Applicant Tracking System

The complete guide to a system you'll use

An applicant tracking system (ATS) is specific software that helps teams organize their hiring. From the humble spreadsheet to the mighty $100k on-premise solution, we'll walk you through everything you need to know to find the one that's right for your hiring team.

Applicant Tracking System:
What we’ll cover

  • What is an ATS system?
  • How does a typical applicant tracking system work?
  • Why every growing company needs an ATS
  • What are the three main types of applicant tracking systems?
  • What features should the best ATS systems include?
  • How much does an applicant tracking system cost?
  • Questions to ask to help you choose the best ATS

What is an ATS system? And why every growing company needs one

For decades, recruiters and hiring managers have been forced to choose between clunky manual spreadsheets, pricey enterprise software, or simply shooting from the hip when hiring their next job candidate.

That is, until the applicant tracking system (ATS) entered the picture.

The overall goal of an applicant tracking system is to streamline the recruitment and hiring process, automate repetitive hiring tasks and wow the pants off those top-quality “unicorn” candidates (not literally, of course). 

Applicant Tracking System Definition

An applicant tracking system (ATS) is a cloud-based recruiting solution that automates key recruitment and hiring activities. It helps companies track and organize incoming applicants for a streamlined hiring process.

Some of the best and brightest companies use applicant tracking systems to manage job postings, filter applications, and organize candidates for open positions. 

Because when it comes to recruitment, forward-thinking companies know one thing for sure: 

The candidate's experience matters.

A guy in an envelope reaching down shaking a woman's hand

Today’s job seekers are more than a little discerning. They’ll happily decline a job offer due to a poor experience during the hiring process. If you’re a modern hiring manager looking to snag the best talent, it pays to treat candidates with respect.

But with so many urgent tasks on your to-do list, how do you make hires quickly while giving each and every candidate the attention they deserve?

The answer? The right ATS can do much of it for you.

Here's how a typical ATS works:

Why every growing company needs a candidate-friendly ATS

From saving hours, or even days, per week to making better decisions about how to attract and hire new employees, there are some major benefits to using specialized hiring software like an applicant tracking system.

Here are some of the biggest hiring problems an ATS can solve.

Problem: I’m spending way too much time posting and reposting my job ads.

Solution: An ATS will include a vast library of job description templates and let you automatically post your open roles to all your favorite job boards (both free and niche job boards) at the click of a button.

Problem: My hiring tools are outdated and my candidates are starting to notice.

Solution: An ATS with modern features like end-to-end mobile capabilities, responsive careers pages, and instant SMS help you make a great first impression with applicants.

Problem: I don’t have the time, energy or budget to build my own career page.

Solution: Done-for-you career pages are easy to customize. Simply upload your logo and content and you’re good to go.

Problem: My HR tools are clunky, complex, and difficult to navigate.

Solution: An ATS with a drag-and-drop candidate pipeline and customizable automated stage actions can make it easy to instantly put the right applicants in the right places.

Problem: Everyone at my company has their own way of hiring and I’m afraid bias could be creeping in.

Solution: The best ATS is a user-friendly ATS. When everyone on the hiring team has a system they actually like using, it becomes easy to follow a structured and inclusive process. Plus, standardized interview questions and guides make it easy to stay on the same page.

Problem: My hiring and recruitment process is taking up way too much time, but I don’t know which parts need fixing.

Solution: An ATS will give you easy tools for tracking your candidate pipelines, talent pools, and your best sources of hire for qualified applicants.

Problem: I can’t handle all these job applications flooding my inbox.

Solution: Setting up an automated pre-screening questionnaire can help weed out irrelevant applications, while automated email responders and candidate nurture campaigns make sure no applicant ever feels ignored.

The 3 core types of Applicant Tracking Systems

Before we dive in, we need to come clean:

We’re Breezy, and yes, we are obviously an ATS. 👋

That said, so are over 4,000 other companies. The fact of the matter is, the market for hiring tools is massive. And while we’re darn proud of what we do — we’re simply not designed to be the perfect fit for every business model.

So before we get on our soapbox about what we think a great ATS should look like, let’s zoom out a bit and talk about your options in the ATS market today.

What are the three main types of applicant tracking systems?

We’ve already established that the tech market for assembling your talent acquisition suite is big business. And as you might expect in a market that large, there are plenty of HR tech vendors out there who will tell you they can do it all.

But the truth is, no two hiring software solutions are the same. Nor should they be. A Fortune 10 business with a massive global HR department is going to need one type of tool, and a fast-growing small business is going to need something else entirely. 

Here are three core types of applicant tracking systems to help you better understand your choices in the market today.

#1: The built-in ATS

An applicant tracking system that’s baked into another type of HR software

First up, you've got your off-the-shelf applicant tracking systems that usually come wrapped up into your current HR software. Many of the biggest and best-known HR tech brands (we won't name names, but you know who they are 😉) offer some kind of ATS functionality as part of a larger payroll, compliance and benefits administration system.

