What is an Applicant Tracking System?

Updated on: 13. May 2024

Definition of an Applicant Tracking System The use of an applicant tracking system offers a decisive competitive edge. By digitalizing your recruiting processes, you can save time and money in…

Definition of an Applicant Tracking System

  • An applicant tracking system supports the recruitment process by automating, standardizing, and centrally documenting the applications you receive
  • Reporting allows the most efficient applicant channels to be identified and save costs
  • Applicant tracking systems can be valuable for companies of all sizes and in all industries 

The use of an applicant tracking system offers a decisive competitive edge.

By digitalizing your recruiting processes, you can save time and money in your personnel recruitment, hire new employees faster, and do not have to expand your recruiting team.

We will explain how an applicant tracking system can help you achieve this.

Here we explain which functions your system should absolutely have and whether the investment in an applicant tracking software is worthwhile.

Applicant Management System or Applicant Tracking System?

When people talk about applicant management systems, applicant tracking systems (ATS), applicant administration software, applicant tracking software, or e-recruiting systems, they mean the same thing. These terms refer to software solutions that help recruiters and human resources departments in their recruitment efforts.

A custom-fit applicant tracking system digitally maps the recruiting process, supporting recruiters throughout the entire application process:

The software handles routine tasks fully automatically and relieves the burden of administrative tasks.

It enables automatic confirmations of receipt, notifies colleagues of received applications, offers a clear comparison of applicant data with job requirements, and detailed evaluation options for important recruiting KPIs.

Advantages of applicant tracking systems

All functions are aimed at enabling more efficient recruiting processes, enabling faster hiring of new employees without having to expand the recruiting team.

This is a clear competitive advantage. softgarden customers can reduce their time-to-hire by up to 60 percent thanks to more efficient recruiting processes.

At the same time, this leaves human resources more time for work that adds value: for example for personnel development measures, improving the employer branding strategy, or simply for targeted job interviews with interesting candidates.

Save costs

As a result, costs can be saved in several areas – directly and indirectly:

  • No expansion of the recruiting team necessary
  • Building a talent pool allows you to fill positions without spending money on job ads and time on active sourcing
  • Reporting allows for more efficient use of budgets, for example by identifying the channels that lead to hirings
  • Productivity increase through faster recruitment

Save time

The automation of administrative tasks reduces the load for the recruiting team in their daily work.

Functions such as automatic reminders for managers and decision-makers reduce the likelihood that applications are left unprocessed for too long.

An applicant tracking system also serves as a central data storage.

Applicant documents, exchanged e-mails, and impressions from job interviews are collected here. This makes it easier to make decisions, everyone is always up to date.

Optimize recruiting processes

Recruiters not only have more time to search for employees but can also deal with strategic issues.

Detailed reporting allows the identification of the best applicant channels and helps to optimize internal processes.

For example, by examining how long applicants have been in the various application phases, bottlenecks can be identified and eliminated.

You can also use your recruiting budget more efficiently by specifically evaluating the best channels through which you receive applications.

How to do this?

Where would you rather spend your budget?

On Portal X, which receives 100 applications for your position, but from which you immediately reject 90 because they do not meet certain criteria – or on Portal Y, from which you only received 10 applications, but from which the right candidate for your position was selected?

A good e-recruiting software supports and facilitates such considerations.

Become more digital

A comprehensive digital recruiting solution can help you reach and engage talent.

In addition, a digital recruiting team makes you less dependent on external conditions in the recruitment market and allows for more flexible working models.

A digital solution also makes the application process easier for companies with decentralized structures.

Requirements of an applicant tracking system – decision support

Are you looking to save time, costs, and resources with a recruiting software, optimize your processes and become more digital? It’s the right move.

Before we get into important functions, we would like to tell you about some basic requirements for applicant tracking systems:

  • Customizability
  • User-friendliness
  • Free support, fast service, possibility of free testing
  • Cloud solution, software-as-a-service
  • Legal security

Let us take a closer look at these requirements:


To simplify and improve your processes with software, it must be able to map the recruiting process from start to finish.

It should also be possible to define individual processes, for example from different departments.

It should also be possible to integrate individual job ad layouts for different job boards, message templates, and recruiting teams.


All tools provided for applicant tracking should be user-friendly.

One of the most essential criteria is therefore a user-friendly interface.

Only software that is easy to use and clear is quickly accepted and reliably used by all participants.

This applies your employees, but more importantly to your potential applicants.

If the uploading a resume does not work even on the third try, your candidate will give up in frustration.

Service and Support

If you are planning to introduce a software, it is important that you can test it thoroughly before you buy.

This is the only way to make sure that the user interface and the integrated functions really simplify your daily work and the application process.

That is why competent, quickly accessible, free support is also extremely important.

Ideally, you can submit support requests by phone, e-mail, or ticket system and receive a quick initial response.

For frequently asked questions and frequently used functions there should ideally be help articles and tutorials.


Modern applicant tracking should build on cloud software.

This software is provided on a server and you access it via the Internet.

