Applicant Tracking Software for Small Businesses: 13 Steps to Maximise ROI

Published by:
Joe Caccavale
February 6, 2023
min read

The Ultimate ATS Comparison Guide

Finding the right employees for your small business can feel like hunting for a needle in a haystack. With thousands of resumes to sort through, background screening to carry out, and candidate interviews to schedule, the hiring process can certainly be overwhelming. And time-consuming. And sadly, it doesn't always guarantee you'll find the best candidates for your job opening. Or that they'll stay! 

That's why investing in applicant tracking software is a game-changer for your organisation. By streamlining your process, you’ll achieve: 

  • 3x as many suitable candidates 
  • 93% retention rate after one year
  • 4 x increase in diverse candidates
  • a broader range of skills across your business 
  • a talented passive candidate pool for future roles. 

In this post, we'll take you through 13 key steps to maximise the ROI of your applicant tracking system, with a special focus on one crucial aspect: diversity

Attracting a diverse range of candidates not only brings fresh perspectives and ideas to your small biz. It also helps you tap into a wider pool of talent to locate the perfect fit for your open roles. Let’s dig in. 

13 steps to get the most out of your applicant tracking system

There's an investment associated with a quality applicant tracking system, which is why it's crucial you understand the nuts and bolts of this technology before you take the plunge. 

The steps below will walk you through the key features that you need to secure high-quality candidates for your small business. 

Step 1: Set up your hiring team and their permissions 

Small businesses may not have a dedicated human resources department, but want to involve internal team leaders or business owners in the hiring process instead. So, first up, decide who you want to add to your ATS tool and their role in the recruiting process.

You might provide some hirers with full access to your open jobs, allowing them to manage candidates directly or change job settings. Alternatively, you might invite other recruiters to your ATS with reviewer-only permissions. 

Step 2: Create a bias-free job description 

Women are 50% less likely to apply for a role that appears to be designed for male candidates. 

That's why your hiring campaign must begin with a well-crafted job description. The wording should appeal to your specific target audience and provide all the information they need about the job title and responsibilities. We also recommend you include salary information to help close the gender and racial pay gaps to achieve pay equity. 

A quality ATS will also assess your job description wording to ensure it’s bias-free, flagging parts of the text that could discriminate. 

Inclusive job descriptions don't alienate highly-skilled candidates using overtly masculine or feminine language. For example, words like "ambitious" and "driven" can subconsciously signal that the employer wants to hire a man for the role, whereas words like "trust" and "empathy" may inadvertently appeal to women. When you craft a gender-neutral job description, expect to receive 10-15% more applications for your role, with a 49:51 male: female split.

Reading burden can also be a problem for job descriptions, so ensure your text uses simple, clear language free of acronyms or technical jargon. If you don't need a Ph.D. to apply for your role, you shouldn't need one to understand your job listing. 

Step 3: One-click post your ad to multiple job boards 

Where should you post your beautifully-crafted, inclusive job ad? 2022 Intelligence Group data reveals the top 10 most popular job boards used by UK job seekers: 

1. Indeed (77.5%) 

2. LinkedIn (15%) 

3. Reed (11.3%) 

4. Totaljobs (11%) 

5. CV-Library (9.6%) 

6. Monster (8.9%) 

7. Glassdoor (5.7%) 

8. Fish4Jobs (2.2%) 

9. CharityJob (1.5%) 

10. Hays (1.4%) 

Top 5 Most popular job boards (chart)

But these aren’t the only or the best career websites if you want your job posting to attract a diverse talent pool. We've crunched the numbers and found the: 

Posting on multiple career sites will expand your reach and attract a more diverse selection of potential candidates, but it's time-consuming to log in and publish the same ad on numerous platforms. Instead? Use API integrations to auto-post your ad and win back valuable time to spend in other value-adding areas of your recruitment process. 

Step 4: Choose a skills-based hiring approach 

Skills-based hiring focuses on the specific skills a candidate will bring to the role—whether acquired through previous work, a hobby, or natural ability.

This approach trumps traditional hiring strategies that might look at a candidate's background, qualifications at school, or having top brand employers in their work history. It allows your hiring team to identify the best talent available and uncover those diamonds in the rough that might otherwise have gone unnoticed.  

You’ll find perfect candidates by building assessments into your hiring process. These will vary depending on the role you're hiring for and the skills you require, but some options are: 

  • Multiple choice: assess the candidate's specialist knowledge using a wide range of answers. 
  • SIFT: situational judgment tests evaluate the candidate's suitability for the role and are an excellent predictor of future performance. 
  • Numerical skills: assess a candidate's numerical computation and reasoning skills. 
  • Cognitive test: based on behavioural science, these tests assess analytical thinking, attention to detail, data interpretation, and basic mathematical skills. 

Step 5: Select role-specific skills 

Ideally, your organisation will use a skills and competency framework to outline the skills required for each role. Reviewing your framework allows you to identify who is a good fit for the job, leaving you free to shortlist candidates based on their skills rather than their years of experience. 

Example: perhaps you're looking for someone who excels at: collaboration, empathy, problem-solving, attention to detail, ability to work under pressure, communication, trustworthiness, or leadership. 

