Transform your hiring process today.


An applicant tracking system (ATS) helps talent acquisition teams and recruiters with every step of the hiring process, from posting open roles to collecting feedback that’s used to make hiring decisions. For many organizations, an ATS is one of the core components of the recruitment tech stack. In fact, it’s one of the most relied-on hiring tools for 98% of Fortune 500 companies

Choosing the right ATS can be a daunting task, particularly in this new recruitment world that we’re all striving to be competitive in. From Lever to Greenhouse and Workday to SmartRecruiters, it’s not easy to know which ATS is right for you. Having options is great but also challenging when you’re not exactly sure what you need in the first place. 

On the hunt for the right ATS? Read on for the 5 steps you should take to choose the best ATS for your organization.

Where to Start on Your Search for an ATS

Begin by assessing your needs.

All organizations are somewhere on the broad spectrum of the Wild West to fairly tame as it relates to the hiring process. If you don’t have an ATS, then there’s a good chance there’s no single source of truth for hiring data. 

Begin by spending time digging into what’s happening at each hiring stage. It’s easy to make assumptions about what may be needed or not. However, it’s critical to audit your process to truly confirm what’s working well and where the gaps are.

Assess your hiring process by:

  1. Talking with key teams (recruiters, hiring managers, and leadership) to gather feedback on their hiring challenges and needs
  2. Listening for common themes or trends in the feedback and jotting down what you discover
  3. Conducting a hiring retrospective for two to three recent hires to gather more specific data on their hiring process, such as time to hire, screens per hire, and cost per hire
  4. Understanding who owns which pieces of the hiring process and time commitments 
  5. Aiming to come away with five easy wins an ATS can help you achieve and areas of opportunity it can address

Deep breath…you’ve successfully completed your assessment. It will be much easier to make an informed decision armed with this information.

The 5 Steps of the ATS Selection Process

Once you’ve assessed your needs, it’s now time to take five key steps to make your decision:

1. Prioritize non-negotiables vs. nice-to-haves.

Based on what you learned from your hiring process audit, consider which ATS features are most critical and will continue to support and elevate your current process.

There are plenty of features to choose from, including:

  • Job posting
  • Applicant flow
  • Employer branding
  • CRM capabilities
  • Interview scheduling
  • Reporting and analytics

You may not need particular bells and whistles right away, but you’ll want to choose the right partner to ensure you can get what you need when you’re ready. A big part of this is understanding the hiring plan (often ever-evolving) and any major hiring initiatives that may be coming sooner than later.

2. Do your research.

Pay attention to relevant customer reviews, particularly from companies similar in size and stage. Review sites like G2 make it easy to make a side-by-side comparison of different ATS platforms. 

This is also a great time to speak with colleagues and others in your network who may have recently gone through an ATS implementation for real-time feedback.

Pro tip: it can be useful to do homework beforehand so that you’re able to shortlist your top three ATSs for demos and deeper dives. Need a place to start? Check out this Forbes article, which analyzes top ATS contenders based on a diverse set of criteria.

3. Ensure tech stack compatibility.

Chances are you may be utilizing some recruiting tools and systems already. Make sure that any ATS on your shortlist will seamlessly integrate with your existing stack.

You wouldn’t want to get too far down a path without understanding what the limitations may be or any other investment impacts.

4. Include your team.

It’s important to involve relevant stakeholders in the decision-making process. A successful implementation will be directly tied to the team’s buy-in. 

Depending on the size of your organization, it may not be possible or make sense to speak with everyone. However, consider speaking with key stakeholders to understand their concerns and upcoming plans for growth. 

Some of this will have likely been uncovered during the audit process. With that said, there will be additional support needed from a technical perspective. You’ll want to be sure these folks are informed and on the same page. 

5. Get the most for your money.

It can be difficult to figure out how much it will cost you before you actually speak with someone (ahem, not by accident 😊). There are different pricing models based on company size, hiring needs, etc. 

Depending on the ATS provider, there will likely be more or less pricing flexibility. It’s important to understand what other associated costs may be tacked on as well, such as implementation and data migration fees.

The good news is there are plenty of options for almost any size budget.

Choose Your ATS Wisely

By following the steps outlined above, you’re on your way to finding the very best ATS for your team and organization.

One final note as you set off on your ATS purchasing quest. Ideally, you will find a partner that fulfills your immediate needs while offering the right support as you scale. For example, baseline reporting capabilities may be fine for now, but eventually, you may want the option to customize and slice and dice data differently. 

Be sure that you understand what you will and will not be getting and for what price. Most will offer options when it comes to choosing the right tier or plan. Of course, the Ferrari will cost more than the minivan, but you can always upgrade when you’re ready. 

Best of luck in your search. And, if you’re ever on the hunt for other critical hiring tools and strategies, we’ve got you covered. Here are some additional resources to check out:

More ideas from BrightHire

Start building your dream team today.
Request a Demo