10 Best Applicant Tracking Systems for Small Businesses, Startups & Agencies

The best ATS for small businesses, key features, pros, cons, pricing, and ROI

Phil Strazzulla
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Finding the best ATS for small businesses can be tricky. There’s a sea of products to choose from, many of which are pricey with a tonne of flashy features that your small business will likely never use, and others claim affordability but lock their most useful features behind high pricing tiers. Simply put, buying the wrong ATS is an all too common mistake, and we put together this guide to help you avoid it. 

We spent weeks doing demos with applicant tracking system providers, gathered feedback from users who have used the tools for years, and ran our independent research to bring you the below list of the best applicant tracking systems for startups and SMBs. Read on to find out, besides familiar names like VidCruiter, BambooHR, and Greenhouse, why we named JazzHR, Zoho, and Recooty as best ATSs for you to consider this year.

The Best Applicant Tracking Systems for Small Businesses

Hand picked by our HR Technology experts after product testing, user research, and much debate - enjoy!

Recooty offers a free-forever plan that allows you to post jobs on multiple platforms without asking for your card details. The platform’s paid plans pack a handful of recruitment essentials at conservative prices, making the platform quite accessible for SMBs.
Definitely not the cheapest ATS out there, but Pinpoint shines with talent CRM, integrations, and automation workflows built-in. The platform also enables users to create content-rich career sites with neat designs without needing help from IT.
Purposely built for teams with less than 500 employees, JazzHR provides almost every key feature of an ATS system, like career pages, employer branding, candidate sourcing, and talent CRM, at a transparent and affordable price. Free plans are also available.
As with most Zoho products, Zoho Recruit is quite robust and feature-rich. The ATS also has a free plan and supports 26 different languages, allowing recruiters to cast a wide net.
Recruitee is highly rated for their user-friendliness and ease of use. Companies also find the ATS’ permission adjustment functionality helpful in reducing biased hiring. Free trials (no card required) are available so you can try before you buy.
Trakstar Hire tops off the common ATS capabilities of recruitment funnel customization and unlimited job posting with neat features like candidate profile search and resume duplication detection. While Trakstar’s pricing isn’t transparent, SMBs have room for negotiation based on how many job openings they have annually.
BambooHR is among the top ATS options for SMBs, thanks to its ease of use and full-stack features built-in. The platform also offers flexible plans, which means businesses can benefit from having custom offerings based on their needs.
Teamtailor’s biggest selling feature is their career page - well built out yet easy to navigate. The platform also has features that ingrain diversity, equality, and inclusion in the hiring process. Trials are available and they don’t require your credit card details.
Manatal is an affordable ATS with a 15-day free trial. Its AI-powered functionalities can be quite useful for businesses to streamline candidate sourcing. Also, the drag-and-drop feature makes the platform fairly easy for users to organize candidate pipelines.
Small teams with up to 50 employees can enjoy Freshteam’s free-forever plan. Plus, the paid plans are competitively priced, giving you considerable value for your money.

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Introduction to Applicant Tracking Systems for Small Businesses

If you manage recruitment at a small business and are having difficulty keeping up with the hiring process, it’s probably time for you to invest in an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). An ATS can help you attract and source suitable candidates, keep track of their progress throughout the stages of your hiring process, and automate several functions including the sending of progression and rejection emails. But how do you decide which ATS is right for you? 

While we sadly don’t have the psychic abilities to predict your challenges and point you in the direction of a single ATS that solves them, we DO have a team of HR Tech experts, researchers, a network of industry professionals as well as end users whom we’ve leveraged to shortlist 10 of the best applicant tracking systems different small businesses can use and derive great value. 

But before going into the details, let’s first break down why we are confident these are the best ATSs for small businesses like yours.

Our Criteria: Here's how we chose who made the cut

We take research seriously. To make sure we’re offering our readers the very best solutions in a given software category, we are methodical, rigorous, and expansive in our research. We consult with HR professionals, vendors, and industry experts. We cut through the noise to bring you a carefully curated list of vendors, along with other essential information, to help you find the right software platform for your business. 

