Definition of Applicant Tracking System

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An applicant tracking system (ATS) is a software application that lets recruiters and employers track candidates during the recruitment and hiring stages. Streamlines the recruitment and hiring processes from start to end.

What is an applicant tracking system?

Sophisticated applicant tracking systems take your online recruiting process to the next level. These systems allow you to consolidate:

  • Job descriptions
  • Vacancy postings
  • Candidate eligibility as compared to job requirements
  • Candidate applications by job
  • Selection decisions by manager, by job
  • Candidate nurturing for additional positions
  • Candidate self-disclosed EEO characteristics
  • Reporting
  • Offer letters
  • Pre-employment testing and results
  • Acceptance dates
  • Mandated employment forms

These cloud-based systems save your recruiting staff a bit of time on their administrative processes and recordkeeping, but they still require effort. For example, suppose you require a 4-year degree, and a candidate applies without meeting that requirement. In that case, they will be automatically disqualified — even if that person brings 10 years of relevant experience.

Candidate records must still be maintained throughout the recruitment process, including indicating which have been selected for interviews, which candidates were declined and why, and which candidate received the offer

Why is an applicant tracking system important to my business?

A significant amount of tracking and reporting accompanies the end-to-end recruiting process. This includes federal, state, and local reports that must be filed to validate that your company is in compliance with various employment laws.

Compliance can cover everything from how your job descriptions are written, questions on your application and questions asked in the interview, and salary decisions to what pre-employment tests you require. Some of these laws include:

  • Title VII
  • ADA (Americans with Disability Act)
  • Ban the Box
  • FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act)
  • PDA (Pregnancy Discrimination Act)
  • USERRA (Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act)
  • Among many others

An applicant tracking system ensures you have a record of everyone who applied for a specific position, whether or not they were offered interviews or selected for the role, and why.

What is the history of applicant tracking systems?

Computerized application tracking systems can be traced back to the 1970s. At that time, it was still a very manual process and was more often created in a spreadsheet or simple database. In the mid-1990s, internet usage was becoming more widespread, as well as the creation of internet-based products.

Although applicant tracking systems used to be priced so that only large corporations could justify the expense and afford them, there have been many breakthroughs over the years to make them more affordable. Today’s systems are available for nearly any budget and help small businesses manage their recruiting processes and compliance more efficiently.

Other terms similar to applicant tracking system that can help you

  • Ban the box: Depending on the legislation in your jurisdiction, a local regulation may require the removal of the checkbox on a job application asking if an applicant has a criminal record or a history of illegal activity.
  • Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA): This Act is an amendment to the Civil Rights Act and forbids discrimination in any aspect of employment, including firing, fringe benefits, such as leave and health insurance, hiring, job assignments, layoffs, pay, promotions, training, and any other condition or term of an individual’s employment as a result of pregnancy.
  • Title VII, The Civil Rights Act of 1964: The EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) governs this law. Title VII forbids discrimination against applicants or employees based on color, national origin, race, religion, or sex. It also prohibits sexual harassment and any other form of workplace sex discrimination.
  • Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA): This regulation requires employers to give employees leave from work for their military duty. Employers must also retain those employees’ reemployment rights for up to 5 years. They must also make reasonable efforts to accommodate veterans’ disabilities.
  • How to avoid major setbacks in your recruiting process
  • How to build a candidate pipeline that supports diversity and inclusion

Summary of applicant tracking system

An applicant tracking system is an automated online system that facilitates your recruitment and hiring processes. It also helps you comply with the many regulatory requirements associated with the recruitment and hiring disciplines.

Although an ATS requires effort and data maintenance, it is a much more effective way to maintain your recruiting records.

Similar glossary definitions you must know

  • Attrition: When an employee leaves the organization — voluntarily or involuntarily — and is not replaced.
  • Co-employment: A contractual relationship between an employer and a Professional Employer Organization (PEO) in which the PEO shares certain employment responsibilities with the employer/client.
  • Cost-per-Hire (CpH): The direct and indirect costs associated with recruiting talent —e.g., advertisement costs, staffing agency fees, signing bonuses, relocation costs, HR overhead costs, background check costs, and training costs.

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