Best Applicant Tracking Systems

Most human resources (HR) managers want software that delivers best-in-class functionality across the entire people management ecosystem. These tools include everything from payroll management and performance monitoring to attendance tracking. Unfortunately, the best HR software and management systems (HRMS) are typically high-tech, expensive tools that may provide too much functionality for HR teams looking to meet very specific requirements.

Companies looking for a solution to help them find, recruit, and hire job candidates should consider purchasing applicant tracking (AT) software. The best software, such as the AT tools from BambooHR, Bullhorn Staffing and Recruiting, and Workable, are available in different prices and customization options—suitable for large enterprises as well as the smallest of small businesses. You can elect to purchase a system integrated within your overall HRMS suite, or you can choose a tool that does AT and only AT. The AT software market is chock-full of capable, affordable, and user-friendly tools designed to plug and play.

Before you choose a system, it's important to consider your team's specific needs. Do you want AT as part of a larger software ecosystem? Do you want something that can handle an unlimited number of users and job openings? How important is it to you that your system integrates well with your corporate website and email client? There's a lot to consider.

Pricing and Services
AT software can get quite expensive, especially if you're a staffing firm that does most of your work within the system. However, small businesses and organizations featuring handful-sized recruitment teams won't have to break the bank to find a suitable tool. In fact, some AT software firms offer free systems capable of basic data processing, applicant communication, and simple recruitment analytics. JobScore and Zoho Recruit both offer free tools that are excellent starter kits for small companies.

The other tools on this list run the gamut from $25 to $100 per user per month for basic plans. However, the more features and projects you'd like to add to the platform, the more expensive AT software can run. Some firms won't openly reveal how high this price can go, and they prefer to discuss it with clients on a case-by-case basis. But keep in mind that annual payments (as opposed to monthly payments) will usually net you a 10-20 percent discount. So, if you've got the money, it's wise to pay for the full year upfront.

User Interface
No matter the technology you're thinking of adopting, you want a user interface (UI) that's easy on the eyes and doesn't require an engineering degree to decipher. Fortunately, most AT software is built with intuitive controls that mimic popular social networking sites, email platforms, and even e-commerce systems. The tools feature simple data entry, drop-down menu navigation, and automated data sourcing requiring very little manual input.

The best systems in this class offer drag-and-drop, customizable UIs that let you decide when, where, and how often to view different information fields. If you're a manager who wants to keep track of how quickly recruiters are placing candidates, you can slide real-time graphs into your home dashboard in order to examine this data every time you enter the tool. If you're a team lead who wants to monitor the progress of an open position, you can drag a pipeline into your dashboard to see which candidates have been asked to come in for an interview.

Bullhorn Staffing and Recruiting and Zoho Recruit are excellent examples of AT software offering almost limitless customization options. Bullhorn Staffing and Recruiting's drag/drop/slide/trash UI is the most elegant of all the systems we tested, while Zoho Recruit's gives you the power to make almost any change you'd like (but not by dragging or dropping). Most AT systems will offer at least some customization, although many require that you work directly with manufacturers to make wholesale changes.

Features and Capabilities
Most systems on this list automatically post newly created jobs to the free job websites you've connected to the system. You can buy memberships from premium job websites within most of the AT software dashboards. If you regularly hire people, you'll want to purchase a tool that ties back to your corporate careers page; this enables your system to automatically feed candidate data from the application page directly into the AT software.

The best tools available offer social buttons that allow you to share postings on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and even Google+. Social networking is a huge driver of AT software navigation. Workable employs hashtagging within its system, which allows you attach a characteristic hashtag to any prospective employee (e.g., #Salesperson) so you can easily sort and find candidates within the database. It also automatically pulls in headshots from candidate social networks, and it even knows to filter out photos of objects, or animals. Zoho Recruit has a Hootsuite-style dashboard that lets you monitor candidate and recruitment firm social activity.

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