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What is an ATS and Why Do You Need One?

An applicant tracking system (ATS) is a core piece of software that streamlines the recruitment process by managing, storing, and keeping track of a company’s job candidates. It serves as a company’s system of record for hiring and centralizing all parts of the recruitment process including, but not limited to: managing job postings, communicating with candidates, storing resumes and notes, scheduling interviews, collecting interview feedback, and extending offers to candidates. In other words, it makes hiring easier and more efficient – regardless of the size of your company.

If you’re new to the concept of an ATS, think of it as similar to using Salesforce to support your entire sales process, or using a marketing automation platform like Marketo or Eloqua to manage your demand generation efforts. Just as it’s difficult to imagine running sales without Salesforce or marketing without Marketo, any company that views talent and hiring as important should seriously consider using an ATS. Whether you are hiring to cover natural attrition, expanding steadily, or undergoing explosive growth, the benefits of an ATS are considerable.

A Brief History of ATS

The first ATSs were created in the late 1990s, when HR departments began looking for easier ways to keep candidate information in a secure software system. Before the ATS debut, recruiters and hiring managers were forced to rely upon countless files and address books to keep track of applicant resumes, contact information, and interview scheduling. With the invention of the ATS, companies no longer had to worry about accidentally losing or revealing candidate information, because now it lived in one place. However, they were still searching for, emailing, and scheduling interviews with candidates outside their ATS.

Fast forward to 2011, when a Bersin & Associates study found that nearly half of companies were considering replacing their old ATS. The market for top talent had become more competitive, and the ATS market was in the midst of a revolution as companies aimed to be more tactical and deliberate with their recruiting strategies. Additionally, ATSs had begun evolving into “integration platforms” that connect to several other platforms like sourcing tools that are central to the recruiting process. Today, these modern ATSs have morphed from a document management system into a platform that empowers teams to manage the entire recruitment process, from targeting passive candidates, to submitting offer letters.

9 signs that you’re ready for an ATS

As mentioned above, any company looking to prioritize hiring and talent – regardless of size – should consider using an ATS. Here are nine signs that you are ready to take your hiring to the next level with the help of a good ATS:

  1. There’s nowhere to store contact information once you’ve uncovered a good candidate.
  2. On any given day, you have several applications open at once for hiring-related reasons: your email, calendar, social media, and internal communication tools.
  3. Candidates have given you feedback that your application is difficult to navigate.
  4. You constantly miss out on great candidates because you take too long to communicate and they accept another offer.
  5. Hiring managers can’t see candidates’ progress through the interview process, and it’s difficult to convince team members to immediately submit feedback.
  6. You spend too much time repeating the same logistical details in emails to candidates. If you have to write your office address in an email one more time, you may collapse.
  7. Once you decide not to move forward with a candidate, you feel like you’ll never be able to find their profile later on.
  8. You wish you didn’t have to input your candidate’s information from a spreadsheet into your Human Resources Information System (HRIS) once you hire them.
  9. You don’t know how to improve your recruiting process, because there’s no record of what has worked in the past.


While ATSs were initially developed to manage job applications, modern systems can be the tools that help you build an effective recruitment process in a competitive market. Today, ATSs allow teams to attract, engage, and nurture candidates rather than simply store their information. When you take advantage of all of your ATS’ capabilities, you can create a better interview experience for your candidates.


If you’re ready to reap the benefits of a modern applicant tracking system, and want to learn more about how to evaluate your choices, download our eBook: How to Choose an Applicant Tracking System in 5 Steps

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