Hiring. It’s hectic. It’s hellish. If you’ve ever backfilled a role with limited resources and a paper-thin budget, you’ve been there before. Thankfully, today’s increasingly powerful applicant tracking systems are an affordable way to hire great candidates with minimal headache.

But — with so many ATS tools out there, you may wonder: Which applicant tracking system features do you need, and which new features should the best ATS deliver?


In this article, you’ll learn why ATS software is worth the investment,

with a list of must-have ATS capabilities to insist on when you’re buying an applicant tracking solution.

Meet with our hiring coaches today to see how AI can slash 90% of the time from your hiring process. Start filling jobs faster right away, with 10x higher quality people.

What Is an Applicant Tracking System?

An applicant tracking system (ATS) is a software tool that helps recruiters and hiring teams manage their candidate pipeline. Applicant tracking system features tend to automate the menial aspects of talent acquisition — like interview scheduling — so HR teams can focus on hiring great candidates.

94% of hiring managers say using an ATS has improved their hiring process. See our article: 15 Benefits of Applicant Tracking Systems

What Does an ATS Do?

An ATS collects and tracks applicant data, automatically managing many parts of the hiring process. This saves 90% of the labor hours of hiring a job seeker, removes bias, and improves your chances of making a great hire. Some ATS systems today can even do reference checks and video interviews.

By using an applicant tracking system, you’ll enjoy the following advantages:

Improves Talent Acquisition and Retention

Applicant tracking can help you find qualified candidates quicker. But surprisingly, it can also help you retain those candidates longer. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, candidates hired based on recruitment data are more likely to stay, since they’re a better fit for the job.

Lets SMEs Chase Talent More Effectively and Competitively

By letting an ATS manage your candidate pipeline, you turn hiring into a sleek, scientific process with a predictable, quantifiable result. Stop wasting hours in spreadsheets or on the repetitive parts of writing job ads, candidate outreach, phone screens, and onboarding. The money you spend on a full-featured ATS will come back a hundred fold in saved time.

How Do Applicant Tracking Systems Work?

Applicant tracking systems store candidate data in a centralized database, then access, use, and update it during various steps in the hiring process. Recruiters start by creating a job ad within the ATS application, which the tool posts to online job boards. As candidates apply, their data and resume are imported into the ATS and analyzed to identify strong matches.

Must-Have Applicant Tracking System Features and Benefits

In the market for an HR applicant tracking system? Modern ATS solutions gain more powerful features every year. Some of the functions below just hit the hiring scene in the past few months. Find the best choice by seeking out these applicant tracking system features.

Almost 99% of Fortune 500 companies use an ATS. See our Complete Guide to Applicant Tracking Systems.


Automate Your Workflow Management

In the ATS world, automation is king. Seek out ATS functionality that automates your:

  • Career pages
  • Employee referral program
  • Job description creation
  • Job ad creation
  • Job ad posting
  • Application processing
  • Resume screening
  • Candidate outreach
  • Interview questions
  • One-way video interviewing
  • Reference checking
  • Skills assessments
  • Offer letter creation
  • Onboarding and training materials

A modern, robust ATS will integrate smoothly with your existing workflow. Whether you’re sending out pre-employment tests, gathering referrals, or scheduling interviews, your ATS can do the heavy lifting for you.

Pro Tip: Discovered is a market-leading applicant tracking system that handles the toughest hiring needs. Use its customizable dashboard and powerful workflow automations to streamline your candidate pipeline and hire the best talent, faster.


View Candidate Resumes and Interviews

Gone are the days of physical resume stacks and red pens. Any ATS tool will import candidate resumes, parse them for custom filter words, and categorize them accordingly. View promising candidates in seconds, then decide whether to move them forward to a phone screen or interview.


Create Candidate Scorecards & Schedule Interviews

It’s a recruiter’s worst nightmare: a bottomless inbox of candidate email chains. Thankfully, modern ATS hiring systems integrate with your calendar and schedule interviews automatically. Track interview notes using a digital scorecard, and compare them easily with other recruiters. The most up-to-date ATS tools use AI to significantly reduce the HR team’s time spent on emails.


