Applicant Tracking System (ATS) Overview

Last Updated November 2018

Quick Overview on ATS’s:

  • Expect vast UI and UX improvements by adopting a modern ATS that increases HR efficiency and employee engagement

  • Look into how your ATS can drive talent acquisition efforts through recruitment marketing, sourcing, and CRM

  • Beware of different pricing schemes (see below) and hidden fees

  • Beware of lengthy and complex implementations, especially when it comes to data migration

The 7 Best Applicant Tracking Systems


The Good

Greenhouse has arguably the best ATS for the mid market, and is aggressively going after enterprise accounts. Their partner ecosystem, bolstered by best in category APIs, allow their customers to take advantage of third party applications with no upcharge. Nearly every HRTech vendor that integrates with the ATS starts with Greenhouse.

The Bad

Greenhouse is not cheap, and can seem expensive relative to more nascent, or outdated systems. But, this is a case of getting what you pay for.

The most interesting aspect to Workable’s solution is their sourcing capability which they have integrated with the rest of the ATS. Also, their flexible pricing allows smaller organizations to get started quickly.


Most of the negative feedback on this product has to do with workflows and features that are there, but not to the liking of an individual or company. We see this a lot with ATS’s - you really have to find the one that fits your workflow style.


We’ve heard from quite a few practitioners that SmartRecruiters is great at taking feedback from their customers, and rapidly integrating that into the product. SmartRecruiters is a modern ATS that can be affordable even for companies with a smaller budget. It’s also a company thinking about more than ATS as they have a full talent attraction suite.

Lever was started with a product mindset, which put design first from its inception. It’s a modern ATS that also has a unique suite of tools such as Lever Nurture, which can make recruiters much more efficient when engaging candidates (similar to how sales automation tech has made Sales Development Reps 10x more efficient in recent years).

ClearCompany has flown under the radar for a long time despite their 99% customer retention rate (no other ATS seems to come close), and also offers a robust HCM suite that is fully integrated with the goal of offering insights across the full employee lifecycle. That’s a cool vision!

iCIMS was one of the original SaaS companies. They have a feature set that is great for SMB all the way up to the largest companies and are always in the conversation about best ATS. Despite age, they continue to innovate with the acquisition of TextRecruit in 2018 and a constantly evolving product roadmap.

Google is great at building software, and Google Hire has quickly gained thousands of customers with their ATS that even startups can afford given the per employee per month pricing model. We’ve heard a lot of great things about Google Hire even though the product is barely two years old.

As with many of the more modern ATS’s, SmartRecruiters lacks some of the functionality of the more established vendors. Also, it’s another case of finding the solution that fits your the workflow and style that is right for your company.

While Lever Nurture seems like an interesting module, we’ve yet to find a company using it effectively. Also, Lever is mostly adopted by fast growing tech companies. That’s not to say other more traditional companies wouldn’t benefit from their solution.

The majority of customers are smaller organizations in industries where the fight for talent isn’t as vicious as tech and professional services. They also lack in their employer branding offerings.

Most of the iCIMS complaints are about an outdated user interface and design. It’s also worth noting that they will charge for each integration you have with another HRTech vendor, typically $250/mo/integration.

If you’re not using G Suite for the rest of your business, forget it. Also, because this solution is so new, they still lack a lot of features and functionality that you may be used to if you’re coming from a system that has been around for 5+ years (of course, most of those systems have other problems!).

ATS Pricing Models

Here are the different pricing models you can expect to see from various Applicant Tracking Systems. As most companies charge for value given to customers, it’s interesting to note how each vendor thinks their solution adds value.

  • Hires/Job Postings/Applicants: We like charging based on how much you’re hiring because the value you get from an ATS is clearly more when you hire more (hiring 2 people next year? You don’t need an ATS. Quite the opposite for hiring 1,000).

  • Employees: Some ATS’s will charge based on the number of employees you have. We like this as it implies your employees will be more a part of your hiring practice (via referrals, social shares, etc).

  • Seats: Some ATS’s charge based on the number of logins you need, which can make it a bit tricky when figuring out who needs admin access and how that will change over time.

  • Features: Several ATS’s have launched modules which they believe are above and beyond the typical ATS, and so charge more for these. This is usually a CRM, a more robust analytics package, onboarding, etc.

Pro Tip: Be aware that some ATS’s charge for integrations with solutions you may already use (recruitment marketing system, HRIS, etc) which can drastically increase your annual spend.

Here’s another pro tip: All of the prices you are originally quoted from a vendor are negotiable, especially if you are looking to sign a multi year contract.

4 Pieces of Advice for Buying the Best ATS

  • Think Long Term: This is a solution you’re going to have for the next several years, minimum. Your organization will change, and you need a solution that will be adequate now and in the future.

  • Understand the Roadmap: It’s important to understand a company’s product roadmap, how impactful those features will be, and the company’s track record of delivering on that roadmap.

  • Feature Focus: ATS’s have an amazing amount of features. It’s easy to get bogged down comparing the 50 different things that each has which may be useful to your team. Our advice is to pick 3-5 must haves, and use them to determine whether or not you want to go with a given vendor. Chances are, there is no perfect ATS for you.

  • Look at ROI: A lot of HR teams look at an ATS as a must have piece of software which is essentially a workflow tool with some compliance features built in. But, modern applicant tracking systems drive ROI through sourcing and recruitment marketing capabilities, better integrations with other HRTech, and the ability to drive more value from the entire employee lifecycle.

Despite higher cost than you may be paying now, a modern ATS is a great investment for companies where talent is a competitive advantage for their business, and those companies competing in tight labor markets.

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