Applicant Tracking System Features
Applicant tracking system (ATS) features are tools integrated into ATS systems that help to optimize the recruitment process. The best ATS features include automated resume parsing, job-specific filters, custom job applications, reliable data security, advanced search capabilities, mobile first design, actionable analytics, and a strong employee referral program.
Each of these features helps recruiters manage and organize candidate information more efficiently and automate talent acquisition tasks that used to be time-consuming. In fact, 94% of recruiters say that their ATS has positively impacted their hiring process.
In this article, I'll go in-depth into 12 of the most important applicant tracking system features and I'll highlight several overrated ATS features, too.
The 12 Best Applicant Tracking System Features
Here are 12 must-have ATS features:
- Automated Resume Parsing
- Job-Specific Filters
- Customizable Job Applications
- Career Pages
- Data Security and Stability
- Advanced Search Capabilities
- Mobile-First Design
- Analytics Dashboards
- Candidate Assessment and Evaluation
- Video Interviews
- Integrated Text Recruiting (ITR)
- Employee Referral Program
Automated Resume Parsing
With so many ATS-friendly resumes for each job opening, it can take time to sort through them all and find the most qualified candidates for your shortlist. That's where automated resume parsing comes in.
It allows the hiring team to quickly and efficiently review and analyze resumes, identifying critical skills, experience, and education markers. This comprehensive approach saves the hiring team time and resources by narrowing applications down to a qualified pool without spending human hours, allowing them to focus on selecting the most qualified candidates.
For example, an HR team could use automated resume parsing to identify applicants with five or more years of experience in a particular field. They could then focus their “in-depth” search on those candidates who meet this criterion and make a better-informed hiring decision.
Job-specific filters refine your job post targeting to only display relevant content to job seekers. For instance, if a software engineer job posting requires experience in a specific coding language, the job-specific filter will ensure that only candidates with that experience and listed skill will see the ad. Some top applicant tracking systems leverage big data and machine learning algorithms to narrow the candidate pool in this way.
This can save job seekers a lot of time and effort sifting through irrelevant job postings while also saving recruiters the trouble of receiving applications from candidates who do not meet the requirements. By narrowing down candidate reach with job-specific filters, hiring teams reduce costs and improve productivity.
Customizable Job Applications
Customizable job applications let you tailor the application process to your needs so you get the required information for a specific role rather than just a pile of resumes.
For example, a company wanting to hire an analytics specialist could set up its job application from scratch or according to a template hosted on the ATS to include candidate assessments about data analysis and statistical skills. In the same vein, candidates can be filtered by salary expectation, willingness to relocate, and years of experience depending on data captured by the job application form.
Filtering out applications this way ensures that potential candidates understand the job details and demonstrate the proper knowledge or experience before being considered for an interview. This can save considerable time in the long run by helping narrow the candidate list quickly and efficiently.
Hiring teams can use a career page, generated and hosted by their ATS to showcase open positions, job descriptions, company values, mission statements, and other information for potential candidates to browse. This offers full functionality for job seekers to apply online while viewing the organization’s job opportunities.
As the career page is automatically integrated with the applicant tracking software hiring funnel, candidate data is captured during the application process to become part of the organization’s talent database. No need for hiring managers to manually capture candidate information, or keep promising CVs physically filed away.
Data Security and Stability
Security and stability are among the most critical features of any ATS system. These systems are designed to safeguard sensitive candidate information, such as social security numbers and addresses, from potential hackers or cyber-attacks.
Additionally, investing in a stable ATS system ensures that your data is always available and accessible when needed. This is crucial when streamlining the hiring process, as you can easily retrieve resumes and candidate information with a button.
Before buying an ATS, ask the vendor about security measures such as two-factor authentication and the ability to restrict user access. The system's stability is also an important consideration. You’ll want recruiters to maintain their workflow without interruptions from maintenance and failures.
Advanced Search Capabilities
The real magic of an ATS lies in the advanced search capabilities the software has to pinpoint candidates according to criteria within its own database. These search capabilities are designed to help you identify the most suitable candidates for your job openings from an existing pool of candidates who have already expressed interest in working for your organization — a highly sought-after resource.
By comparison, a recruitment software solution pulls its candidate sourcing from a general database. This would likely include talent who have no specific interest in working at your company, making them a cooler lead compared to those in your own talent pool of past applicants.
You can quickly filter through thousands of resumes by setting up a few critical parameters. This feature is invaluable because it lets you uncover hidden gems in past candidate pools. For example, HR teams can quickly find the best person for a job by searching for skills, educational background, experience, and other criteria. As the candidate would have an existing profile on the ATS, you can also prompt them to update their information with any skills or experience they’ve acquired since their last application.
Pulling from an existing candidate database significantly reduces the time and effort required to source and screen new candidates for each job opening. Your ATS’s search functionality also provides detailed insights into general applicant data — what demographics are responding to your recruitment marketing, and what eventual hires look like. This insight allows for more informed hiring decisions, especially around diversity and inclusion efforts.
As technology continues to shape the recruitment process, mobile-first design is a vital feature that every recruiter should be familiar with. Over the last few years, job seekers are increasingly using their mobile devices to search and apply for job opportunities.