Here’s how we chose who makes the cut: 

Product: We believe in gaining a comprehensive understanding of a product before we recommend it, so we start by getting to know the software. Whenever possible, we meet with a senior executive (CEO or Head of Product) for a demo and Q&A. We also test the product ourselves to make sure it has a solid UI, intuitive workflows, and the features to make it a best-in-class offering. 

User feedback: We go straight to the source and compile feedback on user experience. Real-world input supports our commitment to diligence in our software evaluation methods and the products we recommend. Keeping up with the everyday experience of HR pros also puts new vendors on our radar, and it keeps us close to our community so we can better connect the right products to the right people.

Financial metrics: We are certified finance nerds, so we use all the data we can get our hands on to make selections for our guides. We comb through data for concrete statistics like retention rates, growth, profitability, and scalability. We evaluate the bottom line of each product because we know making a software purchase can put your reputation on the line. 

Best for a use case: Software is never a one-size-fits-all product. Sometimes the best solution is free or cheap. Other times it’s the one that is best for global companies or the one that’s sized right for early-stage startups. Keeping this in mind, we include solutions across the spectrum so our readers can find the best fit for their unique needs.

Here's more detail if you want to read more about how we research vendors. Our dedicated staff writers rely on hard data, impartial experts, and user feedback to ensure our reviews are helpful, truthful, and hopefully a pleasure to read!

Here’s what we've done to come up with this list of best applicant tracking systems for small businesses:

We got to know each applicant tracking system: We met with each ATS vendor for a demo, then tested the ATS ourselves. While having a demo with the software provider lets us have a general view of what the applicant tracking system and its customer support are like, the independent software testing helps us verify the ATS’s real capabilities.

  • Is the user interface (UI) appealing and straightforward for small businesses?
  • Does the software provide comprehensive customer support?
  • Is it easy to navigate, implement, and upgrade/downgrade?

We listened to the feedback of real users: If feedback from the humans who’ve actually used the product is not important, we don’t know what is. We listened to users' thoughts on ATSs they’ve used, then ran independent tests on the software to see if the claims we heard are valid.

We asked HR Tech experts to weigh in: We talked to several industry experts to ensure this article is viewed from every possible perspective. Stefanie Sher (Director of Talent Acquisition, Replicated), Tracie Marie (Founder, Hire Incentive), Zachary Larson (People Operations leader with ten years experience in strategic planning, recruitment marketing, and innovation), Huda Idris (B2B Software Advisor with five years of experience in HR alone), and our HR Tech Researcher Anh Nguyen — They’ll share their takes on how to choose the right ATS with you in this piece.

We studied the Return on Investment (ROI) numbers: Other than being careful, and quite picky with our software recommendations, we’re also known for being certified finance nerds. Here are some of the variables we looked into when curating this guide on the best ATSs for small businesses: 

  • Are these ATSs worth their price points for what they offer?
  • Are these ATSs affordable for small businesses? 
  • When can small businesses expect to see results after implementing the software? 
  • Is it scalable and can cope with business changes?

We narrowed down the selection based on target market: The best solution can be free, cheap, or cost millions of dollars. So like any other of our software reviews, the listed solutions are analyzed and picked for a specific niche. For this piece, we’ve narrowed down the best ATS for small businesses with under 200 employees.

Check out this guide if you’d like to learn more about how we research and select software vendors for each of our listicles.

Best Applicant Tracking Systems for Small Businesses

We have looked into thousands of HR Tech solutions. Here are the top 10 ATS for small businesses per our research and expert council as of 2023.



Recooty’s simple and affordable ATS helps you post jobs on multiple platforms, review candidate applications, schedule interviews with your shortlisted candidates, and more. Although it lacks a mobile application and some capabilities like internal communication and unlimited job posts, it’s got enough of the essentials covered to streamline the hiring process of the average small business. 

