system makes recruiting more efficient, freeing up your time to focus on evaluating the best candidates instead of wasting hours sorting through less promising ones.

Take all the hassle out of interview scheduling

Successfully slotting interviews into the calendars of busy hiring managers and candidates can be a frustrating and time-consuming process. It’s even more frustrating when after all that hassle making everyone’s diary sync up the candidate fails to show up at all!

These days, the best applicant tracking systems have in-built interview scheduling tools, allowing internal stakeholders to upload their availability and candidates to select their own interview slots with ease. Not only does this save valuable time for in-house recruiting teams, but it also reduces the likelihood of candidate no-shows, boosting efficiency throughout the recruitment process.

A single tool for the whole recruitment process

Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of using an applicant tracking system is that it is one single system through which recruiters and hiring managers can complete a wide range of tasks. An applicant tracking system is your one stop shop for all steps of the hiring process.

This isn’t just convenient for everyone on the hiring side; an ATS also improves the candidate experience by allowing for easy candidate self-service and keeping all information in one place. Applicants just log into the career portal and can manage their application, update their information, schedule interviews, and much more.

In summary, an applicant tracking system brings simplicity and efficiency to an otherwise lengthy and admin-heavy process for everyone involved.

CRM Explained

Although candidate relationship management or CRM software has some overlap with applicant tracking systems, these systems tend to have a slightly different purpose. While an applicant tracking system tends to be used for the process of hiring and selecting candidates, a CRM system can be used for building talent pools of active and passive candidates, delivering targeted messaging to potential applicants, and building relationships between individuals and employer brand. Overall, CRMs tend to be more aligned with recruitment marketing and candidate sourcing aspects of talent acquisition, and are don’t have the functionalities of an ATS for screening or interviewing candidates.

Benefits of a CRM

Build your talent pipeline

With a CRM, recruiters can build a database of all potential candidates for future roles, including job seekers who have expressed their interest in the organisation, past applicants, university leavers, and even current employees. Creating a searchable database with these high value candidates makes it easier to find ideal candidates for open positions as quickly and effectively as possible. Candidates may be categorised based on their skills, location, and experience level to ensure that the right talent can be matched with the right roles.

Keep candidates engaged with the employer brand

Another use for CRMs is to deliver targeted communications to different groups within your talent pool, effectively keeping them engaged with the employer brand. This keeps your organisation at the forefront of their minds and helps nurture relationships with talent. In particular, this approach is useful for university graduates and Gen Z candidates who are likely to be great candidates in the future but may need a little more experience first. Maintaining a relationship with these candidates makes it more likely that they will apply for future roles once their CV better matches the experience levels necessary.

Who are ATS and CRM tools for?

CRM and ATS software can be beneficial for a wide range of organisations, regardless of size or industry. Any organisation that receives a significant volume of job applications or is actively recruiting for multiple positions can benefit from using an applicant tracking system. Similarly, any organization that wants to build and maintain relationships with potential candidates, create a talent pipeline, or improve their candidate experience can benefit from using a CRM system. This includes organizations of all sizes, from small startups to large multinational corporations, as well as organizations in a wide range of industries, from finance to healthcare to retail.

So, what do you need: ATS or CRM?

CRM and ATS software are both useful tools for in-house recruiters. While a CRM can be a great addition to your candidate sourcing and recruitment marketing strategy, an ATS can enhance and streamline the hiring process. Together, they can be transformational to your team’s efforts.

So, do you really need to go out and purchase both ATS and CRM software? Not at all. Hireserve ATS is an applicant tracking system with all additional features of CRM software built in. As well as the essential tools for screening and selecting candidates, Hireserve ATS is packed full of capabilities for managing candidate relationships and experience.

For example, let’s take a look at the talent pool management functionalities of Hireserve ATS. Usually only found within a separate CRM, Hireserve ATS’ talent pool management tools allow you to build and maintain relationships with the most promising passive candidates, past applicants, and university graduates all in one easy-to-use system. Thanks to the advanced database tagging, it’s easy for in-house recruiters to segment the talent pool based on skills, experience, location, role type, and more. Plus, candidates can easily update their profiles via the candidate portal, helping them stay in control of their data and keep your database up to date!

To learn more about how Hireserve applicant tracking system can enhance your hiring process, take a look at our list of benefits. Are you interested in trying out Hireserve ATS yourself? Request a demo or contact us today.


About the author

Tristan Potter

Tristan has a decade's worth of experience writing content and copy for organisations across Bristol and the Southwest of England. He has written on a diverse range of topics, including technology, philosophy, politics, and recruitment. His writing has appeared in The Drum, HR Grapevine, and The Guardian, among other publications. He joined Hireserve in March 2022.