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The top applicant tracking system features for end-to-end hiring

These days, most applicant tracking system features extend beyond a resume filter solution and database. For example, helping to provide a positive candidate experience and streamline hiring processes at scale. With an array of features and integrations available, how do you know you’ve chosen the right system to support your entire hiring cycle, now and into the future?

Integrations across the entire hiring cycle

With the amount of time and research that goes into evaluating available ATS features, you’ll want to find a solution that meets all of your needs: from attracting talent to onboarding new hires. Most platforms offer integrated tools such as interview scheduling, skills testing, and video interviewing to create efficiencies throughout the hiring process.

Centralize data:

After someone submits their resume and progresses through your hiring journey, you’ll need to maintain all their data in one place to prevent anything from getting lost. Having to maintain several hiring channels (spreadsheets, email, etc.) is not only tedious, but it’s also risky. Ensuring your data is protected is equally important.

Make sure you consider functionality around:

A laptop with a login screen and a lock attached

Access and login verification

A hiring manager standing next to a lock

Data encryption and protection

A hiring manager walking upstairs with a key

Retention, disaster recovery, and uptime

A hiring manager logging in to their mobile phone with lock and key

Compliance with industry-recognized security standards

Job requisitions and postings:

Posting a new opening involves many tasks. To streamline the process involved in creating a new job description and obtaining internal approvals, your platform should integrate your requisition process with automation. Once the description is ready, post it to your careers page and preferred job boards through the platform. One-click job board posting functionality helps you post to multiple boards and maximize visibility.

To streamline the experience for your candidates, look for ATS features that let them submit a resume without having to log in or create credentials. Even better, allow them to go straight from your application page to a skills test or pre-recorded interview to eliminate their wait time.

An applicant applying to a new job posting on her laptop

Candidate management process:

Once you’ve begun receiving applications, you want to keep the momentum going. Most systems offer automated resume screening to help keep things moving while introducing efficiencies.

A calendar indicating interview scheduling functionality

Interview scheduling and calendar synchronization

A sliding filter that can be used to screen resumes

Resume screening with filters and tags

Arrows indicating candidate advancement capabilities

Candidate advancement to the next stage

An applicant next to three boxes checked off as different scores being collected by the system

Weighted applicant scoring from skills tests and interviews

Two hiring managers high-fiving from their mobile phones

Mobile-friendly capabilities create a positive experience for your hiring team. Your team can view, evaluate, and track candidates on their mobile phones. In 2021, the global SMS open rate was an impressive 95%.

Offer stage:

ATS features should help facilitate decision-making and onboarding. Offer letter functionality means your team can track and store offer letter changes in the candidate profile. Most systems can also automate reference checks without the time or resources needed from your team.

Integration with your HRIS or payroll tools allows you to seamlessly transfer candidate profile data from your applicant tracking database and continue maintaining it now as employee data. Many automated hiring systems also allow you to begin onboarding candidates on the platform, including sending welcome letters and pre-start date information.

A candidate standing on top of a mountain ridge, elated after receiving a job offer

How applicant tracking systems drive business growth

Hiring initiatives and goals are never static. While your strategy might be focused on relationship management now, you may wish to focus on attracting top-of-funnel talent six months or even a year from now. You might be looking to scale hiring initiatives or address upcoming seasonal peaks.

Either way, your system’s features should be versatile to meet current and future needs.

Creating scalability:

To scale hiring initiatives in the future, look for ATS features that use automation throughout the entire journey. Otherwise, you risk increasing your workload for specific tasks if your applicant volumes increase.

Driving top-of-funnel success:

Custom careers pages are an effective way to attract top talent. By using targeted messaging, you can capture the attention of those best suited for the role and aligned with your brand. Some custom careers pages can detect where viewers are located and then show those individuals the most relevant openings based on where they are.

Using an API to connect with your job distribution and marketing channels (careers page, job boards, social media) will allow you to see where your best candidates are submitting a resume, and evaluate your sourcing channel effectiveness.

An HR leader receiving gold coins from a system that says ROI

Nurturing candidate relationships:

Saving talent pools means you can foster close relationships with candidates who are the right fit for your existing and future roles.

ATS features that facilitate candidate relationship management:

Easy-to-use search features

Use keyword searches to identify candidates to reach out to or advance to another hiring phase.

Social media scans

Adding what candidates are talking about online to their profile provides insight into who they are and what they’re looking for in an organization or role.

Targeted outreach

Create ongoing hiring campaigns for passive candidates who may have the niche or hard-to-find skills you need.

Scheduling automation

Make scheduling interviews easier for candidates once they’ve applied. Give them time slot availability and the ability to choose based on what works for them.

Automated communications

Send candidates personalized SMS and emails at key hiring stages - including onboarding with advanced automation.

Saved talent pools

Maintain the profiles of unsuccessful candidates. Attach notes and set reminders to re-engage with them in the future.

Ongoing support and training:

Does your automated hiring system come with a support team for users and applicants? Real-time assistance can address any questions or technical needs of candidates joining an interview.

Ongoing training is equally important because it ensures high user adoption. It also means that as hiring initiatives to expand across departments, all of your internal users are familiar with the platform and features.

Three large arrows propelling an HR leader upwards through the air

To ensure your future hiring initiatives are successful, look for a vendor that works with you in tailoring workflows and optimizing your processes. It will allow you to improve your hiring processes for faster hiring, compliance, and better hiring decisions.

