What is an ATS in human resources?

What is an ATS or Applicant Tracking System: Full 2024 Guide

Discover what an ATS (Applicant Tracking System) is and how it can help you find top talent. Learn about its origins, functionality, and benefits in our comprehensive guide.

Every recruiter, HR manager, or employer eventually asks: What is an ATS and why is everyone using it? The answer is straightforward. An Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is a strategic ally in talent management, not just a software tool. In today’s diverse and competitive job market, implementing a tool that effectively filters the most promising candidates is crucial. It helps prevent headaches and poor hiring decisions.

In fact, over 95% of Fortune 500 companies use an ATS, demonstrating its importance and penetration in the corporate world. These systems automate the reception and classification of resumes, enhancing candidate interaction and ensuring a more personalized and humane selection process.

Understanding what an ATS is and how it works can enhance the HR processes of any organization looking to lead its sector. This guide provides you with a comprehensive overview of ATS and offers insight into how these systems are redefining hiring practices worldwide. Let’s continue.

What is an ATS and what is its origin?

To understand what an ATS is, it’s important to note that this system combines cutting-edge technologies with human talent management. An ATS (Applicant Tracking System) is a technological platform designed to optimize the recruitment and selection process.

The origin of ATS dates back to the 1960s when companies began using punched cards to store and process candidate information. In the 1980s, with the rise of personal computers, ATS became more sophisticated, capable of managing large volumes of data and conducting complex searches. 

Initially, these systems focused on automating repetitive tasks. Today, a modern ATS can perform predictive analytics, facilitate candidate communication, and provide an intuitive user experience for both recruiters and applicants. They now integrate artificial intelligence and advanced algorithms to filter and classify candidates, transforming the professional recruitment landscape.

How Does an ATS Work?

As a technological solution, an ATS automates the management of job applications from reception to final selection, using intelligent algorithms to filter and classify candidates. Let’s look at how it works in detail:

  • Reception of Applications: ATS allows candidates to upload their resumes and personal data through an online platform, simplifying the collection and organization of information.
  • Intelligent Filtering: Using keywords and predefined parameters, these systems filter resumes to identify those that best meet the job requirements.
  • Automated Classification: Profiles are ranked according to their relevance, enabling recruiters to focus on the most promising candidates.
  • Candidate Tracking: Provides a clear view of each candidate’s progress in the selection process, from initial application to the final decision.
  • Integration with Other Tools: Modern ATS integrates with other digital platforms to provide a comprehensive and cohesive recruitment experience.
  • Predictive Analytics: Some advanced ATS use predictive analytics to anticipate a candidate’s success in a specific role, based on historical data and trends.
  • Communication with Candidates: Facilitates communication between recruiters and candidates, ensuring a transparent and efficient process.

In summary, an ATS simplifies and enhances the selection process, making it fairer and more effective for both recruiters and candidates.

Benefits of Using an ATS for Companies and Recruiters

The benefits of an ATS are numerous and significant, both for internal process optimization and candidate experience.

Some of the advantages of an ATS include:

Advantages for Companies:

  • Reduction in Time and Costs: Automates repetitive tasks like receiving and filtering resumes, allowing recruiters to focus more on strategic tasks like candidate evaluation and interviews.
  • Improved Selection Quality: Companies reach the best talent quickly and efficiently. An ATS filters out candidates who do not meet the profile requirements and conducts a preliminary evaluation of their skills and experience.
  • Greater Diversity and Inclusion: Helps companies avoid biases in personnel selection by analyzing resumes objectively, regardless of race, gender, or age.
  • Enhanced Employer Branding: Improves the company’s image as an employer by demonstrating the use of efficient and modern selection processes.

Benefits for recruiters

  • Greater Efficiency in Managing Applications: Allows recruiters to organize and manage applications efficiently, saving time and effort.
  • Improved Candidate Evaluation Accuracy: Provides valuable information about candidates, helping recruiters make more accurate selection decisions.
  • Reduced Stress and Workload: Automates repetitive tasks, reducing stress and workload for HR teams.
  • Increased Job Satisfaction: Enables recruiters to spend more time on tasks they are passionate about, increasing professional satisfaction.

Disadvantages of an ATS (If there are)

While ATS offers a wide range of benefits, it is also important to consider some potential disadvantages that may arise when using them in the recruitment process:

Possible Selection Biases

  • If the ATS is not configured correctly, it can filter out talented candidates who do not meet predefined criteria but could be suitable for the position.
  • It is important to regularly review and update selection criteria to avoid biases.

Difficulty Adapting to Specific Needs

  • Some ATS can be complex and difficult to adapt to the specific needs of each company. 
  • It is important to choose an ATS that is flexible and adaptable to the company’s needs.

Cost of Implementation and Maintenance

  • Implementing and maintaining an ATS can be costly, especially for small businesses.
  • It is important to evaluate the cost-benefit of implementing an ATS before making a decision.

Non-Optimized Resumes

  • If resumes are not formatted correctly or do not include relevant keywords, they can be eliminated by the ATS. 
  • Candidates should optimize their resumes for ATS.

Lack of Human Interaction

  • Excessive use of ATS can reduce human interaction in the selection process, which can be negative for both the company and candidates. 
  • It is important to find a balance between automation and human interaction.

When choosing and implementing an ATS, companies should carefully consider their specific needs and ensure the system is used responsibly and ethically.

