6 steps to find the right recruiting software (ATS)

Julia Reis & Silvia Tosatto

As the competition in attracting talent is increasing significantly, playing the recruiting game has become harder than ever. Companies need to focus on staying (or becoming) an attractive employer and bring this message across to their candidates. But a crucial battleground where the war for talent can be won is the recruiting process itself.

Recruiting software, or Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), are useful tools that can help you handle a variety of different recruitment tasks, and assist you in making the recruitment process more effective for both the recruiter and the candidates. 

Speed, customization and transparency can put your company in a pole position in the war for talent and as a significant side effect, your recruiters re-gain valuable time that might otherwise be lost with admin tasks like scheduling interviews or sending candidate portfolios back and forth within the organization. 

But not every ATS fulfills the needs of every company. The HR technology market is growing rapidly worldwide, as more companies begin to offer solutions to businesses to manage their talent. While this implies that more options are available, it also means that businesses have a lot of work on their hands to sort through a growing number of stand-alone software solutions and suites with complex features and various integration options. 

The following guide is designed to support you in selecting the right ATS for your needs. It is based on our experience of identifying and implementing recruiting software for a range of clients of different sizes and growth ambitions. 

HRMS vs. Stand-Alone ATS 

Many of you might already be using a Human Resources Management Software (HRMS) like Personio, ​​SAP Success Factors, Bamboo HR, or Workday. Many of these tools offer an integrated recruitment module - often for an additional price. So before analyzing a stand-alone ATS, check if your current HRMS has some ATS features and whether these could be sufficient for your needs.

💡 In general, we rather recommend sticking to the basic version of your HRMS and booking an integratable ATS in addition to it. Why?

A good ATS is far more advanced in its features than most recruiting modules within HRMS since it’s what they are focussing on. An HRMS usually cannot beat more specialized competitors in all of its sub-functions. 

Whether you consider staying with your HRMS recruiting module or choosing a separate ATS, these are the steps you can go through to make sure you invest time and money in the right solution for you: 

How to select your Applicant Tracking System (ATS)

1. Assess your recruitment team’s needs 

The first critical step in selecting any software is determining exactly what you are looking for.

When it comes to an ATS, you should in particular firstly assess: 

  1. On average, how many vacancies do you have each month? 
  2. What features are essential to you and your recruitment process?

To answer these questions, you should begin by consulting all relevant stakeholders that are involved in your company’s recruitment process. Discuss with them what issues are currently affecting your recruitment process, and what improvements you would like to see. Based on these findings, you can begin to build a list of essential features for your ATS. 

This would also be a good time to check whether you have any strict budgetary restrictions to consider early on in your search. 

2. Make an overview of the core data and ATS features that you would like to review

Compile a list of essential and nice-to-have features that your ATS should have.
These may for example include: 

  • CV Parsing,
  • a Career site page,
  • an interface to job boards/multiposting channels,
  • integrations with sourcing tools (e.g. LinkedIn Recruiter), 
  • an employee referral support system,
  • email templates and email automation capabilities, 
  • interview scheduling 
  • interview questionnaires and scorecards, 
  • offer management (incl. electronic signature), 
  • a CRM / Talentpool, 
  • a Mobile app,
  • an integrated requisition process,
  • sophisticated analytics,
  • video applications,…

In addition, you should pay attention to key facts like: 

  • Pricing
  • Implementation effort and cost
  • Data protection (as described below)
  • Integrations with other tools you use (e.g. calendar tools, HRMS,...)
  • Usability

3 . Create a longlist of possible ATS and continuously narrow it down 

Begin your research by creating a table with all your comparison criteria in the top row and start collecting a longlist of potential ATS to check out.

To do this, you can rely on recommendations from peers or web search. We’ve found tool comparison pages like, Capterra or OMR Reviews to be quite useful for this. 

Once you’ve created your list, start having a closer look at the tools to see which one’s might be relevant by checking out their websites, related reviews and having initial demo calls or booking test accounts for those that look most promising to you. 

ℹ️   We are continuously screening the software market within HR for your clients. For our usual clients (organisations of up to around 200 employees), Recruitee and Teamtailor (affilitate links) are often our go-to-options when it comes to ATS but the right solution for you really depends on your specific circumstances and requirements.

Here is an overview of some of the most popular tools:

For our usual clients (organisations of up to around 200 employees), Recruitee and Teamtailor (affilitate links) are often our go-to-options but the right solution for you really depends on your specific circumstances and requirements.

4. Deep dive in favorite tools and reach out to providers 

Once you have identified a shortlist of up to 5 ATS that seem to meet your core criteria best and that are within your budget, do not hesitate to reach out to the ATS providers with questions on advanced features, and check their trial versions more thoroughly. 

5. Determine your data security standards and examine ATS providers’ compliance with GDPR  

To establish if your ATS provider truly complies with GDPR standards of data protection, you must carefully read each provider’s data protection policy and to ensure that their servers operate within EU’s borders or in countries whose data protection standards are comparable to the EU’s. In many cases, you will have to ask them about this in an initial call. 

💡 Please note that it is not sufficient to check whether a software provider describes themselves as “GDPR compliant”. In some cases, this is still not the case. This is particularly true for many market leaders based in the US due to the Schrems II CJEU decision and subsequent national rulings within the EU. 

6. Test drive your top 2 picks with your team 

Once you have made a top 2 selection of your potential ATS, you might consider conducting a deep dive test with their free trials. Involve your recruitment team, and try implementing your recruitment process with the new software. 

Make sure to deep dive in all the most essential features and check if the tool suits your workflow and links with your existing software infrastructure (email, calendar, communication, etc…). Reflect upon its usability and its scalability options and request final quotes from their providers to take your decision. 

7. Congrats, you're ready to book your ATS and kick off the implementation! 🚀

Disclosure: This article includes affiliate links as we have partnership contracts with some of the software providers we work with. Be assured that honesty and integrity are core values for us. Therefore, our blog content is not influenced by such partnerships and we would not partner with any companies whose products did not seem fully convincing to us.

October 17, 2023