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Top Applicant Tracking System (ATS) Features
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Talent Development

The Top Applicant Tracking System Features That You Can’t Do Without

These days, choosing an applicant tracking system (ATS) can be confusing. Most platforms for internal hiring do roughly the same thing and with over 200 ATSs available on the market, it’s easy to get lost in feature matrixes. Although every ATS has their share of “sexy” features, the reality is that at its core, recruiting is driven by a select set of workflows. When choosing an ATS, rather than starting with features and basing your search from there, first think about the processes that you are trying to streamline. Consider what functionality 80% of your users will use 100% of the time. Simply put, take a step back and think about what’s most important for all users (hiring managers and executives) at your organization and your recruiting function as a whole.

To get you started, we’ve outlined the 4 areas to take a closer look at before you make a final decision on which applicant tracking system to roll out at your organization.

#1 – Attracting Candidates and Driving Them to Apply

You know the saying, if you build it they will come? It may have worked in Field of Dreams, but recruiting isn’t Hollywood and you’re not Kevin Costner! Applicants are no longer at the mercy of employers. In fact, the opposite is true. In recent years, job seekers have become empowered through new forms of technology. From how they search (70% of job searches now start on a smartphone) to how they apply (single-click apply solutions from job boards), the game has changed. On top of this, the job market has shifted. Unemployment rates are at an all-time low (under 5%), meaning that competition for quality candidates in nearly every industry has skyrocketed. Under these conditions, to be successful, you need to not only attract quality applicants, but also get them to complete the application process. To do so, here’s what you should look for in an applicant tracking system.

Advanced Integrations to Leading Job Sites

Getting your jobs in front of the right candidates is harder than ever before. Sure, with the democratization of job networks (careers pages, job sites, online professionals social networks, and so on), candidates can find your jobs with the click of a button. But guess what? The same is true for every other employer out there! On Indeed alone, there are 8.2 new jobs added every second. This amounts to 708,480 new jobs every day! Amidst this tidal wave of postings, how do you rise above the competition to catch the eyes of job seekers?

It starts with the career site integrations that your ATS supports. Your applicant tracking system must offer technology so that your jobs can be seamlessly posted to the right job networks on the backend and candidates can easily apply to these postings on the front-end. Additionally, beyond job posting, your ATS should offer job promotion capabilities to these career sites and spend management functionality from within the system. Studies have found that promoted jobs drive 5Xs more clicks and can lead to 88% higher conversion rates of qualified candidates. If you want to recruit effectively and separate your postings from the noise, job advertising has become a must.

Social Recruiting and Employee Referral Programs

Outside of posting to job networks, social recruiting and employee referral programs also offer great sources of candidates. Glassdoor uncovered that 79% of job seekers use social media in their job search. Applicant tracking systems that come with social recruiting capabilities allow you to meet these users where they’re at and leverage personal relationships built through such social channels. Plus, you won’t need to carve out more budget for another third-party tool that ends up creating another silo of information. With employee referral programs, you can transform your coworkers into brand ambassadors and attract more candidates to apply. Not only do referred candidates come at a fraction of the cost, studies also show that they are higher quality candidates that have the fastest time-to-hire (29 days), fastest time-to-onboard, and have higher retention rates than non-referrals.

Modern, Flexible, Mobile-Optimized Online Job Applications

Getting your job postings in front of candidates is only half the battle. Now you need to drive them to apply. Keep in mind, however, the way in which job seekers want to apply to jobs is changing. Just this past year, mobile search surpassed that of traditional computers and this phenomenon is drastically altering job seeker behavior. Currently, 9 in 10 job seekers use their mobile device when searching for new employment opportunities (45% use their mobile phones at least once a day for job search). In recruiting, mobile’s no longer a trend- it’s a reality. If your application process isn’t optimized for mobile devices, you are literally missing out on 90% of job seekers!

Aside from mobile capabilities, job seekers are also demanding shorter, more simplified applications. Numerous studies have found that complexity and length in the application process lead to high candidate drop-off rates. Where’s the evidence supporting this? Just look at the data we have pulled from Paycor’s own customer base consisting of thousands of small and medium-sized employers.

