Recruitment Hacks for Startups

How to choose an ATS software

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Lizzy Higgins

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Applicant Tracking Systems for startups


As startups scale, a lot of manhours can go into recruiting. With inefficient systems, businesses lose man hours and with wasted time, can miss out on top talent. 

Startups, particularly in tech, are known for being leaders in people and work culture, and with the correct systems can be leaders in recruitment and talent attraction too. 

Investing in the right Applicant Tracking System can significantly boost recruiting effectiveness. On the reverse, the wrong ATS could result in resources wasted and lost talent. It is essential to consider your unique business needs when making the investment and finding a solution that is tailored to your requirements. 

In this article, we will uncover the considerations you need to be making and then explore the pros and cons of some of the top Applicant Tracking Systems for startups and small businesses. 


Know what you want, and what you need

There are some basics that a good ATS should be providing you with.

At the very least, an ATS should provide you with: 

  • A pipeline of candidates who’ve applied for your role.
  • A way of managing the application process from advertisement, to interview, to offer. 
  • A branded recruitment portal that is useable by both internal and external applicants. Some candidates prefer to deal with a company directly rather than apply through other portals, so providing an opportunity to do this prevents talent loss. 
  • Customisable questions and inputs for each role. 
  • A portal for pre-screening interview questions and skills tests.

For your business, you will need to consider your requirements over and above the industry standard. 

Some nice to have features include: 

  • Advanced search functions to shortlist candidates. Recruitment teams and hiring managers then do not need to read through pages of applications, CVs, or LinkedIn profiles but can instead search for the most relevant candidates. 
  • Integration with job boards and social networks to market roles.
  • A way of inviting candidates to interview and allowing them to book into available slots. 
  • A place to host video interviews, take notes on the candidate, and view interview presentations. 
  • All the analytics you need so that your business can improve shortcomings and pivot recruitment processes moving forward. 
  • Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion insights and data to provide you with both an understanding of the candidates applying and those successful. 


Choosing the right ATS for your business

Use caution when assuming that the solution your competitors, or other portfolio companies, use will be the right ATS for the specific needs of this specific business. Consider the following questions: 

How much recruiting will you be doing? 

Look at the goals and strategy of your business over the next 3, 6, and 12 months. What type of roles are you looking to fill, and more importantly how many? With each role, spend some time thinking about the likely wage of the successful candidate and if it’s a role you have successfully recruited for before.  

This will help you to understand a few things. By understanding the average wage of the candidates you will be hiring, you can assess proportionally how much you want to spend per candidate. Is it 10% of their annual income for example? If they are roles you hire for regularly, and get a lot of high-quality candidates you may not need an ATS that is strong on marketing integrations, but if they are new roles, marketing integration will be more important. 

Are the roles you’re recruiting for unique? Are they open ended? And will you be recruiting for similar roles in the future? Jeff Dickey-Chasins from JobBoardDirector encourages using an ATS that acts as a repository of candidates. He reflects, “it's not uncommon to have a candidate apply for one position and be rejected, only to find that they would be a perfect fit for another position. If you have their information easily accessible in the ATS, you can reconnect with them - and also cut your recruiting costs.”


Does it have an API? 

Jeff Dickey Chasins also emphasises that, “it's useful if the ATS has an API so that it can be easily integrated with your other internal HR systems, as well as outside recruitment services such as job boards and sourcing tools. An API can speed the time required for integration, as well as cut your costs.”

If there isn’t an API clearly advertised it is worth asking any sales reps you speak to during your demo and trial period.


How much can you afford to spend? 

Anyone who has ever used an agency to recruit for a difficult, high-income role will know how expensive recruitment processes can be. Consider the needs of your business now and what integrations you need, and how sophisticated the ATS needs to be. 

By considering budgets, and how many bells and whistles you need in your ATS it will make your decisions a lot easier. 

Consider also, the cost of hiring the wrong fit for your business. It is worth investing in hiring processes to prevent loss of talent, high staff turnovers, and the wrong hires. 


ATS have different pricing models

Once you know what you want and need and how much you are planning to spend you’ll need to consider what pricing model works best for your business. 

You’ll find that some ATS charge per candidate that uses the portal, and others charge per successful applicant. There will also be variations based on the services used and the number of users.

