What is an applicant tracking system?

The hiring process can create an overwhelming volume of information that ranges across emails, spreadsheets, calendars, and more. In a growing organization, this can be particularly daunting. An applicant tracking system can help by doing three primary things:

  • Automating and standardizing the hiring process — Hiring managers can easily standardize and improve their hiring workflows and customer relationship management.

  • Centralizing information — All information is in one central place, helping the hiring team stay in the loop and on top of the recruitment process.

  • Tracking data — Reporting helps hiring teams take a holistic view into their processes and make improvements when necessary.

Recruiters are the primary, everyday users of an applicant tracking system, but hiring managers, directors of human resources, and interviewers will also need to use the system to communicate with their team about hiring, or to generate reports on key recruiting metrics.

Applicant tracking systems are especially useful for companies that are increasing talent acquisition to match their growth, companies that experience high volumes of applicants, and companies that need to post job openings regularly.

Today, we’re introducing what an ATS is and showing how it can improve the recruitment process.

Automate day-to-day tasks

Without an applicant tracking system, recruiters can spend a lot of time on simple, repetitive tasks, such as manually posting to job boards, screening job applications, emailing updates to candidates, sending reminders, and scheduling interviews.

Applicant tracking software can automate many of these tasks, removing the potential for mistakes, and giving recruiters back time to focus on what they do best -- filling jobs. With the repetitive tasks automated, recruiters have time to personalize their candidate communication, build relationships with hiring managers, and improve the overall candidate experience.

Automation can also help decrease time to hire. For example, an applicant tracking system can automatically parse resumes, or even highlight relevant keywords, like minimum qualifications or degrees, to make resume screening faster. Speeding up the screening and application process can give you a competitive advantage when recruiting top talent. One study showed that almost 50% of rejected job offers were turned down because the candidate had accepted another offer.

Centralize your information

Juggling multiple tools, candidates, hiring teams, and schedules can get tricky, especially in a growing company. An applicant tracking system can help by consolidating a number of recruiting tasks into one single tool:

  • Job postings — Recruiters can quickly post jobs to multiple job boards or social media sites, like LinkedIn, often with just one click.

  • Scheduling — As candidates apply, recruiters can quickly move them though the hiring process, using shared calendars to schedule phone calls and interview slots.

  • Hiring team collaboration — Recruiters and interviewers can keep track of feedback and candidate information as it's added and make comments that other team members can view.

  • Sourcing — By storing candidate data, recruiters can search for, and follow up with, past candidates who might be a fit for a new open role.

When all hiring tasks are consolidated into a single tool, any data that gets generated throughout the hiring process ends up in a centralized database. This allows hiring teams to quickly find and share information, like emails to and from candidates, notes and reminders, feedback, interview schedules, forms, such as I-9s, and more.

Centralization makes it easier for teams to ensure that work isn’t duplicated and candidates don’t fall through the cracks. If one recruiter goes on vacation, or even resigns, another can continue the recruiting process where it was left off, ensuring applications aren't lost. A candidate's experience can sour quickly if a recruiter has to ask them what step of the process they're in, or worse, if an email chain is abandoned completely.

Applicant tracking systems also allow users to implement user roles and permissions to protect the data it collects. This allows teams to decide who has access to what, and ensures that sensitive information remains private.

Track and improve hiring metrics

As a hiring team integrates the tools and processes that an ATS offers, they’ll need to track changes and improvements. An ATS typically comes equipped with a reporting functionality that can help hiring teams track and measure the success of their hiring process.

If applications are dwindling, for instance, hiring managers can find which job sites aren’t producing top candidates. A standardized hiring process also enables HR departments to spot bottlenecks and see where in the process applicants are most likely to drop off.

With the origin of a problem identified, they can swiftly diagnose a cause and search for a solution. As they learn, recruiters can share lessons with the rest of the team and improve the process as a whole.

What to look for in an applicant tracking system for your company

Organizations shopping for an applicant tracking system should carefully consider their current and future hiring needs. An IDC study showed that almost a quarter of surveyed organizations changed ATS vendors in an 18-month period—and nearly the same amount were planning to do so again. To get the most value out of an ATS, organizations must be able to integrate it with their current tools, ensure their team adopts it, and be able to customize it to their candidates.


The ability to integrate with current productivity tools and application suites should be a prime consideration for any recruitment software. Without integration, an organization that uses Google Drive, for example, will still be stuck copying files from the applicant tracking system to a Drive folder and back again, which makes it easy for documents to slip through the cracks, or even to end up in the wrong hands.

Calendar tools are vital for recruitment and should be integrated into any applicant tracking system. Interviews can get more complex as job applicants pass each stage in the hiring process. An easy-to-schedule, one-on-one phone screen can eventually lead to a whiteboard interview that requires the candidate and multiple interviewers to all be in the same room at the same time. As recruiters move applicants through the application process, an applicant tracking system should allow recruiters to sync calendars with relevant employees and schedule interviews without shuffling through a multitude of emails.

Recruiters can waste a lot of time manually copying and pasting job descriptions from one job board to the next. Organizations shopping for an applicant tracking system should ensure it integrates with the most popular sites for posting jobs, such as Indeed and Glassdoor. This type of integration allows recruiters to push one job description to numerous job sites, including the company's career site, with just a few clicks.

Easy adoption

To get the most out of an applicant tracking systems, recruiters must ensure their entire company is able to quickly learn the system and start using it effectively. Teams are less likely to adopt clunky, confusing systems, which can keep recruiters still scrambling to coordinate interviews, feedback, and emails outside of the ATS. Without team-wide buy-in, some of an applicant tracking system’s best features won’t be nearly as impactful. A high-quality candidate experience that attracts top talent has to be a team effort, and a great ATS should encourage this.


Automation can get a bad reputation from job seekers that have experienced off-putting messages that aren't personalized or relevant, so recruiters should be able to customize messages before they're sent. Additionally, the IT administrator who manages the technical side of the applicant tracking system should be able to adjust application filters; overly strict filters can sort out worthwhile candidates who didn't use the right keywords. In one survey, 62% of employers said that their recruiting software was likely missing qualified candidates due to these filters.

Hiring managers should be able to further customize the hiring stages for different kinds of candidates. The hiring process for a software engineer will likely have different stages than the process for a member of the customer success team, and entry-level candidates will have a different process than managers.

Applicant tracking systems serve company growth

A hiring process built on spreadsheets and emails might serve the smallest businesses well enough, but growth requires companies to formalize the interview process and design a hiring structure that allows them to scale. Applicant tracking systems work, and are a crucial step growing companies must consider.

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.