Step 6: Build your questions 

Create questions based on the type of assessment you plan to feature in your hiring process. 

You can construct your own questions if there's a specific example you want to include. But if you're using an ATS like Applied, select from a library of pre-built templates to save time. 

Remember: keep your required skills in mind as you compare your questions to ensure they align with your recruiting goals. 

Step 7: Use a CV Scoring Tool (Optional) 

CVs have long been part and parcel of any job application process, but we’re here to tell you that they’re outdated. Not only are they notoriously inaccurate (Checkster research reveals 78% of jobseekers lie on their resumes, and, bizarrely, 66% of hiring managers claim not to care!), but they also throw open the doors for unconscious bias. 

CV reviewers make snap judgments on a person's name, age, gender, which skews who gets invited to an interview or professes to the next recruitment stage. That's why we believe resumes need to die

But…. if CVs are still a part of your recruitment strategy, for whatever reason, a CV scoring tool will support you in reviewing them fairly. Focus questions with a Yes/No answer accompany each resume, allowing the reviewer to zoom into the details that matter. You’ll progress candidates based on skills and facts rather than irrelevant identifiers such as their date of birth or the neighborhood they live in. 

Step 8: Anonymise candidate screening 

It’s simple: anonymising and randomising applications removes any factors about a person that might give away their background or identity during screening.  

Recruitment software like Applied uses a review guide, so hirers understand the criteria to award when scoring anonymous applications. Here's an example: 

  • 1 star: Applicant doesn't exhibit passion or tailor their application to the role. 
  • 2 stars: Applicant has experience, but not quite the right skills for this role. 
  • 3 stars: Applicant is an okay fit for the role. They demonstrate excitement about the role and our culture but lack self-awareness. 
  • 4 stars: Applicant is a great fit for the role. They have the right skills, and a great attitude. 
  • 5 stars: Applicant is an exceptional fit for the role. They possess all the necessary skills and experience, and the values listed in their application align perfectly with our company mission. 

An ATS tool with a built-in comments box also allows reviewers to explain why they've awarded a particular score based on the guide. It can be useful to compare these notes after all internal reviewers have completed their scoring. 

Step 9: Review your candidate dashboard 

Small business hiring teams can log into the centralised dashboard at any point to understand candidate pipelines, track applicants and manage candidate communication. This details: 

  • Candidate ranking: top candidate profiles are ranked in order giving you a quick snapshot of who is most likely to perform well in your role. 
  • Current hiring stage: you’ll see if a candidate has received their rejection feedback or who has progressed to the next hiring stage.
  • Eligibility filters: conduct a candidate search and apply filters to check your candidates meet your baseline criteria.
  • Reviewers: transfer candidate reviews to a separate reviewer if you require a second opinion. 

Hiring teams will receive automatic notifications for key tasks, such as candidates completing assessments or when reviewers complete their scoring. 

Step 10: Send automated feedback to candidates 

Not all candidates will hit the mark for your job vacancy. But a positive candidate experience could mean they’ll reapply in the future for a role they’re better suited to. 

Strengthen your employer brand by providing strong communication, even with unqualified applicants. Naturally, small business owners don’t have the time to respond to every applicant in person, but you can lean on automated feedback to take the legwork out of providing a great experience for candidates. 

Use personalised email templates and incorporate assessment scores to help job applicants understand why they weren’t successful this time and to provide clear pointers for self-improvement.

Step 11: Use an interview scheduling tool 

But for those potential candidates you'd like to progress, use your applicant tracking system to simplify interview scheduling. 

Auto-send meeting links by email from your dashboard and have a record of all interview slots booked.

Step 12: Review candidate sourcing information 

Small business owners will need to hire again and again to scale their operations or replenish their workforce. That’s why it pays to understand your best source of talent, so you can keep tapping that applicant pool. 

Applicant tracking software with advanced features, including built-in sourcing, will highlight which job sites or employee referrals have supported you in meeting your recruitment cycle goals. You’ll also understand the diversity and quality of your candidates, viewable by categories, including gender, age range, ethnicity, sexuality, family education, veteran status, and performance. 

Step 13: Access hiring reports 

The final stage of your process is to analyse the consistency of your hiring team. 

How did they perform against each other? Did you have any that chose to award lower or higher scores? Or who perhaps didn't use the scoring criteria as you'd prescribed. 

Regular calibration of your hiring strategy will help you spot if any high-quality candidates have slipped through the cracks and will make the process fairer next time.

Invest in applicant tracking software for your small business 

An applicant tracking tool will make your hiring process more efficient, effective, and profitable by attracting a diverse range of candidates to your applicant funnel. In short, you’re giving your small business the best chance of recruiting high quality candidates. 

Whether you're a startup or a small to midsize business ready to take your hiring process to the next level, an applicant tracking solution will add quality, speed, and competitiveness to your recruitment process. 

Applied platform

Applied offers an all-in-one recruitment system with diversity-focused applicant tracking features. Say goodbye to bias and hello to a skills-based hiring pipeline filled with high-potential candidates for your business. 

Enhance your hiring strategy by booking a demo today.