Most ATS providers provide custom pricing options based on the size of your business and your specific needs regarding features, so there is a point where you can negotiate with an account manager to create a package that suits you. 


Final thoughts

The single most important factor for using a particular ATS, in my opinion, is its interface - can you actually understand how to use it? It may have every feature under the sun, but if its user interface is poor, you'll never be able to actually utilise it.'

Jeff Dickey-Chasins, from JobBoardDoctor, makes a very important point. Don’t be afraid to shop around. Most ATS providers will organise a trial, free of charge, so it is worth trialling a few so that you can really get that vital hands-on experience to truly understand its useability. Make sure that the people who will be using the system day-to-day have the final say, as if they can’t use it, it’s a pointless investment.

When you’re at the point of a final decision, where you have a variety of quotes and have assessed the pros and cons of each, a final consideration is contract length. For startups, the contract length of any service provider is vitally important as the needs of the business are likely to change more rapidly than that of a larger and more stable business. 


Applicant Tracking Systems for startups and small businesses 

A large business and a startup or medium-sized business all have very different recruitment needs. That’s why one-size-fits-all is not appropriate when choosing an ATS solution. 

These ATS, are all geared at startups and small businesses. We assess the pros and cons of each. 


Greenhouse lends itself to multiple users. The mention feature and shared application review option allow for collaborative recruitment teams. This can be a great benefit for geographically dispersed or remote workforces. 

Different stakeholders can also have different permissions, so there is an element of control regarding the decision making powers of different members of staff. 

The limitations with Greenhouse come with its reporting capabilities. There isn’t an and / or query feature and there is limited tag searching available. 


Lever considers itself a TRM (Talent Relationship Management) system instead of an ATS. At its core, though it offers what you would expect from an ATS. 

Data is at the heart of what Lever has to offer with fully custom dashboards and in-depth reporting. 

The amount of data can be overwhelming for less technical users but the automation capabilities are impressive. 


Breezy HR has a lot of useful integrations for managing the candidate recruitment process including automated emails and SMS capability. All conversations are then up-to-date and live on the system so any team member can view the whole conversation. This is particularly valuable when staff absences occur and work needs to be picked up by other colleagues. 

Candidates can upload short video answers, employees can easily refer friends and family, and careers pages are fully optimisable. 

There isn’t a huge amount of flexibility with costs, which make a significant jump from bootstrap, which is free, to startup, but there is the option to switch between the two company sizes as the recruitment needs change. 


Recruitee is optimised to help you hire as a team, so is not the right option for businesses with just one employee responsible for hiring. 

For larger teams though, the collaborative features mean faster recruitment and hiring team members can have detailed permissions and roles. 

In terms of marketing integrations, Recruitee allows users to generate smart campaigns to post on multiple job boards at once. 


GoHire posts to 15 different job boards and provides the recruitment team with over 700+ job templates. 

The job list widget can also be applied anywhere on your site so that up-to-date job lists are automatically feeding through to as many relevant pages as you would like. 

This option also covers the process right through to the end, with offer letter templates and sending integrated into the system. 

GoHire has received some criticism online from some early adopters who purchased a lifetime plan for one of their products that has now been discontinued. 


Workable provides a number of ways to assess candidates with integrated assessments, equality, diversity, and inclusion forms, and video interviews.

Available in 6 languages, Workable allows recruitment to be localised in English, French, Greek, German, Portuguese, and Spanish. For geographically dispersed teams this is a fantastic option that improves the recruitment of none English native speakers. 

You cannot however search for keywords in resumes and recruiters have to manually tag candidates with hashtags to flag certain skills or experience. 


BambooHR continues well beyond an ATS, with software in onboarding, compensation, and company culture available. This solves an issue around needing an ATS that integrates with HR software by having both in one place. 

As an HR software, BambooHR tracks time and attendance and records KPIs and employee history beyond a successful application process. 

As an ATS it offers similar packages to dedicated ATS systems including easy job posting, custom offer letter templates, and hiring team collaboration. 

As this is a whole package system it doesn’t have some of the extras that other ATS systems have such as keyword searching from resumes and some of the templates are limited. 

There are certainly a number of considerations that must be made when choosing an ATS so we reiterate the importance of knowing what you need from your ATS, what you can afford to spend, and taking advantage of more than one trial period before making your decision. 

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