Applicant Tracking System: The 4 Top Options for 2021

Pick the best applicant tracking system with this review of some of the best hiring software for small businesses.
Brian O'ConnorDec 17, 2020

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What’s inside

Hiring the right people can be difficult, but having the right applicant tracking software in place can make it easier. This type of software system helps make the hiring process more automated, less intricate and easier to administer for both you and your hiring team.

If you choose the right applicant tracking system for your company, you may find that other elements of your HR infrastructure run a little more smoothly as well. Then you can focus on other elements of your business, like welcoming your new employees and helping them succeed in their roles.

Applicant tracking systems are an HR software solution that helps employers keep track of job applicants all the way through the offer process. These cloud-based software platforms help businesses keep track of their job openings, receive and organize applications, monitor vetting processes and eventually coach their users through the interviewing process. This lets employers automate some of the more mundane parts of the hiring process, rather than manually tracking every applicant.

Most applicant tracking systems do much more than just keep your candidate information organized. Rather, they also help with other post-hiring requisites that are often time-intensive, tedious or hard to manage. Applicant tracking system pricing varies quite a bit depending on how robust the platform is.

If you don’t intend to hire often, want an inexpensive option and are willing to sacrifice a few nifty tools in favor of a smaller software option, then you may be fine with doing more of the hiring work manually. You’ll get less out of your applicant tracking system but can still get enough help on the crucial components of the hiring process (like publishing job posts and collecting applications).

If you’re looking to hire frequently, have several openings to track at the same time or are willing to pay more for a hands-off experience, then a more comprehensive platform might be the right move. Applicant tracking systems can get expensive quickly, especially if their tools are good enough to make the hiring process as hands-off as you’d like it to be. Know what you need out of your software before you begin making comparisons. Otherwise, you may be swayed by cool-sounding features you don’t actually need.

Once you know what you need out of your applicant tracking system, you can begin to determine what you can afford (and whether or not your budget can accommodate your must-haves). This is typically where things get tricky: Not every platform has the same features at the same price. Some may provide you with the lion’s share of features but miss out on other valuable ones. Some apps might have a great price for your company’s budget, but be light on the features you need.

Look for the option that provides the most bang for your buck: If one option costs a little more (but has more features) than the next, see if you can’t spring for the former. If you find that the only suitable platforms in your budget don’t hit the mark, consider backup options to make a less expensive platform work alongside manual tasks done outside the system.

The top applicant tracking systems only do what they're supposed to when you can integrate them into your existing technology framework. These systems collect applicant data and feed this information into any other technologies you’re already using. This means other human resources platforms,  or other elements of your business.

Tying an applicant tracking system into your company’s tech infrastructure (your software stack) can help you make the most of your purchase. These platforms can work entirely on their own with no integration with your other tools, but you’ll end up duplicating efforts, doing work manually or missing out on the perfect candidate’s data.

The best platform is the one you’re comfortable using: be it for applicant tracking, payroll or operating system.

If a platform doesn’t feel intuitive, is hard to use or is simply too complex to learn, go with something that feels right. An app that works better for you with fewer features is more valuable than the one you never use — even if it’s packed to the gills with helpful tools.

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For small and medium-sized businesses, BambooHR simplifies the hiring process by helping keep track of open positions, job descriptions, application collection and interview processes. BambooHR also helps you keep track of your staff’s vital information, tax forms, payroll history, company calendar and more.

Cost is an essential factor in any applicant tracking system evaluation. BambooHR does not provide upfront pricing on its site, but it does offer  of service. The lower-priced option, BambooHR Essentials, only includes HR management and employee self-service functions — thus, it won’t work for anyone looking to use the platform for applicant tracking. BambooHR Advantage includes applicant tracking in addition to other handy features like onboarding, offboarding, electronic document signature and training-tracking.

If all of these features are more than you need, you may want to look elsewhere. If you’re willing to take the plunge and bring your HR system into the cloud, then BambooHR might be a great fit for your business.

One of the most well-known and feature-packed applicant tracking systems in the industry,  helps companies of all sizes by streamlining the job posting process, interviewing steps and recruiting efforts. The system also helps automate the process of sifting through applications, managing rounds of interviews and setting up new employees as they go through onboarding and other training requirements.

Unlike some of the other platforms mentioned, Greenhouse focuses specifically on the applicant tracking system processes you might need while bringing on new staff. This program can also help you set up interviewing rubrics, improve inclusion efforts and foster collaboration among people in your firm who are part of the vetting and hiring process. Greenhouse is a great fit if you’re looking for a solution that focuses on hiring and retaining the right people, rather than having these features sit within a broader array of functions.

Greenhouse doesn’t provide pricing on its site, but it does break down its product into three tiers based on the features you need. From there you can reach out for a demo or a custom-tailored quote.

If you like to use Trello or Kanban organizational boards in your work, then you’ll love the  interface. This app uses a similar tile-based applicant tracking system to help monitor applicants through the vetting process: You can move their tiles along to help keep track of where your candidates are and to make sure that none of your top prospects get lost in the shuffle.

Breezy HR can help you post job openings, track applicant information, schedule applicant emails and messages and monitor hiring team collaboration. You can also use Breezy HR to measure analytics and see where most of your applicants are coming from — a helpful tool if you want to find ways to improve your job posts.

Breezy HR offers upfront pricing: Its Basic platform is $149 a month, Business is $299 and custom-built plans are available if the Basic or Business plans don’t cut it. These rates reflect an annual purchase, broken down by month. Monthly plans cost $171 and $343, respectively.

Zoho Recruit is one of the most affordable, feature-rich applicant tracking system options around. The platform makes it easy to host a careers portal for your business, publish on job boards, establish an applicant pipeline and manage hiring workflow among other tasks. Better yet,  offers one of the only free applicant tracking system solutions out there. This can be a great option if you’re unsure whether or not you want to dive into a paid platform and only need basic functions like candidate management, email management, contact information collection and interview scheduling.

The platform’s pricing comes in two options flavors: Standard ($25 per user per month) and Enterprise ($50 per user per month). Standard gets you a pretty comprehensive set of tools, including resume parsing, email management, sourcing boosters and more. Enterprise includes a candidate portal for applicants, advanced analytics and other helpful features.

A version of this article was first published on Fundera, a subsidiary of NerdWallet.

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