Best Practices

Guide to Choosing an Applicant Tracking System in 2024

Brandice Payne | Author

Brandice Payne

Senior Manager, Content & Customer Marketing

Posted on

April 21, 2024

An applicant tracking system (ATS) replaces traditional paper application sorting and file cabinet management with a robust, digital solution with numerous benefits. Since its inception in the 1990s, the ATS has evolved into an all-in-one solution that streamlines the recruitment process. 

The benefits of an ATS include automatic candidate profile screening, interview scheduling, cover letter sorting, resume parsing, job seeker tracking, job posting, and outreach capabilities. Like Gem, the best ATS solutions also unlock collaborative hiring and ensure diverse, inclusive, and equitable hiring practices. 

With so much on the line and the sheer number of available options, hiring managers, recruitment teams, and stakeholders are asking how to decide on the perfect ATS solution. If that sounds like you, you’re in the right place, as this guide provides you with everything you need to know to make the right ATS investment decision.

Understanding Your Recruitment Needs

Implementing any new software package into your business is an investment in time and money that you can’t afford to lose. Before taking that leap, it’s vital that you understand your recruitment needs at a fundamental level and align hiring strategies with your business's overall objectives and goals.  

Conduct a workforce analysis to gauge your business's performance. This analysis will help you assess your current team's skills, experience, and performance, identifying gaps in abilities or headcounts. It also forces hiring managers to evaluate hiring practices and recruitment standard operating procedures (SOPs). 

A workforce analysis also helps you identify areas of your hiring process that are not inclusive or diverse, illuminating opportunities for improvement. Detailed analysis can reveal time-consuming application processes, candidate bottlenecks, and times when candidates abandon applications. 

Furthermore, undertaking a high-level evaluation, such as a workforce analysis, can be beneficial for forecasting future hiring needs. A tool like Gem’s forecast calculator can be invaluable for hiring teams to determine future hiring and staffing needs with benchmarking data to ensure you’re on the right track.  

Essential Features of an Effective ATS

After evaluating your organization's recruiting needs, you can explore the key features of an effective ATS platform that will provide the biggest payoff. Regardless of how you intend to use your new ATS, there are a few essential components that every ATS should have, including:

  • A user-friendly interface – Your ATS should be efficient to navigate, easy to learn, and intuitive to use. Overly complex and stiff user experiences will make using it difficult, and teams may neglect them altogether. 

  • Automation features – Streamline workflows, such as scheduling interviews, candidate outreach, assessment administration, initial screening, role matching, candidate scoring, and job posting. Go beyond templates with personalized and automated messaging. 

  • Scalability – Support your business growth with an ATS that can handle ever-larger talent pools. Gem supports this scalability through near-unlimited reconfigurability, customizable scorecards, personalized offer management, and proactive talent acquisition updates. 

  • Integration with your CRM – Candidate relationship management platforms help organize, track, and manage potential employees. Integrating a CRM with an ATS means accessing your entire hiring platform from a single dashboard instead of navigating multiple apps.

  • Advanced reporting –  Accurate, real-time reporting on the metrics and KPIs most important to the hiring in your business keeps your efforts targeted and impactful. A detailed reporting dashboard points out underperformance, allowing managers to make adjustments on the fly. 

  • Distribution capability – Engage in candidate communication through social media and distribute job postings to job boards and other recruiting channels with the best results. For instance, Gem supports 25,000+ channels to ensure maximum possible exposure. 

Indeed, traditional hiring techniques can’t match the functionality of the latest technology, but even modern ATS solutions can lack the necessary tools to meet your needs. Gem’s ATS and CRM recruitment software checks these boxes and more, ensuring you have everything you need in one place. 

Industry-Specific Considerations

It goes without saying that the hiring practices, processes, and needs are unique from industry to industry. An impactful applicant tracking system finds the best talent. It adapts to meet the challenges faced in any sector, from life sciences and manufacturing to financial services and even recruitment agencies.

For instance, pharmaceutical, biochemical, or medical companies source qualified candidates from a tiny and competitive pool of highly educated, highly skilled individuals. An ATS is essential for attracting, personalizing, and verifying these job applicants while building meaningful relationships. 

Manufacturing companies face significant challenges with public perception. These employers often seek skilled laborers, and many hire for open positions in large volumes, necessitating a flexible tool for candidate sourcing, employer branding, and large-scale onboarding.

Likewise, financial services professionals must hire individuals who meet government regulations or hold specific licenses. A comprehensive ATS offers help with sorting, scoring, and validating the best candidates, even attracting them away from fintech and Silicon Valley ventures. 