With their free-forever plan, you can create a branded career page, have up to 1 active job listing at a time, build your own talent pool, and track candidates throughout the hiring process. A tonne more features are available on Recooty’s paid plans, which are reasonably priced.



The company offers four pricing plans:

  • Free plan - Limited to one active job slot, one user, and one location.
  • Pro Plan - the plan goes for $49/month with 10 Active job slots, 10 slots, and 3 locations.
  • Ultra Plan - goes for $ 99/month with 25 active job slots, 50 users, 10 locations, and all features under the Pro plan.
  • Max Plan- goes for $ 199/month while offering 75 active job slots, 100 users, and 20 locations and all features under the Ultra plan.

All the plans come with a 14-day trial period in which you can test the service without providing your credit card details. After the trial period ends, you will need to update your card to continue using the services.

You'll appreciate Recooty's flexible and affordable pricing options if you're a small business. If you're starting, the free tier gives you access to one job posting, which is more than adequate for most small firms that only require one or two people at any given time.

The company offers four pricing plans:

  • Free plan - Limited to one active job slot, one user, and one location.
  • Pro Plan - the plan goes for $49/month with 10 Active job slots, 10 slots, and 3 locations.
  • Ultra Plan - goes for $ 99/month with 25 active job slots, 50 users, 10 locations, and all features under the Pro plan.
  • Max Plan- goes for $ 199/month while offering 75 active job slots, 100 users, and 20 locations and all features under the Ultra plan.

All the plans come with a 14-day trial period in which you can test the service without providing your credit card details. After the trial period ends, you will need to update your card to continue using the services.

You'll appreciate Recooty's flexible and affordable pricing options if you're a small business. If you're starting, the free tier gives you access to one job posting, which is more than adequate for most small firms that only require one or two people at any given time.

Best For

Recruitee's free solution is perfect for a small company with only one person doing the recruiting.

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Screenshot of Pinpoint Applicant Tracking System Showing Latest Jobs and Candidates by Stage



Pinpoint's ATS is highly regarded by users for its intuitive interface, neat automation workflows, and robust career site builder. Candidates can easily apply through the career site, but if they’re not ready, they can opt into a talent community to stay in touch with your company - this is what going the extra mile looks like. 

The system is equipped with an open API that allows users, with the help of IT, to connect it to virtually any third-party tool. While it isn’t the cheapest ATS on this list, it’s definitely worth the money if you’re looking to invest in software that will grow alongside your business.



  • Their pricing starts at $600 monthly when billed annually.
  • Teams wanting enterprise features, such as multi-page career sites, multi-lingual support, custom integrations, and help on data migrations, will start at $1,200 per month.

In general, Pinpoint’s pricing is based on how large your company is.  Their pricing starts at $600/mo (when billed annually).

For companies that want enterprise features (multi page career sites, multi lingual support, custom integrations, help on data migrations, etc) will start at $1,200/mo (also billed annually).

We think this pricing is fairly comparable with other truly best in class ATS’s.  This product becomes valuable to companies when they start hiring more than a dozen people per year, otherwise you may be better off using simpler solutions.

We also appreciate they have a lot more transparency on pricing versus many other players in the space.

Best For

Teams that make the most out of the software are those who have between 15 and 5,000 recruits per year.

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Screenshot of JazzHR ATS Showing Candidates on Their ATS dashboard



JazzHR’s ATS was designed with SMBs in mind. The platform allows for unlimited users across all plans, making it easier for businesses to communicate and collaborate during the hiring process. Besides that and affordability, we also like how JazzHR makes it easy and quick to share your job openings across multiple job boards. 

You can start with their lowest-priced plan (Hero) that includes essential features like posting up to three job openings and then upgrade to higher plans as your company grows, ensuring you don’t pay for features you don't need. The other two plans (Plus and Pro) have more advanced features for automating, customizing, and analyzing the hiring process.



JazzHR has three plans. When paid annually:

  • Hero is $49 per month
  • Plus is $239 per month
  • Pro is $359 per month.

