Improving the Candidate Journey with an ATS: A Guide

Talent acquisition teams at small and scaling companies routinely take a step back from their daily recruitment processes to evaluate the state of the candidate journey.

(That is to say, TA teams at SMBs and mid-sized businesses assess the typical “path” their ideal candidate personas generally go through from start to finish in each recruiting cycle.)

You may think the candidate journey is static and unchanging. The reality is the hiring process is fluid and constantly evolving.

That’s because today’s professionals have ever-changing wants and needs regarding both the employers they decide to engage and join and the kind of work they take on.

This, in turn, affects whether active job seekers apply for jobs and whether passive prospects respond to online and offline outreach from recruiters via job boards, cold calls, and the like.

That’s why evaluating how your employer branding, recruitment marketing, and candidate engagement efforts impact your ability to attract, engage, and advance top talent — and how an ATS can help you optimize the candidate journey and boost your hiring speed and quality.

candidate journey

10 stages of the candidate journey you can consistently improve with a leading ATS

Looking to make your candidates’ journey more seamless and enjoyable? Here’s how an ATS can help you provide a positive experience for job seekers: from the moment they fill out an online job application on your careers page through the rest of the recruiting process.

1) Job search and application

  • Job posting distribution. The best ATS help talent teams distribute job postings across various platforms to increase visibility of job opportunities to relevant candidates.
  • User-friendly application process. The ideal applicant tracking system also offers a straightforward and accessible application process for potential job seekers.

Showcasing your company culture, DEI initiatives and progress, and employee testimonials on your career site is a must. But, so too is making it quick and easy for qualified candidates to submit an application. With the right ATS, you can allow active job seekers to apply in a matter of minutes — and without the added barrier of having to set up an account just to do so.

2) Passive candidate engagement

  • Personalized nurturing. Leading ATS have built-in nurture functionality that enables 1:1 messaging to individual candidates using placeholder fields in email copy.
  • Automated workflows. Instead of sending nurture emails manually, the top ATS make it easy to automate rules-based emails based on candidate activity and funnel stage.

The top ATS software also enable direct, personalized, and timely engagement with candidates throughout the recruiting cycle — including an especially at the beginning.

Consider LeverTRM. Our ATS + CRM has built-in nurture functionality to allow recruiters to promote open roles to passive prospects whose backgrounds align well with openings.

how to improve candidate experience

3) Resume and profile review

  • Resume parsing. With a best-in-class applicant tracking system, your TA team can automatically extract and organize resume info for easy review and comparison.
  • Keyword matching. Your optimal ATS also helps identify potential candidates of interest whose resumes closely match the job requirements through keyword analysis.

Another highly beneficial capability found in the top ATS is streamlined resume review.

Talent specialists use Lever’s Fast Resume Review feature to sort through keywords included in resumes to ensure only the most applicable candidates are presented to them. And even ones without the ideal keywords can still be evaluated with ease, if so desired.

4) Initial contact and screening

  • Automated communication. You can use built-in automation to keep applicants and currently engaged candidates up to speed on their status and apprised of next steps.
  • Communicate internally. As for in-house hiring team members, automation also allows you to keep hiring managers and decision-makers in the loop regarding active prospects.

Once a shortlist of ideal candidates is selected to move forward with, recruiters with a top-rated ATS that has a native interview scheduling feature can easily arrange a chat with the job seekers in question. Moreover, they can alert hiring managers that they’ve found a handful of high-quality professionals they plan to speak with to fill their available position.

lever applicant tracking system nurture templates

5) Pre-employment tests

  • Integration with assessment tools. Some ATS sync directly with external testing platforms so it’s easy to send assessments to candidates without having to leave the solution.
  • Objective evaluation. Ensuring there’s unbiased evaluation of candidates based on structured interviewing approaches is a helpful feature included in many leading ATS today.

Not every open role calls for one, but, as required, recruiters with an ATS that connects with external assessment tools can send a test directly to prospects using their integration. Lever customers use tools like Codejudge, Filtered, and Hired to not only share assessments with leads, but also have the results of those tests sent directly back to Lever for efficient review.

6) Hiring manager interview

  • Interview scheduling. Some ATS now provide real-time views of all hiring managers’ and interview panelists’ calendars to simplify the scheduling of interviews for recruiters.
  • Feedback collection. Best-in-class ATS solutions make it easy to provide and consolidate feedback from interviewers to efficiently evaluate and compare candidates.

After the screenings and when candidate advancement recommendations are made by recruiters to hiring managers, the former can use an ATS to schedule interviews with the prospects approved by the latter.

Following these conversations, hiring managers can then share comments regarding the individuals they speak with and review them with the recruiter assigned to their req.

quality of hire talent acquisition

7) Mid-cycle panel interview(s)

  • Advanced interview coordination. Sending updates to hiring team members regarding the latest status of and actions taken by candidates is a core feature of modern ATS.
  • Candidate evaluation tracking. Accessible candidate feedback and ratings in an ATS makes it easy for all hiring stakeholders to get an at-a-glance view of all engaged leads.

Whether you have one, two, or more panel interviews in your typical recruitment process, you’ll need a first-rate applicant tracking system to coordinate the calendars of all interviewers to ensure discussions with late-stage candidates are scheduled when all of them are free.

8) Final Interview and assessment

  • Organized candidate profile. Assessment results, post-interview feedback, and other notes are added to structured easy-to-parse candidate profiles in the top ATS software.
  • Final-round coordination. The premier applicant tracking systems facilitate the scheduling of and preparation for final-choice candidate interviews with all hiring decision-makers.

As your candidate shortlist becomes even shorter, you’ll eventually have to schedule the final interview and, if applicable, provide one final job-related assessment (usually a more situational one than the pre-screening test). Only with a built-for-purpose ATS can you make this stage of the candidate journey a seamless one that wraps up the hiring cycle efficiently.

recruitment experience

9) Formal job offer extension

  • Offer generation. With an ATS, you can easily create custom offers and extend them to top-choice candidates using automated templates and communication capabilities.
  • Status tracking. As you wait to hear back from prospects regarding their decision to accept or decline an offer, an ATS can help you keep tabs on all pending offers.

You’ve spoken with several leads. You’ve narrowed down your choices. Now, it’s time to make an offer. With an ATS + CRM like Lever, you can craft custom-tailored job offers, get approvals to send said offer by hiring decision-makers (i.e., your C-suite and hiring manager), and track the status of offers emailed to prospects right from our platform.

10) Transition to onboarding

  • Document management. Top-tier applicant tracking system store employment contracts, negotiation documents, and other relevant paperwork securely in a single location.
  • Communication support. Working with human resources to prepare new hires for the onboarding process is simplified with an ATS that syncs directly with HR and people systems.

A candidate accepting an offer is technically the end of recruiters’ role in the hiring process.

But, to aid human resources with helping new hires get up and running in their new roles, they can send their profile info and date directly to their HR counterparts’ HCM/HRIS software to help them initiate onboarding — an oft-forgotten candidate journey phase.

Take the tour of our ATS + CRM to learn how Lever can help you improve in each candidate journey stage and ensure you provide a consistently stellar recruitment experience.

lever levertrm ats crm talent acquisition suite demo

Further reading