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ATS vs. CRM: what’s the difference?

An Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is software that automates the hiring process, from job postings to onboarding. It streamlines talent acquisition and improves candidate experience. A CRM (Candidate Relationship Management) focuses on building and nurturing relationships with potential and existing candidates, creating a talent pipeline for recruitment.

Keith MacKenzie
Keith MacKenzie

Passionate about human resources, employment, and business management, and an expert at sharing that expertise.

Applicant tracking system (ATS) and candidate relationship management (CRM) software both help automate, organize, and optimize the recruitment and hiring process but knowing how, when, and why to integrate each of these tools into a talent acquisition strategy is key to maximizing their value.

To compare an ATS vs CRM, let’s start with defining each, and then delve into the similarities and differences.

What’s an ATS?

An applicant tracking system (ATS) is recruitment software designed to streamline, automate, and optimize the hiring process for recruiters, HR professionals, and hiring managers.

An effective ATS simplifies the entire talent acquisition workflow from start to finish, using automation to simplify tasks which may include the following:

Using an ATS as a tool during the recruitment process improves the candidate experience while also making it easier for hiring professionals to attract, identify, and retain top talent.

Automating important but time-intensive tasks keeps the entire lifecycle of the hiring process organized, improves communication with candidates and among stakeholders, reduces time-to-hire, and allows hiring professionals to focus on finding the best talent for open roles.

Not sure which ATS is the best option to meet the staffing needs of your business? Look at our ATS buyers’ guide.

What’s a CRM?

CRM is an acronym for customer relationship management (or candidate relationship management when used as a recruitment marketing tool). Recruitment CRM software is used to create a talent pipeline of job seekers, current employees, and passive candidates that recruiting teams can leverage for recruitment and hiring purposes.

Candidate relationship management systems often have features to help with the following:

  • Building a database of potential candidates
  • Making saved resumes searchable by keyword
  • Delivering targeted messaging to talent pool
  • Fostering a relationship between the employer brand and candidates
  • Tracking candidate progress during hiring and onboarding
  • Sending surveys and compiling feedback on hiring process
  • Collecting and reporting hiring analytics

A CRM is a tool that helps build and nurture relationships with talent, creating a scalable source of qualified candidates to choose from. Having access to an existing pool of candidates can eliminate the need for a recruitment agency, increase the quality of applicants to job openings, and reduce time-to-hire.

Should you integrate your CRM with an ATS?

Although there’s a slight overlap in the services offered by ATS vs CRM software, they’re two different types of tools, each with a distinct purpose. An ATS organizes and coordinates the actual application and hiring process, while a CRM system helps create and maintain a pool of active and passive talent for recruitment — both are valuable recruiting technology tools.

Using a CRM with an ATS integration creates a tech stack that automates and optimizes each and every step of the talent acquisition process, making it easy to source candidates from your own qualified pool while also effortlessly attracting outside applicants.

With a CRM and ATS integration, qualified applicants go through the hiring workflow organized and managed by the ATS, the best candidate is selected by the hiring manager, and the CRM maintains a relationship with the remaining candidates for future job openings, creating a valuable cycle for recruitment.

Aside from the clear benefits to hiring professionals, today’s competitive job market offers candidates a lot of options. Having an organized talent acquisition pipeline with clear communication and professional responsiveness builds trust with applicants while expediting the hiring process in a way that gives your company a competitive edge.

How can Workable help me?

Workable is an industry leader in ATS software and can integrate into your already existing workflow. By partnering with the most popular tools in recruiting technology, Workable offers a single, powerful solution for maximizing efficiency while optimizing your recruitment and hiring process. Find out more about us and our partnerships here.

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