JazzHR has three plans. When billed annually, they cost as follows:

  • Hero: $49 per month for unlimited users and 3 open jobs.
  • Plus: $239 per month for unlimited users, unlimited open jobs, ATS, interviews, and assessments.
  • Pro: $359 per month for everything from Plus, along with offers and e-signatures, reporting, and all-access support.

Best For

JazzHR is built explicitly for startups and SMBs with fewer than 500 hires per year.

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Zoho Recruit


Zoho Recruit is a popular pick for lots of small businesses worldwide. Their free plan includes features for candidate management, email management, and interview scheduling. You can also perform basic resume searches on it and use its five pre-made email templates. 

While all of that sounds good, it’s important to note that the free plan only permits one active job opening at a time. But even with that caveat, Zoho Recruit’s paid plans are quite affordable, with a  45-day money-back guarantee.

Zoho Recruit


Zoho Recruit has three paid plans on top of the free plan.

  • Standard is $30 per user per month, with many more features compared to the Free version.
  • Professional is $60 per user per month, with key features like assessments and social recruiting.
  • Enterprise is $90 per user per month, and rounds out Zoho's entire feature set, except for the add-ons. 

The client portal and video interview modules are what’s available as add-ons. Zoho Recruit also has a 15-day free trial, as well as a free-forever version. The free version has limited features and only 1 active job at a time.

Zoho Recruit has three paid plans on top of the free plan.

  • Standard is $30 per user per month, with many more features compared to the Free version.
  • Professional is $60 per user per month, with key features like assessments and social recruiting.
  • Enterprise is $90 per user per month, and rounds out Zoho's entire feature set, except for the add-ons. 

The client portal and video interview modules are what’s available as add-ons. Zoho Recruit also has a 15-day free trial, as well as a free-forever version. The free version has limited features and only 1 active job at a time.

Best For

Zoho Recruit is perfect for large and small companies of various industries that use premium and niche job boards to give them an edge over competitors. It is also worth considering for smaller recruiting firms, but also has tons of functionality that enterprise companies would value. Of course, any company wanting a free ATS that can integrate with the rest of their tech stack would be wise to consider them.

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Screenshot of Recruitee ATS Software Showing Active Talent Pool



Recruitee is a great pick for SMBs looking for a collaborative and user-friendly ATS. Several users praise the platform for its excellent UX, enabling collaboration among recruiters and hiring managers. The ATS has an open API, which means you can easily plug in third-party tools. Recruiters also like that the software works well with LinkedIn and that they can share job posts to over 1,500 job boards. 

While that’s all swell, it’s important to note several functions such as video interviews, skill assessments, offer management, and onboarding are not built into Recruitee, and that they’re only possible through integration with third-party tools that facilitate each of those functions. 



Recruitee offers custom plans based on the number of active jobs and other particular needs. The ATS has three pricing plans:

  • Launch starts at $91 per month
  • Scale starts at $333 per month
  • Lead has custom pricing.

Recruitee has three pricing plans, all of which accommodate an unlimited number of users and can be trialed for free for up to 18 days. When billed annually, Recruitee’s plans cost as follows:

  • Launch starts at $91per month for 5 job slots and access to basic recruitment features such job post distribution, candidate video chatting, calendar sync, and career site editor.
  • Scale starts at $333 per month for 10 job slots and adds workflow automation and permission settings to Launch's feature set.
  • Lead has custom pricing. It includes everything in Scale, along with exclusive API access and premium services such as dedicated customer success and guided onboarding.

Best For

Though companies of many sizes (except enterprises) can find value in Recruitee’s offering, its current feature set can best support medium-sized businesses.

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Screenshot of Trackstar Hire (one of the best Applicant Tracking System) Showing Tasks on ATS Dashboard

Trakstar Hire


Trakstar Hire’s ATS (formerly Recruiterbox) is ideal mainly for midsize companies, but they do work out deals for small businesses based on how many job openings they have per year. 