Your business is unique, and you shouldn’t settle for a cookie-cutter ATS solution. Instead, partner with a provider offering customization options that tailor your ATS to meet the hiring needs and requirements. 

Evaluating ATS Cost vs. Value

Hiring the right candidate is more crucial than ever as margins shrink and skills gaps widen. The knowledge that turnover and bad new hires do more damage than lost productivity adds to the stress HR teams face. 

According to a LinkedIn article, the cost of replacing an employee to turnover can be as high as $15,000. Recruiting, hiring, training, and compensating new employees is expensive, so getting the right candidates is vital.

99% of Fortune 500 companies use an ATS to streamline their hiring efforts, but not all enterprise-level companies can benefit from the technology. Medium and small businesses can also use a good ATS, especially in organizations with strapped human resources departments or those without dedicated recruiting teams. 

New SaaS solutions, including pay-per-hire and subscription-based models, deliver ATS software at more favorable pricing. These pricing structures reduce the cost of implementing an ATS while still reaping the rewards. 

These solutions offer scalability options and reduce time-to-hire metrics while automating vast portions of the screening and administrative tasks. That automation frees managers to make the final hiring decision with confidence.

Security and Compliance Factors

When candidates submit their resumes or application forms, they trust their private candidate information is safe and only used for hiring purposes. Evaluating the security and compliance of any potential ATS partner can reduce the chances of a reputation-damaging private data leak. 

Part of that evaluation should include how the ATS provider handles data storage, encryption, backups, and updates. Ensure they have security certifications, follow ISO 27001 standards, comply with GDPR, maintain SOC 2 compliance, or any other local security requirements. 

Equally important are data access and control measures, such as upgrading or downgrading access, viewing data logs and activity, and managing permissions. If a data breach occurs, remember to ask how the provider handles it. The response can be telling in itself. 

Vendor Support and Training

Every new platform has a learning curve, but robust support from the provider is a hallmark of an effective ATS. Your ATS provider needs to make the rollout seamless through adequate customer support and training materials. 

Customizable portions of hiring funnels and recruiting steps will demand new SOPs and learning materials. Vendor support through a vast library of resources that walk you through every component of the platform is another invaluable asset. 

Things often work well when they are brand new, but when a snag arises, speedy vendor responses are a must to prevent lapses in operations. Check reviews to see how others rate the response times and customer service professionalism.

Getting Feedback from Stakeholders

Unless you are the sole operator of the ATS software you intend to invest in, you will want to obtain feedback from other stakeholders, department heads, and owners. This feedback can illuminate hidden pain points and allow other team members to provide input on the software they will use daily. 

Using the feedback obtained along with your other requirements, you can shortlist ATS platforms to gain hands-on experience with each. During this stage, you can request demos, explore pilot tests, and connect with sales teams to get a feel for each option. 

Of course, Gem allows businesses to explore our ATS and CRM software to ensure you’ll love the platform. Request a demo today to see how the Gem hiring software adapts to meet your organization's needs. 

Making the Final Decision

Hands-on trials and demos are among the best ways to see how effective a new system will work for you and your team. After you explore your shortlisted options, it’s time for the final decision-making step by comparing the top choices and finding the intersection between function, budget, and technological needs. 

Consider final feedback, pros and cons lists, and senior-level approval, if necessary, during the final decision stage. Once the team decides on a platform, partner with the provider to start rolling out the software for immediate use.  

Partnering with Gem for Recruitment Success

Applicant tracking software is necessary for recruitment success, regardless of company size. Deciding which to add to your tech stack can seem daunting, but a few strategic steps can help you make the best decision. 

Partnering with the right provider can distinguish between success and expensive bloatware. Gem’s intentional design is flexible enough to meet the needs of a diverse range of industries and sizes. Our ATS improves hiring efficiency, candidate experience, and recruitment success; even our clients rave about our performance:

“There are so many applications to look through and figure out which ones to prioritize. With Gem, I’m able to lean into the ability to highlight multiple keywords on resumes to really speed up the process.” –Rachael Leaf, Talent Engagement Specialist, Dropbox.

“What sets Gem apart from other ATS vendors is its knack for simplicity. It's remarkably easy to use, ensuring our portfolio companies can hit the ground running with a minimal learning curve.” –Dragonfly, Top Talent Partner.

Explore Gem’s ATS for yourself by requesting a demo or connecting with our sales team


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