9 Must-Have Applicant Tracking System Features – How to Identify Them

Caucasion woman in a blue blouse looking at a pie chart and her lap top comparing features of ATS

Finding the right talent quickly and effectively can be the difference between organizational success and stagnation. Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are a game-changer in recruitment processes: streamlining workflow automation, improving candidate management, speeding up time to hire, and securing the best talent.

While this modern hiring technology enhances efficiency and streamlines the hiring process for optimal results, not all applicant tracking systems are created equal. To ensure your organization invests wisely, it’s crucial to ask the right questions and prioritize key applicant tracking system features that align with your specific needs.

Finding the right Applicant Tracking System for your organization

Each aspect of an ATS plays a vital role in your hiring strategies. By delving into applicant tracking system requirements, evaluating workflow alignment, and assessing security, you pave the way for a streamlined recruitment process that enhances both efficiency and compliance.

This guide offers the insights you need for informed decision-making, whether you’re navigating data complexities or aiming to streamline manual processes. Discover how the right applicant tracking system can transform your recruitment efforts.

Table of contents

Must-have Applicant Tracking System Features

Key Takeaways

  • Assess the effort needed to implement the ATS, train team members, and create workflows to ensure everyone has the right expectations and reasonable timelines are identified.
  • Evaluate the applicant tracking system’s capability to offer valuable data insights for informed decision-making and process enhancement.
  • Understand the extent of customization available to adapt the ATS to seamlessly fit your organization’s unique recruitment processes.
  • Ask about security certifications such as SOC 2 and GDPR compliance, as well as data retention policies, to guarantee data security and regulatory compliance.

8 questions to ask about an applicant tracking system

When considering an ATS, ask about integration capabilities, security compliance, and user-friendliness that align it with your recruitment processes.

Understanding aspects like customization options, support for niche job boards, and candidate data management helps you choose a system that enhances efficiency, candidate experience, and compliance with regulations.

By asking targeted questions, you can make an informed decision and select an ATS that truly supports your hiring goals at an organizational level.

Key questions for deciding on investing in an ATS

1. How big of a lift is it?

Implementing an ATS requires various levels of effort based on your requirements. You have to build out each job you are hiring for (job descriptions, requirements, the workflow), questionnaires, interview question sets, email templates, and more. It’s essential to assess whether the benefits outweigh the effort involved in this transition.

Why is it important? 

Effort assessment: Ensures the team is prepared for the workload and transition period associated with applicant tracking system features. You should implement an ATS when hiring is slow and ensure you have enough support to set it up. It’s most effective when the volume of candidates or roles justifies the shift from manual to automated processes; if hiring needs are minimal, the effort may not be worth it.

2. How important are data and analytics for us?

Data and analytics are crucial for decision-making and efficiency improvements in medium to enterprise-sized organizations’. If analytics is important to your company, you need an ATS that offers robust data capabilities.

Why is it important? 

Data and analytics: Aligns the ATS capabilities with the organization’s data needs, enhancing strategic decision-making and fulfilling applicant tracking system requirements. By tracking data, you can see what you’re doing well and uncover gaps to help improve your teams’ performance over time. For example, it can provide insight into conversion rates so you can evaluate efficiency. 

3. How unique is our workflow?

Understanding the uniqueness of your workflow helps determine the level of customization needed in an ATS. If your processes are standard, less customization is required, which can simplify implementation and use.

Why is it important? 

Workflow customization: Ensures the ATS fits seamlessly into existing processes without overcomplicating them, addressing ATS functional requirements.

4. How much manual work are we doing to compensate for our current ATS or hiring platform?

The primary purpose of an ATS is to eliminate manual work and workarounds. If your current system requires a lot of manual intervention, a new ATS should address and reduce these inefficiencies.

Why is it important? 

Manual work reduction: Highlights inefficiencies and focuses on automation, improving overall productivity and showcases ATS functionality that reduces or eliminates manual tasks that may be redundant and have a significantly lower ROI.

5. What are our biggest challenges as a recruiting team?

Identifying the main pain points in your recruitment process (e.g., losing candidates to competitors, scheduling issues, high volume of applications) will help you select an ATS that specifically addresses these challenges.

Why is it important? 

Challenge identification: Targets specific issues, making the ATS an effective solution rather than a generic tool that basically serves as overpriced candidate storage software.  

6. What is our budget, and what is efficiency worth from a budget perspective?

Budget considerations are crucial. Assessing the ATS’s cost-benefit ratio, including potential savings and efficiency gains, helps justify the investment. Efficiency may mean different things (e.g., faster hiring, better candidate quality), and you need to quantify its value.

