How Employers Use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)

Managing the hiring process
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Many employers use applicant tracking systems (ATS), also known as talent management systems, to process job applications and to manage the hiring process. They provide an automated way for companies to manage the entire recruiting process, from receiving applications to hiring employees.

The information in the database is used for screening candidates, applicant testing, scheduling interviews, managing the hiring process, checking references, and completing new-hire paperwork.

How Applicant Tracking Systems Work

When applicants apply for a job online, their contact information, experience, educational background, resume, and cover letter are uploaded into the database. The information then can be transferred from one component of the system to another as candidates move through the hiring process.

Company recruiters can review the applications, applicants can be sent automated messages letting them know their applications have been received, online tests can be given, hiring managers can schedule interviews, rejection letters can be mailed, and human resources personnel can use the same information to put individuals on the payroll once they are hired. These integrated systems streamline the recruiting and application process for employers.

Streamlining the Process

Using an ATS can help save both time and money. Information from applicants is uploaded and organized in a database, making it easily accessible and searchable for human resources professionals. Because the information is collected and organized digitally and automatically, companies do not have to pay for the additional time taken by sorting and filing paper applications.

Some systems also can save time for job applicants. Many employers use systems that allow job applicants to upload their vital information, work histories, education, and references directly from their profiles on websites like LinkedIn or Indeed. While job applicants obviously need to cater different applications to different positions, being able to bypass the tedious process of retyping this information for every application is a valuable time saver.

Tracking the Process

Applicant tracking systems allow companies to track where candidates found the job posting—on a job board, directly from a company website, through a referral, or from another source. This can be important information that allows employers to focus their recruiting on the areas where the data shows they have the most success or find the most desirable candidates while reducing or eliminating efforts in areas that show little success.


However beneficial an applicant tracking system can be, there often are drawbacks employers need to consider. Systems are designed to look for specific keywords and types of backgrounds for advertised positions, meaning good candidates who are switching careers might slip through the cracks of the system and not get noticed.

There also can be technical issues. Some systems will eliminate candidates if they can't interpret a scanned resume properly. This can happen if a resume looks slightly different than what the system is programmed to understand or if the resume is more complex than it can interpret.