The platform helps you post jobs on dozens of job boards and social media sites, sponsor listings for maximum reach, and receive resumes through customizable application forms. Once resumes are in, Trakstar Hire’s resume parser automatically extracts candidates’ details and creates profiles.

We like how customizable Trakstar Hire’s recruiting workflows are and are particular fans of how several offer management features are built-in.

Trakstar Hire


Trakstar Hire has one plan that includes all of its features without any limits. The pricing is custom depending on headcount.

Trakstar Hire has one plan that includes all of its features, without any limits. The pricing of this plan depends on the number of employees you have, which likely corresponds to the number of openings you’ll post annually. You can get in touch with Trakstar’s Sales team for a tailored quote.

Best For

Companies of all sizes can derive value from Trakstar Hire, but with its current feature set and pricing structure, we recommend it for medium-sized businesses.

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Screenshot of BambooHR Applicant Tracking System Showing Onboarding Task, Monthly Headcount, Vacation



BambooHR's ATS enables you to customize application forms and share job postings across several job boards and social media platforms. The system organizes candidate applications for easy reference throughout every stage of the hiring process, from initial application to final e-signature. Users can also create new hire packets that provide information on what to expect, who to meet, and which tasks to tackle on their first day. 

Users we've talked to quite like BambooHR’s mobile app for hiring. Through it, they’re able to post jobs, review resumes, communicate with candidates, coordinate with other hiring team members, and perform several related functions on the go. 



BambooHR pricing is custom, but they offer a free trial. Before coming up with a quote, they are also likely to extend your free trial upon request or give you a free demo of the advanced features.

Pricing is not disclosed upfront, but they do offer a free trial of their all-in-one software and then go out of their way to find a version that will suit you. Before they come up with a personalized quote that will align with your budget, however, they are also likely to extend your free trial upon request or even give you a free demo of the advanced features.

Best For

BambooHR is a good fit for companies looking for a highly customizable HR product with pricing that reflects their needs. It’s also popular among hybrid and remote teams.

BambooHR in Action
Noreen Kanwal
Noreen Kanwal
Senior Director HR
out of 10

Starting with talent acquisition, we use it to maintain our talent pool. Then recruiting the talent by incorporating an offer letter and contract. Once the employee is in our system, we use it for database management. We also use it for their performance evaluation and record the training. In the end, we also use its features of onboarding, offboarding, and employee survey as well.

How likely are you to recommend this tool?
What do you like about this tool?

I like it for its smooth performance evaluation process. It's one of my favorite features. Second is its onboarding feature and hires packet that let the new employee feel welcomed. Last but not least, is its ATS system which helps us keep a track of our talent pool.

What do you dislike about this tool?

It does not provide integration with LinkedIn which adds to the cost of LinkedIn job wrapping. Its customization option is very limited and its API keys are also limited to very few options.

Why did your organization buy this tool, and how long have you used it for?

My organization has been using it for 2 years. This is an amazing tool for employee database management. Along with that, it offers an employee satisfaction survey which can help improve things along the way. Its performance module has made life way easier with a simple few steps process for performance evaluation. Lastly, its hiring module is easy to use and generates results.

How is this tool different than their competitors?

For a startup, It provides all the necessary options that will help the organization alleviate its HRIS system. It is not that costly compared to others and it is also very simple to use.

What Instructions should people think about when buying this type of tool?

Apart from the very obvious, cost; another criterion could be the size of the organization. The needs of the organization are also very important in terms of what they want to achieve from an HRIS.

How has this tool changed or evolved over time to meet users needs?

They have introduced new modules like performance, moreover, they are always doing webinars to make the best use of their tool. Their customer support is always very helpful.

What specific type of user or organization is this tool very good for?

Small and Medium Enterprises.

What specific type of user or organization would this tool not be a good fit for?


Screenshot of Teamtailor Applicant Tracking System Showing My Jobs, To Do List and Other Updates.



Teamtailor’s ATS has a unique approach to talent acquisition, paying a lot of attention to how your company presents itself to candidates. This ATS helps you build attractive career sites, market to specific talent demographics through landing pages and talent pools, run referrals, and nurture campaigns for current and future recruitment needs.

