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Resume exampleIf you’ve spent any time in the staffing and recruiting world, you’ve heard of an applicant tracking system (ATS). They’re central to the functioning of staffing companies and various other businesses, as well as the core job of a recruiter. Today, almost all major staffing companies use an ATS. It’s simply the best way to process, store, and screen a large volume of resumes without manually sorting through every submission.

Before modern technology, recruiters would collect, organize, and parse through paper resumes by hand. If it sounds time-consuming and laborious, it’s because it was. The earliest iterations of an ATS simply helped recruiters scan paper resumes into a database in order to better sort and screen them. Eventually, the ATS evolved into the much more complex recruitment automation software that it is today.

So, what is an ATS, exactly, and how does it work within recruiting? What are the features and benefits? And how can you go about choosing the right one for your business?

Here is the recruiter’s complete guide to applicant tracking software systems:

What is an Applicant Tracking System? 

An ATS is a software application – usually a cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) application – that enables electronic and automatic recruitment tasks. In its simplest form, an ATS processes and stores resumes from job candidates, and uses keyword screening technology to parse through resumes to weed out unqualified candidates and present recruiters with the best options. However, the capabilities and features of an ATS go far beyond this (we’ll learn more about what an ATS does later).

Ultimately, the purpose and goal of an ATS is to make the recruiting process simpler and more effective for both the recruiter and candidate. On the candidate side, the job seeker receives efficient, to-the-minute communication regarding their progress through the hiring funnel. For recruiters, access to a centralized database to collect and view applicants, track their progress, and filter through them is the main benefit of an ATS.

How Do Applicant Tracking Systems Work in Recruiting?

An applicant tracking system affects just about every step of the recruitment process. That’s probably why they’re so widely used in the world of staffing and recruitment – 75 percent of recruiters use an ATS. But an ATS isn’t just software for staffing agencies. Other types of businesses, including many Fortune 500 companies, use this kind of technology as well.

At the beginning of the process, the ATS helps with candidate sourcing by posting jobs automatically and provides automatic uploading of candidate information into a central database. From there, it helps with pre-screening and screening, including keyword parsing of resumes and cover letters (more on that in a moment), automated outreach and scheduling of interviews, and managing online tests, video interviews, and more.

An ATS can extend offer letters, collect signed documentation, assign onboarding materials and track completion of compliance documentation, and more. In short, it manages the end-to-end recruitment process for every candidate that applies.

Applicant Tracking System Features

We’ve touched on a few of the features that an ATS provides for recruiters and staffing firms in general, as well as other businesses that use an ATS. Let’s highlight some of the most important for recruiters.

Job Posting Integrations

Many ATS systems allow for job posting integrations. This means that when you create and upload a job post to the system, it automatically disperses it to other platforms. Those may be job posting sites and/or job boards, social media platforms, or your company’s own hiring page. Having the ability to send out a new job listing to all platforms at once, rather than manually upload them one by one, is a huge time-savings for recruiters and gets the word out about open positions much faster.

Resume Parsing

Long gone are the days of manually checking over resumes to find out which candidates best fit the bill. An ATS uses AI search functionality to pull out critical keywords from a candidate’s resume or cover letter to determine which candidates are most qualified. Recruiters can tell the system what keywords to search for based on skill sets, education, or other factors. For instance, you might tell the system to look for keywords like “office management,” “MS Word,” or “communication skills” when accepting applicants for an Administrative Assistant role.

Candidate Feedback

Another great feature of many types of staffing agency software platforms is the candidate feedback portal. This feature provides candidates with insights into the reason for their candidacy being terminated. Hiring managers can tell a candidate about ways they could improve, or simply list some words of encouragement. This not only helps candidates improve their interviewing skills, but it helps staffing firms – and recruiters personally – to maintain professional relationships with candidates and keep them engaged with the company.

Benefits of an Applicant Tracking System

We’ve learned what an applicant tracking system is and how it functions in the world of staffing and recruiting. But what are the tangible benefits of using this kind of recruiting agency software?

Increased Quality of Hire

One of the best things about using an ATS is that it’s likely to increase the quality of the candidates you hire. That’s because the system filters out the unqualified candidates right away, leaving only those who truly have the experience and skill set you’re looking for. Plus, since staffing agency software systems like an ATS speed up the entire recruitment process, you’re gaining access to top-tier candidates who won’t wait around for a recruiter. That means you’ll push them through the hiring process before they’re able to be poached by one of your competitors.

Cost Effective

An ATS is extremely cost-effective for a staffing company because its entire goal is to streamline the hiring process and reduce time waste. It frees up recruiters to focus on core business tasks, not the tedium of parsing through resumes or posting job ads. It reduces the time-to-hire, reducing productivity downtime. In short, it gets you better candidates in a faster time frame, for less money than you would spend without the system.


The great thing about recruitment automation software is that it is, well… automated. Introducing automation into so many points of the recruitment process makes things more efficient and streamlined at every step. From job posting and candidate messaging to scheduling interviews and managing orientations and training, an ATS takes so much of the workload off your recruiters and makes it more efficient and simpler.

How to Pick an ATS For Your Business

There are all sorts of ATS platforms on the market today, each with a variety of different features and capabilities. It can be confusing and frustrating to choose one that works best for your business.

In general, here are some of the important things you should consider when picking an ATS for your business:

  • What’s my budget? There’s no use spending the money on an ATS that you aren’t going to use. It’s always important to think about your budget and what kind of return on investment (ROI) you’re trying to achieve.
  • What are my needs? What features do you want out of your ATS? What areas of your business do you need to improve the most? You’ll want to choose a staffing agency software that makes sense for what you need.
  • What integrations does the platform offer? Does the system integrate with other kinds of HR tools, such as a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform? What kind of job board integrations does the ATS offer?
  • What’s the user experience like? Think about your tech knowledge and what kind of user experience your recruiters should have. How easy it is to implement and use an ATS? What is the typical learning curve for new users? The last thing you want is to buy an ATS that no one can figure out how to use.

Adopt an Applicant Tracking System with COATS Today

An ATS is an indispensable part of the staffing and recruitment world, and this kind of recruiting agency software provides many benefits to recruiters during every stage of the hiring process. From candidate sourcing and resume screening to post-interview follow-up and beyond, using an ATS makes everyone’s life easier – recruiters, hiring managers, and candidates alike. To put it simply, it’s a must-have software for staffing agencies and other kinds of businesses.

Are you on the hunt for a reliable, easy-to-use ATS or other staffing agency software for your business? COATS Staffing Software can provide you with the solutions you’re looking for. We’ve been helping organizations in industries like the technical, clerical, industrial, professional, medical, and financial fields for more than 25 years.

Contact us today to schedule your free demo. We’re looking forward to finding out how we can help your business with its software needs.

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