Dummies guide to ATS vs CRM, ATS vs CRM, Difference between ATS and CRM, How is CRM different from ATS

Dummies guide to ATS vs. CRM

Talent acquisition for big and small companies has never quite experienced a challenge like the one before recruiters today.

With no shortage of ways to market yourself and websites to scour for opportunities, it may be surprising to learn that most job seekers are passive (as they wait for opportunities to come to them) and that most people still attain opportunities through their connections.

And, of course, all of this is further complicated by both the raging COVID-19 pandemic and the growing referendum on equity and equality, particularly how it relates to black and brown folks.

As small businesses and industry stalwarts shutter their doors in this environment, many people ask themselves what the best strategy is for survival.

For any business, recruiting the best talent they can has always been a solid bet. HR departments worldwide understand this and the hurdles before them in doing so and will turn to recruiting tools to give their business a leg up against others competing for that talent.

Many have come to view these tools as a necessity for their company’s viability. But, as with every significant decision in the modern era, many business owners and HR departments struggle to decide which recruitment tools are right for their needs with so many resources for their contemplation.

Two of the most popular tools to aid in the recruitment process are Candidate Relationship Management (CRM) systems and Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). 

This article will define both and run a quick assessment of their pros and cons before vetting out their compatibility and making some recommendations on the best tools we could find.

After reading it, you’ll understand what options are available to you and be positioned to make a better-informed decision for your business.

What is ATS? What can it offer my business?

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) should be thought of as a streamlined way to manage the recruitment process by monitoring, interacting with, and maintaining a talent pool.

The logic behind ATS systems goes something like this: Every prospective job at any level will likely have many people interested in the role, as evidenced by the dozens, sometimes hundreds, sometimes thousands of applications employers receive.

Before those applications come in, potential candidates learn about the opportunity in myriad ways – whether through a connection, through a job posting site, from their college counselor, etc.

And once those applications make their way to the hiring manager, sorting through diverse candidates and evaluating their experience and potential is no easy task, prone to bias and mistakes.

For anyone involved in acquiring new talent, managing applicants – including potential, existing, and former – is critical in making the right hiring decisions. ATS systems seek to help simplify that formula.

ATS systems act as a central database and organizational hub for a business’s recruitment efforts. Using ATS, companies can do several things, including allowing enterprises to proactively collect data from job-posting sites and other sources on potential applicants, simplifying outreach;

Providing a way to categorize and sort through applicants for jobs posted both on internal and external job boards;

designate which details they would like to prioritize in highlighting top applicants, including experience and education;

Consolidating a list of top applicants based on that criteria; automating job-ad pushes to targeted locations; and screen and evaluate prospective new hires through every step of the process, including onboarding.

The risks of not having a reliable ATS system as part of your hiring strategy make it necessary to contemplate utilizing one. In other words, an ATS system gives a business a competitive advantage in acquiring the best talent for their unique needs.

By automating and optimizing the recruitment process, significant time, energy, and resources will be saved that can be reallocated to other business operations – all bolstered, by the way, by the influx of new talent.

ATS systems also provide a tremendous advantage in managing talent pools.

While human connection remains the essential aspect of any business, the days of going to hiring fairs were already fading before the pandemic and now feel like a distant memory.

By integrating the hiring process via ATS systems, businesses first can identify where their desired prospects can be found, proactively post jobs, and hunt for candidates in targeted campaigns, such as universities or industry-specific websites or job-boards.

Reaching the people you want working for your business has been made significantly easier by sharing this data. ATS systems can also add an extra level of protection for data-protection concerns.

What is CRM? What can it offer my business?

Another popular recruitment tool, perhaps more famous, are Candidate Relationship Management (CRM) systems. These systems possess many similarities to ATS systems and are part of a broader constellation of talent acquisition tools (more on that in the next section).

To avoid redundancy, CRM is all about maintaining relationships between past, present, and future candidates.

It’s a concept that’s been around since the 1970s and is well ingrained in the practice of recruiting talent. Still, to understand how it functions, it’s worth thinking about how companies have gone about acquiring talent in labor markets of all kinds.

HR managers have long thought of talent acquisition, not as the act of pinpointing their next superstar and more about managing a pool of potential talent – often referred to as a talent pipeline.

Which, if you think about it, makes a lot of sense: Putting all your eggs in one basket is never a good bet. Potential employees are human, which means that, even if they’re a perfect fit for your business, and even if they love your business, they may not accept employment with you if offered – for any reason imaginable.

