ATS vs. CRM: Is One Good Without the Other?


Nearly every company uses applicant tracking systems (ATS), while candidate relationship management (CRM) software is a relatively new recruitment technology. But can one work without the other? In this article, we discuss:

  • The definition of an ATS and a CRM
  • Why ATS and CRM are both necessary
  • Three ways to integrate these two tools in your recruitment stack

With recruitment technology evolving so rapidly, it can be hard to keep up with the emerging platforms and trends gaining ground every day. From a single recruitment platform, companies are now branching into discrete tools for different stages on the recruitment funnel and the various aspects of candidate experience.

Two tools that typically take center stage in recruitment technologyOpens a new window implementation are applicant tracking systems (ATS) and candidate relationship managementOpens a new window (CRM) platforms. On the surface, the two might seem identical – after all, both ATS and CRM deal with incoming data from candidates.

But under the hood, ATS and CRM have a dedicated, specialized role to play in your recruiting function. Let’s look at the purpose of these tools and if you can use one without the other.

Learn More: Role of HR Technology in RecruitmentOpens a new window

ATS vs. CRM: What Do They Mean?

You can define ATS as a workflow automation tool that tracks an applicant’s progress across the entire recruitmentOpens a new window journey. It collects applicant data coming in from multiple sources such as your career website, social media, job boards, offline ads, unsolicited applications, and so on.

Managing recruitment through an ATS is often a compliance requirement, as companies need to keep records of who applied for a job and why they were rejected.

CRM, on the other hand, can be defined as a platform that brings together all the elements of candidate experience. On a CRM, you can build a talent pool that you can fall back on in case of an urgent requirement, including candidates who were previously rejected for a particular position. You can regularly communicate with candidates, track candidate sentiment, collaborate with multiple stakeholders, and gain analytics insights by using a CRM platform.

As you can see from the definition of CRM vs. ATS, each tool offers a distinct advantage for your company.

What Are the Benefits of an ATS vs. CRM?

The benefits of ATS include the following:

1. Reduced effort

An ATS automates the creation and maintenance of applicant records. So, you don’t have to fill out complex spreadsheets or manually generate reports. The ATS automatically builds, maintains, and updates the data repository of past/current applicants by accessing key data from candidate resumes.

It also allows you to communicate with candidates by sending them email reminders about interviews, for example.

2. Faster time to fill

An ATS saves you the time spent on the administrative part of recruitment. It does a preliminary screening of resumes that helps eliminate non-matches and narrows the applicant pool. This speeds up the interview, follow-up, and offer disbursal process, resulting in a faster time to fillOpens a new window .

3. Stringent compliance

The ATS will create an archive of applicant data, which you can audit at regular intervals. This makes sure that you are compliant with the latest recruitment laws and that there is no bias when accepting/rejecting an applicant.

Learn More: Are you Making these 3 Applicant Tracking Mistakes?Opens a new window

There’s no denying the utility of an ATS. However, it tends to fall short in some areas. For example, it can send some false positives your way and create false negatives due to ineffective keyword matches.

Also, the ATS isn’t meant for two-way communication. You can’t speak to candidates or collaborate with internal stakeholders using the tool.

Finally, an ATS cannot give you analytics insights on the candidate experienceOpens a new window . For example, are your candidates engaged across the recruitment journey? Which talent source is bringing in the best quality hires?

To get these insights, you need a CRM along with your ATS. Here are the benefits of using a CRM platform:

1. Manage long-term relationships with candidates

A CRM platform allows you to build a pool of candidates who may or may not have actively applied to an opening in your company. You can use such a platform to manage your company newsletter, your social media updates – and thus, your employer brand – and improve brand retention in the minds of your candidates.

2. Simplify collaboration

Stakeholders from across the company can log into the CRM platform and share their approval/feedback on a particular candidate. This means that there is no long email trail, paper document sharing, or running from department to department to complete a hire.

3. Engagement insights

This is among the top benefits of a CRM vs. ATS. CRM platforms continually analyze candidate engagement levels to suggest improvement areas. For example, it may be that an above-average interval occurs between the first interview and the second round.

The insights extracted from a CRM can guide future hiring strategies and improve a company’s employer brandOpens a new window . It ensures that a recruiter is always responsive, readily available to answer queries, and treats every candidate like a customer.

To achieve a full range of benefits, companies should implement a CRM in addition to an ATS. And there are several ways to go about this.

Learn More: Why Integrating Your Recruitment Solution with a CRM System Makes Perfect SenseOpens a new window

How Do You Gain From Both CRM and ATS?

Remember, a CRM will always fetch its foundational data from an ATS and cannot function without it. Conversely, the functionalities of your ATS will be limited unless they are extended through a CRM. So, how do you bring the two together? We recommend that you consider the following approaches:

1. Build from scratch

Large enterprises and Fortune 100s typically have an in-house built ATS that factors in organizational policies as well as global recruitment laws. You can complement this with a CRM extension, also developed in-house.

2. Third-party integrations

Most ATS tools can be integrated with third-party CRM, from a different vendor. For example, Oracle TaleoOpens a new window (one of our top 10 ATS for 2020Opens a new window ) integrates with IntraWorlds’ CRM extensionOpens a new window . Recruiters should check for extensibility and integrations before deploying an ATS.

3. One-stop solution

Several vendors provide both CRM and ATS solutions, making integrations much faster and easier. A good example is LoxoOpens a new window . The company’s product portfolio includes the Loxo ATS Software, Loxo Profiles, Loxo Outreach, and Loxo Recruiting CRM Software, covering the end-to-end recruitment funnel in one solution.

Learn More: 6 Steps to Make Your Recruiter Database BetterOpens a new window

The Bottom Line: Why ATS and CRM are a Winning Combination

There are no two ways about it: as the company grows and more applicants enter the ecosystem every month, a bare-bones ATS will struggle to keep up. A bolt-on CRM layer can help you maximize the applicant data residing in your ATS.

Simply put, the ATS is an enterprise staple that keeps the administrative wheels of your recruitment function running smoothly.

CRM is that competitive differentiator that you need to make the most of your ATS – in fact, it helps to maximize nearly every investment that you make, from adding new sourcing channels to hiring fresh recruiters. The CRM reveals useful insights on sourcing channel effectiveness and allows recruiters to collaborate meaningfully, transforming your entire recruitment strategy.

What is your approach to leverage the ATS + CRM combination?  Tell us on FacebookOpens a new window , LinkedInOpens a new window , or TwitterOpens a new window . We’d love to hear your views on this topic!