Another way TeamTailor differentiates itself from the pack is how they structure its pricing. There actually isn’t any structure to it. It’s a single plan with all features included, and the pricing of this plan adapts to the size of your company.



Teamtailor’s pricing is custom based on customer business size and requirements. For teams under 25 employees, the price for unlimited job postings, candidates, and users in the system typically starts at $3,300.

Teamtailor’s pricing starts at £2750 for companies with 1-25 employees. This includes unlimited job postings, candidates and user access to the system. You can get in touch with Teamtailor’s sales team to get an estimate according to your business size and needs.

Best For

Teamtailor used to be a tool for smaller companies, but now their solution caters mainly to 50-400 employee companies that need a powerful but straightforward ATS.

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Screenshot of Manatal Applicant Tracking System Showing Candidate Applications Received on Their ATS portal



Manatal’s AI-powered ATS can help HR teams find and hire the right people. Through it, you can create a custom-branded career page, post jobs to dozens of job boards, and receive resumes from interested candidates. You can also upload candidate profiles and enrich them with data derived from their social media accounts automatically.

We’re fans of Manatal’s customizable recruiting pipeline, resume parsing abilities, and AI-based candidate recommendations. It also has customizable analytics dashboards to track essential metrics, a mobile app for on-the-go access, and a chrome extension with reasonable functionality, allowing you to connect with and save the candidates who fit your job requirements.



  • Manatal has two fixed pricing plans: Profession and Enterprise, costing $15 and $35 per user per month, respectively, when billed annually.
  • On-demand plans are available with custom quotes.

Manatal has two plans with fixed pricing. When Billed annually, they cost as follows:

  • Professional: This plan costs $15 per user per month for up to 15 jobs per account and 10,000 candidates. Customers on this plan can add unlimited guests.
  • Enterprise: This plan costs $35 per user per month for unlimited jobs per account, as well as unlimited  candidates and guests.


  • “Users” refers to the individuals with full unrestricted access to Manatal’s platform and its features such as recruiters and HR professionals who actively use the software.
  • “Guests” refers to individuals who are invited to collaborate on the platform through a dedicated portal such as hiring managers and decision-makers. Thes

Best For

Manatal can benefit organizations of all sizes across different industries, but it’s worth noting that most of their customers are small and mid-sized enterprises.

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Screenshot of Freshteam Applicant Tracking System Showing Candidate Hiring Stages



Freshteam’s user-friendly and affordable HR suite comes with features for applicant tracking, screening, onboarding, time-off management, employee information management, and more. Using the platform, you can create a customizable career site as well as share job posts on multiple job boards and social media channels to increase your chances of attracting top talent.

Once candidate applications are received, you can vet their resumes, schedule interviews, and share feedback with the relevant members of your team. This activity can easily be tracked through Freshteam’s hiring funnel, which you can customize to mirror the stages of your recruiting process.



Freshteam has four pricing plans:

  • Free
  • Growth: $1 per employee per month plus a $59 platform fee per month
  • Pro: $2 per employee per month plus a $99 platform fee per month
  • Enterprise: $4 per employee per month plus a $169 platform fee.

Freshteam has 4 pricing plans. When billed annually, they cost as follows:

  • Free: This plan is free of charge for up to 50 active employees and is limited to 3 published job postings.
  • Growth: Costing $1 per employee per month + $59 platform fee per month, the Growth plan is ideal for small companies looking to handle their basic HR needs more effectively.
  • Pro: For $2 per employee per month + $99 platform fee per month, the Pro plan comes with several added features to automate workflows and manage HR data. 
  • Enterprise: For $4 per employee per month + $169 platform fee per month, the Enterprise plan is Freshteam’s most premium offering, providing users with access to all features in previous plans with the addition of advanced customizations, reporting, and more.

Best For

While companies of all sizes can benefit from Freshteam's offering, it's best suited for small and mid-sized companies.

