Guest Blog – What’s the Difference Between Applicant Tracking and Recruiting Systems

Many thanks to our guest blogger – Kyle Lagunas, HR analyst with Software Advice

What’s the Difference Between Applicant Tracking and Recruiting Systems

Most people know that, although they both work in talent acquisition, third party recruiters and internal recruiters serve very difference functions. As such, it makes sense to assume that each would rely on different technology to manage their own complicated and distinct workflows. As both tools are used in the arena of recruiting and hiring, though, many people lump applicant tracking software and recruiting softwaretogether. It’s certainly easy to confuse the two, and I thought it would be helpful to draw a clearer picture of what sets these two software systems apart.

Applicant Tracking Software and Recruiting Software: Difference at a Glance

At its most basic level, applicant tracking software is designed to automate the hiring process within a single organization from beginning to end. Recruiting software, on the other hand, manages the workflow in organizations hiring for a number of divisions, clients and job types (such as recruiting firms). There are some similarities in basic functionality, though. Before digging deeper into each system, it may help to take a look at them side by side.

Applicant Tracking Software

Recruiting Software

Candidate Management



Document Management



Job Postings on Multiple Boards



Online Applications



Boolean Candidate Searching



Candidate Onboarding
Job Requisition Management



Client Management


Billing & Invoicing


Sales Force Automation


Better Suited For

Internal Recruiters, Hiring Managers

Third Party Recruiting Firms

Example Product

Newton, AcquireTM, iCIMS

Bullhorn, cBizOne, StaffingSoft

Applicant Tracking Software: Candidate Management
Though there are functions that both types of software can perform, the ultimate focus of applicant tracking systems is the successful management of candidates through an internal hiring process. Because these systems automate functions that fall under the umbrella of human resources, applicant tracking software is often best suited for companies managing an internal hiring process.

Although vendors offer users various levels of functionality, even the most basic packages will usually cover these core capabilities:

  • The ability to track candidate status through the entire interview and hiring process, often including the ability to rate candidates and share thoughts and opinions internally.
  • A branded company job board where employers post open positions and candidates can submit resumes and complete role-specific employment applications.
  • A central candidate database that makes it easy for users to find candidates using keyword searches and custom filters.

Recruiting Software: Staffing Management

Recruiting software is uniquely designed to manage the hiring process for multiple jobs in multiple organizations. Because recruiters also rely on it to manage relationships with candidates and clients, recruiting software also offers functionality found in sales force automation software and customer relationship management software. As such, recruiting software is often considered a business solution, rather than a human resources application. Third-party staffing and recruiting firms benefit most from these systems

Recruiting software makes it easy to manage the granular details of staffing. Beyond core functionality found in applicant tracking software, most systems offer these capabilities:

  • Tools for managing a large number of active candidates – including flagging top candidates for quick access, sending multiple candidate profiles for open jobs and tracking important documents (i.e., resumes, certifications, and I-9s and more).
  • Customer relationship management functionality for maintaining existing relationships, prospecting future business and billing for placements.
  • A streamlined job posting process, with the ability to post jobs on your website, commercial job boards, and via social media outlets

If you’re in the market for applicant tracking or recruiting software, of course you’ll want to do your due diligence. The main thing to consider is: Which applications and what type of functionality will benefit my organization most? Beyond this guide, you can check out a list of a few of my favorite web-based applicant tracking systems Also be sure to check out product demos, and ask a lot of questions.


Process or Results

What drives your business decision making? Are you all about the process or the results? Which is better?

Let’s look at the two methodologies:

Process Driven

People and organizations who are process driven value how things are done over the outcome of these actions. This can be a very effective style for some professions; lawyers, police officers, procurement professionals. The ones who do it well balance the need for process control and adherence with the need for a successful outcome.

Results Driven

A results driven culture is fairly self-explanatory. These people and organizations judge the effectiveness of actions by the outcomes they produce. How the results came about is less important. This is a productive style that works best when coupled with an awareness that although process is secondary in nature, it is still of some value and needs to be considered for ongoing business success.

When a Style Fails Organizations Down

Issues arise when an organization becomes married to one of these styles to the exclusion of the other. Organizations that achieve results without consideration of processes van find themselves with organizational cultural issues or even worse ethical concerns. Likewise, organizations who pride themselves on process over results become sluggish and bureaucratic. Efficiency levels suffer and employees disengage from high performance.

So What to do?

Balance. Determine what processes are essential to what your organization is trying to achieve. Focus on the processes than enhance results and do away with the unnecessary protocols that can hinder results.

A results oriented streamlined process may be all your organization needs to ‘do less with more’. The efficiencies created will increase morale and further inspire productivity and a culture with a results-orientation.

A simple fix to a large problem.