System customization

Rather than looking for an out-of-the-box solution, make sure the automated hiring system you choose can be tailored to mirror your existing workflows. Your hiring stages, approvals, and internal frameworks are unique to your organization and the system should be able to accommodate them so that you don’t have to change your entire hiring process to suit the technology.


It’s important to consider a system’s capabilities in relation to implementation and onboarding since getting these stages right will set your team up for success.

Here’s what you should be looking for in a system:

Three individuals in front of a checkmark

A dedicated in-house implementation team who understands your hiring goals

A simplified workflow diagram

Custom workflow creation and user acceptance testing to ensure high adoption

A clock showing 24 hour client support

Ongoing advisory and support for process optimization to meet your goals

A custom branded careers page with corporate font

Custom branding: careers pages, job descriptions, applications, and communications

Workflow customization:

When evaluating a platform’s automation, look for flexibility. There are several key hiring stages and aspects where you’ll want to customize your workflows and make modifications.

alt="An HR leader reading job description and approval messages within the job requisition process"

Job requisition workflows:

Automate the entire process as a single workflow from the initial request form down to final approval. Future positions may require more or fewer approvals internally, depending on the department and seniority of the role. Your system’s automation should be flexible enough to accommodate changes in your workflow and approval process.

A hiring manager saving a candidate for future consideration along with their communications and scores

Candidate advancement workflows:

Advance candidates, or save them in a separate talent pool for future consideration. Candidates are automatically advanced based on pre-set criteria such as resume screening, skills tests, and interview scores. Each new role you hire for may have different pre-set criteria or stages. For example, perhaps the next one includes skills testing or a panel interview.

A hiring manager holding an oversized email representing almost 100 communications

Hiring manager notifications:

Send your managers reminders to complete tasks or let them know that a candidate has moved to the next stage. You can tailor communication content and timing based on the role, hiring stage, or manager.

A hiring manager reviewing anonymous resumes to reduce the risk for bias

Diversity and inclusion frameworks:

The platform should incorporate your DEI practices into your workflows. For example, offering accommodations to candidates when they apply. It can also reduce the risk of bias through anonymous resume review. As your frameworks evolve, your automated hiring system should be able to as well.

An HR leader scrutinizing API metrics on hiring performance

Reporting workflows:

Distribute reporting dashboards to all organizational stakeholders with automation or through an API.

Reporting and optimization:

Most automated hiring systems have reporting features built-in. However, your process isn’t the same as any other organization. Keep an eye out for tailored reporting that you can use to optimize your performance metrics and accelerate decision-making. Configurable dashboards give each team member and stakeholder the information they need, whether departmental performance, hidden trends among your talent pool, or overarching business drivers.

Make sure the platform provides custom reporting on your organization’s:

  • Diversity and inclusion initiatives
  • Year-over-year performance
  • Job board performance
  • Top candidate sources
  • Time-to-interview
  • Time-to-hire
  • Cost per hire
  • Open positions
An HR leader reviewing ATS reporting dashboards on their laptop
A candidate and hiring manager on either side of a mobile phone showing a survey being completed

Want a pulse check on how candidates really feel after their hiring experience with your organization? 49% of job seekers say they would decline an offer if they’ve had a bad candidate experience. ATS features can include candidate surveying to capture their experience so you can optimize your process accordingly.

Applicant tracking system requirements

When you submit your resume to a role posted online, the organization likely uses a system to ‘read’ your resume’s contents. This is referred to as “resume parsing” within an organization's automated resume screening process. To ensure your resume is compatible with their software, you should consider keeping your formatting simple and avoid images. For more on ATS requirements and what resume parsing means when applying online, look at our article “What’s an ATS-Friendly Resume and How Do You Make One?”

A candidate and hiring manager on either side of a mobile phone showing a survey being completed

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Frequently asked questions

What is ATS integration?

An API allows you to plug in to other HR tools along the hiring journey, such as skills testing or interview tools. Data flows into the system in real-time to ensure candidate profiles remain updated.

An HR leader standing on top of a mobile view of three applicant profiles
Candidate scheduling and tracking features shown on a laptop screen

What are ATS features and benefits?

Most platforms offer the same core functionality, which includes an applicant-tracking database, candidate tracking, and candidate relationship management through automated communications. These features help HR teams spend less time on administrative tasks and more time with qualified candidates.

Automated hiring systems begin to differ in their customization and ability to meet different strategies and goals.

What does resume parsing mean?

A definition of resume parsing is the method in which an organization’s system analyzes your resume’s contents and reorganizes it into a ‘candidate profile’ in their applicant tracking database. Meaning that their software reviews your resume before a member of their HR team. Most HR teams will use automated resume screening and resume parsing to spend their time reviewing a much shorter list of candidates.

Applicant resumes being parsed by an ATS and streaming into a hiring manager's laptop
A recruiter reviewing three applicant profiles

What are the different applicant tracking systems?

Some platforms are best suited to small organizations and start-ups, while others support larger organizations and global recruitment initiatives.

Platforms and their features also differ from industry to industry. For example, a restaurant or hotel chain may be looking for a system that features custom career sites and advertising to widen its applicant pool and ensure brand and candidate alignment. While a government agency may be interested in features that allow them to maintain compliance with internal standards and DEI frameworks.