Applicant Tracking System Graph

If your applications take longer than 10 minutes to complete, you are automatically missing out on 50% of qualified job applicants. Want to convert applicants to candidates? Keep it short. It’s that simple!

To ensure that your online job applications provide a good candidate experience and satisfy the expectations of modern job seekers, it’s essential that your ATS supports customizable online applications and easy-apply features like resume parsing and cloud apply. In addition to this, you want to choose an ATS that allows you to create Spanish language applications to appeal to the 46 million native Spanish speakers that may prefer to apply to your jobs in Spanish.

Integrated, Branded Careers Pages That Put Jobs Front and Center

Based on research by Talent Board, 64% of candidates rate company careers pages as the most valuable resource in their job search and Bersin by Deloitte found that career pages are the number one source of hire. Any ATS vendor that you partner with should include integrated, fully-branded career pages as part of their offering. Beyond this, there should be plenty of configuration options for displaying your jobs by locations, departments, and so on. Lastly, these career pages should be set up with minimal IT work and when candidates apply, they should flow seamlessly into your applicant tracking system.

Even if job seekers come to your job posting on a career site, chances are they will find their way to your company career page before applying. Remember, your careers page is the first touch point that a candidate will have with your company. Show applicants your jobs front and center. Don’t require applicants to wade through content or “off-links” to yet another page. The days of the job “portal” are long gone. Applicants want to get to the content fast and they expect, like nearly everything else online these days, instant gratification.

#2 – Candidate Engagement and Management

According to SHRM, 51% of job applicants are frustrated with the lack of communication during the application process. What’s bugging them most?

  • Over half reported never receiving any communication about the status of their application
  • 75% reported not receiving communication after completing an interview

It’s no wonder why many applicants feel as if they’re shooting their resumes into a black hole! But beware, this frustration with poor communication doesn’t stay in a black hole. Job applicants rate communication as the number one factor where employers can improve the candidate experience and 58% of applicants who share negative feedback about an application process do so because of poor communication. In contrast, 90% of candidates who feel that they were provided active and personal communication during the interview process would encourage others to apply to your company. So which applicant tracking system features can help to bolster your candidate engagement?

Automated Email Communications

Once applicants apply, it’s a best practice to communicate within 24 business hours. Qualified applicants are a perishable resource and should be treated as such. Manually trying to manage communication with all of your applicants could be a full-time job in itself. To facilitate this communication, you need an ATS that has prescriptive email templates with smart functionality to not only automate communication, but also personalize it based on the candidate and their stage in the interview process. Not all ATS have strong email templating functionality and this should be a red flag for you. When choosing a new applicant tracking system, ask the salesperson to show you the key email templates below. Automating the creation and management of these frequently used recruiting emails will save you countless hours.

  • Customizable thank you for applying emails for each unique job
  • Interview detail templates
  • Interview feedback surveys
  • Status updates following an interview
  • Requests for references
  • Personalized rejections emails
  • This job has been filled / closed templates that feature bulk actions

Candidate Search

When hiring, your applicants and the data that you collect during the interview process are the intellectual property and the currency of your recruiting program. However, considering that the average job opening receives 250 applicants (and just think if you have more than one job opening), manually keeping tabs on all of this data and being able to identify specific candidates can be like trying to find a needle in a haystack. This is why an ATS with advanced search functionality is so important. Such a feature allows you to find that needle in the haystack and capitalize on your recruiting currency. Specific search parameters to look out for include:

  • Commute radius (radius search)
  • Skills and/or qualifications in resume and employment applications
  • Current or past employers
  • Notes, comments, and interview feedback
  • Salary history
  • And more!