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Applicant Tracking System FAQs

What is an Applicant Tracking System (ATS)?

An Applicant Tracking System (ATS) - of course, we don’t talk about Automatic Transfer Switches on our site - is an HR tool designed to make things easier for both employers and candidates. Typically, an ATS will aid with tasks like posting jobs, sourcing candidates, organizing the hiring process, and storing data for record-keeping purposes. If you want to learn more, we, coincidentally, have a whole guide that breaks down what an applicant tracking system (ATS) is. Save the previous link for a later read! 

What are the features of an Applicant Tracking System?

The features commonly found in applicant tracking systems are resume parsing to extract candidate information, job posting, candidate pipeline management, candidate searching and filtering, reporting and analytics on the hiring process, and integration with other HR software. 

What are the benefits of the best Applicant Tracking Systems?

Applicant tracking systems have proven to make a positive impact on business hiring practices, which is why over 99% of Fortune 500 companies use some form of an applicant tracking system internally. Below are key benefits ATSs bring about, and as always, we have the stats to back them up.

  • Save time: Research shows that recruiters can save up to 20% time on hiring when using an ATS solution. 86% of recruiters say that ATS solutions helped them shorten their time-to-hire.
  • Increase the quality of hire: 78% of recruiters confirm an ATS has improved the quality of hire.
  • Save money: Small businesses can enjoy $10,000 annual savings using an ATS. Output from our ATS calculator has shown that from a new ATS, a 500-person company can save up to $468,000.

How have applicant tracking systems evolved over time?

Since their creation in the 1990s, ATSs have:

  • Shifted from being on-premise to cloud-based systems: Earlier versions of ATS were often desktop software that was installed on a company's computers. Today, most ATS are cloud-based, which means they can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection.
  • The option to integrate with job boards and social media: ATS have evolved to integrate with job boards and social media platforms like LinkedIn, Indeed, and Glassdoor. This makes it easier for recruiters to source candidates from a wider pool of talent.
  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning built-in: Many modern ATS use artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to automate several parts of the recruitment process. For example, ATS can automatically screen resumes based on keywords, skills, and experience, then suggest the most suitable candidates for your role.
  • Mobile applications (or at the very least, are mobile optimized): ATS have evolved to be mobile-friendly, which means candidates can apply for jobs using their smartphones and tablets.
  • More focus on user experience: Older ATSs were often criticized for being clunky and difficult to use. Today's ATS are designed to be more user-friendly and intuitive so recruiters can manage candidates and candidates can apply for jobs without a hassle.

How much does an ATS cost? 

When browsing a couple of applicant tracking systems’ websites, you may notice that the majority of vendors don’t have a Pricing page with transparent and fixed pricing plans. This is not because those providers want to keep their prices a secret. In fact, most ATS systems base their pricing on varying factors such as business size, number of job vacancies, integrations, and whether the team is local or international.

Be that as it may, there are certain price ranges we can share with you, having spent a few years now talking to vendors, experts, and users in this space. Below is what you can expect an ATS to cost for SMBs.

  • Small business (under 100 employees): As these companies tend to have a conservative number of job openings and small budgets for ATS buying, paying per user or job per month makes the most sense, and paid ATS plans with that pricing model range between $15 to a couple of thousands, depending on team ‍size. But as we’ve previously laid out, several ATSs with a per-user-per-month pricing model offer free-forever plans, so if you’re a very small business with basic and infrequent hiring needs, you may not have to pay anything at all. 
  • Medium-sized business (100-500 employees): Paying on a per-user-per-month basis can still work for growing companies as long as they don’t require many people to be involved in the hiring process. But a flat rate is worth considering as you’ll be less worried about exceeding the user or job limit. The price for such a model ranges between $10,000 to $15,000 per year.

What to look for in an applicant tracking system?

When asked “what three things do you look for when shopping for an ATS?” Zachary Larson, one of the experts we spoke to for this guide, has shared that ease of use, freedom within a framework, and business intelligence are the top 3 things he’d focus on. 