Why is it important? 

Budget and efficiency: Balances financial constraints with the benefits, ensuring a cost-effective investment in applicant tracking system features and benefits. This also helps you convince the financial gatekeepers that the investment will pay for itself.

7. What do I need to present up the chain to convince the decision-maker?

If you are not the final decision-maker, understanding what metrics and outcomes are important to your superiors (e.g., cost savings, efficiency gains, better hires) is essential for building a compelling case for the ATS investment (as well as #6 above: understanding your budget and ROI).

Why is it important? 

Decision-making presentation: Ensures alignment with organizational goals and secures necessary approvals by demonstrating clear benefits of how to choose an applicant tracking system.  It also shows that you’ve done your homework and are taking this undertaking seriously.

8. Does this meet your sourcing needs?

  • Does it post jobs on the boards where you get the best candidates? 
  • Can you post on niche job boards? 
  • Does the ATS make it easy to work with external recruiting agencies or give you the ability to reduce reliance on them if needed? 
  • Does it help you re-engage former candidates that may be a great fit for future roles?

To attract top candidates, it’s crucial for the ATS to distribute job postings effectively. Check if it supports niche job boards relevant to your industry. A good ATS allows posting to specialized job boards for candidates with specific skills. It should facilitate collaboration with external recruiters by providing access to candidate profiles. Efficiently managing sourcing channels may reduce the need for external agencies, cutting recruitment costs. An ATS should maintain a talent pool of previous applicants for re-engagement opportunities.

Why is it important?

Sourcing Optimization: Ensuring your ATS meets these criteria will enhance your ability to source high-quality candidates efficiently. It supports strategic decision-making regarding job board utilization, agency collaboration, and candidate reengagement, ultimately improving your recruitment process’s effectiveness and cost-efficiency.

By posing these critical questions to key players in your decision-making process, you can ensure that the applicant tracking system you choose not only meets your immediate needs but also supports your long-term recruitment and organizational goals.

Remember, the right ATS can significantly enhance your hiring process, providing valuable insights through data analytics, reducing manual tasks, and offering a customized solution to fit your unique workflow. You want to make your decision wisely and enjoy the benefits of an optimized recruitment strategy for years to come as you grow your candidate pool and learn from your data.

What to Look for in an Applicant Tracking System? 9 Must-Have ATS Features

Choosing the right applicant tracking system (ATS) is crucial for streamlining your recruitment process and ensuring efficient hiring. To help you make an informed decision easier, we’ve compiled eight must-have applicant tracking system features and benefits:

  • Customization allows the ATS to fit seamlessly into your unique business processes.
  • Integrations ensure a seamless flow of information across your HR tech stack.
  • Data and Analytics provide essential insights for improving recruitment strategies.
  • Scheduling Functionality streamlines interview coordination, enhancing candidate experience.
  • Pipeline Management helps quickly identify the most qualified candidates.
  • Accessibility & Usability ensures the software is accessible, reasonable, and practical for hiring managers to implement and use. 
  • Automation enhances efficiency by minimizing manual tasks.
  • Tech Stack Consolidation reduces overall software costs and streamlines operations.
  • Built to Scale means the ATS possesses the features and functionality to support your company as it grows.

Understanding applicant tracking system features and benefits can significantly influence how effectively your organization manages its recruitment process. By recognizing these key applicant tracking system requirements, you can make a more informed choice that aligns with your business goals. Now, let’s take a closer look:

1. Customization

Customization is one of the key applicant tracking system features to look for. The ability to customize workflows, scorecards, and questionnaires is crucial. This allows the ATS to adapt to the unique needs of different companies (most importantly, your company), ensuring that it fits seamlessly into existing processes and doesn’t force you to change your recruiting methods to align with the ATS’s limitations.

2. Integrations

Integrations with other systems, such as HRIS, payroll solutions, background check providers, and onboarding solutions, are essential. This ensures a seamless flow of information across different platforms, reducing the need for manual data entry and improving overall efficiency. When examining applicant tracking system requirements, robust integrations are non-negotiable.

3. Data and Analytics

In-depth analytics are critical, especially for growing mid-size to larger organizations. They provide insights into what is working well and identify gaps, helping companies improve their recruitment processes and make data-driven decisions. This is an important aspect of ATS capabilities that can greatly impact your hiring strategy.

4. Scheduling Functionality

Advanced scheduling features help streamline the interview process, reducing the time spent coordinating schedules with candidates. This prevents delays that might cause your company to lose top talent to competitors. An effective scheduling tool is a core component of ATS functionality that improves the overall candidate experience.