How to Optimize Your Resume for an ATS

Understanding what is an ATS and how to interact with it is essential for job seekers. An ATS can be the gateway or barrier between a candidate and their next job. Therefore, optimizing your resume to be compatible with these systems is crucial. Here are practical tips and common mistakes to avoid to ensure your resume is not only seen but also considered by recruiters.

Tips for Making Your Resume ATS-Compatible:

  • Clarity and Simplicity: Use a clear and straightforward format. Avoid columns, tables, and other graphical elements that may confuse the ATS.
  • Use of Keywords: Identify relevant keywords for the job you are applying for and include them naturally in your resume.
  • Standard Section Titles: Use recognizable section titles such as ‘Work Experience,’ ‘Education,’ and ‘Skills.’
  • Appropriate File Format: Save and send your resume in ATS-compatible formats, such as .docx or .pdf.

Relevant Keywords to Include:

  • Job-Specific Skills: Mention both technical and soft skills that align with those required in the job description.
  • Previous Job Titles: If relevant to the current position, be sure to include them.
  • Certifications and Training: List any certifications or training that support your skills and experience.

Common Mistakes to Avoid:

  • Overloading with Keywords: Avoid ‘keyword stuffing.’ Keywords should be contextualized and not simply listed.
  • Ignoring Relevance: Do not include information that is not relevant to the job, as this can dilute the strength of your resume.
  • Incorrect File Formats: Avoid formats that the ATS cannot read correctly, such as images or graphics.
  • Spelling Errors: Spelling errors can cause the ATS to discard your resume. Review carefully before sending.

By following these tips and avoiding these mistakes, you can create an ATS-compatible resume that highlights your qualities and experience effectively.

The future of ATS and Recruitment

How will this technology continue to transform recruitment? Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are destined to become even more integral in the recruitment process, adapting to the rapidly changing job market.

Trends in ATS development

  • AI Integration: Artificial intelligence will continue to be a cornerstone in ATS development, enabling greater automation and predictive analysis.
  • Improved User Experience: ATS is expected to offer more intuitive and accessible interfaces, enhancing the interaction for both recruiters and candidates.
  • Personalization and Adaptability: ATS will adapt to the specific needs of each company, offering more personalized solutions.

Impact on the future of work

  • Improved Efficiency: ATS will further optimize selection processes, reducing the time and resources needed to find the ideal candidate.
  • Data-Driven Decisions: With the ability to analyze large volumes of data, ATS will enable more informed hiring decisions.
  • Greater Inclusion: The objectivity of ATS can contribute to more equitable and less biased selection processes.

Tips for adapting to ATS Evolution

  • Stay Updated: It’s crucial to keep abreast of the latest updates and trends in ATS technology.
  • Continuous Training: HR professionals need to acquire knowledge about the functionality and capabilities of modern ATS.
  • Collaboration with Developers: Working closely with ATS developers can help tailor the system to the company’s needs.

The future of ATS promises a revolution in recruitment, with more intelligent, efficient, and fair systems. For companies and recruiters, adapting to this evolution will not only be beneficial but essential to maintain competitiveness in attracting global talent.

5 Studies to Understand ATS and Its Impact on Recruitment

Here is a list of specialized articles and studies that explore the impact of Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) on recruitment:

  1. What is and how to use an Applicant Tracking System: This comprehensive guide from CazVid delves into how ATS can streamline recruitment processes by reducing manual tasks, enhancing collaboration among hiring teams, and improving the overall candidate experience through a user-friendly interface and effective data analytics.
  2. The Role of Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) and Surveys in HR Data Collection: This article from Hirebee examines the integration of ATS with surveys to enhance HR data collection. It discusses how ATS can automate data collection, ensure compliance with data protection regulations, and provide valuable insights through data analysis and reportin.
  3. Recruiter’s Guide to Applicant Tracking Systems: Jobvite provides a detailed overview of ATS benefits, including time savings, improved candidate sorting, and enhanced collaboration among stakeholders. The guide emphasizes the importance of integrating ATS with other recruitment tools and platforms to maximize efficiency and candidate experience.
  4. ATS Case Study: AI-Powered Applicant Tracking Systems: This case study on Hrflow.ai explores how AI integration within ATS can enhance candidate screening and matching, providing advanced semantic search capabilities and predictive analytics. It highlights the strengths and opportunities of AI-powered ATS in modern recruitment.
  5. The Impact of Business Process Management and Applicant Tracking Systems on Recruitment Performance: This research study analyzes how the combination of business process management and ATS can improve recruitment efficiency and outcomes. It provides insights into how ATS can reduce recruitment time and improve the quality of hires by automating and optimizing various aspects of the recruitment process.


Implementing an Applicant Tracking System represents a paradigm shift in human resource management. This system optimizes the recruitment and selection process and ensures greater fairness and efficiency in identifying suitable candidates. By automating resume classification and pre-selection, ATS eliminates unconscious biases and allows emerging talents to be considered on equal footing.

It is clear that these systems benefit both organizations and job seekers. Candidates face a more transparent and fair process, where their skills and experiences are evaluated objectively. As we move towards a more digitalized era, it is crucial for both employers and candidates to understand and adapt to the key question: “What is an ATS and why is it important to use it?” It is a matter of efficiency and fairness in accessing job opportunities.