  • Pros: Built-in ATS tools are easy because they're there. You can do your payroll, taxes, compliance, hiring activities and all things HR from one central system, without any additional cost.
  • Cons: Because these tools were originally built to handle technical HR issues, there are usually few candidate relationship or CRM-type features such as email nurture, text messaging, interview scheduling links, etc.
  • Best for: Companies where each department has a set recruitment and hiring strategy. If you just need to sign-off on hires, send offer letters and get people into the system, a built-in ATS will do the job.

#2: The enterprise ATS

All the bells, whistles (and clunk) a large company could ever need

Like all things enterprise, the applicant tracking systems at this end of the market are packed with features ranging from compliance to performance management. Many of the vendors in this space are big, global Fortune 500 companies that have been around for decades. Because of their size and history, these products tend to be very advanced and capable of handling large-scale hiring goals. 

  • Pros: Enterprise ATS's offer advanced features including detailed reporting and analytics and can usually integrate with the rest of your HR tech stack.
  • Cons: All those advanced features cost money and depending on your size and budget, the ROI may not be there. Plus, the larger an ATS vendor becomes, the harder it is to provide solid customer service. If you're going to need help getting set up, you may need a more engaged ATS support team.
  • Best for: Surprise, surprise: enterprise companies! If you've got a big in-house hiring team with hundreds of roles to fill every month, you'll be able to glean awesome insights from this type of ATS.

#3: The Small Business ATS

Focused on just the stuff candidates and companies care about 

If you really look at it, small-to-midsize organizations make the world go ‘round. And yet, this segment of the market has remained largely underserved by many hiring software vendors. SMB-friendly applicant tracking systems are awesome for growing businesses because they keep their features focused on the recruitment and hiring tasks with the highest impact. Not only that, they also tend to offer hands-on customer support, and many of them can integrate with a company’s other systems if needed.

  • Pros: An ATS with a focus on SMBs will usually have a strong CRM component with features that help you engage candidates better.
  • Cons: Because resources are limited for some of the vendors in this segment of the market, you could end up with a product that feels outdated, lacks the features you need or isn't nice to look at.
  • Best for: Growing companies who are building and/or optimizing a high-touch recruitment and hiring process. 

As you might’ve guessed, at Breezy, we fall into this last category.

Our customers are both certified HR professionals and folks with other titles who happen to wear the hiring hat within their organizations. These are typically people who care less about filling a certain number of roles within a certain time frame, and more about getting the right person in the role.

What features should the best ATS systems include?

Clearly, there are different types of applicant tracking systems to cater to different types of businesses. Certain applicant tracking systems may come packed with features you'll never use, while others might be missing the core functions your team needs. 

While individual features will change software to software, it’s a fair bet that most ATS’s will include the following functions.

The baseline ATS features:

  • Customizable career pages
  • Pipeline management
  • Automatic job board posting
  • Analytics to track views, visits, and applications

ATS feature checklist by hiring stage

While the above list of features is enough to cover most of your hiring needs, it can also be helpful to consider which applicant tracking system features you need, based on each hiring stage within your company.

To keep things easy, we'll break down the full ATS feature list into three simple categories to help you pinpoint which features might make the most sense for your company.

Applicant Tracking System Features for Small Businesses
Applicant Tracking System Features for Small Businesses

Attract the right applicants

The following features will help you uplevel your employer branding, stand out from the crowd, and attract the best candidates in the market.  

Remember, if your goal is to fill hundreds of open positions quickly, you'll want to look for a system that lets you easily advertise your job listings in all the right places.  

If you're after quality candidates first and foremost, you may want to focus on finding a system with a great employee referral site and robust candidate database. And if you want the best of both, look for a system that has it all. 😉 

The features

  • Customizable career pages
  • Done-for-you employee referral portals
  • Automatically post to the top job boards
  • Integration with top DEI-focused job sites
  • Searchable candidate database
  • Mobile-friendly UX

Organize and qualify candidates

Once you've got your applications in, it’s time to decide who you want to move forward to the next stage. The following features can help hiring teams screen in the right candidates faster, while providing a stellar experience from A to Z (i.e., no ghosting! 👻🙅).

The features

  • Rich candidate profiles
  • Customizable drag & drop pipelines
  • Automated emailing & SMS
  • Automated stage actions
  • Touchless pre-screening questionnaires
  • Centralized notes & team scorecards
  • Video screening
  • Calendar integration
  • Streamlined team scheduling
  • Self-scheduling for candidates
  • Video interview
  • Structured interview guides

Hiring your best candidates

Once you've gotten everyone on the same page about who your next awesome hire will be, it's time to lock it in. A great ATS will help you maintain an unforgettable candidate experience from the initial application phase right up to the background check and job offer.

