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What Makes a Good ATS? The Top 5 Features to Look For

By Mona Bergeron on the Blog

The number one reason to have an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is for accountability and compliance purposes, i.e., ensure all your candidates go through the same process and have equal opportunity; but an ATS can do so much more to optimize your hiring process. The problem is, with so much choice in the realm of recruitment software it can be challenging to find the one that fits your needs. To help you make an informed decision, we put together this list of essential features a great ATS partner will have. 

Your ATS should have:
• Optimized Apply Environment
• Candidate Nurturing
• Data-Driven Insights
• Collaborative Capabilities
• Integration

Optimized Apply Environment 

Through our research on candidate experience, we have identified common job search frustrations, one of which is being redirected to different environments and having to re-enter personal information. When this happens, users waste time and can feel like the platform is not adapted to their needs. Providing a user-friendly experience lowers the chances a candidate will drop out of the application process, so your ATS needs to enable candidates to instantly apply on the very website where they found the job ad. Being able to apply in as few clicks as possible greatly enhances candidate experience.  

Candidate Nurturing 

Some candidates who don’t make the cut could still be contenders for future openings, and you do not want to lose them once you’ve already invested in them. However, it can be time-consuming to keep talent pools active and maintain contact with past applicants. That’s where a good ATS can come in and help you engage with candidates not only during the hiring process, but also afterwards. 

Your chosen ATS should go beyond tracking applications and keeping candidates informed about their application status. It should also notify past applicants of suitable vacancies arising at a later date via email or text messaging, which will help them “feel valued and feel more positively about the organization, making them more likely to engage with future vacancies and the hiring process,” says Megan Hope, Partner Manager at CIPHR, providers of HR and recruitment software.

Data-Driven Insights 

Making sense of the data is a vital aspect of a recruiter’s role these days. Data reports help recruiters monitor performance, reflect on past strategies, justify budget allocations, and optimize future hiring campaigns. Therefore, your ATS should be able to deliver real-time, purposeful, and actionable data. It should produce different types of reports and allow you to export them into Excel, Word and PDF at any and “every stage of the vacancy and campaign process,” says Megan Hope. To manage all aspects of the recruitment process, including source analysis and diversity monitoring, they must be measured, so “robust reporting really is the secret to more effective hiring,” Megan Hope adds. 

It also helps if all this data is seamlessly presented and accessible “at a glance in the form of clear insights dashboards for recruiters,” says Giles Heckstall-Smith, Director of Strategic Development at Jobtrain. 

Collaborative Capabilities 

Depending on the department and location of the role you are trying to fill, you may want multiple colleagues to be involved in the hiring process. For this reason, it is important your ATS allows you to create hiring teams. When several people can log into one hiring environment and help manage the application process and selection of candidates, hiring becomes more efficient, resilient, and yields better results. Even when members of the team are on vacation or sick leave, applicants can still be moved through the different steps.  

A good ATS will also provide options for "tailored access” for each stakeholder, says Heckstall-Smith. "It provides controls over what information and functionality is accessible by different users—and ideally on the device of their preference (e.g., mobile, PC, or tablet),” Heckstall-Smith adds.  

Furthermore, all team members with access can “track the status of an application and offer their input on candidates’ skills, experience, and suitability for a role,” says Megan Hope. Teams collaborating on getting the most qualified candidates through the process therefore “results in better decisions, because multiple people review applications.” 


The ATS you choose to work with should be integrated with other recruitment software, complementary platforms, and third-party applications to streamline, automate, and speed up the hiring process.  

Integrating with leading providers of services such as background-checks can save countless hours on these types of admin-intensive tasks. Furthermore, integration with a strong network of distribution channels, such as leading and niche job boards, will help hiring teams reach “as wide and diverse an audience of potential hires” as possible—a vital aspect in today’s market says Heckstall-Smith. Working with an ATS that is plugged-in to the recruitment world will give you the ability to tailor where your job postings appear and greatly impact the volume and quality of the applications you receive.  

How to choose an ATS?

To choose the right ATS you need to follow these steps: search for a few potential ATS partners, check the reviews, evaluate the features and ask your network. While there are many features that make an ATS worth using in the long term, make sure they are user-friendly for you and for job seekers, go beyond the initial application process to nurturing your talent pool, provide insightful reports and analytics, team features, and have an excellent level of integration with recruitment tools and software.  

Other steps in choosing the perfect ATS include using the free trial if available. It’s the perfect opportunity for you to scrutinize its particularities and determine if it’s the right fit for your recruitment needs. You can also find the human in all this technology by contacting the ATS support team directly! Finally, ask your current partners if they are already integrated with a particular ATS and benefit from their expertise on the matter.  

While researching features and components of an ATS can take time, when you find one that fulfills all your requirements, it will save you time, effort, and stress in the long run!