What ATS stands for

ATS is short for Applicant Tracking System, a software that helps to manage recruitment processes.

What does an ATS do

An ATS is used primarily to manage job applications that the employer collects in the course of recruitment processes. These applications - that is, candidates' personal data and application documents - must be stored and tracked during and after the recruitment process.

ATS systems are, in a way, similar to CRM systems that serve to manage sales processes. CRM systems deal with customers, but in ATS systems, the "customer" is the candidate. There are ATS systems integrated with CRM systems. Such integration is useful in particular for recruitment companies that conduct recruitment processes for their clients.

How an ATS improves the recruitment process

An Applicant Tracking Systems help manage the entire recruitment process. Here are the essential recruitment issues that an ATS should help with:

  • searching for candidates by direct and indirect methods (job ads)
  • application of candidates
  • evaluation and selection
  • management of recruitment stages
  • communication with candidates and other participants in the recruitment process
  • reporting
  • managing personal data

All of the above processes are increasingly supported and automated using the latest technology, including the ever-evolving AI. This article will outline how ATS systems perform their tasks and help recruiters and hiring managers in their daily work

An ATS as a cloud-based application

Systems are now offered mainly as web applications in the so-called SaaS (System as a Service) model. The SaaS model is to provide cloud computing applications that users accesses via the internet, typically within a paid-for subscription. In this case, there is no need to have your server infrastructure or install software on end devices such as laptops or phones. All you need is access to the internet.

Not always, however, an ATS has to be a web application. The most straightforward ATS system we can create is an excel table where columns are stages of the recruitment process, and rows are individual candidates.

Of course, such an “ATS” has minimal capabilities, and managing the recruitment process in such a form is cumbersome, inefficient, and also risky considering GDPR.

The most important benefits of using an ATS

A modern ATS offer many functionalities and benefits, the diversity of which we will present in this article. However, the most important benefit for the employer is that an ATS significantly improves the cost of hire, due to the following facts:

  • An ATS helps to manage recruitment processes, which allows reducing external costs, such as recruitment fees.

  • With an applicant tracking system , a recruiter will do more activities faster because ATS will:
    • help to find candidates faster
    • reduce the time needed to publish recruitment ads
    • parse resumes and create candidate profile ready to share with Hiring Managers
    • make it easier to contact candidates, team members and hiring managers
    • reduce the time needed to screen candidates
    • help to manage the stages of recruitment processes more efficiently
    • free recruiters from time-consuming reporting

  • An ATS streamlines recruiters' communication by automatically notifying all events that are important in everyday work with recruitment processes.

  • Thanks to an ATS, the management of the candidate's data is automated and requires less administrative work. Such data includes personal data of candidates, GDPR consent registers, files of projects and project candidates, documents and notes

  • An ATS provides reports related to recruiters' work, thanks to which the employer can make better decisions aimed at increasing the efficiency of recruitment teams.

  • An ATS improves the Quality of Hire, which translates into a better candidate experience, which shortens the time necessary to hire suitable candidates.

  • A modern ATS allows you to search for candidates on Linkedin and other social networks, which reduces the strength of arguments in favor of purchasing paid accounts in these networks.

  • An ATS accurately measures candidate sources' effectiveness so that the employer can better manage his recruitment budget dedicated to using these sources.

  • The recruitment process improved thanks to an ATS allows hiring better-matched candidates, which reduces the turnover rate and significantly reduces employment costs.

Using an ATS

The best ATS supports and partially automates many activities related to recruitment processes. Among the most important are:

  • creating recruitment processes
  • sourcing candidates
  • evaluation and selection of candidates
  • managing candidates at various stages of the process
  • communication between candidates and other process participants
  • reporting
  • management of the candidate database
  • protection of personal data
  • management of system users and their rights

Building a recruitment processes

Applicant Tracking Systems are used to manage recruitment processes, and therefore must enable the building of these processes. Building the recruitment process is the first and one of the most important steps before starting the process itself. A well-built and therefore well-planned process is the basis for effective and efficient recruitment. ATSs help in building and planning recruitment processes.

