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What is an Applicant Tracking System?

Sherry Holetzky
Sherry Holetzky

Every day, new items are created which attempt to make the workplace run more efficiently. An applicant tracking system, also referred to as an applicant software application, is another item on that list. Abbreviated ATS, such a system provides the ability to gather a great deal of information in one place for business recruiting needs and other functions. A custom applicant tracking system can help make human resources management simpler and less time-consuming. Since time is money in business, such a system should conceivably pay for itself in short order.

There are different options for small, medium, and large businesses as well as for different types of companies. Much of the business of recruiting can be handled via the computer with an applicant tracking system instead of through mountains of paperwork. One handy feature is the ability to send specific screening questions to an applicant based on the position for which he or she is applying. By keeping the questions — and answers — on topic and to a minimum, using only specific, necessary, information per applicant, the recruitment officer can save a lot of time.

Man holding computer
Man holding computer

An applicant tracking system is useful for not only collecting resumes or applications, but also for organizing them according to predetermined criteria. A filing cabinet filled with resumes is generally ordered alphabetically, to keep the system simple. An ATS offers much greater flexibility. If a company prefers a bilingual candidate or one with some other special skill, even if that skill is not necessarily a requirement, the company may choose to rank resumes in a way that gives those with special skills priority.

Other data can be tracked with an applicant tracking system as well. An ATS is generally far more search-friendly than a typical filing system. Since space isn’t an issue as it would be when using paper files, much more information can be stored for greater periods of time. This also allows for simpler performance evaluations and creates an easier system for promoting from within.

Another option is to use an applicant tracking system to track leads or sources through which companies can find suitable applicants. Technical schools in a particular field may post a list of upcoming graduates, which could become a fertile source of new recruits for a company in that field. Job boards or those that post resumes may also be good leads, which can be tracked with an ATS. Some systems will also allow for mass posting on such boards, spelling out the company’s opportunities and requirements for job seekers.

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