By zooming in on one potential employee, or even a small pool of them, ignores the reality that there are likely many people who would be an ideal fit for the job you’re looking to fill and many more for future possibilities. CRM systems seek to manage talent acquisition by centering and optimizing relationship management.

A simple hypothetical scenario can highlight the importance of CRM as a practice.

Let’s say an HR manager is surfing around profiles on LinkedIn using a few search criteria and stumbles upon their dream candidate.

They’ve got all the skills appropriate for the job, the requisite experience, and a few other things to like, such as a history of public service – only, there’s one problem: They’re employed.

When the HR manager reaches out to make an introduction, they learn that while this dream candidate isn’t presently on the market, they claim they might be in the future.

Armed with this knowledge, this HR manager records their interaction in their CRM system, and, in a year, they follow up with the dream employee.

They then learn that the dream candidate had been telling the truth and is fresh on the job hunt – and is flattered and feels respected by the HR manager, keeping them in mind.

By doing something as simple as maintaining a connection, this HR manager has given their company a competitive advantage in recruiting this dream candidate.

And while this is just one anecdotal example of what a CRM system can do for your business, it paints a picture of the more considerable importance of connecting with those you’d like to become your employees in earnest ways.

Relationship management, it turns out, is just as crucial with potential employees as it is with customers.

CRM systems also provide for: a centralized way to coordinate and monitor the recruitment of talent; scalable methods for building brand recognition and reputation amongst job seekers; reliable ways to eliminate bias and prioritize transparency, diversity, and demographics; and identify which stages of the recruitment process that talent is lost.

What’s the difference between CRM and ATS? Does my business need both?

Both CRM and ATS systems are part of a more massive suite of resources businesses use to manage talent acquisition.

These two systems have different functions within that suite of resources available to companies and are critically important to a successful hiring practice.

CRM systems attempt to attract passive candidates and manage the relationships between potential employees and potential employers.

ATS systems work to streamline the hiring process by collecting applicants and helping employers make informed decisions. These are different competencies, and utilizing one of these systems without the other leaves glaring holes in talent acquisition.

Think about it: If you only have a CRM system and are aggressively building relationships with talent, likely, trying to do this at any sort of scale more significant than a handful of relationships or opportunities to fill will turn into a muddled process rife with redundancies in steps, mismanagement in resources, and misallocation of time and attention.

And, in the inverse, if you only employ an ATS system seeking to optimize your hiring process.

Odds are you’ll miss many of the diamonds in the rough uncovered through CRM and messaging around what value your specific business has to offer actual people looking for actual jobs.

These two systems logically work in unison towards making the best hiring decisions in the most efficient ways. If you can’t find a plan that offers both of these services, yes, we believe it is worth investing in them both separately.

Which systems can I count on?

Before making recommendations, it’s important to note that every business and HR decision-making apparatus’s need is different, making the appropriateness of any given resource or tool highly variable.

Below are two recommendations for each type of talent acquisition tool. These recommendations are meant to be starting points in your search for finding the best talent acquisition tool for your unique needs. We encourage you to review these resources and then continue to research your options.

Top ATS tools worth checking out

  • Greenhouse

    Known for their ease of use and affordability, Greenhouse is one of ATS systems’ leading names. They offer many services and a suite deal that provides access to multiple talent acquisition tools and a mobile option, customizable criteria, and an easy to access support line.

  • IBM Kenexa BrassRing

    As a cloud-based solution, this software specializes in targeted outreach. It utilizes behavioral information to establish connections with talent in places they are most likely to frequent. This software uses IBM Watson’s analytics and is best suited for accessing a wide range of talent pools and functions efficiently on social media.

Top CRM tools worth checking out

  • JobVite

    JobVite is among the best tools for newcomers to CRM. It dramatically simplifies outreach to prospects in multiple ways, including direct outreach via social media, job boards, and established talent pools. Its simplicity shouldn’t discredit it from being a reputable tool, as many praise the site for efficiently getting them the results they desire.

  • Smart Recruiters

    This software may have the most robust name recognition in the market, and for a good reason: Small businesses across the world have come to rely on its services. It specializes in a collaborative model, where both company personnel and an interactive, responsive interface collaborate to help small businesses make the best hiring decisions. It’s also come to be a favorite of recruiting and staffing organizations – something to keep in mind.

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