Job description

Regardless of whether we use an ATS system or not, recruitment should always be preceded by creating a job description. Simply put, the job description consists of the name of the position, location of the workplace, scope of duties, requirements, and employment terms.

An ATS should enable the entry of job description into the system. This is often the first activity we do with an ATS as part of creating a recruitment project. By entering a job description, all participants in the recruitment process will be aware of what candidates we are looking for.

In addition to this informative function, a good ATS can use the job description to:

  • Automatically matching candidates to the project based on the comparison of the candidate's profile with the job description. This feature can save recruiters valuable time spent on manually searching for candidates available in the employer's internal candidate database. Automatic matching of candidates from the internal database can also directly save the employer's money. Since we managed to find a suitable candidate in the internal database, there is no need to spend money on searching for candidates through recruitment advertisements or direct / executive search activities.
  • Quick searching of projects in the system, e.g., by the name of the workplace's position or location. The more recruitment projects the employer implements, the more critical it is to search for these projects efficiently. Project search is an essential function that every good ATS should enable.
  • Generating project reports. Reporting is another critical function of every ATS. For example, suppose a recruiter wants to see a report on all recruitment projects carried out for a specific position in the last 12 months. In that case, an ATS must store information about the job position, to which each recruitment project relates. The job position is part of the job description.
  • Automatically creating job ads, based on the entered job description and publication of the ads on job boards (so-called multiposting). It should be remembered here that announcements are still the most popular way of acquiring candidates. Creating and publishing advertisements is a time-consuming activity. An efficient ATS supports and saves recruiters' time by automatically generating the job ads content based on the previously entered job description and then enabling the publication of the advertisement on recruitment portals straight from the system. Therefore, in this case, it is necessary to enter the job description into the system.
Job description in Element

In Element, entering a job description is quick and convenient. We do not impose any specific requirements as to the type and amount of data entered. When creating a recruitment project, you decide what data you want to enter. The only requirement is to provide the job position name, which is also the name of the recruitment project.

Adding a job description to our ATS brings you all the benefits we've outlined above. In summary, after entering the position description Element will:

  • automatically find and match candidates to the project
  • Allow you to search for the project, e.g., by the name of the position
  • Generate reports including selected projects
  • Create the content of the recruitment advertisement based on the job description and enable the quick publication of the ad on job boards

Recruitment targets

One of the elements of managing recruitment processes is the verification of the implementation of the planned targets. The purpose of the recruitment process is naturally to hire the right candidate or candidates. Targets should be specified first, to be able to be tracked.

A good ATS should allow us to define the target of the recruitment project. Usually, recruitment targets consist of the number of candidates that should be employed and the vacancies. Time to hire is a crucial indicator and should be accurately measured by the ATS.

Recruitment targets in Element

Element verifies both the number of employed candidates and the time to hire. Among others, we can indicate a specific number of vacancies or use the value 0, which means that recruitment is continuous, and there is no limited number of jobs.

Recruitment stages in ATS

The recruitment life cycle consists of stages, and therefore an ATS should allow for the creation and management of recruitment stages. When choosing an ATS, it is worth paying attention to the fact that the system allows for any configuration of steps, because there is no one pattern of stages that can always be used. Recruitment processes differ in the type and number of stages, participants in these stages, and methods of evaluating candidates. A good ATS is open to this diversity and does not limit recruiters' creativity.

Creating recruitment stages in ATS

An ATS should allow creating any recruitment stages needed for a particular recruitment process. To support complete freedom in the process of recruitment process building, ATS should allow for:

  • any number of stages
  • any nomenclature of stages
  • any order of stages
  • the ability to indicate a stage for new applications without the need for it to be the first stage (useful if we want to create a list of potential - not actual - candidates in the project, then such a list could be the first "stage" in the process)
  • the possibility of indicating the stage of employment with the provision that it does not always have to be the last stage (useful if we want to add, for example, an evaluation stage after a trial period or we want to extend the recruitment stages to onboarding stages)
Recruitment stages templates

Creating recruitment processes in an ATS should be quick and convenient. To this end, an ATS should allow you to save stage templates, which can then be used in a new project without manually adding all stages.

