Software

The Best Applicant Tracking Systems of 2017

What Is Applicant Tracking Software?

The best job candidates don’t all come from the same place. Recruiting firms, job websites, and social media websites such as LinkedIn are just some of the places where your blue chip prospects find your currernt openings. All of these outlets provide troves of data—all of it unstructured and in different forms. All of this data needs to be brought together in one place for your hiring teams to make sense of it. That information overload is why companies looking for a solution to help them find, recruit, and hire the best job candidates should consider purchasing applicant tracking (AT) software. The best software, such as Editors’ Choice AT tools from BambooHR, Bullhorn Staffing and Recruiting, and SAP SuccessFactors, are available in different prices and customization options. They are 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 prices for 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. 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, then 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 websites, 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, then you can slide real-time graphs into your home dashboard 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, then 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 that offer almost limitless customization options. Bullhorn Staffing and Recruiting’s drag/drop/slide/trash UI is the most elegant of all the systems we tested. Zoho Recruit’s UI 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, then you’ll want to purchase a tool that ties back to your corporate careers page; doing this enables your system to automatically feed candidate data from the application page directly into the AT software.

The best tools offer social buttons that let you 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 lets 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 candidates’ social networks. 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.

Even the most barebones AT software comes with a robust reporting platform. Typical reports include hiring velocity, candidate sourcing, and pipeline reports. These reports are more valuable for staffing firms than for in-house recruiters, but it doesn’t hurt to find a system such as Bullhorn Staffing and Recruiting that provides ultra-detailed reporting on attractive dashboards.

Speaking of Bullhorn Staffing and Recruiting, it provides one of my favorite features called “Slide Out.” This feature lets you view candidates and jobs without having to leave the original menu in which you were navigating. Simply click the binoculars on the left-hand side of a file and a window will pop out to the right of your screen. From within that new window, you can communicate, take actions, and view past activities—all without losing your original screen.

The Bottom Line

No amount of information offered here can beat actually testing out the AT software yourself. Most of the firms on our list offer a free trial that lets you create an account, navigate the tool, and even post jobs without any commitment. You’ll definitely want to select several of the tools on our list and give them a whirl before making a decision. This is especially true if you’re thinking of purchasing access for more than five employees per month (or for more than 10 jobs per month). As I mentioned, it’s imperative that you determine your needs and preferences before you begin testing. If you know what you want ahead of time, then you’ll have more success narrowing down your options before beginning your free trials. Good luck and happy hunting.


  • MSRP: $7.00

    Bottom Line: Human resources (HR) software and management system BambooHR is not the cheapest option but you get what you pay for, namely, well-organized, visually appealing tools that are simple to set …

     Read Review

  • Zoho Recruit


    MSRP: $0.00

    Bottom Line: Zoho Recruit is a solid applicant tracking (AT) tool, especially if you already use other Zoho Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications. However, it’s not the most flexible, or most afforda…

     Read Review

  • Workable


    MSRP: $50.00

    Bottom Line: If you’re looking for an applicant tracking (AT) tool, and only an AT tool, Workable would make a wonderful addition to your software suite. It’s easy-to-use, customizable, and feature-rich.

     Read Review

  • Bullhorn Staffing and Recruiting


    MSRP: $99.00

    Bottom Line: Bullhorn Staffing and Recruiting is the best applicant tracking (AT) software solution on the market. Unfortunately, its pricing model is prohibitive for small businesses. However, if you’ve…

     Read Review

  • SAP SuccessFactors


    MSRP: $8.00

    Bottom Line: SAP SuccessFactors is a great all-around human resources (HR) software package for companies that like dealing with big-name vendors that aim their offerings at enterprises. It’s especially …

     Read Review

  • APS OnLine


    MSRP: $5.00

    Bottom Line: APS OnLine does a good job delivering enterprise-style HR software functionality to an SMB customer. However there’s some complexity involved there and the price can move up quickly dependin…

     Read Review

  • Cezanne HR
  • Kronos Workforce Ready


    MSRP: $3.00

    Bottom Line: Kronos Workforce Ready is a nicely priced human resources (HR) tool aimed at small to midsize businesses (SMBs). But, while it offers excellent configurability and lots of functionality, it’…

     Read Review

  • JobScore


    MSRP: $0.00

    Bottom Line: JobScore’s entry-level applicant tracking (AT) tool is ideal for companies that don’t have much money to spend. However, if you’re looking for glitz, glamour, and automation, then you’ll nee…

     Read Review

  • WebHR


    MSRP: $3.00

    Bottom Line: HR software and management system WebHR is a good, free option for small companies that comes with the ability to scale up to a paid version as your business grows.

     Read Review


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