What Is ATS Software, and How Can It Improve DEI?

Published by:
Rebecca Noori
May 23, 2023
min read

The Ultimate ATS Comparison Guide

87% of hiring professionals believe talent acquisition has become a more strategic function over the past year. Hiring teams now have the power to address skills gaps, refine employer branding, and, most importantly, improve workforce diversity. 

Every candidate and employee should have the opportunity to receive a job offer and reach their full potential in an organisation, regardless of their gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic background. Now, with the help of ATS software, hiring teams are primed to make huge changes to their DEI initiatives. 

What is ATS software?

Applicant tracking or ATS software is a type of talent management system that streamlines your entire recruitment process and acts as a source of truth for your hiring funnel. The software automates repetitive recruitment activities such as sifting through resumes, applications, and other candidate data to save your team time and money. Some 98.8% of Fortune 500 companies are already using application tracking as an integral part of their hiring processes, and smaller companies have begun to adopt the same technology.

Depending on your vendor, ATS software commonly includes these key features: 

Centralised dashboard

Log into your ATS for a birds-eye view of your recruiting process. At a glance, you should see key facts about your open vacancies, such as the number of applicants, how your potential candidates are progressing at each stage of your process, notes from internal recruiting team collaborators, and more. 

Candidate database

Store active and passive candidate profile information in your ATS database, allowing you to refer back to previous applicants when another position becomes available. To manage your talent pipeline, you’ll quickly narrow down the list of potential candidates for a role, saving you time and hassle when searching through people’s resumes or test scores.

Automatic job posting 

Tired of manually posting open vacancies on multiple job boards and checking to see if they're still live? In just a few clicks, applicant tracking systems automatically post your job ad in multiple locations to maximise the reach of your recruitment campaign. 

Candidate screening 

Screening can be automated or manual, depending on your applicant tracking tool. 

  • Automated screening, such as resume parsing relies on keywords and artificial intelligence natural language processing to identify candidates with the right skill sets for your vacancy. 
  • Manual screening allows you to filter out applications by checking work samples, screening questions, and making decisions on candidate progression using collaborative hiring. Leave comments on applications and ask your hiring colleagues to review them. 

Candidate communication features 

An ATS radically simplifies candidate communication by storing contact information and reaching out with important application status updates. For example, your software will send automated emails informing people if they have progressed to the next stage, provide links for them to schedule interviews, or extend job offers to successful candidates. 

Candidate tracking system 

Track candidate progress throughout your hiring funnel to understand the quality and quantity of your applications. Monitor key events such as initial application submissions, cognitive test results, shortlisting status, and interview details. 

Automation capabilities 

ATS software solutions automate time-consuming tasks in recruiting. With more resources available, hiring managers and HR teams can focus on other tasks, such as improving employer branding or developing successful onboarding programs. Some ATS systems will automate workflows within the tool, others will integrate with third-party applications to conduct repetitive tasks like background checks, or ranking test scores. 

What are the benefits of using ATS software? 

Internal hiring teams, external recruitment agencies, and HR leaders can all benefit from using applicant tracking systems for the following reasons: 

1. ATS software saves time 

It takes an average of 42 days to fill an open position, although this varies across industries. You may only need 33 days to find the right person for an admin position, but up to 49 days for a specialist engineering role. In either case, applicant tracking software could shave days off your time-to-hire rate by taking the legwork out of repetitive tasks. 

2. ATS software streamlines your recruitment process

An ATS can be a game-changer if you've previously relied on an assortment of spreadsheets, email chains, or third-party screening tools to manage your entire recruitment process. Choose an all-in-one ATS to collate all the information you need in a central location, enabling you to share vital hiring processes and candidate profiles with all stakeholders. 

3. ATS software produces a better quality of hire 

Monster’s Recruitment Survival Guide 2023 found that 45% of recruiters consider "identifying quality candidate matches quickly" as their top challenge, while 38% say that “sourcing quality candidates” is their main concern. A powerful applicant tracking system provides numerous ways to assess and shortlist quality candidates by matching their skills to your open roles. 

4. ATS software improves the candidate experience 

PwC says that 49% of job seekers have turned down a job offer due to a bad experience during the hiring process. From poor communication to insufficient detail about the role, there are many ways to sour the experience. 

An ATS can improve candidate engagement by providing job seekers with all the information they need about the role and company while keeping them updated throughout the process. Caution: The best ATS tools balance automated communication with a human touch so candidates don't feel they're only dealing with robots. 

How does ATS software improve DEI?

The benefits listed above are merely scratching the surface of what ATS tools can do. The jewel in the crown is that applicant tracking systems accelerate DEI progress—a key consideration for recruiters in the current market. LinkedIn’s 2023 Future of Recruiting report reveals that 74% of recruiters remain committed to DEI hiring even in an uncertain economic climate. Choose an ATS with the following capabilities to keep DEI at the heart of your recruitment strategy. 

