Applicant Tracking System Design: How to Make Recruitment Better for Everyone

Natalia Borysko

Do you know how long the best candidate stays available? On average, ten days only 🤯. That means recruiters should be very nimble to hunt successful candidates and win them over. But that is easier said than done. 

An immense workload and poorly organized hiring process exhaust recruiters, and they can easily miss appropriate job seekers by losing candidates’ resumes or failing to reach out timely. Things become much easier with the recruitment process automation or so-called applicant tracking system or ATS.

Being a SaaS design agency, Eleken embraces design trends from various industries to be able to help our clients with even the most specific requests. Thus, we have some insights to share with you regarding the recruitment industry as well.

What benefits ATS offers, which features an effective ATS should include, and how to build applicant tracking system design - these questions we will discuss in this blog post. 

What is an applicant tracking system, and how to know if you need one?

Applicant tracking system or ATS facilitates collecting and processing data of specialists applying for a specific position. The ATS’s primary purpose is to streamline the recruitment process by workflow automation and optimization. Although the recruitment tools market is quite saturated, offering various services from common recruiting platforms to technology-based services like Textio, you can still build a unique ATS solution that will perfectly fit your niche needs. 

The time to think about implementing an ATS comes when you find your business in any of these conditions:

  1. Your business is rapidly growing, and you lack hands in a people’s management department to handle all new openings.
  2. Your employee turnover rate is high, and the staffing process gets out of control.
  3. You have issues with reporting and legal compliance due to the applicants’ data being scattered chaotically.
  4. Your HR staff is running with sweat in an attempt to fulfill the positions.
  5. You’re hiring during pandemics and need the help of AI-driven analytics tools to find the best candidates.
when do I need an applicant tracking system?
Image credit: ddi-dev.com

Applicant tracking system benefits

If you’re still considering building an applicant tracking system, 94% of recruiters will tell you - yes. Just look at the advantages the ATS system brings to your organization.

  • Saving time

The reality is that around 80% of submitted applications don’t match job openings and just waste recruiters’ time spent for the analysis. Thanks to workflow automation, recruiters don’t spend tons of time on application screening, which is the most time-consuming part of the recruitment process. 

  • Saving cost

Without an ATS, you’d probably need to expand your recruiters’ headcount to handle the staffing process. That means you have to increase your monthly payments by thousands of dollars, whereas the ATS cost is around a hundred dollars a month per user. Isn’t it attractive mathematics from a business perspective?

  • Recruitment simplification

The ATS layout visualizes each candidate’s interview stage and makes it easy to track progress by moving cards on the Kanban board. You won’t lose resumes. And you don’t need multi-sheet Excel files to keep the hiring process on track. 

  • Legal compliance

This ATS’s functionality keeps recruiters aware of changes in laws and regulations that can impact hiring decisions. Besides, the system preserves all the information about an applicant and justifies the refusal in hiring if someone, for example, has lawsuits.

  • Quality candidates

Usually, the best candidates are taken first. According to the research, the brightest professionals stay on the market only for ten days before getting hired, so the quickest company wins. The ATS system allows you to be quick.

Industry experts state that to be effective, the applicant tracking system should include the features that really matter. 

What’s that? Let’s figure it out.

ATS features that matters

Who knows better about ATS features than people engaged in recruiting daily? Hung Lee, the CEO of WorkShape.io, the talent matching service, shared his opinion with the experts of Workable, the all-in-one hiring solution. Mr. Lee named the top features an applicant tracking system should have.

Here are some of them:

  • Candidates data import and export;
  • Universal search (the possibility to find a record by any part included);
  • Messaging (customized messages functionality);
  • Tags (or data segmentation);
  • Collaboration (involvement of other team members in recruitment);
  • Google apps integration.

To complete the picture, the experts from Workable add some more ATS desired features they believe play an essential role in the recruitment process optimization.

Perhaps the least expected one is... 

  • Employer branding

Even being not that obvious, brand consistency conveys confidence and makes a positive impression on potential employees. 

  • Multi-sourced data aggregation

Sometimes, to compile a full picture of a candidate, a recruiter should pull the information from various sources. If the ATS can collect all candidate’s data in a unified profile, it enables recruiters to work more efficiently.

  • Interview management

It’s nearly impossible to handle dozens of interviews smoothly without seamless calendar integration for both a recruiter and a candidate. The more structured and organized the interview process, the better overall impression a potential employee will have about the company.

  • Candidates’ data hub. 

If the information chunks about the candidate and their interview performance are scattered across spreadsheets, emails, and social media messages, it can be quite a hassle to assemble the comprehensive picture. An ATS enables building well-organized candidate profiles to keep all necessary information at your fingertips.

candidates' data hub example of Workable
Image credit: workable.com
  • Mobile application

In a fast-paced world, contacting potential candidates only when you’re in front of your PC or laptop is a sort of unattainable luxury. The hire-on-the-go is a new norm, so building a mobile app is a must if you’re concerned about your customers’ great user experience.

How to build (and design) an applicant tracking system?

Despite the abundance of software tools on the recruitment market, finding a suitable solution seems to be not such an easy task. Either the feature is lacking or UX is bad, the reality is almost half of the companies that implemented ready-to-use ATS are not satisfied with their choice.  

The same situation happened to our client that came to Eleken for UI/UX design of his own ATS called Hirerise. While all the existing ATS tracking solutions on the market were a bit outdated and complex, we wanted to design an app that is both appealing and functional.

