Top talent is difficult to find, and managing CVs, candidates, and interviews can often feel like herding cats. To top it off, having a key position open for an extended period can become a serious business issue and create pressure to fill – not to mention the cost of repeating the sourcing exercise if the right hire isn’t found.

Picture that you’re a recruitment manager responsible for a team of recruiters who are actively recruiting for a number of vacant positions on an ongoing basis. Three weeks ago, one of your recruiters sent the job advert for the new sales manager to Gumtree, a few job boards and newspapers, and a recruitment agency. 1000s of CVs poured in with faxes, Word docs, PDFs, and that strange multimedia format that no one could open. Last week the recruiter manually compiled a spreadsheet to compare and pick the best candidates. This week you reviewed the spreadsheet and sent the sales director the ten best options so you could interview his top picks.

None of the candidates were ideal.

There’ll need to be another meeting with the sales director to develop a better job spec and start the whole sourcing process again. It’ll be another month before you have any new leads, which still need to be reviewed and interviewed before you can extend an offer.

What is an ATS? 

An Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is business software that automates and standardises the recruitment process for a faster and more efficient result.

Using smart software, an ATS can post your job description to free and paid-for online job boards and social media at the click of a button. CVs are piped into a private, centralised talent database for long-term storage, with communication tools that make it easy for recruiters to collaborate in managing applications. A particular structure for assessing the applications helps recruiters quickly and objectively compare candidates to find the best ones, instead of relying on gut feel.

The benefits of an applicant tracking system go beyond managing CVs, and an ATS provides powerful functionality like filtering and communicating with candidates at scale.

For example, a good way to filter candidates is to ask a question like, “What is your highest level of qualification?” It can be very challenging to match up candidates with their answers in a manual process but an ATS bakes this into the recipe so you can easily review, quantify, and compare the responses of applicants to questionnaires.

Once you’ve reduced the mountain of CVs to the most likely candidates, it’s time to inform the other applicants that their applications were unsuccessful. This copy-and-paste rejection letter is usually emailed to several applicants simultaneously in Blind Carbon Copy (BCC). But there will also be many applicants that don’t receive a reply because it’s so difficult to keep track of the communication. An ATS automates personalised rejection letters to all applicants using a library of communication templates that enable you to setup custom message templates for bulk communications, but also allows you to send individual responses where desired.

An ATS also provides you with automated reporting and dashboards providing real-time insight and data to help you make informed decisions.

Where does an ATS fit in?

Many companies already have Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems like Oracle, SAP and Sage that offer very valuable company-wide standardisation and business intelligence. Some companies use the HR module in their existing ERP systems for recruitment.

But while these often have certain technology that overlap with an ATS like database creation, it’s not purpose-built for talent sourcing and management. Sourcing and filtering candidates will still be a time-consuming and arduous manual process. A good ATS will be able to integrate with your existing systems and extend your reach to applicants.

Who needs an ATS?

Recruitment agencies make up the most costly aspect of hiring. Rebuilding or refocusing your efforts on improving your internal recruitment capability could significantly reduce your agency costs. Depending on the calibre of candidates you’re sourcing you could cover the annual cost of an ATS in three to four hires to justify it on paper.

Buying an ATS will help your team operate more efficiently, which will make it easier to meet your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). The biggest benefit of an ATS is the peace of mind that you’ll get roles filled quickly, cost-effectively and with the best fit of talent.

If your recruitment team does a lot of manual work, you’re ready for this change. The size of the ATS will depend on how fast you’re scaling.

If you’re a 50 person business that’s been around for ten years, you’re probably growing a bit slower than if you’re a 25 person business that’s just been around for a few months and rapidly growing. With 50 staff and an average churn rate of 10% you probably need to hire five people per year, which would suit a smaller software solution. If you’re a 250-man business and bigger, a larger ATS system will be ideal.

Look out for homegrown offerings priced in South African rand that are more competitive in pricing and local support.


Reinvesting the gains

Freeing up humans from repetitive, time-consuming activities will give them more time for meaningful in-person tasks. This way, you could redeploy many of your recruiters to start building internal talent pipelines to quicker fill vacancies from existing talent pipelines.

At graylink, we offer ATS software solutions that are configurable to meet clients’ specific needs in order to automate repetitive tasks, help filter the good from the bad, and manage the whole process to reduce the time it takes to fill a vacancy with top talent. The consulting side of our business can also help you tackle common issues like writing a good job description, whilst our communications business can help you reach and recruit right-fit talent direct using digital channels, platforms and devices.

If you’d like to find out more about how an ATS could help you cut costs and time to hire, send us a mail to or give us a call on +27 (0)21 424 8111.


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