Keeping it All Together

Keeping it all Together

Requirements of an Applicant Tracking System


Anyone who has been involved in recruitment can testify to the chaos that exists in trying to keep tabs on the process and the candidates.   If you receive job applications in your email, you know how tedious it is to download and open each attached resume, never mind processing the information and maintaining notes. Spread sheets can help you structure data, but are also not ideal for resume tracking.  Eventually everyone works out a system even if that system is sometimes just a “delete” button.

Recruitment systems come in various guises and can be classified into a number of categories, based on the emphasis of their functionality.   In large enterprises, recruitment software may be offered as one of the numerous modules of a complex Human Resource Information System (HRIS).  The emphasis here tends to be much more on the corporate integration & compliance than ease of use.

Agencies have a very particular requirement to match the skills & competencies of a vacancy with those of a candidate, so there is quite a lot of emphasis on this in these systems.  They also serve as a repository for client and candidate contact information and many of them have advanced levels of contact management as their focus.

Various job boards and career portals focus on attracting vast amounts of candidates and the process of sifting & response handling.

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are used internally by companies and are designed to add structure to the processing of resumes and applicant information.  The ATS focus’s the company’s recruitment efforts and  provides a central database for the company’s recruitment efforts.

An important requirement is for various departments to collaborate and provide input into the recruitment process, (reference checks, medical. payroll, etc.) and companies considering an ATS should take the following into account.


A primary infrastructure requirement is for the ATS to integrate seamlessly with the company mail system, most often Outlook.   A lot of functionality and information is lost if people are expected to manage correspondence from two different places.  There is no need to own an ATS, many systems are available in the “Cloud” with connectivity from any internet or mobile connection and companies can scale the system & cost to suit their needs on a “pay as you go” model.

Job Postings

The ATS should be the de-facto company career portal and integrate in look and feel with the company website. There should be automated plug-ins to the company social media sites and other job boards as well as automated distribution and status changes to agencies and candidates who have requested job notifications.  Importantly applications from all sources need to be funnelled into the ATS portal.

Many ATS systems have built in employee referral functionality that allows employees to post vacancies to their friends or to their social networks.  These applicants are tracked and the employee is rewarded for their effort.

Application Management

It is vitally important (a feature not often found) that a candidate can be added by more than one agency as well as be able to apply directly for positions.  The limiting criteria must be that a candidate can only be submitted to a specific vacancy once; this is done on a “first come first serve” basis.   Applicant’s agencies  and Hiring Persons (HP’s) receive automated and legally compliant notification as to the progress of the application, status and other deadlines.

The application process must be highly customisable as no single setup is ideal for every position.  Mostly the process must be quick, easy & intuitive for applicants, especially with regards senior positions.  The ability to parse resumes and populate the system this way would be a major advantage.  The system must allow for customised questionnaires (filters) so that applicants can be scored against criteria & prioritised in the application process.

User Groups

System users reflect the hierarchy, diversity and functions of the company and as such there are many permutations as to what users need to do/ see in the system.  Typically users are not Tech savvy bunch and should not be required to navigate endless menus or set up custom views.

Security & confidentiality are important considerations and these settings should be manageable on an individual & group basis.  Example – Hiring Persons (HP’s) should see only jobs  and candidates that relate to them, but should be able to search the database for other suitable candidates that are in the talent pool.  However – it may not be suitable for these HP’s to see confidential salary & reference check information.  Details of applicants for the new FD position should be seen by only a select few.

Work Flow

Implementation of an ATS is the ideal opportunity for a company to define its own unique recruitment process. This should include the requirement to approve vacancies and endorse job descriptions & benefits prior to them being published.  Some recruitment processes call for third party input in the form of credit screening, medical reports, safety training, etc. and the ATS workflow should be customisable to accommodate and track these processes. Good ATS systems allow for generation  and multi-level approval of job offers and the electronic distribution of pre on-boarding documentation.   The workflow should notify HP’s & HR of job closing dates and short listing deadlines plus automatically generate legal & compliance notifications to candidates.

Talent Pools & Reporting & Auditing

The ATS system should serve as a repository for applications gathered over a period of time and essentially the company is building a database of future potential employees.  The ethics of this needs to be worked out in conjunction with the agency partners who also contribute to the database of candidates.  The key to successfully  building a talent pool lies in categorising the skill set, good notes and setting flags for future follow up.   To get the most out of your ATS system the database should allow for Boolean searching of the captured fields as well as the contents of attachments.

There are obvious reporting requirements as regards candidate status, talent pools, agency efficiency, etc.   However there are a great many variables in recruitment and the real value is to be obtained from building customised searches or at the very worst being able to export data into excel.

In terms of labour legislation companies’ risk claims of unfair labour practise and as much as an ATS assists with compliance, it needs to be fully auditable in order to retain its integrity.  All actions on the system need to be logged and it should not be possible to delete any information.


Recruitment systems come in all shades of Good, Better & Best – I hope you find the “Best” & I’d love to hear your experiences.