Staffing, Recruiting and Applicant Tracking FAQ

Updated: April 30, 2009

What's the difference between staffing, recruiting and applicant tracking?

"Staffing" and "recruiting" are traditional terms that both relate to the process of attracting job candidates, conducting interviews and negotiating a compensation package for a new employee or contractor. Companies can recruit new staff using several methods, mostly commonly by advertising on job boards or with industry associations. Businesses may also use more indirect channels such as career centers or industry-targeted recruitment agencies.

Many companies manage the recruiting and staffing process using applicant-tracking software, which can help HR recruiters organize, manage and track job applicants.

What does applicant-tracking software do?

Tracking software is one type of HRIS (Human Resources Information System) or HRMS (Human Resources Management System) that automates the recruiting process by organizing information about job applicants and availability into an HR database. This helps recruiters match applicants with potential openings, compare applicant information and search for information easily.

Applicant-tracking systems can include many features and capabilities, such as:

  • Résumé -scanning and -grading capabilities
  • Profiles of job candidates
  • Job descriptions
  • Letter-generation tools
  • Interview-scheduling tools
  • Tracking tools for interviews and candidates
  • Tools for managing job offers and acceptance information
  • Cost-analysis reports
  • Applicant demographic and EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity) information
  • Tools for mailing labels and taking online notes

What about hosted, on-demand systems?

Some vendors offer application-tracking systems as a hosted solution . Recruiters can purchase subscriptions and log in to use the system via a Web interface. These solutions may offer fewer or different features from a larger HRIS system that your company might host on-site. For example, with an on-demand solution, your business may be able to automate the posting of job descriptions and advertisements to career job-search sites or use a hosted Web site to post your own job availabilities linked to your company site.

What if I don't want to share applicant information with a third-party vendor?

A hosted solution is by no means your only option. Hosted solutions offer quick implementation options and are generally more cost-effective, but they make it harder to configure the system and pose certain privacy risks, as they database will be stored on the vendor's servers and not your company's.

You can instead maintain your own database using a commercially available product. If you work for a larger company, you might want to invest in a more all-encompassing HRIS or ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system that will help automate other HR functions such as payroll or compensation systems. If your company already uses certain software for one or more HR processes, check to see if the vendor also offers applicant-tracking solutions that can be integrated in your firm's existing systems. This will make the transition smoother and more efficient, and with only one vendor, you'll have a single point of contact if you need support.

What applicant-tracking systems are available, and how can I compare them?

There are dozens of solutions available, no matter what your company's size. Many are geared for larger businesses, but small to midsize systems are available as well. You might start comparing solutions by checking out a few such as Knowledge Probe , PeopleTrack by iTrackJobs Inc. or HR Tools by Archer Software. With a little research (search "applicant tracking" in Google), you will find many more vendor names.

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