How to choose an ATS: Functionality and FAQs

Hireserve’s Hannah Vincent explains what HR departments need to keep in mind when finding an Applicant Tracking System

What functionality should be top of your list?

Each of you will have a different set of requirements – but it’s likely you share certain hiring headaches with others in the HE sector.


Reference collection

The reference collection process can be an incredibly time-consuming task, particularly for academic roles which require additional documentation.

Look for an ATS which can offer automated reference collection functionality. This will send a notification to referees and request them to complete a reference online. Their response will then be sent straight back into your ATS.

It’s a much simpler, more efficient process for both your team and the referees.


Cost mapping and reporting

You need accurate ATS reports to demonstrate effective use of your budget and to help you understand where you should focus spend for future campaigns.

You also need to know which recruitment initiatives and sources result in quality hires for each position, from facilities management staff to Head of Department roles.

Reliable reporting can help support spending decisions to senior decision makers and build a business case for investment in certain platforms, advertising channels or campaigns in the future.


Self-select interview scheduling

If you’re juggling recruitment for multiple roles across different areas of your organisation, it’s likely you also have to manage a lot of different diaries, interview panels, shortlisting packs and more.

Some Applicant Tracking Systems offer a ‘self-select’ interview feature, which allows candidates to choose an interview date and time via an online portal.

This can significantly reduce interview administration and has been proven to reduce no-show’ rates at interviews or assessment days.


Questions to ask potential ATS providers

A crucial part of choosing an ATS is getting a sense of how you could work with a potential supplier. In our experience, there are four key questions we recommend you ask at this stage.


Customer care and support

You need to have confidence that your potential supplier is going to be there for you after the contract is signed.

Ask what happens after you Go Live with your new system. Find out where the Support team are based, ask whether you’ll have a direct point of contact within the team, and understand what provisions exist for emergency and out-of-hours support.



Your ATS should lie at the heart of your hiring eco-system, integrating with other platforms to ensure you have a fully connected process.

Find out which platforms your potential supplier already has integration partnerships with, and whether there is scope to integrate with additional ones. From job boards and social media to psychometric testing and video interviewing, understand what your options are.



You need to be confident in the longevity of your solution.

Start a conversation around how your potential supplier approaches development and updates to their product. Understand whether you can submit product ideas and ask to find out more about their product development priorities over the coming months. It may also be useful to ask a potential supplier for case studies or success stories from existing clients in the HE sector.



This year has added another big question to our list – and it’s GDPR.

It is essential that you appoint a technology provider who will meet their GDPR responsibilities. The GDPR will require changes to the way you manage your talent pools, respond to candidate requests, and more, so any ATS provider will need to demonstrate how their technology will help you meet the new requirements.


Choosing an ATS can be a long process. We haven’t even touched on building a business case, let alone recommended ways to roll out the system across your organisation and how to engage Hiring Managers and other key stakeholders!

But we hope the points in this post will help you start your search for an ATS, understand the core functionality your team could benefit from and learn what answers you need to get from potential suppliers.


Hireserve is trusted by Higher Education establishments across the UK, including the University of York, Cranfield University and the University of Aberdeen. Find out more…