1. Creates neutral job descriptions 

The global gender talent gap is 25%, based on a labour force participation rate of 72% for men and 47% for women. Numerous factors go into this rate, including that women are less likely to apply for roles they believe are designed for male employees. Part of this comes down to the language recruiters use in their job descriptions. When employers include words like "rockstar," "ambitious," or "competitive," female job seekers read this masculine-coded language and choose not to apply. 

Educational bias is another major barrier to recruitment success. If your job ads contain jargon, acronyms, and buzzwords that are challenging for applicants to understand or read, they won't apply. 

A sophisticated ATS like Applied neutralises these types of bias by using a built-in job description analysis tool to evaluate the gender coding and reading burden of your description. After identifying the bias, the tool suggests alternative language to make your ad more inclusive and ultimately attract a more diverse audience equipped with the necessary skills to succeed in your roles. 

Applied job descroption tool

2. Posts to a wide range of job boards 

Are you struggling to attract a diverse range of qualified candidates? The problem could be that you don't actively source candidates from a diverse range of job boards. If you’ve only ever published your ads on usual suspect platforms like Indeed, Glassdoor, or LinkedIn, then your talent pool could be missing a wealth of qualified candidates from more niche sites aimed at the the following communities: 

  • Minority groups 
  • Women 
  • LGBTQ+ community 
  • Veterans 
  • Working parents 
  • Applicants with a criminal record 

The job boards you advertise your role on can significantly influence the volume of applications you receive from ethnically diverse candidates. Inclusive employers use an ATS like Applied to post job ads to sites that will attract candidates from underrepresented backgrounds and improve the quality of hire. 

3. Anonymises candidate applications 

Traditional recruitment is oozing with possibilities for companies to demonstrate bias towards candidates. A candidate's name, age, photo, previous employers, and educational experience all provide clues to an employer—not about their skill sets, but about their background. Unsurprisingly, this results in an unfair hiring process. 

Case in point: this study on “Discrimination against female migrants wearing headscarves” found that an equally qualified candidate with an ethnic minority surname wearing a headscarf must send out 4.5 times more applications to get the same chance of securing an interview.

Callback rates for different candidates (chart)

Advanced ATS systems like Applied overcome this by anonymising applications to give all candidates an equal chance. All identifying information, such as names, ages, and photos, are hidden, so hiring managers can focus only on the details that matter, like work samples and skills test scores. 

4. Tests and shortlists candidates on required skills 

Skills-based hiring is gaining ground in the recruitment industry. LinkedIn research shows that: 

  • 75% of recruiting professionals believe skills-based hiring will be a top priority for them over the next 18 months 
  • The share of recruiters using skills filters to search for qualified candidates has grown by 25% over the past three years. 
  • Recruiters are 50% more likely to search for skills rather than years of experience when seeking top candidates 

With this in mind, you'll need an ATS software like Applied, which prioritises skills over traditional biased practices like employee referrals or requiring references, to predict job performance. Applied offers a wide range of cognitive, situational judgment, and numerical skills, allowing you to map ideal candidates to the specific competencies required for your roles. From here, the software automatically ranks and shortlists the most talented candidates, enabling you to progress them to an interview stage or further test them with work samples. 

Note: Skills testing is a powerful feature included in Applied, whereas other applicant tracking systems would need to integrate with third-party solutions to produce the same results. 

Applied analytics (chart)

5. Monitors DEI progress 

Positive change is only possible if you’re willing to track your recruitment campaigns to better understand if you’re on target to reach your diversity goals. Data is key here, but with limited resources available to recruitment teams, it should never be a struggle to track the recruiting metrics you need. 

Applicant tracking systems like Applied provide in-built analytics capabilities based on three steps: 

  • Collect: Invite candidates to fill out an Equal Opportunities form (crafted in partnership with EHRC)
  • Track: The ATS software tracks aggregate candidate progress throughout the recruiting process 
  • Report: Applied generates real-time diversity reports—filter them by age, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status
Applied (platform)

You can’t change what you can’t measure, so dive in and gain the insights you need to build a fairer and more inclusive workplace. 

Improve your diversity hiring approach with Applied 

Applied is an exceptional all-in-one ATS software based on 50+ years of research into behavioural science. Here’s what a G2 reviewer says about our applicant tracking system: 

“Applied helps us to review applicants in a non-biased way, levelling the playing field for those with the right skills and experience! The Sift questions allow us to check how someone would perform in work-based scenarios even if they don't have prior experience in this area.”

So far, Applied has achieved the following results for half a million job seekers and the companies they’ve applied to: 

  • Up to 4x increase in ethnic diversity of candidates 
  • Traditional hiring would miss 60% of Applied hires 
  • 3x more suitable candidates 
  • 93% retention rate after a year 
  • 9 out of 10 candidate experience rating 

Applied is the essential platform for unbiased, predictive recruitment automation - purpose-built to reduce bias and reliably predict the best talent.

Start transforming your hiring now: book in a demo.