Do small businesses need an applicant tracking system?

Even today, it’s rare to find a small business that’s using an applicant tracking system. When it comes to hiring, for many small businesses, email and spreadsheets is still the way to go. That makes sense too: those tools are familiar and easy to use for everyone. You probably also aren’t dealing with hundreds of applications every day, so it’s manageable too. That’s why small businesses and startups are often reluctant to invest in an applicant tracking system (ATS).

The question, then, is this: is there ever a case for small businesses to use an ATS? The answer? Like most other things, it depends. Let’s look at some of the reasons why you would want to use an ATS as a small business.

One source of truth

Even as a small business, with a manageable volume of applications, it’s easy to lose track of candidate information, emails, interviews, etc. With an ATS, that should be rare. Most applicant tracking systems will help you bring all your candidate information, their emails, interviews, all data, in one place. The best thing? It’s instantly searchable.

It also gets better as you grow. It’s difficult to move all your existing data to an ATS when it’s all spread out between email and spreadsheets. Investing in an ATS early on can help you grow your team with ease.

A better candidate experience

Picture this: as a candidate, you apply to a company's email, only to never hear back from them. Or worse, you apply to a company, move through their interview process, and the company simply ghosts on you. That doesn't feel right, does it? Yet, it is a fairly common experience for candidates.

When hiring, communication is key. Keeping your candidates in the loop goes a long way in building goodwill. Over spreadsheets and emails, it’s quite easy to forget following up. An ATS, however, can make that easy: you can automate sending personal emails at different stages of your job pipeline.

What’s even better is that you can create a careers site where you can publish your jobs and have it match the look and feel of your brand in no time. For small businesses, a great candidate experience is not optional; it's essential if you want to stand out as an employer.

A pool of great talent

As a small business, you often get several highly qualified applications but cannot hire all of them. With an ATS, you can easily mark these as future prospects that you can engage with later, as and when a new opening comes up. You also probably don’t remember all the minor details about them, so having all that information in one place for you to evaluate can also be very handy.

This is also cost-effective. If you have qualified candidates in your pool already, you save by not publishing and advertising the job on the same job boards once again.

Better understanding of what works (and what doesn't)

Even as a small business, if you advertise job openings on multiple job boards, share them on social media, get referrals, it gets tough to understand which sources work the best for you. Which ones send you the most candidates? Which source sends you the most candidates who actually get hired?

An ATS can help you uncover these insights and that can prove valuable as you grow. In tangible terms, it will also help you save money. If you're spending a lot on a particular job board, it's sending you a ton of applications, but none of them seem to move past the first couple of stages, is it really worth the time and effort?

Improved compliance

An ATS can help you deal with compliance better. Even as a small business, you have to deal with regulations such as the GDPR which involves dealing with candidate data with extra caution, making sure you’re retaining data for only as long as you need, giving candidates the option to access, modify, and delete their data. It’s near impossible to be diligent with candidate data that’s spread over email, so an applicant tracking system is a big win here.

Similarly, for things like EEO reporting, an ATS can be of definite help. It can help you collect data and prepare reports with relative ease.

Easy to grow

Using an applicant tracking system from early in your company’s history can also make it easier for to grow. How? When you decide to introduce a referral program or a more organised onboarding program for your company, or anything that improves your hiring process, an applicant tracking system can help you get everything going pretty quickly, either via integrations or a native feature.

As you can see, there are several reasons why a small business can benefit from an applicant tracking system just as well as a medium sized or a large business. For most small businesses, though, there are two major concerns: affordability and the ease of use. You don’t want to get locked in with a contract that costs an arm and a leg and you definitely don’t want a cumbersome, hard to use product which nobody on your team likes.

Fortunately, you have great options in today’s world. Many applicant tracking systems (like enlist) are priced per job which means that they scale as you add jobs. They are also built for small businesses which means they are easy and quick to get started with, and easy to use.

What's next? Learn what to look for in an applicant tracking system.