5. Pipeline Management

Features that help manage a large pipeline of candidates, such as questionnaires with knockout questions and AI-driven filtering, are helpful. They enable recruiters to quickly narrow down a large pool of applicants to the most qualified candidates, saving time and resources. This is an essential part of applicant tracking system functional requirements.

6. Accessibility & Usability

A user-friendly ATS promotes adoption among hiring managers, enabling them to maximize the software’s potential to boost recruitment efforts. Prioritizing accessibility and usability streamlines hiring, cuts administrative tasks, and enhances recruitment outcomes. This feature underscores the importance of comprehensive and accessible ATS capabilities.

7. Automation

Automation is a key feature that minimizes manual work within the ATS. This includes automatic progression of candidates through stages, automatic filtering of non-applicable candidates, and other automated tasks that enhance efficiency and reduce workload. Automation is at the heart of modern applicant tracking system functionality.

8. Tech Stack Consolidation

The ability to consolidate multiple tools into the ATS helps organizations reduce the number of separate software subscriptions they need, streamlining their operations and reducing overall costs. This feature highlights the benefits of integrating various ATS capabilities into a single platform.

These applicant tracking system features collectively ensure that an ATS is versatile, efficient, and capable of meeting the diverse needs of different organizations, ultimately improving the recruitment process and outcomes. By focusing on these key aspects, you can choose an applicant tracking system that not only meets your current needs but also scales with your business.

9. Built to Scale

An effective ATS that can scale is vital for supporting your company’s growth. It needs to handle increasing job postings, applications, and users while maintaining top performance. A scalable ATS ensures your recruitment process runs smoothly as your company expands, aligning with long-term hiring goals and reducing the need for future system changes, saving valuable time and resources.

FAQs for Applicant Tracking Systems

What are the functions of applicant tracking systems?

An applicant tracking system (ATS) streamlines the recruitment process by automating and customizing it, ensuring it aligns with your organization’s unique philosophy and work style. It accelerates the hiring process, minimizes the risk of losing top candidates, and acts as a force multiplier, enabling a small team of recruiters to manage the workload of a larger team. By understanding the core applicant tracking system features, businesses can optimize their hiring strategy.

What makes a good applicant tracking system?

A good applicant tracking system (ATS) makes you hire quicker, reduces manual work, adapts to your team’s style and workflow, and engages hiring managers by allowing them to share feedback on candidates easily. Understanding the applicant tracking system requirements ensures you choose a system that aligns with your needs and enhances your overall recruitment efficiency.

What is the role of ATS in employer branding?

The role of an ATS in employer branding is to enhance the candidate experience by streamlining the application process, making it easy and efficient. A good ATS allows for customization of the recruitment journey to align with the organization’s philosophy and work style.

It also promotes diversity by guiding the creation of inclusive job descriptions and helping to mitigate unconscious bias. Additionally, it supports the creation of a user-friendly career page and provides features like auto-scheduling to empower candidates to schedule interviews at their convenience.

A good ATS focuses on the candidate’s journey and helps prevent negative reviews on platforms like Glassdoor, thus protecting and enhancing the employer’s brand. Evaluating the applicant tracking system functional requirements can significantly impact how well it supports your employer branding efforts.

How does an ATS support candidate sourcing?

An ATS supports candidate sourcing by allowing you to post job openings on multiple job boards, including niche boards tailored to specific industries or roles. It facilitates easy collaboration with recruitment agencies, enabling them to submit candidates directly into the system.

Additionally, an ATS streamlines the process of importing candidates from platforms like LinkedIn, making proactive sourcing more efficient. It also offers CRM functionality for maintaining candidate relationships, sending updates, and keeping potential candidates engaged. 

Leveraging the ATS database to re-engage past candidates who were strong but not selected for previous roles is another crucial aspect of sourcing supported by the best ATS. The ATS functionality plays a vital role in ensuring a smooth and efficient candidate sourcing process.

How does an ATS ensure security and stability?

To ensure security and stability, don’t hesitate to ask an ATS provider about their security certifications, such as SOC 2 compliance and GDPR compliance for European operations. Inquire about the cloud servers they use and how secure those servers are.

While a full security questionnaire may not be necessary, it’s important to cover the basics, like how long candidate data is retained and the ability to manage data retention policies. For stability, ask about their track record with downtime, how they notify customers of any issues, and their measures to ensure minimal disruptions. 

This is crucial, especially for large organizations with extensive recruitment activities. Effectively evaluating security service stability as one of the top applicant tracking systems benefits you value is essential to choosing a system that meets your organization’s needs.

Features of Spark Hire's Applicant Tracking System

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