Small businesses have a tough time finding the right candidate—and the data backs that up.

According to a survey from Monster:

  • Seventy percent of small to midsize businesses (SMBs) find the process to be quite expensive
  • Eighty-nine percent of SMBs find it to be time-consuming

In spite of this sentiment, 50 percent of small businesses still spend tons of time on manually searching for candidates.

You shouldn’t when software can do that much faster.

Small businesses should use an applicant tracking system (ATS) to automate the process of hiring and recruiting. With a faster and more efficient tool, you’ll also be able to enhance candidate engagement.

Since many small businesses aren’t fully aware of the features and benefits of applicant tracking systems, your IT team should run a deep analysis of the core and other notable ATS features so that you buy the right solution.

Having an ATS will reduce the chances of hiring the wrong candidates—which results in lost money and time according to the majority of surveyed respondents.

This article explores the technical aspects of top and notable ATS features. Advanced technical insights can help small businesses understand which features are an absolute must and which aren’t as necessary.

Overview of the top and notable ATS features


Overview of the top and notable ATS features

Top features: The core “must-have” ATS features

clock iconApplicant tracking manages the candidate pipeline

Applicant tracking helps recruiters manage candidate data such as contact details, demographic information, and salary expectations. The feature makes it easy to handle the candidate pipeline and track applicant status throughout the process of hiring. This helps HR make informed hiring decisions.

iconKey facts

A GetApp survey revealed that:

  • Forty-nine percent of small businesses don’t use applicant tracking to manage their hiring process.
  • Thirty-six percent of recruiters get direct candidate applications on the company’s career website and 8 percent get them through social media.
  • Fifty-four percent of candidates search for jobs on various job sites and 14 percent prefer to apply for jobs on the company website.

iconKey components of applicant tracking

  • Candidate source tracking: Auto-extract candidate information from multiple job sites into your database. Recruiters can track the applicant source (social media, job board, or company website) by adding source tracking tags to the “apply for job” links. This helps recruiters maximize their time and energy on promoting jobs on the right portal.
  • Central repository of applicant profiles: Keep all candidate data, such as resumes and social media profiles, in a central repository. This lets HR managers view, edit, or update the information on a single dashboard. They can import applicant profiles from the database for different jobs and filter candidates based on location, skills, role, etc.
  • Multiple applicant tracking: Track applicants at each step of the hiring process, such as screening and interview (via phone or face-to-face). This also lets users check a manager’s feedback on an applicant’s profile after the interview.

iconKey benefits of applicant tracking

  • Manage applicant data in real time: Automating time-consuming tasks such as storing and managing candidate information in a central repository streamlines the process of managing multiple applicant profiles in real time.
  • Get the latest hiring updates: The feature lets candidates track the status of their job application throughout the hiring stages: shortlisting, screening, and selecting. This keeps applicants updated during the recruitment process.
  • Leverage applicant source data to build hiring strategy: This feature can help small businesses build their hiring strategy to invest in the right platforms (social media, job boards, etc.) for the best candidates.

easel iconApplicant workflow reduces time to recruit

The applicant workflow feature automates routine tasks such as resume sourcing, candidate screening, and sending email notifications to candidates. It lets recruiters add candidate information in custom fields based on roles, education, and job status.

iconKey facts

  • Fifty-two percent of recruiters believe that resume screening is the toughest and most time-consuming part of the entire hiring process.
  • Forty percent of businesses said they don’t use automation for candidate screening and selection.
  • Fifty-five percent of HR managers spend about eight hours a week on manual, repetitive tasks such as screening candidates and resume filtering.

iconKey components of applicant workflow

  • Online candidate workflow forms: Add custom job fields to create candidate workflow forms. This feature makes it easy to approve job posts.
  • Pre-screening tests: Create and add pre-screening tests to the candidate workflow to evaluate an applicant’s skills for the job. For example, for a software engineer role, add an assignment stage to assess a candidate’s programming skills. The feature can also categorize candidates based on skills, education, and role to create candidate pools.
  • Automated feedback emails: Schedule automated feedback emails to candidates who are eligible for the next round of interviews. Also, loop in hiring managers and senior executives to update them about hiring status.

iconKey benefits of applicant workflow

  • Automate the job approval process: A manager approval step in the recruitment workflow ensures that they approve job descriptions before posting the opening on various job sites and social media platforms.
  • Eliminate manual sorting of candidates: The applicant workflow automates the process of sorting candidates based on their answers in a prebuilt questionnaire, through video interviews, etc. This saves HR tons of time and ensures that your business follows fair hiring practices.
  • Boost collaboration: Involving hiring managers, supervisors, and senior executives in the applicant workflow fosters a collaborative hiring practice. Each stakeholder has equal participation and say in each hiring decision.