So, if you decide to tackle this challenging task and build your in-house ATS, here are some tips on arranging the process and creating the applicant tracking system we learned while working on Hirerise project. .

Define your expectations from ATS

You basically have to answer three simple (relatively) questions:

  • What are those issues you want to address with the help of the new ATS?
  • What frictions do you want to avoid in your future applicant tracking system?
  • And what features do you want to add to/remove from your current ATS (if you have any)?

To make the process of answering the above questions more effective, it’s crucial to conduct a competitive analysis. It will give you a clear understanding of what customers expect to find in your applicant tracking system, as well as it will allow you to define your competitive advantage.

Once you’re confident with the expectations from the new ATS, it’s time to outline a features’ list. Not to base such important design decisions on bare assumptions you’ll need to question your recruiting team (that is, conduct user research). Together with the specialists directly involved in working with recruitment tools, you’ll be able to shortlist the must-have features and then rate them in order of importance.

Going through user research helped us to make very important decisions on how to streamline team communication in Hirerise. The thing is that the whole hiring process consists of many stages that require the involvement of various people from different departments (consequently they need to communicate with each other). Recruiters complained that the hiring flow they got was complex and confusing, as each time they wanted some feedback from other team members they had to somehow contact them. 

To make this process simple and straightforward, Hirerise users can create a team, add the needed members, and together easily comment on candidates, tag each other, or set tasks. Besides, we placed comments on the same screen with the applicant’s bio, so users don’t have to switch between tabs.

candidate portfolio in ATS

Build your ATS MVP

The next step after the brainstorming sessions is to create a minimum viable product or a pilot version of your new ATS. With such a fundamental product, it’s wise to start small and check if you go right before making huge investments.

What features can you include in your MVP?

Social sharing (LinkedIn integration is a must-have!)

Once a job description is ready to go, you can quickly distribute it with a few clicks to different social media.

Fast CV download

You can effortlessly download a candidate’s resume to the database with just one click. You just need an API (an application programming interface) to integrate your applicant tracking system with job search platforms and social media websites.

Database search 

Typically, ATS includes a large applicant database, so you can make a keyword or a boolean search within. The keyword search means you can quickly find a necessary candidate by typing in specific skills or experience. The boolean search allows you to search for several parameters simultaneously. Search functions help significantly reduce time spent on candidates’ pre-selection.

A Boolean search feature in a readymade ATS
A Boolean search feature in a readymade ATS

Smart scheduling

When talking about scheduling, a Google Calendar integration comes top of mind enabling you to have all set appointments in one place. A smart scheduling tool extracts data from participants’ calendars so a recruiter can see free slots and suggest appropriate timing for an interview. It’s as easy as pie to set up the interview just with a couple of clicks.

Here’s how the calendar looks in Hirerise:

ATS smart scheduling feature example

Inbuilt analytics

That’s already a common thing for a modern ATS to have analytics and reporting capabilities. It’s a great feature to quickly see hiring statistics to know whether you need to improve the hiring process..

For Hirerise, we added the analytics report to the dashboard’s overview tab. We designed it with a lot of white space and only the most crucial indicators so that users can spot the needed information in a few seconds.

ATS dashboard design

Mobile optimization

In the era of smartphones, when most people spend five-six hours daily on their mobiles, it’s no wonder that a job search also moved to mobile devices. So, mobile hiring can be fairly named one of the most noticeable trends in recruitment. Your ATS should be easily used on smartphones. Thus, make sure it fits any size’s screens and loads fast.

Ensure your ATS is user-friendly

To be successful, the app has to be beautiful inside and outside. That is, it has to provide both great UI and UX. As a customer-focused design agency, we approach UX design with special responsibility as the experience customers get when using your ATS literally decides the product’s success. Taking care of the UX, you’ll be one step ahead of the competition since lots of current staffing tools don’t pay due attention to the ATS user experience.

Here is what you should consider when designing your ATS:

It should be intuitive and easy to use. What would be your first impression if you look at the system with an unbiased eye? Does it evoke a desire to try using or better closing it? Go with your guts and mind that with high probability other users may feel the same way.

It should be a no-brainer for recruiters. Do you know that it takes more than four months to hire new staff? If you plan to expand your recruiters’ team, they should be able to learn fast and hit the ground running as soon as possible. The self-explanatory ATS will ultimately reduce time and cost for long introduction training.

It should be mobile-ready. As we’ve already discussed above, the reality is that recruiters often work on the go. Thus, it’s crucial to design your ATS the way evenly usable on desktops and mobile devices.

And here’s how we took care about Hirerise’s look and feel: 

  • To perfectly think out clear structure, logical and convenient design elements placement, we used wireframing.
wireframing for applicant tracking system design
  • To create a clean and intuitive user interface for Hirerise, we, together with the client, created a moodboard that put our design ideas in the right direction. 
moodboard example for an applicant tracking software
  • As a result, we managed to design an app that makes the hiring process hassle-free and pleasant.

A wrap-up

The applicant tracking systems constantly evolve. They bring immense value to businesses by optimizing the recruitment process and bringing the best professionals on board. Even though building and designing your own ATS is not that simple, this game is worth the candle. Let us know if you need any design help on the way. And here we have more about systems’ design - check out our article about how to design a CRM.

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