What’s the Difference Between Applicant Tracking and Recruiting Systems?


HR Market Analyst,

Every day, people come to us with questions about this system or that application. In the realm of human resources (HR), there’s one question we’ve been hearing a lot of: What’s the difference between applicant tracking software and recruiting software? As both tools are used in the arena of recruiting and hiring, it’s easy to confuse the two. I thought it would be helpful to draw a clearer picture of what sets these two software systems apart.

Applicant Tracking Software and Recruiting Software: Differences at a Glance

Whereas applicant tracking software is designed to automate the end-to-end hiring process for a single organization – recruiting software helps manages the workflow in organizations hiring for multiple divisions/clients and job types (such as recruiting firms). There are some similarities in basic functionality, though, and I thought it would be helpful to take a look at them side by side before digging deeper into each system.

Applicant Tracking Software
Recruiting Software
Candidate Management
Document Management
Job Postings on Multiple Boards
Online Applications
Boolean Candidate Searching
Candidate Onboarding
Job Requisition Management
Client Management
Billing & Invoicing
Sales Force Automation
Better Suited For
Internal Recruiters, Hiring Managers
Third Party Staffing Firms
Example Products
Newton, AcquireTM, iCIMS
Bullhorn, cBizOne, StaffingSoft

Applicant Tracking Software: Candidate Management

Because they share many of the same functions, many people lump applicant tracking software and recruiting software together. But again, the ultimate focus of applicant tracking systems is the successful management of candidates through the hiring process – from receiving candidates’ online applications to scheduling interviews. Because these systems automate functions that fall under the umbrella of human resources, applicant tracking software is often best suited for companies managing an internal hiring process.

Different applicant tracking systems may offer users various levels of functionality. But even the most basic packages will usually cover these core capabilities:

  • The ability to track candidate status through the entire interview and hiring process, often including the ability to rate candidates and share thoughts and opinions internally.
  • A branded company job board where employers post open positions and candidates can submit resumes and complete role-specific employment applications.
  • A central candidate database that makes it easy for users to find candidates using keyword searches and custom filters.

Central to the internal hiring process is ensuring that this workflow is easily accessible to everyone involved in decision making – from the HR specialist to the CEO. Given the complexity of needs across industries (i.e. high volume of applicants, various positions to be filled, lengthy interview process), there is a wide selection of applicant tracking software solutions on the market.

Recruiting Software: Staffing Management

Because it offers functionality found in sales force automation software and customer relationship management software, recruiting software is often considered a business solution, rather than a human resources application. As such, third-party staffing and recruiting firms benefit most from this kind of software.

Recruiting software makes it easy to manage the granular details of staffing. Beyond core functionality found in applicant tracking software, most systems offer these capabilities:

  • Tools for managing a large number of active candidates – including flagging top candidates for quick access, sending multiple candidate profiles for open jobs and tracking important documents (i.e., resumes, certifications, and I-9s and more).
  • Customer relationship management functionality for maintaining existing relationships, prospecting future business and billing for placements.
  • A streamlined job posting process, with the ability to post jobs on your website, commercial job boards, and via social media outlets

If you’re in the market for applicant tracking or recruiting software, of course you’ll want to do your due diligence. The main thing to consider is: Which applications and what type of functionality will benefit my organization most? Beyond this guide, you can check out a list of a few of my favorite web-based applicant tracking systems. Also be sure to check out product demos, and ask a lot of questions.

So what systems are you using? Have any of you third-party recruiters used both types of software? What was your experience?

Thumbnail image courtesy of TheBusyBrain.

  • robert2328

    What are your favorite Recruiter software for third party recruiters?

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