How to choose the best applicant tracking system for your small business

Hiring at a small business usually involves a collection of spreadsheets, emails, and various siloed tools. As the business grows — and with it, the need for new members on your team — this haphazard process often doesn’t scale, causing stress for both the hiring team and your candidates.

An applicant tracking system (ATS) is a natural solution to this problem: It consolidates and streamlines common hiring processes, saving you precious time and energy. But finding the best applicant tracking system for a small business often presents a big challenge. With so many options on the market, it’s difficult to know which ATS would be worth the investment, especially if your budget is already tight.

This short guide will direct you toward the right ATS for your organization by helping you determine what kind of system you really need, both now and in the future. We’ll also cover some of the most popular features included in small business-friendly ATS’, so you know what you should prioritize during your research.

What should a small business-friendly ATS offer?

HR professionals trying to find the best applicant tracking system for their small business may quickly get frustrated by long lists of potentially unnecessary features. If you’re in charge of talent acquisition at a small business, you’re probably not looking for HR software that offers everything but the kitchen sink — you’re looking for software that makes your job easier.

There are three specific things that small businesses should seek out in an ATS, all of which are mission-critical to streamlining the hiring process — and crucial for supporting your recruiting efforts long-term.

  • Time-savings: With a small business comes a small HR team — sometimes a single person — juggling candidate data, interview scheduling, and posting new job openings across different job boards. Tracking your tasks between multiple tools is incredibly time-consuming. With an ATS, all these steps are consolidated into a single location, saving valuable time by reducing the need to constantly switch between tools or tabs.

  • Inclusion of the whole team: It’s next to impossible for HR professionals at small businesses to handle the entire recruiting process themselves. You need to lean on hiring managers and company leadership to conduct interviews, give feedback, and train new employees. Applicant tracking systems make this collaboration easier by providing “seats” for everyone, so no matter who’s involved, they’re able to log in, add their input, and see the latest candidate updates. HR professionals can then focus on the important task of keeping the interview process on track — not uploading information from interviewers, who don’t have the right permissions to use a tool.

  • Integration with G Suite: Many small businesses use G Suite calendar, email, and spreadsheet tools since they’re a low-cost and team-friendly alternative to other productivity suites. Thankfully, many ATS’ like Hire by Google integrate with G Suite to save even more time and effort. For example, if you schedule an interview in your ATS, it will automatically be added to Google Calendar — there’s no need to add a calendar reservation manually.

Hire scheduling
ATS’ like Hire by Google integrate with G Suite, allowing recruiters to easily create interview appointments directly from the ATS.

How can small businesses identify the ATS that best meets their needs?

Along with getting familiar with the traits of the top applicant tracking systems, recruiters can find the best ATS for their small business by matching the available features of each ATS with their hiring goals. Every business has different goals and, ultimately, you want the ATS to support your specific goals.

Here’s a practical example: Your CEO may have a goal of doubling your organization’s marketing team from five to ten individuals in the next six months. But as the only member of HR, your time-to-hire is often six weeks per person, which makes achieving this goal in the time allotted almost impossible.

In this case, you’ll want to look for an applicant tracking system that will help you speed up time-to-hire, which directly correlates to your goal of hiring five new employees in six months. These features might include:

  • Posting to multiple job boards at once: This feature allows new vacancies to be posted to multiple job boards in a single click. In addition to saving recruiters an immense amount of time, it also allows job seekers to find your ads on a variety of career sites.

  • Source efficiency reporting: This report shows how far candidates from specific sources make it in the interviewing process. You might find that one specific job board is giving you more qualified marketing candidates than another. You could then reduce the number of job boards you’re posting to, saving time on interviews and money on job postings.

  • Time-to-hire reporting: Finally, this report helps you understand how long you’re taking to fill each new role. Time-to-hire may also highlight issues with your workflow — such as a manager taking too long to provide feedback after interviews — which you can then address, armed with data. By identifying these bottlenecks, you can speed up the recruitment process and improve the candidate experience.

Hire team communication
Source efficiency reporting shows the strength of your candidate sources by breaking it down to the interview stages they were able to reach, allowing you to prioritize your strongest sources

These three specific features directly support your goal of hiring five new marketers in six months: You’ll be able to post jobs faster, identify the best job boards for hiring qualified marketing candidates, and find further opportunities for optimizing the hiring process internally. These features reduce your time-to-hire, making it possible to reach your goal.

If you don’t already have your goals documented or aren’t certain what they are, now’s the time to have a conversation with your company leadership. Even if they’ve already given you the all-clear on purchasing an applicant tracking system, you want to be certain that the ATS you choose will tie back to what they want to achieve — both now and in the future.

Future-proofing your choice of ATS

Recruiters at small businesses may feel that the features they really need in an ATS are vastly different from those preferred by HR teams at larger organizations. But since your business may not be small forever, and your hiring needs will change over time, it’s best to look for an ATS that can scale as you grow. Look ahead when choosing the best applicant tracking system for small businesses:

  • Flexible pricing structure — One of the first things to evaluate in your choice of ATS is how it’s priced. Small business-friendly applicant tracking systems adjust their pricing on a scaling basis, typically by the number of users or “seats” available. This way, you pay less if you are a smaller company, and the price only increases when you add additional employees.

  • Candidate limits — Another point to consider is how your usage of the software may change over time. Some ATS’ keep their prices low by limiting candidate interactions or the number of applications you’re able to receive. This may work for you right now, but small businesses often find that it’s easy to exceed these limitations. Prioritize ATS’ that don’t limit your activities, so you’re able to use it as you need.

  • Unused features — Features that look like extras now may help you meet your hiring goals in the future. While you may not benefit from source efficiency reporting immediately, it can be a big help if you’re trying to save money on hiring while attracting top talent. And extra seats in the ATS may be useful in the future when you decide to involve additional hiring managers in the interviewing process.

While your recruiting software should absolutely help you meet your current goals, think about how these goals might change over time, especially as you add more members to your hiring team, interview new types of candidates, and look for new opportunities to save time or money. Imagining the future, or even discussing long-term hiring plans with your leadership team, will give you an even better chance of picking the ATS that’s best-suited to your organization.

Find the best ATS for your small business with these tips

Whether you employ ten people or are rapidly sprinting toward 100, choosing the best applicant tracking system for your small business doesn’t have to be a guessing game. Just remember to set your goals before you start, and keep these priorities in mind as you search.

If you choose applicant tracking software with your hiring goals in mind, you’ll be much more likely to find the ATS that will improve your processes, make your candidates happier, and, ultimately, contribute to hiring success, both now and in the long-term.

About Hire by Google

Hire is a recruiting app by Google that uses AI to make the hiring process faster and simpler. Because it is designed specifically for G Suite users, with Gmail, Google Calendar and other G Suite integrations, Hire streamlines administrative tasks so that your team can hire the best people, faster.