The advantage: All employees use the same version of the program and work with the same level of information – and it is always up-to-date.

Best of all, your IT department does not need to install or maintain anything at all, because the software manufacturer takes care of it. This saves money, IT resources, and time.

GDPR and Equal Treatment Act (AGG) in applicant tracking

It is therefore important that your software ensures data protection from the very beginning, i.e. is GDPR-compliant from the first time it is used.

This can be done, for example, by using programmable automatic deletion of applications within the necessary time period, but also by requesting consent for the storage of data during the online application process.

In addition, conformity to the German Equal Treatment Act (AGG) is required when communicating with your applicants.

So when choosing a system, look out for the extent to which providers support you in this respect.

What specific functions does an applicant tracking system offer to meet these requirements and optimize your recruiting?

Overview of ATS functions in applicant tracking

1. Accelerate recruiting processes

A basic function of applicant tracking software is to record your individual recruiting process. Ideally, the personnel request can also be approved via the system.

Customization is an important factor here. The software you choose should not impose a process on you, but support your process.

At the same time, communication and matching tools should be available to facilitate the pre-selection of applicants.

Your software should provide these functions:

  • Recording received applications by job ad placement, also by application by mail or post,
  • Coordination of appointments with colleagues and candidates,
  • Tools for the quick pre-selection of applicants: rankings, specification of and comparison with minimum criteria, and scorecard
  • Mobile recruiting through mobile-optimized web interface / app
  • Assignment of rights and roles for individual recruiters.

Publish job ads on job portal and own careers page

  • Publish job advertisements on several job portals simultaneously via multiposting
  • Book ad quotas directly via the software
  • Integrated career portal
  • Adapt advertisements and career portal to corporate identity
  • Create job ad in several languages
  • Google for Jobs optimization
  • Social recruiting through simple functionality for sharing job ads

A core function of applicant tracking systems is the publication of job ads on several job portals – this function is called multiposting.

Ideally, free and paid ads can be booked and published directly via the tool.

Many systems also provide a careers page that can be integrated into your own website.

This way, opening, closing, and modifying your job postings is handled directly.

It should of course be possible to adapt the career portal and job advertisements to your corporate design.

Did you know that you can also bring your careers page online without a developer and graphic designer? This is very easy with the Career Page Pro from softgarden with practical modular system. This way you can create a responsive career site within shortest time, which is always up to date.

Ideally the program provides the published job advertisements with the necessary code so that they are directly indexed by Google and published on Google for Jobs.

3. Improving the candidate experience

How do you improve your candidate experience?

  • One-click application
  • LinkedIn and Xing integration
  • Responsive, mobile-optimized job ads and forms
  • Customized questions in the application form tailored to the job
  • Quick replies to submitted applications
  • Option to check the status of the application online

A software solution must also make life easier for your candidates along the entire candidate journey.

This begins when filling out the online application.

It is considered standard to enable one-click application, for instance via LinkedIn or Xing integration.

The CV data that your candidates keep up-to-date here can be stored in the application via a direct interface and do not have to be entered manually. Alternatively, it should be possible to upload and read out a resume in PDF format.

All forms and job advertisements should also support responsive design so that using a smartphone or tablet for the application is natural and easy.

After submitting the application, interested parties should immediately receive a confirmation of receipt. Ideally, the system also offers applicants the opportunity to check the status of their application themselves.

The result: an all-round better candidate experience, more satisfied applicants, fewer abandoned applications and, in the end, better candidates for your open position.

4. Optimize recruiting, save costs

How can you optimize your recruiting process?

  • Detailed statement of costs
  • Bring number of applications per job in relation to number of interviews, offers, and hires
  • Evaluate time passed from tendering to hiring across the workflow
  • Evaluate which recruiting channels really lead to hiring
  • Analyze the number of immediate cancellations and reasons for cancellation

You know how much money you invest in job ads every month.

But can you also keep track of the channel through which the candidates you ended up hiring came to you?

Detailed reporting makes exactly this possible.

In the same way, you should be able to track reasons for rejection, immediate cancellations, and the general performance of your job ads.

Ideally, your e-recruiting system will provide you with clear visualizations, many filter and hiring options, and the necessary level of detail.

When does an applicant tracking system start to pay off?

In principle, a recruiting solution can be used by any company that hires personnel and would like to improve its recruitment and processes.

But especially companies with a large number of applicants can benefit from a software solution.

Start-ups, medium-sized companies, and also large corporations need a reliable e-recruiting system to manage their daily incoming applications.

Otherwise, it is difficult to keep an overview of all accepted and rejected applications and to give applicants feedback within a reasonable time.

Every company that depends on new employees should ask itself the question whether its current application process meets modern requirements.

Can you find the right employees in an efficient time frame?

When corporate recruiters are overburdened, but no resources are available to expand the team, software can be a valuable long-term investment.

If replies take too long in your company, if you want to cut costs and improve the candidate experience, or if your recruiting team does not have enough time for in-depth interviews, the answer is clear:

An applicant tracking system is worth the cost.

See for yourself

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