Check References With One Click

Reference checking is a lost art. Too often, hiring managers fly through a job seeker’s references only to miss critical — perfectly avoidable red flags. When purchasing an applicant tracking solution, find one that automates outreach, asks customizable questions, and stores feedback in one place.

Discovered’s ATS checks your candidate’s references automatically with one click, in a way scientifically proven to zero in on the best applicants.


Communicate With Candidates Quickly and Easily

According to Glassdoor, the average job opening attracts 250 candidates. Even if you only reach out to a handful of them — for just one job ad — your HR team can quickly become overwhelmed. Robust applicant tracking systems make communication simple and intuitive. The right tool will let you update candidates from within the software, keeping your inbox clean.


Manage Employee Referrals Right on the Platform

About 88% of companies say employee referrals are their top source of high-quality candidates. Yet generating those referrals often takes a herculean effort. ATS applications help you set up an automated employee referral portal, track submitted referrals, and share updates with your employees to keep your team engaged.


Push Jobs Instantly to Free Job Boards

Managing a job ad across multiple online job boards can quickly become stressful. Add human error, and good candidates tend to slip through the cracks. Many modern ATS tools will post a job ad on your behalf to your preferred list of free job search sites. Then when candidates apply, the ATS will import their data directly so you don’t have to. 


Connect Easily to Top Job Boards

Modern ATS platforms will integrate with popular paid job boards like LinkedIn, Indeed, or Monster — and consolidate applications to avoid potential silos. You’ll see exactly where applications are coming from, so you can better understand your candidate data.


Set Up Your World-Class Career Page

Posting to job boards isn’t the only way to recruit candidates. In the age of social media, organizations that maintain a compelling brand will draw talent to them naturally. With the right ATS tool, you can create an SEO-optimized career page that attracts candidates interested in your brand and culture. A cutting-edge tool will use AI to create the page for you.


Customized Messaging Templates

No two candidates are the same, and neither should your outreach be. Customization is a critical applicant tracking system feature. By creating personalized messages, you’ll deliver a more memorable candidate experience — and increase your odds of securing quality hires before your competitors do.

Pro Tip: Use ATS features in combination with pre-employment assessment tools to reduce personal biases and objectively identify the best candidates for the role.


Automate Messaging and Candidate Tasks

Another way to improve the candidate experience is to make it as intuitive as possible. Look for an applicant tracking system that can manage the repetitive back-and-forth of candidate messaging, triggering the right messages and candidate prompts based on the hiring stage, automatically scheduling interviews, and reminding candidates to take the next step.


Conduct One Way Video Interviews

Some hiring teams report spending more time scheduling interviews than conducting them. Some modern ATS systems will send an interview link to a candidate, let them record their own interview, and let your team review the videos at leisure, cutting your hiring time neatly in half.


Support Multiple Users/Collaborators

To make a strong hire, you’ll need input from recruiters, managers, top performers, and other key stakeholders in your organization. The most versatile ATS platforms are collaborative. Search for a tool with applicant tracking system features that support real-time feedback from multiple users at once.

For example, Discovered lets multiple users from your team access the platform, view candidate scores, resumes, videos, and other data, pose questions, and communicate, all within the tool.


Manage All Candidates in One Dashboard

The most obvious applicant tracking system feature is also arguably the most critical. Pick an ATS tool that aggregates all your candidate data in a single dashboard. The best ATS dashboards are fully customizable, letting you prioritize the candidate data you need.


Manage Onboarding and Training

A good ATS will transform into an employee tracking system after you make the hire, delivering customizable onboarding checklists, training materials, performance management features, and employee surveys. This lets you keep getting value from the tool even after you’ve made the hire.

Paying for an ATS by the employee can cost as little as $2 per employee per month. See our article: Applicant Tracking System Cost


Applicant tracking systems are an invaluable resource for hiring teams, but not all ATS tools are the same. Prioritize applicant tracking system features that allow for seamless automation, customization, and collaboration, and you’ll see a distinct improvement in the quality of your hires.

Meet with our hiring coaches today to see how AI can slash 90% of the time from your hiring process. Start filling jobs faster right away, with 10x higher quality people.