applicant tracking

What is an Applicant Tracking System?

If you’re applying to jobs online,  at some point you will encounter an Applicant Tracking System (ATS).

In the following article, you can learn how an ATS works, what they do to your resume if you are applying, or how they can help save your business time and resources if recruiting.

What is an Applicant Tracking System?

Applicant tracking system software provides recruiting and hiring tools for companies. Among other functions, these systems collect and sort thousands of resumes.  An applicant tracking system (ATS) is used as a  human resources software that acts as a database for job applicants.  ATS is used by companies of all sizes to organize, search, and communicate with large groups of applicants The focus of an ATS is to increase convenience for recruiters and hiring managers.

Companies often hire for multiple positions at once and receive hundreds if not thousands of applicants for each job opening. It is difficult and time-consuming for a recruiter or hiring manager to sift through tons of incoming resumes, and it’s not feasible for them to carefully read each one. ATS makes searching easier and more automated while saving time while avoiding human error.


How does an Applicant Tracking System work?

ATS’s work by lessening the number of resumes passed on to the hiring manager or recruiter.  When hiring, as you generate your job posting, make sure you create a detailed listing that will help your ATS better match you with candidates who fit the job description. If you fail to be specific about what kind of person you want, you risk drawing in the wrong candidates. 

When you apply for a job position through an ATS, you may be asked to answer what are called “knockout questions.” Knockout questions can be in the style of checkboxes or short answer questions. Their purpose is to narrow the pool of applicants.

If an applicant answers any of the knockout questions unsatisfactorily, the resume will either be flagged or auto-rejected by the ATS. If you answer the knockout questions correctly, your resume will make it through to the next stage. Once your candidates are sorted and narrowed down to viable options, you can track them throughout the process. 

If a hiring manager is in the process of choosing among five people, the ATS will show you whether each person is a new applicant, if they’re in the first or second interview stage, if they’ve been extended an offer, and so on.  Even if you eliminate a candidate from the running, this person will stay in your database if you’d like to invite them to interview for another position in the future. 


Applicant Tracking System benefits

Applicant Tracking Systems are multifaceted and have many features, many of which may vary based on which brand of software you’ve invested in. Some brands are more reputable than others and have better and more advanced features. However, the top brands usually share a number of general streamlined hiring features in common, some of which include:

Viewing applications: Many recruiters will glance at each resume that comes through their applicant tracking system. It will likely be a brief glance, so applicants should always be careful to make their top skills and qualifications easily visible.

Automatic rankings: Some applicant tracking systems will compare your resume to the job description and rank applicants based on how well their resume matches the job description. Recruiters can focus on top-ranked candidates instead of reading through each resume.

Keyword Searches: Recruiters and hiring managers can search resumes stored in the ATS by using keywords. These resume keywords are commonly the keywords used in the job posting. They could be based on skills, experiences, location, former employers, or work experience. The image below shows a candidate search window from the perspective of the hiring manager/recruiter.

Other benefits that all applicant tracking systems have include: 

  • Candidate sourcing
  • Resume storage
  • Resume parsing
  • Filters
  • Applicant communication
  • Job posting distribution
  • Automated email customizations


An ATS is a wise investment. It raises hiring standards, saves recruiters time and money, and automates applicant sourcing and candidate tracking.  In the end, you’ll be able to fill your company’s talent pipeline with top qualified candidates, which usually means that open positions get filled faster.


HRLocker is a people management solution with a built-in recruitment module to help you hire key talent for your organisation.

If you would like to talk to us about our applicant tracking module or improving your HR process, get in touch, we’d love to chat!


What is an Applicant Tracking System? was last modified: May 4th, 2021 by Jenny Martin

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