In addition to saving time, templates have one more important advantage - the employer can be sure that all recruitment processes of a specific category will always consist of the same stages. It allows for the consistency of recruitment processes and reporting.

Recruitment stages in Element

Creating recruitment stages in our ATS is quick and intuitive. We can use ready-made templates for stages or create entirely new ones. In Element, each stage can have any name and be set as an application (where new applications are present) or employment stage. Our ATS also offers the freedom to arrange the order of stages. We give full freedom to recruiters and don't impose any restrictions.

Participants in the recruitment process and project sharing

Each recruitment process has its participants. Participants are not only candidates but also recruiters, hiring managers, or, for example, people conducting evaluations of specific competences or qualifications. An ATS should allow for efficient management of all participants in the recruitment process.

The recruitment processes participants have different roles in them, i.e., various tasks and the scope of access to information related to the recruitment process. The recruiter will typically have access to the entire process, including all its stages. The Hiring manager usually receives previously selected candidates, so he does not have to - and often does not want - to access earlier stages that precede the selection of the candidates presented to him.

The more complex the recruitment process and the more participants, the more ATS can help in managing the participants of this process, their tasks, and the scope of available information.

A good ATS will allow:

  • select participants in the recruitment process
  • define the role of individual participants in the process
  • decide which data is available for which participants
  • monitor and report participants' activity
  • facilitate communication between process participants
Managing participants in the recruitment process in Element

Managing process participants in our ATS is transparent, convenient, and - in line with our philosophy of system openness - free of artificial limitations. Therefore, we can add any participants to each recruitment process. These can be people from our organization (e.g., recruiters and hiring managers) and people from outside it (e.g., an external recruiter or a person evaluating specific competencies). Besides, each person can be assigned to the entire project or only to selected stages.

A participant added to only one stage will only see that stage, and the candidates currently in that stage. Thus, we do not distract this participant's attention to other stages, in which there are no tasks to be performed, or the course of which is not of interest to him or not at all.

Adding candidates to a recruitment pipeline

After creating the recruitment process, all the included stages create a recruitment pipeline, through which we will move candidates. Adding candidates to the recruitment pipeline in ATS is carried out in two ways:

  • candidates apply via the application form
  • candidates are added manually to the pipeline by recruiters

Candidates use application forms while applying through job ads or when receive a direct link to application form from a recruiter. In the following sections, we will present how ATSs support these two ways of adding candidates to the recruitment pipeline.

How an ATS helps with job ads creation and publication (multiposting)

Job ads are one of the primary methods of acquiring candidates. In some processes, especially for blue-collar positions, it is the most important and often the only one. Some ATSs help in creating and publishing job ads, the process named "job ads multiposting." How job ads multiposting works?

Creating job ads in ATS

The best ATS will automate the creation and publishing of job ads. For this purpose, such ATS may use the job description that was previously entered into the system. The job description is used to propose the content of the job ad, which is often similar to the job description's content in terms of the name of job position, job's location, requirements and responsibilities. A recruiter may, at any time, modify the proposed ad's content. After approval, the ad is ready for publication. This mechanism saves the recruiter's time otherwise used for manual copy-pasting job description to the content of the ad on a job board.

How an ATS helps with job ads publication (job ads multiposting)

Job ads multiposting is another task that an ATS can significantly facilitate and speed up. ATSs usually can publish job ads on job boards and career websites. The process is called "job ads multiposting." Multiposting allows a recruiter to create a job ad in the ATS system and immediately publish it on job boards and employer's career page.