#3 – Built-In Recruiting Workflow Processes (Moving Candidates Through Your Pipeline)

At its core, recruiting is a linear process defined by a series of yes and no decisions. A bottleneck at any of these decision points impedes everything else that you do. A healthy recruiting pipeline is characterized by constant activity that pushes candidates through these stages. Talent is the heart of your organization. Bottlenecks that prevent applicants from moving through your process is like depriving the heart of blood. Too graphic? Sorry, we take this stuff pretty seriously! To keep candidates moving through your pipeline, ATS functionality that streamlines core recruiting activities at these Yes / No decision points is a must.

Smart Recruiting Workflows

The number one factor for driving such decisions is smart recruiting workflows. Every ATS boasts some kind of “workflow,” but not every workflow offered by applicant tracking systems is tried and true, recruiter approved. If you are evaluating ATS options, be sure to ask for a full demonstration and explanation of each workflow offered. You don’t want to have to spend months building out your own workflows from a blank slate. Any workflows offered by applicant tracking systems should fall in line with how you do your job and be intuitive. Furthermore, these workflows should be backed by smart features like simple, email-based commands and approval processes that make it easy for your managers and executives to take an active role in the hiring.

Interview Scheduling and Feedback

In recruiting and hiring, interview scheduling is beyond painful. Regardless of your aptitude for calendar Tetris, no one should have to waste valuable time aligning the scattered availabilities of candidates and interviewers. Leave calendar Tetris to your applicant tracking system. Through integrations with popular scheduling applications like Google Calendar and Microsoft Outlook, leading ATSs automatically pull in the availability of all parties and interviews can be scheduled without even leaving the system so that you’re not left herding cats. Imagine, an interview scheduling assistant at your fingertips!

Recruiting Dashboards

Activity is great, but only with vision, otherwise you are left running in circles. In recruiting, this is especially true. Having the ability to look at one screen and see all of your candidates for each job, at each specific stage in the hiring process is vital. Don’t accept less. Applicant tracking systems that offer recruiting dashboards allow you to do so. From identifying bottlenecks and evaluating candidate pipeline health, to tracking important activities like job and offer approvals or background checks, recruiting dashboards give you air traffic control for all of this. Such transparency in the hiring process makes it easy for your coworkers to get actively involved and helps them better manage their tasks.

#4 – Tracking and Reporting

The word tracking isn’t found within ATS by happenchance. Sure, applicant tracking systems help you track candidates, but more importantly, they help you track the actions that you have taken with your candidates over time. This holds major implications for both analytics and compliance.


In recruiting, metrics rule. A job well done is a job well done, but at the end of the day, you are judged by the numbers that you carry. Being able to effectively break down these numbers into digestible segments, understand them, and report them back to leadership is vital for the health of your career. Having the answers to the most frequently asked questions in recruiting is powerful. Actively tracking and reporting on metrics also fosters visibility in your recruiting function, which promotes accountability.


Although not often top-of-mind, compliance plays a major role in recruiting and hiring. Audits by the OFCCP and EEOC increase every year and if you are hit with violations, you can face serious fines and will need to invest significant time into remedying any infractions. With an ATS that has EEOC / OFCCP compliance functionality built-in, you can rest assured that you are covered come audit season. And remember, built-in means not just available, but woven into the fabric of your workflows so that you don’t have to fight the ATS to remain an equal opportunity employer. When evaluating your options, look for compliance features like:

  • Applicant flow logs
  • Hire and offers logs
  • Reasons for non-selection
  • Minimum requirements

Hire Faster & Smarter with Paycor Recruiting

Finding, interviewing, and hiring talented people are the most important challenges growing businesses face. Paycor Recruiting is the intelligent, safe, and powerful recruiting platform designed by professionals who understand every aspect of the hiring process. Optimized workflows offer a seamless experience so you can attract and engage high-quality candidates. With access to 25,000+ job boards, including the most popular ones like Monster, Facebook, Talent.com, Adzuna, and more, Paycor Recruiting helps you reach more applicants. And with smart sourcing capabilities that identify candidates who are actively looking to change jobs and passive candidate who not be in the market, as well as diverse candidates who may be idea for roles by overlooked by traditional systems, Paycor Recruiting can increase your productivity and streamline your entire recruiting process.

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