7 Questions to Ask When Buying an Applicant Tracking System

Applicant tracking software is a natural next-step for companies that have outgrown their current hiring tools.

But your choice of ATS—its features and pricing structure—will shape your hiring process for years to come. It can influence collaboration between recruiters and candidates. It can help or hinder your ability to hire from within your existing network. It can positively or negatively impact recruiters’ relationships with their hiring managers. As your company scales, the right ATS becomes a powerful tool for saving time and improving relationships.

To help you find the ideal recruiting tool, we’ve put together a list of seven simple questions to ask before you buy.

1) How is the ATS priced?

Many applicant tracking systems charge per user. Others use pricing tiers built around the number of jobs you post: posting 100 jobs will cost more than posting 50, which costs more than 10, and so on. In both cases, these pricing structures penalize you for actually using the software: the more team members you add to the ATS and the more jobs you post, the more you have to pay.

Your ATS shouldn’t limit collaboration by restricting you to a handful of users. Instead, look for an applicant tracking system that offers:

  • Straightforward monthly pricing, making it easy to understand your costs and budget appropriately.

  • Unlimited users, allowing you to add extra team members without incurring extra fees.

  • Unlimited job postings, so you can promote every new vacancy without worrying about restrictions.

Chances are, you’ll want an ATS that you’ll use for years to come, so look at both the current cost and the future cost. Even if the tool is affordable with 5 or 10 users, there’s no guarantee the same would apply at 100 or 500 users.

2) What additional fees can we expect to see?

Some ATS vendors use pricing structures laden with extra costs and expensive add-ons, even locking core functionality behind additional fees. In these cases, it’s important to understand the difference between the sticker cost and the actual cost of the features you’d want to use.

These extra costs can include:

  • Reporting fees, charging you extra to generate performance reports or access the tool’s API.

  • Onboarding, implementation and data migration fees, levying extra costs to get the tool up-and-running.

  • Customer support fees, touting effective customer support as a “premium” add-on.

Instead, look for an ATS that has a clear pricing structure, and check that all of the functionality you’ll use is accounted for in the price. That means:

  • Free access to reporting functionality, out of the box. It’s your data, so why should you pay extra to report on it?

  • Free onboarding, implementation and data migration support. You’re already paying for a monthly license, so why should you pay for setup as well?

  • Free customer support that scales with your company size and usage. Customer support becomes a bigger priority as you grow, so look for ATS vendors that provide effective support for all team sizes.

Extra costs quickly add up, so the sooner you can shed light on add-ons and fees, the better.

3) How do you help me find the right applicants?

Mention sourcing and many ATS providers are quick to point to the dozens of free job sites they can post to. This sounds good, but in reality, this wide-but-shallow approach to sourcing isn’t always effective, as:

  • Most hires happen on a handful of sites, like Indeed, LinkedIn and Glassdoor. While adding dozens of extra sites into the mix can sometimes generate good-fit candidates, it can also introduce more noise into the hiring process and make it harder to identify good applicants.

  • The best sourcing happens in your existing network. Research from Laszlo Bock, Google’s former SVP, People Operations, found that recruiters were 6x more likely to hire someone already in their recruiting database. Good applicant tracking systems should make it easy to source candidates both internally and externally.

Instead of focusing on the total number of job sites on offer, it’s usually better to find an ATS that has deep integrations with major job sites and makes it easy to recommend new roles to candidates already in the hiring pipeline.

4) Will I have high-quality support? What does our engagement with the support team look like?

Responsive customer support is important for all businesses, but it becomes even more important as companies scale, and implementation, data migration and troubleshooting get harder to manage across a big team of users. Before purchase, try to understand exactly what customer support is provided.

Find an ATS that offers:

  • Multi-channel support. Recruiters will access your ATS from the office, from home and on the road, using a PC, laptop and phone. A great ATS will make it easy to access support wherever and whenever it’s required—via chat, email and text.

  • “Value-add” customer service. Top-tier customer support should be proactive, offering ongoing check-ins and performance reviews to help you get the most from your software.

  • Online help resources. Free resources like webinars, support articles, video tutorials and eBooks will improve adoption and use throughout your team.

Great customer support offers more than just a safety net in case problems crop up: it helps you get the most from every feature of your ATS.

5) What does the implementation of this tool look like?

Some products are complicated and require hours of consulting services and developer time just to get started. Often, new users have to sift through training materials to understand the features on offer. Complexity—and often cost—is worsened when companies have existing data they need to migrate to their new platform.

It’s important to understand the practicalities of getting started with your new recruiting tool. To make implementation easy, look for an applicant tracking system that includes:

  • Free data migration, ideally by a dedicated team of experts.
  • Little-to-no training, with an intuitive interface and straightforward onboarding process.
  • Native integration with the tools you use every day—like email, calendar and file storage.

There’s no need to settle for clunky, complicated business software. Today’s recruiting tools should look and feel much like a consumer app—and that includes getting up-and-running in hours, not weeks.

6) What reporting features do you provide?

ATS adoption should improve hiring performance, but it isn’t always easy to quantify the impact—especially when some tools limit access to key reporting features and others rely on complex APIs to generate even simple reports. Reporting shouldn’t be complicated, so look for an ATS that offers key reporting functionality straight out of the box and makes it easy to drill-down into performance by job, department and even hiring manager.

Useful performance reports include:

  • Time-to-hire
  • Source efficiency
  • Pipeline
  • Rejection reasons
  • Conversion rates

As the adage goes, you can’t improve what you can’t measure. Reporting features are crucial for understanding and improving your hiring process over time.

7) What features set you apart from the rest?

Every ATS is built around a different vision of “efficient recruiting,” and this question is a great way to see if their vision aligns with yours. While the right answer to this question will be unique to your business, there are a few features that every recruiter will benefit from.

Look for an ATS that:

  • Automates busywork. Recruiting is a skilled job, and admin tasks—copying and pasting messages, scheduling calendar events, sending dozens of emails, updating candidate information—distract from important work. A great ATS will automate this busywork and free up time for higher leverage activities, like building relationships with candidates.

  • Unlocks the power of your entire database. Some tools have a myopic focus on sourcing new candidates, but to have the biggest impact on hiring efficiency, a great ATS should also make it easy to match existing candidates to new roles.

  • Works where you work. Every recruiter is already juggling a half dozen different tools and logins. Instead of adding to the problem, your ATS should streamline your workflow and fit into the tools you already use: such as Gmail, Calendar, and Google Drive.

Every ATS will have a different set of strengths, and understanding their flagship features will help you understand how the tool fits into your own recruiting process.

Finding an ATS That Works for You

Your choice of recruiting software has a big impact on your hiring process, and there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all tool. To find the right ATS for your own approach to hiring, ask plenty of questions and dig into pricing structures, hidden fees, features, implementation and support.

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.