Job ads multiposting is a very convenient solution that saves the recruiter's time. All you need to do is select a job ad that the system has created automatically, polish it if needed, then select which job boards you are interested in, select the appropriate options for each board, and ATS will take care of the rest.

How applicant tracking systems measure the effectiveness of job boards and career pages

Job ads multiposting using an ATS has another important benefit. A good ATS automatically monitors the effectiveness of job ads and the websites on which they are published. Thanks to the application links (more on application links later), an ATS knows which candidates applied through which job ad and job board. It is crucial information that allows you to monitor the effectiveness of individual candidate sources. It is an invaluable help in making decisions related to the purchase of advertisements or access to other sources of candidates.

Job ads multiposting in Element

Element automates both the creation of an advertisement, using the job description, and multiposting. With the help of our ATS, a recruiter can publish a job ad on selected job boards and employer's career page. Each recruiting portal that Element works with has an individual range of options (e.g., categories, locations, highlights, refreshes) that the recruiter can select prior to publication. Ones ready, Element will independently send the job ad to selected portals.

How ATS can help with sourcing passive candidates

The second method of acquiring candidates is the method of direct search and contact with passive candidates. Passive candidates are people who do not respond to job ads and are usually unaware of these ads.

A good ATS helps recruiters to attract passive candidates. The most important solutions offered in this area are:

  • search engines that help to find candidates on the Internet
  • browser plugins and other techniques that allow you to quickly and conveniently add candidates to an ATS
How an ATS helps with searching for passive candidates on the Internet (X-ray)

The Linkedin portal dominates the direct acquisition of candidates. It is not surprising considering that it is the largest social network in the world dedicated to career development, business relations, and recruitment. Linkedin has created many tools for searching and establishing contacts; however, the full potential of these tools is available only when using paid accounts.

Many applications allow you to search Linkedin (and other networks) resources without paying for access to this platform. These tools are usually based on the so-called Google Custom Search, which uses the Google search engine and boolean operators to find and filter out candidates matching recruiter's needs. ATSs usually use Google Custom Search for searching profiles on the Internet, incl. Linkedin. This type of search is colloquially known as X-ray, as it allows us to find candidates on the Internet and social network resources without having appropriate accounts in them.

An ATS equipped with X-ray makes it easier for a recruiter to obtain candidates directly. The recruiter has a convenient searching tool at hand, which is usually integrated with a feature that quickly adds candidates to an ATS. Additionally, the employer has fewer reasons to purchase a separate tool, e.g., in the form of a paid social network account, which in turn is a financial saving.

How Element helps in searching for passive candidates

Our applicant tracking system is equipped with a candidate search engine able to find candidates on Linkedin, Github, and StackOverflow. Not everyone knows that Github and StackOverflow are the two largest portals dedicated to programming in the world. It is worth taking them into account when recruiting programmers.

X-ray implemented in Element allows you to search for candidates on the mentioned portals. The search itself does not require accounts on portals. However, if we want to see a specific profile, it will be necessary to have a basic, free account.

Adding pasive candidates to ATS

The next step after finding the right passive candidate is to add him to the list of people with whom the recruiter will contact to verify the candidate's suitability for the recruitment process. An efficient ATS will help to:

  • create lists of potential passive candidates
  • track the progress of converting passive into active candidates

Why is it better to manage this process in ATS than in projects created on Linkedin (option for paid account holders)? ATSs offer several essential benefits comparing to Linkedin projects:

  • sourcing for passive candidates is essentially the first step in the recruitment process; it is efficient to conduct all steps in one tool
  • tracking the whole recruitment process, including sourcing for passive candidates, in ATS, allows for standardized and consistent reports that take into account all methods for talent acquisition and all candidates sources
  • some ATSs (including Element) offer automatic verification whether the added candidate already exists in the system, an important and time-saving feature that is not available on Linkedin
  • ATS that supports sourcing passive candidates tracks relation with the candidate from the very beginning, that is since the first contact with the candidate


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