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6 pros and cons of an applicant tracking system

Applicant tracking systems can streamline the hiring process but can also result in an impersonal experience for candidates. Learn more about the pros and cons of ATSes.

An applicant tracking system (ATS) can help organizations streamline the hiring and recruiting process, including enabling hiring teams to customize job postings, organize and evaluate candidate information, and track each applicant through the recruitment journey.

ATSes can be critical tools for the entire hiring team, but HR leaders should also consider the potential disadvantages. These include a lack of personal contact with applicants and potential implementation length.

Here are some applicant tracking system pros and cons.

Benefits of using an applicant tracking system

ATSes can benefit recruiters in various ways, and those advantages can extend to applicants as well.

1. Streamlines the hiring process

The hiring process includes various steps, from creating a job description to scheduling interviews, and an ATS can merge all parts of the process into one hub.

ATS software's automation capabilities save recruiters time because they don't have to manually perform certain tasks. ATS automation features include the following:

  • Keyword filters. These filters screen candidates based on defined parameters, like minimum requirements for skills, education or experience.
  • AI/ML algorithms. AI/ML algorithms analyze, sort, and rank applicants against job fit to help identify qualified candidates or match them with other open jobs.
  • Tracking alerts. These alerts notify the hiring team if an application has been stalled for too long.
  • Feedback workflows. These enable hiring stakeholders to store notes, ratings, and other data in one location.
  • Interview scheduler. This tool can send invites to applicants without the inconvenience of manually coordinating time with interviewers.
  • One-click publishing. One-click publishing enables users to post listings across job sites and boards.
  • Automated screening. Screening tools collect background data from applicants, analyze resumes, and send reminders to fill out questionnaires.
  • Messaging systems. These systems can automatically send check-in emails, acceptance or rejection notices, and other communications.
  • Natural language processing. Natural language processing tools help identify and avoid wording that could discourage candidates from applying, potentially reducing bias.
  • Chatbots. Chatbots can interact with candidates to answer questions and help applicants as they fill in data.
  • Analytics. Analytics can measure and evaluate recruitment metrics and hiring funnel trends.
  • Compliance dashboards. Dashboards can help define and set standards across the organization.

2. Improves the candidate's experience

Searching for a job can be stressful and time-consuming. Candidates can get frustrated by overwhelming questionnaires or complex applications, and a lack of employer communication can cause them to look elsewhere.

An ATS can simplify the amount of data to collect from each candidate and store that data for the onboarding process, saving both recruiters and new employees time and effort.

An ATS' communications features can also ensure that applicants get responses in a timely manner throughout the hiring process and enable faster hiring so candidates aren't left wondering whether they got the job or if they should continue their search.

3. Builds a reusable database of applicants

An ATS collects a significant amount of data, which can result in a valuable database containing candidate information and their activity history.

Many ATSes have easily searchable systems, so when a company creates a job listing, recruiters can find prior candidates who were promising but not the right fit at the time. Some ATS software can also integrate with various job sites and identify promising candidates, which can enlarge the applicant pool.

Disadvantages of using an applicant tracking system

An ATS has some disadvantages as well, which recruiters should consider.

1. Might reject desired applicants

Depending on the parameters for a job, an ATS might discard applicants who don't match certain keywords but possess other qualities that would make them a good fit for the job.

All HR leaders must be aware of potential bias in their hiring software. This past fall, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission began instructing companies and HR software vendors about possible AI hiring discrimination.

2. Might lack desired one-on-one contact

While an ATS can automate communications with applicants, that communication might not feel personalized for the individual, which can frustrate candidates.

Instead of relying on chatbots and automated messages, recruiters need to remember to send personal messages to candidates as well to help applicants feel comfortable during what is typically a high-pressure process.

3. Might require a lengthy implementation

An ATS can help companies in various ways, but implementing a new system can be difficult without detailed planning.

HR leaders should work with others at the organization to select the right ATS and create a plan for the implementation that takes into account all required costs.

Jacob Roundy is a freelance writer and editor, specializing in a variety of technology topics, including data centers and sustainability.

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