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HR technology & tools | 14 minute read

5 ways to optimize your ATS for a better candidate experience 

May 9, 2023

For talent acquisition (TA) leaders, a comprehensive applicant tracking system (ATS) is a top priority. When configured right, your ATS should play a crucial role in creating a positive experience for both candidates and hiring managers and provide the data you need to make strategic hiring decisions. A seamless platform that works for all parties is essential to drive success.  

But, unfortunately, an ATS is often riddled with errors, out-of-date integrations and disjointed processes that create confusion with candidates and fail to create an ideal experience. 

Optimizing your TA process within your ATS will help your team get results in this challenging market. It improves job application efficiency and candidate qualification filtering while building engagement and saving cost. It will also help you find the right candidates faster and deliver a better candidate experience. 

What makes a great candidate experience? 

  • A career page presenting culture, benefits and the employer value proposition (EVP) 
  • Accurate, easy-to-digest job descriptions 
  • Listing compensation (especially in lieu of new pay transparency laws in the US) 
  • A short and easy application process (without entering duplicate information) 
  • Listing a clear timeline on expectations during the interview and hiring processes 
  • Quick communication throughout the entire interview and hiring process 
  • Asking for feedback after the application is finished (to both successful and unsuccessful candidates) 


Recruiters can reduce time spent on manual tasks such as sourcing by about 30% using automated technology. 
Source: Aptitude Research

#1: Identify unused features, and configure all to the fullest potential 

An ATS has many features and functions but are you putting them all into action? This step is about fine-tuning your system and ensuring all your desired features are being used to their highest potential. By doing this, your recruiters will streamline everyday tasks and dedicate more time to meaningfully engaging with candidates.  

Investing in communication and engagement during the pre-boarding process can improve the onboarding experience by 83% 
Source: The Talent Board 

Some features to consider optimizing include: 

  • Candidate tracking 
  • User permissions and accessibility 
  • Integrations 
  • Searching and filtering 
  • Reporting and analytics 
  • Security 
  • Compliance 

Identify integrated ATS features in this step too, since failure to implement these add-ons into your daily processes leaves money on the table. Once you have a holistic view of your features and their implementation use, you can evaluate your experience and how that translates into saving time and money. 

#2: Audit your entire experience (not just for candidates!) 

While it’s important to concentrate your efforts on the candidate journey, they’re not the only ones to consider. That’s because bottlenecks often occur between recruiters and hiring managers, including getting job postings approved, adding feedback after an interview and other administrative tasks. 

Although candidates don’t see the backend processes, it’s important to their experience that recruiters have seamless tracking between software and candidate communication. It’s easier this way to ensure follow-ups and regular communication are facilitated efficiently. A great ATS simplifies communication by enabling automation, adoption and convenience from the moment a jobseeker applies on the recruiter’s end. 

Put yourself through the entire candidate process so you can experience issues firsthand. Many times, talent leaders don’t put themselves in the candidates’ shoes, including receiving emails from workflows and other touchpoints in the process. Blind spots can occur because automated workflows aren’t revisited periodically to account for newer language and branding.  


If you’re curious about improving the capabilities of your ATS, our Diagnostics Report can help. Learn more 

#3: Use automation where applicable to save time 

Your ATS should streamline the recruitment process, providing a clear timeline and punctual communication. This helps attract the right people at the right time and filter the most qualified candidates for the job. Automating emails, interview scheduling and post-interview feedback saves recruiters and coordinators time in the overall recruitment process.  

Consider automating data sorting to categorize larger talent pools so you can see their status in real time. This will also help you find delays in the process and drop-offs that may have occurred for applicants. Your ATS should provide a comprehensive view of candidate data so you can source accordingly and make other informed hiring decisions. 


We’re seeing the rise of ChatGPT and other language-based AI models to assist with communication. While this has already proven to be helpful, in its current form it’s important to use all available pieces of your toolkit to improve candidate experience. Don‘t depend entirely on the newest, shiniest piece of AI technology. 

#4: Organize job postings for ease of use 

To use your ATS to your advantage, simplify application processes for jobseekers through profile configuration. This means streamlining your system’s method – on computer and mobile – for jobseekers to fill out an application without a headache. Most commonly, applicants drop if there are too many steps involved or the mobile experience is subpar.  

Also, consider syncing your data through multiple job boards, not just the common ones. For inclusivity purposes, a positive candidate experience involves one that champions talent from all backgrounds. 


Tip: From your career site, candidates should be able to find open jobs easily. User navigability is critical for a great experience from start to finish. 

#5: Find quick wins in the data for hiring managers 

Using your ATS for data cleanliness not only helps with legal and compliance, but more importantly from a candidate’s perspective, it links those who share the company’s values and beliefs quicker and progresses them to the next step. Comb through your ATS to see if hiring managers will be able to make informed hiring decisions based on what’s presented. If not, you can’t generate reports that share information about your hiring process either. 

A report that you can generate on a regular basis, and one that’s based on good, clean data will be able to inform your hiring managers’ decisions. Data visibility can not only contribute to a solid, long-term TA strategy but also help build strong relationships between recruiters and hiring managers.   

An optimized, fit-for-purpose ATS awaits 

Ease of use will drive adoption and efficiency in your ATS. Taking the time to evaluate your system and optimize available opportunities will provide generous returns regarding time spent on administrative duties and access to engaged and available candidates. Your ATS should be a collaborative platform between all parties that helps you boost productivity and enable a positive candidate experience every step of the way. 

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About Alicia O'Brien

Alicia O’Brien has more than 12 years of experience in recruitment. She leads the company’s innovation function, which was established following feedback from new clients that said they struggled to get ingenuity from their incumbent providers. They needed actionable, orientated ideas to put into practice, which is what WilsonHCG’s innovation team delivers.