The Pros and Cons of Applicant Tracking Systems: What Employers (and Job Seekers) Should Know

A majority of companies are increasingly turning toward applicant tracking systems, or ATSs, in an effort to make the recruiting process less tedious. While ATSs were initially used almost entirely by very large companies, it is now being used by medium and even smaller companies to streamline the hundreds to thousands of applications recruiters receive. If employers had to rely on HR employees alone to do the applicant vetting process, the hours would be endless. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that applicant tracking systems reap entirely positive results. There are flaws to the system, but there are also certain number of benefits to both employees and employers alike.

ATS Pros & Cons - Resume_report on desk

Here, we have outlined some of the advantages and disadvantages to this mechanized sorting process.


Matching candidates to the right jobs

Often, the tracking system will retain the resumes that were initially disqualified. Just because they weren’t fit for the initial opening the applicant applied for, does not necessarily mean that he or she won’t be good for another if the opportunity arises. If the said applicant fits the qualifications for the other opening, the application can be flagged and marked for another opening. This will benefit both the company and the applicant.

Saving businesses both time and money

Ultimately, this is what applicant tracking systems are designed for. Traditional recruitment requires endless amounts of paperwork and with so many people in the job market, ATSs drastically cuts down on it. Also, the system can automatically post jobs to websites and communicate with your potential hires. All of this leaves the company time to dedicate hours and manpower to more relevant efforts.

Pre-identifying standards which allow employers to pick the right candidates

ATSs can immediately recognize the candidates who will be ideal for your particular company and the position offered. This rapidly and easily helps to eliminate the less or differently qualified applicants from the pile. Additionally, if a highly-qualified candidate is forced to wait a long time to hear back from the company, then he or she may decide to pursue and accept another position somewhere else. This cuts down on that risk.

Protection from lawsuits

Recruiting through the applicant tracking system automatically guarantees that your company will meet diversity objectives and automatically makes you compliant.

Improves applicant satisfaction

One of the worst parts of applying for a job waiting for extended periods of time to hear about the status of the application. With an applicant tracking system, you can create automated responses that allow candidates to receive updates regularly.

ATS Pros & Cons - Application graphic


Because of its automated nature, companies can miss out on good applicants

While the ability to search for fitting job applicants is beneficial, Applicant Tracking Systems pose the risk of eliminating candidates who are still valuable but perhaps do not have the exact credentials advertised with the position. This can include people who are switching careers or recent college graduates who may have still have a great deal to offer. Also, these systems can reject highly qualified candidates for reasons outside of their qualifications such as differently formatted resumes or other technical mishaps.

Applicant tracking systems are often based on specific keywords

This means that applicants can be dismissed simply because they don’t have the proper wording on their resume/application or they did not include the preferred industry keyword in their experience description.

Employees may not be able to apply for more than one position at a company

Although Applicant Tracking Systems may keep resumes to flag for other positions later on, they do not always make it so that applicants can apply to more than one position at once. This is because the system often designates the second application a duplicate and discards it. This can be problematic because the applicant could be equally as qualified for two different jobs or could have been more qualified for the second one.

The process can be open to manipulation

This hiring process can be taken advantage of by candidates who know and understand the filtering technology of the tracking systems. This means that rather than being the most qualified candidate, he or she may simply know how to fill a resume with the right keywords.

In Conclusion

ATSs can make the often tedious practice of hiring more manageable, affordable and efficient. While potential hires may occasionally feel uneasy about the automated process, Applicant Tracking Systems can make it easier for those clients who have learned how to handle the automated system. Of course, as with many technologically based systems, removing some of the human judgment and leaving complex decisions to be made mechanically can result in error.  The decision on whether or not to adopt an ATS rests with the specific needs, desires, and demands of the company.

We’d like to hear your input on the advantages and disadvantages of Applicant Tracking Systems. Feel free to weigh in under comments!


Fred Coon, CEO

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