Notable features: Optional features to consider based on business needs

ID iconEmployee onboarding removes manual paperwork

Employee onboarding enables HR manager to manage the process of registering new employees within the organization, including the filing of tax forms (W-4, I-9, etc.), legal agreements and other employment-related forms.

The feature enables HR managers to automate the manual tasks of the onboarding process, such as acquainting new employees with the organizational culture, behaviors, and attitude required to function effectively within the organization.

iconKey facts

  • Seventy-six percent of HR staff believe that their onboarding practices are underutilized, while 36 percent of small businesses don’t have the sufficient technology to automate onboarding.
  • Fifty-five percent of organizations don’t measure the effectiveness of their onboarding programs, resulting in a decrease in the employee retention rate.
  • Thirty percent of businesses plan on investing in employee onboarding software solutions to boost employee engagement.

iconKey components of employee onboarding

  • Auto-populated employee forms: Create templates for essential forms such as W-4 and I-9. Set identical fields (first name, last name, email, etc.) to auto-populate employee details from a different form that a new employee has filled out.
  • Onboarding workflow: Set up multiple automated workflows to define steps for each stakeholder in the onboarding process. The feature will send automatic notifications to the hiring managers when each step is completed.
  • Compliance management: Get alerts if any new employees don’t submit references, certificates, or any federal compliance documents. This ensures compliance with laws and general business rules.

iconKey benefits of employee onboarding

  • Helps HR manage new hire pipeline: Automated onboarding makes it easy to welcome new hires as it doesn’t overburden them (or your HR) with emails or phone calls for every small step of the process.
  • Ensures that businesses are compliant: With new hires filling out the essential tax and federal forms, you stay compliant with federal and state laws and regulations.
  • Reduces employee onboarding time: Auto-populating new hire forms reduces data entry errors and ensures faster onboarding.

spreadsheet iconCandidate communications tracking boosts engagement

Candidate communications tracking helps HR track and manage multiple communication channels (phone, email, or video chat). It maintains an electronic record of the candidate’s interactions throughout the hiring process.

iconKey facts

  • Eighty-one percent of applicants would like continuous updates on their job application in order to feel more engaged.
  • Fifty-three percent want communication expectations to be clearly defined in the job description.
  • Thirty-three percent want an automated email after applying for a job.

iconKey components of candidate communications tracking

  • Prebuilt email templates: Use customized email templates to send job invitations to multiple candidates. The templates include information such as job description, company information, location, date, and time of interview.
  • Rank candidates: Score and rank candidates based on interactions during their screening and their answers in pre-screening questionnaires. Save this data to maintain relationships with the candidates for future opportunities.
  • Email integration: Integrate email tools, such as Outlook and Gmail, to track email communication between applicants and recruiters.

iconKey benefits of candidate communications tracking

  • Save recruiters time with email templates: The prebuilt email templates suit different jobs and can be sent to multiple candidates. This saves time and lets recruiters focus on other more important tasks.
  • Schedule automatic emails: This feature updates candidates about the status of their job application so that they’re engaged during the recruitment process.

calendar iconInterview management streamlines candidate assessment

Interview management lets recruiters schedule, track, and manage candidate interviews. It reduces a recruiter’s workload by automating routine steps.

iconKey facts

iconKey components of interview management

  • Interview scheduling: Create a prebuilt set of interview questions and rating parameters. Send automated emails to candidates and interviewers; also, loop in supervisors to schedule or reschedule interviews.
  • Interview process tracking: Track and add notes to an applicant’s profile at different stages of the interview process to keep everyone updated.
  • Calendar integration: Choose flexible dates and times for interviews based on the real-time availability of hiring managers and candidates, with the help of a shared calendar.
  • Interview feedback: Asks interviewers/managers for post-interview feedback. Allows hiring managers to track the status of manager feedback in real time.

iconKey benefits of interview management

  • Eradicate bias from interview process: The pre-built set of interview kits and scorecards helps interviewers assess a candidate fairly, as the software removes bias and subjectivity from the interview process. Also, the structured interview questionnaire and rating parameters save a lot of time in the process.
  • Simplify the interview process: Automated interview scheduling reduces a recruiter’s workload and helps small businesses hire top talent. It improves process efficiency by managing candidates during the interview process.
  • Enhance the candidate experience: Candidates are more likely toreject an offer if the interview process is lengthy. Allowing candidates to schedule and reschedule interviews based on their availability increases their engagement.

Next steps and additional resources

There are many factors that go into selecting the applicant tracking system features you need in your business. Here are a few things you should keep in mind:

The factors you should keep in mind when selecting the applicant-tracking system features you need in your business.