The features

  • Fast, accurate, compliant background checks
  • Automated reference checking
  • Offer letter templates
  • eSignatures
  • HRIS integrations
  • EEOC/OFCCP compliance
  • GDPR compliance
  • Custom reporting

How much does an applicant tracking system cost?

With so many different applicant tracking systems on the market, prices can feel like they range from “totally free” to “3 boxes of movie theater candy and your first born child”. 

While every software charges differently, how much a company is charged usually boils down to a couple different pricing factors.

What usually impacts the price of an ATS?

  • The number of active jobs you have
  • The features you select
  • The number of users you need
  • A software vendor’s pricing model

There are some free ATS tools on the market that will help you automate some of your most time-consuming tasks, like posting job ads and tracking candidates. 

For more advanced features like video interviewing, calendar integration and automated scheduling, prices typically start around $60 per month and increase from there.

How much does Breezy cost?

Did someone say FREE?! 😮

…it was us, we said free. 😉 

With a tiered pricing model, Breezy is priced to grow with your business. Our model includes four different tiers, with options to pay annually or monthly. Our most basic tier is free and prices for the other three tiers vary according to your hiring needs and velocity. 

You can get a clear and transparent breakdown on our pricing here.

At Breezy, all paid plans include an unlimited number of users, an unlimited number of candidates, and access to our rockstar customer support. Every tier comes with the option to purchase additional add-ons, and Pro plans come with the option to add advanced features like SSO, custom fields, API access, data migration, and a dedicated Account Manager.

Questions to ask to help you choose the best ATS

With literally hundreds of HR tools to choose from, how do you know which ATS is right for your company?

Unfortunately, we can’t answer that for you. But ‍here are some questions to think about when comparing your options.

What to think about when choosing the best ATS for your company:

  • Does each department already have a set recruitment and hiring strategy? Or do you need to create a single process that can scale across the company?
  • Are your hiring tasks limited to signing off on hires, sending offer letters and getting people into the HR system? Or do you have a more active role in the hiring process?
  • Do you want to keep your hiring activities in the same place you do your payroll, taxes and compliance tasks? Or do you need a dedicated space to make group decisions?
  • How big are your current hiring goals? 
  • Are you filling hundreds of roles per week or per month?
  • What level of support will you and your team need?
  • How important is candidate experience to your company? 
  • Do you want an ATS that was designed for backend HR systems or one with a strong CRM component?

What else should you know about using an applicant tracking system?

Honestly, this ATS stuff can get complicated.

One way to simplify your decision is to think in terms of your ONE core hiring metric:

Is it quality of hire? Time to hire? Turnover?

To make the best decision, you need a system that was built to meet the needs of a business like yours, along with an understanding of exactly what you want to get out of it.

And there are no wrong answers.

Whether you're trying to build a long-term pipeline of ready talent for high turnover positions, or you just want the entire team 100% focused on finding the right candidate, just make sure your system is fun and simple to use.  

After all, the last thing any of us needs is another tech product with pricey license fees collecting dust. 🙄

What makes Breezy different?

Before we started Breezy, we were involved with designing ATS software at the enterprise level.  

These products were often good at what they did, but because they were designed for large organizations (with equally large HR departments), the features and functionalities would often feel bulky, bloated or siloed to the small and midsize user.

‍Instead of using software to make better hires faster, companies were wasting hours of their day switching from screen to screen or navigating a messy, patchwork hiring process consisting of multiple inboxes and spreadsheets.

It was a bad experience for ATS users and an even worse experience for candidates. ‍

We knew we could do better.

We decided that what growing companies needed was an ATS that could help them create a user-friendly hiring process.

No more clunky UX. No more complex user permissions. No more mess.

And thus, Breezy was born. 

We wrote our first line of code in August 2014 with a mission of building the most user-friendly ATS on the planet. The goal was to make it so simple and fun to use, hiring teams would actually, well… use it

Today, Breezy serves more than 10,000 fast-growing companies in over 72 countries across the globe. We’re G2 Crowd’s #1 ATS in Ease of Implementation; a recognized Category Leader in both Small and Midsize Company ATS and Recruiting satisfaction across G2 Crowd, GetApp and Capterra; we’re on Capterra’s Most User-Friendly Shortlist 2022 and continue to top the Software Advice Frontrunners grid. Through tens of thousands of happy, successful users, we’re able to  generate thousands of five-star ratings across G2 Crowd, GetApp, Capterra & more each year … 

And this is just the beginning.

You're in Good Company

According to Gartner we're the most highly rated HR and Applicant Tracking product in Customer Satisfaction.

Are you ready?

Start optimizing your recruiting process today.

Join the thousands of companies already hiring with Breezy HR.

Full Feature 14-Day Trial
No Credit Card Needed