  • Ease of use: The ATS you get should be easy to use to navigate, both for your team and candidates. 
  • Freedom within a framework: Is the ATS compatible with the talent ecosystem? For example, can the ATS easily partner with companies like Paradox to improve the application experience, or is there an Indeed quick integration? Also, the ATS should be customizable and not clunky, adapting to the continuous industry change.
  • Business intelligence: The ATS data should be quickly accessible and easy to visualize, and there should be automated reporting capabilities. Companies want to optimize their processes and improve the applicant experience, so the best ATS should make it simple for the HR team to identify trends and be a strategic partner for the business.

How to choose the best ATS for small businesses?

You can go about this a few ways, but we think the following are the essentials that can save you a considerable amount of time in researching and picking the right recruiting software for your business:

  • Get information from unbiased sources: Most ATS vendors have websites with plenty of information on how good their product(s) are, but it’s rare to see a vendor ever share the cons or where their product falls short (in comparison to other products) on their website. A good source lets you see the whole picture: the strengths and weaknesses of a product. From there, you’ll develop a more sophisticated view of an ATS’ capabilities, which is what you need to make the right buying decisions.
  • Real user experience is powerful: There’s a tremendous amount of value in the feedback of real product users, particularly hiring managers and HR leaders: What are their ATS decision criteria? Their expectations about the hiring software vs. reality? How satisfied are they with the purchased ATS?

Protip: Shopping for a new ATS can be challenging. We have a video that breaks down what you should consider in your applicant tracking system buying journey.

  • Ask the right questions: Be sure to make the most out of your demos with ATS vendors by asking pointed questions. This expert-suggested question list can help to evaluate ATSs better so that you can make the best decision for your company.

Which ATS is considered to be the most popular?

  • Freshteam: Most cost-effective ATS
  • JazzHR: Go-to ATS for startups
  • Greenhouse: Best for teams that hire often
  • BambooHR: Most used by medium to large companies
  • Recruitee: Best for being affordable and scalable

Is there any free ATS?

Yes, there is! Manatal, Teamtailor, and Zoho Recruit are our favorites. You can find more options for the best free applicant tracking systems here.

How many ATS options should you look at when you start doing demos?

"Demoing software can be painful, but it pays to go into the weeds for every single module," says Tracie Marie, one of the experts we talked about for this piece. Her recommendation is that three can be a good starting number for vendor demos. She also suggested, “include one that is slightly less than your budget and one slightly more.” This way, you can see the differences in features among those vendors.

Pro Tips on Best Applicant Tracking Systems for Small Businesses

Best ATS for SMBs: Final Advice

Instead of a wordy conclusion, we thought we’d wrap this piece with some more industry facts and our HR Tech expert advice.

  • Do you really need an ATS?: 75% of recruiters and hiring professionals use a recruiting or applicant tracking system. 94% of them say their ATS or recruiting software has positively impacted their hiring process. Bear in mind, though, that onboarding an ATS will neither fix your employer brand nor your candidate experience. We, again, have a dedicated guide explaining why that is in detail. 
  • At what point in headcount growth do you need to buy your first ATS?: From her experience buying the first ATS for her business, Stefanie Sher suggested between 20 to 40 employees would be a good starting point: “If you're only going to hire 5-10 candidates in a calendar year, not as big a deal, but once you start thinking 10+ hires, you want to have a consistent, scalable process that can grow with your team.”
  • Which ATS is right for you?: Though we’ve tried our best to simplify your hiring software selection process with the above list of the best ATS for small businesses for 2023, the best solution for you will depend on your organization’s unique needs and growth plans. 
    We recommend listing down your ATS must-have features and capabilities in an easily accessible document (or you can take advantage of our free ATS Buyer Organizer) to stay on track with what is important and what isn’t, do demos with the top vendors on your list and sign up for a couple of trial accounts if you’ve got the time. Ultimately, a supercharged modern ATS can transform your HR efforts if you’re ready for it.

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