You join us at the first stage of a three-part journey: the path to finding your perfect Applicant Tracking System (ATS) partner.

Let’s start with the blind date. When you first hit the internet for your preliminary research, it’s akin to that moment when you walk into a restaurant with no idea who you might meet there.

The ATS landscape is a crowded one, with eager start-ups jostling for space alongside well-established players. Whilst they may look or sound different, many systems are ultimately saying the same thing: ‘Choose me and I’ll improve your recruitment processes.’ Researching an ATS can leave you in a bit of a daze.

How do you know what you’re looking for?

Begin by defining your pain points – those which are unique to your organisation. Perhaps you receive a large number of unsuitable candidates for certain roles, or maybe you find it challenging to collect references efficiently.

Make a comprehensive ‘must-have’ and ‘would-like’ list. In the dating world these columns might read ‘good hygiene’ and ‘likes cats’; in the recruitment sphere it might look more like ‘source reporting integrated with Google Analytics’ and ‘Excel-like functionality’.

The real ATS heart-throbs should aim to meet your ‘would-likes’ as well as your ‘must-haves’. Generally, the more flexible a system and a supplier is, the better. There is always a solution to a recruitment pain point – it just takes a talented ATS expert to find it!


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Should you be footloose and fancy-free?

In amongst your potential suitors is another ATS vying for your affections. It’s the free, sometimes ‘freemium’ (free at a basic level or for a certain period of time before charging), Applicant Tracking System model.

The allure of free systems is understandable, but are they worth a date?  This could be dependent on your levels of recruitment; if you’re only hiring once or twice a year, you could enjoy a casual fling with a free model offering basic vacancy and candidate management.

But it’s not really functionality we’re talking about here. What’s important is a system’s flexibility and scope. Its ease of use and intuitive interface. And ongoing support and customer care. If you’re using a free ATS, the chances are you won’t receive a personalised implementation plan or a dedicated support team. To make a relationship work, you need to feel looked after and loved by your ATS provider.

Sector-specific systems

A final consideration as you take your steps towards that first blind date is your sector. Is it better to enter into a dalliance with a system specifically designed to meet your sector’s needs? It can be comforting to know that your supplier has industry experience, and these systems may have functionality tailored to your sector-specific recruitment processes.

However, any supplier worth their salt should take time to understand your unique recruitment needs, regardless of whether you’re their first or fiftieth customer from a certain sector.

What’s more, a sustainable ATS should be agile enough to include bespoke functionality if you need it. So by all means flirt with sector-specific systems – but don’t miss out on your perfect match just because they’re from a more general supplier.

You’re ready

We’re back at that restaurant entrance, your hand on the door. This first meeting may not be with the ATS of your dreams, and it may take many more dates to meet ‘the one’.

But as long as you keep in mind your organisation’s needs before you start researching an ATS, are savvy to the potential pitfalls of freebies and have an open mind about sector-specific soulmates, it shouldn’t be too long before you find yourself in a very happy LTR.

This post was originally written by Hireserve for Ingenium People, a training and resources provider for in-house recruiters. It appeared on their blog April 2015.

For more guidance and information about defining your pain points beginning your research and selecting a new ATS, download your guide to Choosing an ATS: Interactive, practical and packed with guidance and advice!

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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.