Applicant tracking system

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An applicant tracking system (ATS) is a software application that enables the electronic handling of recruitment needs. An ATS can be implemented or accessed online on an enterprise or small business level, depending on the needs of the company and there is also free and open source ATS software available. An ATS is very similar to customer relationship management (CRM) systems, [1] but are designed for recruitment tracking purposes. In many cases they filter applications automatically based on given criteria such as keywords, skills, former employers, years of experience and schools attended.[2] This has caused many to adapt resume optimization techniques similar to those used in search engine optimization when creating and formatting their résumé.[3]


A dedicated ATS is not uncommon for recruitment specific needs. On the enterprise level it may be offered as a module or functional addition to a human resources suite or Human Resource Information System (HRIS). The ATS is expanding into small and medium enterprises through open source or software as a service offerings (SaaS).

The principal function of an ATS is to provide a central location and database for a company's recruitment efforts. ATSs are built to better assist management of resumes and applicant information. Data is either collected from internal applications via the ATS front-end, located on the company website or is extracted from applicants on job boards. The majority of job and resume boards (,, Hotjobs, CareerBuilder, have partnerships with ATS software providers to provide parsing support and ease of data migration from one system to another. Newer applicant tracking systems (often referred to as next generation) are platforms as a service whereby the main piece of software has integration points that allow providers of other recruiting technology to plug in seamlessly. The ability of these next generation ATS solutions allows jobs to be posted where the candidate is and not just on job boards. This ability is being referred to as Omnichannel Talent Acquisition.

Recent enhancements include use of artificial intelligence (AI) tools and natural language processing to facilitate intelligent guided semantic search capabilities offered through cloud based platforms that allow companies to score and sort resumes with better alignment to the job requirements and descriptions.[4] [5]

With the advent of ATS, resume optimization techniques and online tools are now used by applicants to increase their chances of landing an interview call.


Functionality of an ATS is not limited to data mining and collection; ATS applications in the recruitment industry include the ability to automate the recruitment process via a defined workflow.

Another benefit of an applicant tracking system is analyzing and coordinating recruitment efforts - managing the conceptual structure known as human capital[6]. A corporate career site or company specific job board module may be offered, allowing companies to provide opportunities to internal candidates prior to external recruitment efforts. Candidates may be identified via pre-existing data or through information garnered through other means. This data is typically stored for search and retrieval processes. Some systems have expanded offerings that include off-site encrypted resume and data storage, which are often legally required by equal opportunity employment laws.

Applicant tracking systems may also be referred to as talent acquisition and management products (TAMP) [7] and are often provided via an application service provider or software as a service (SaaS) model.[8] The level of service and cost can vary greatly across providers. In the UK and Ireland, Applicant Tracking Systems which are specifically for Agency Recruiters are often referred to as Recruitment Software and this is a term used mainly in the recruitment agency industry (representative bodies include the REC in the UK and the NRF in Ireland). Although proprietary systems dominate the ATS space, there are open-source alternatives.

As the data held within recruitment software is predominantly personal data, it is often[vague] tightly controlled by data protection legislation, preventing the data from being held offshore, which frequently places a legal restriction on the use of SaaS offerings.


  1. ^ "THIS APPLICANT TRACKING SYSTEM IS YOUR CRM". Pereless Systems. Retrieved June 22, 2016.
  2. ^ Weber, Lauren (24 January 2012). "Your Résumé vs. Oblivion" – via
  3. ^ "Your Résumé vs. Oblivion". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved January 24, 2012.
  4. ^ "What is Applicant Tracking Software?". ejobsitesoftware. Retrieved 25 April 2016.
  5. ^ Pritha, Sen (5 March 2019). "Applicant Tracking System (ATS): What Job Applicant Needs To Know?" – via
  6. ^ Huselid, Mark A. (1995-06-01). "The Impact Of Human Resource Management Practices On Turnover, Productivity, And Corporate Financial Performance". Academy of Management Journal. 38 (3): 635–672. doi:10.5465/256741. ISSN 0001-4273.
  7. ^ Younas, Mohammad. "10 Features Every Career Portal Should Have Today". Entrepreneur. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
  8. ^ Levinson, Meridith. "New Job Search Service Helps Job Seekers Penetrate Applicant Tracking Systems". PC Advisor. Retrieved 1 March 2012.