This makes it crucial for recruiters to ensure their online application functionality is optimized for mobile devices. But it's not just about accessibility — mobile-friendly design improves the candidate experience, making job seekers more likely to apply for your advertised roles.
By ensuring the application process is simple and streamlined, recruiters can increase the quality of candidates they receive and provide a positive first impression of their organization.
Hiring analytics provide valuable insights into candidate behavior and valuable success metrics, such as the number of applicants in your hiring funnel, time-to-hire, and candidate conversion rates.
A user-friendly analytics dashboard offers a streamlined data view, allowing recruiters to make informed decisions quickly. By leveraging this insight, recruiters can continually refine their recruitment strategy and optimize their hiring process.
Data-driven decisions lead to better results and more successful recruitment efforts. With analytics provided by an ATS, teams can track progress on filling positions, monitor diversity initiatives and compare past and present trends to see what works best.
Analytics dashboards offered by top ATS solutions provide actionable data in real-time, which helps HR professionals stay on top of their recruiting initiatives and ensure they meet hiring targets.
Candidate Assessment and Evaluation
Assessment tool native to an ATS or available via a software integration enables recruiters to assess the technical skills of job seekers faster and with more accuracy than they otherwise would be able to. Through the assessment process, recruiters can quickly identify suitable candidates for job openings and streamline the hiring process.
Automated candidate assessment functionality ensures that only suitable candidates progress through the hiring funnel and are eventually hired.
In an age where virtual communication is our new norm, online interviews have become an essential ATS feature.
Video interviews, whether done asynchronously with one-way interview tools or in real-time, help to eliminate geographical limitations and scheduling conflicts. This increases the efficiency of a hiring team exponentially compared to conducting only in-person interviews— often requiring the candidates to travel during office hours and take time off from a current position.
Interview efficiency is even higher when using an ATS that has native interview scheduling tools as a feature. This enables the system to automatically send interview and booking information to candidates who make it through your initial screening. Additionally, any recordings, notes, and recommendations regarding the interview become part of the candidate's profile on the ATS.
Integrated Text Recruiting (ITR)
Integrated text recruiting (ITR) is an integrated feature of some applicant tracking systems that uses text messaging as a primary communication channel between recruiters and job candidates. ITR allows recruiters to quickly and easily connect with candidates, collect and screen resumes, and schedule interviews.
ITR can be especially effective for reaching younger job seekers, who are more likely to use text messaging as a primary form of communication. Additionally, text messaging can help reduce the time it takes to fill positions and improve the overall candidate experience by providing a more efficient and streamlined application process.
However, it's important for recruiters to ensure that they are following all applicable regulations regarding candidate communication via text messages, such as obtaining consent during the initial application process.
Employee Referral Program
A well-executed employee referral program can be immensely helpful in sourcing new, high-quality talent who already feel connected to your employer brand. Candidates referred to a company by an acquaintance are more likely to fit in with the company culture and become long-term employees.
A referral program that incentivizes referring employees saves time spent on advertising job vacancies and reduces the cost of recruiting. Additionally, as referred candidates are more likely to understand the company culture and expectations than someone with no internal source of information, you’re more likely to get candidates who will accept an offer.
Overrated ATS Features
The ATS you choose for your company should be efficient, adaptable, and valuable to your overall recruitment and hiring process. That being said, it should also be cost-effective. There are a few bells and whistles you could probably forgo if you want to save on cost.
Automated Job Posting
The idea behind automated job posting is that recruiters no longer have to manually post job descriptions to each job board or career site – they can sign up with an ATS provider who handles all the tedious details, saving time in the long run.
In theory, this seems excellent, but what these providers don’t tell you is that there are consequences to using automation rather than taking a manual approach. Your message will get muddled because a lot of systems aren't intelligent enough to tailor your job description perfectly for each platform. Your ATS also won’t be able to match the tone and formatting of each job board perfectly which, to a candidate, might look like you couldn't be bothered to get your job listing right.
Automated job postings may save you time initially, but it’s important not to skimp on quality by relying on automation. With human insight and wisdom, recruiters can develop a clear messaging strategy tailored to each channel.
Keyword-based Resume Screening
Many applicant tracking systems use keyword-based screening to quickly filter out resumes that do not contain specific keywords. However, this method can be unreliable and may result in qualified candidates being overlooked if their resumes don't match the exact keywords and terms being searched for. Industry terms often differ between countries, so this process of elimination is especially counterproductive for international hiring funnels.
While customizable workflows can be useful for some companies with unique hiring processes, they can also be time-consuming to set up and maintain. In some cases, the benefits of custom workflows in your candidate relationship management (CRM) journey may not outweigh the costs of implementing and managing them. When choosing an ATS, bear in mind that your ideal candidate journey should be achievable using as many system defaults as possible.
Integrated Social Media Sourcing
Some ATS vendors offer social media sourcing features native to the system. While there is certainly merit in using social media as a recruitment channel, these features may not be as effective as dedicated social media recruiting tools (such as LinkedIn Recruiter) or manual sourcing techniques.
Last Word on Applicant Tracking System Features
The best ATS features, such as reliable data security, automated resume parsing, advanced search capabilities, and actionable data analytics, can help businesses maximize ROI on their recruitment activity. However, some ATS software comes packed with features that are overrated, like automated job posting and integrated social media sourcing.