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ATS vs CRM: Why Do You Need A Recruitment CRM?

Why do you need a Recruitment or Talent CRM? How is it different from your ATS? These are the questions on the lips of thousands of companies who are trying to get the best results from their recruitment.

The ATS vs CRM debate is not new, but if it is for you, this is the time to make sure you understand the alphabet soup and are completely clear on what both products can offer.

Even the best software in the world can’t fix every recruiting challenge, but getting the right tech stack can save you time, money and put you leaps and bounds ahead of competitors.

ATS vs CRM: Definitions

ATS: Your Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is a repository for applicants and manages the application process. It’s often a compliance requirement and it’s the system of record that recruiters traditionally rely on.

CRM: Your Candidate Relationship Management (CRM) system is for job seekers and candidates. It’s the engine that drives your sourcing team, lets you create talent pools, and helps you build and nurture relationships with passive talent.

Put simply, your ATS is a workflow and compliance tool that manages applicants, while your Talent CRM is an ecosystem of all passive and active candidates, as well as everyone who has previously applied to your company. It’s a complete talent intelligence hub.

Right now the ATS is the more widely used, but many analysts believe that in the future the majority of the recruiting process will be handled by the CRM.

Your ATS isn’t a CRM...

Many people think they don’t need a Talent CRM if they have an ATS.

Software sales is a competitive business, so many ATS vendors claim that their platforms have CRM functionality.

Here are a few simple ways to cut through the noise and work out if your ATS has any CRM capabilities:

1. You have to manually input tons of required fields

Your team has to wade through required fields and forms, wasting time with manual data entry. This is hugely inefficient, and can negatively impact time-to-hire and candidate conversion (to name just a few metrics).

2. Your database is largely seen as administrative

Is your data just for workflow process and compliance? The candidate information in your database can be a huge asset for sourcing and reporting, but very few ATS’s help you get a decent ROI.

3. You need to screen resumes

Can you rate candidates without their resumes? Is your system reliant on information that candidates input themselves? If you’re dependent on data that candidates give you, you certainly don’t have a CRM!

4. You can’t measure engagement

Do your team have any way to see if candidates are active or engaged? Can you track relationships? If not, you have to rely on formal interactions with candidates to get any insight at all.

How do you know if you need a Recruitment CRM?

Recruitment CRMs are an increasingly popular choice, but how do you know if you actually need one?

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it should give you an indicator as to whether you could use a Talent CRM or not.

If the answer is 'yes' to any of the below then you might want to consider giving a CRM a whirl.

1. Do you actively source candidates?

The ATS is entirely reactive: you can only use it to deal with candidates that have applied. There’s an obvious issue here. If you’re actively sourcing candidates, you can’t use your ATS.

A good CRM has got your back though. You can get proactive, target the prospects that you really want, and build new relationships.

2. Is your team using spreadsheets to manage candidate data?

You’ve spent thousands on a shiny recruiting system, yet your team still resorts to Excel to manage candidates.

We’ve seen candidate data tracked with a variety of different tools; anything from sticky notes to Outlook tasks, but spreadsheets are probably the most popular.

Spreadsheets are great for accounting but terrible for recruiting. You have to manually update everything, you don’t get any insight into candidate relationships, and you have to use them in conjunction with other tools (email etc.) so you’re always jumping around.

3. Do you have more than one recruiter?

If you’re a solo recruiter, you might get away with keeping relationship details in your head and balancing a number of different recruiting tools.

If you’re part of a team, however, all your candidate data needs to be accessible at all times. You need to know the status of every relationship, and if colleagues have spoken to a candidate before.

With a recruiting CRM, you and your team can seamlessly share notes, track candidates, develop and nurture leads, and document activity collaboratively and transparently across your entire organization.

4. Do you have any hard-to-fill roles?

Certain roles will always get floods of applicants. For many positions, though, the river of applications is running dry.

If you’re hiring for leadership positions or STEM roles, for example, your success relies on the ability to build a pipeline of candidates and nurture relationships. Simply posting job adverts won’t do the trick!

It’s here that the CRM comes into its own: it’s very purpose is to help you build a talent pool of non-applicants that fit your culture and your open roles.

5. Do you waste a lot of time on process and workflow?

Are you bogged down with data entry and process? Almost every ATS requires a LOT of love and attention to function properly. This equals a LOT of wasted time for your team.

Modern CRM systems automate the majority of the process, heavy lifting and admin that you waste your days on, and let you get back to the important stuff.

6. Do you have a large number of candidates stored in your ATS?

How many candidates have applied to your company over the years? Thousands? More?

This data is currently wasting away in your ATS, out of date and unusable. There might be hundreds of candidates in there that are relevant for open roles, but the data is inaccurate so you’ll never know.

The right CRM can automatically update all your ATS data and let you target the best of these previous applicants for open roles. Talk about quick wins...

7. Do you use careers fairs or online campaigns to generate interest?

Careers fairs and online campaigns are a great way to build your brand and attract passive candidates. The problem is that ROI is tricky to measure. It’s hard to track candidates that came to your event or saw your campaign.

Too often you’re unable to articulate the value of the event in the first place!

A good CRM will track attendees to your events and prospects from your campaigns automatically. It will help you nurture those fledgling relationships and give you the numbers you need to prove to your boss exactly how valuable the initiatives are.


At Beamery we are huge believers in the importance of CRM to the future of recruiting. Learn more about a Talent CRM from Beamery.