Applicant Tracking System: The 4 Top Options for 2021

applicant tracking system

When you’re a small business owner, finding and hiring the right talent to take your company to the next level isn’t the easiest task in the world. You have so much else to do on a daily basis that keeping track of applicants can be too much to handle—after all, there are job posts to monitor, resumes to review, interviews to schedule, and plenty of big decisions to make at the end of it all. If you’ve tried it the manual way (also known as the hard way), you might be thinking of switching over to an applicant tracking system for the next go-round.

If you’ve done any digging to uncover the best applicant tracking system, you may have found that it’s nearly as challenging as finding great candidates themselves. There are a variety of applicant tracking system options out there, each with certain advantages (and disadvantages, depending on your criteria). Finding the right one is a challenge—not just because there are a ton of different ones to choose from, but because they’re also an investment that you want to make sure fits within your overall needs and work style.

We’re going to make the process of picking the best applicant tracking system a bit easier for you. We’ll chat through some of the best applicant tracking system options depending on your business, cost, features, and ease of use. You have enough hard choices to make when it comes to managing your small business’s HR operations—we’ll help you find the right application tracking system to make this aspect a little easier.

What to Look for in an Applicant Tracking System 

Applicant tracking systems all accomplish the same objective: they’re an HR software solution that helps employers keep track of job applicants all the way through the offer process. This may sound a little obvious, but anyone who has had to hire new employees can tell you that there are a ton of tasks involved in getting the right team members on board. 

That’s where applicant tracking systems can help. These cloud-based software platforms help businesses keep track of their job openings, receive and organize applications, monitor vetting processes, and eventually coach their users through the interviewing process. This lets employers automate some of the more mundane parts of the hiring process, rather than manually tracking every applicant.

Most applicant tracking systems do much more than just keep your candidate information organized. Rather, they also help with other post-hiring requisites that are often time intensive, tedious, or just plain hard to manage. Applicant tracking system pricing varies quite a bit as well depending on how robust the platform is. With so many different options, let’s first drill down what to look for in an applicant tracking system.

applicant tracking system

The Right Features for Your Business

Before purchasing and onboarding an applicant tracking system, you must first consider your company’s needs for the tool. If you don’t intend to hire often, want an inexpensive option, and are willing to sacrifice a few nifty tools in favor of a smaller software option, then you may be fine with doing more of the hiring work manually. You’ll get less out of your applicant tracking system this way, but can still get enough help on the crucial components of the hiring process (like publishing job posts and collecting applications).

On the other hand, if you’re looking to hire frequently, have several openings to track at the same time, or are willing to pay more for a hands-off experience, then a more comprehensive platform might be the right move for you. Applicant tracking systems can get pretty expensive quickly, especially if their tools are good enough to truly make the hiring process as hands-off as you’d like it to be. This is why it’s crucial to know what you need out of your software before you begin making comparisons. Otherwise you may be swayed by cool-sounding features you don’t actually need. 

The Right Price for Your Budget

Once you know what you need out of your applicant tracking system, you can begin to determine what you can afford (and whether or not your budget can accommodate your must-haves). This is typically where things get tricky: Not every platform has the same features at the same price. Some may provide you with the lion’s share of features, but miss out on a few others. Similarly, some apps might have a great price for your company’s budget, but be light on the features you need.

Running a small business means you’re (perhaps all too) familiar with finding the right tradeoffs. This is true for applicant tracking systems, as well. Look for the option that provides the most bang for your buck: If one option costs a little more (but has more features) than the next, see if you can’t spring for the former. On the other hand, if you find that the only suitable platforms in your budget don’t hit the mark, consider back-up options to make a less expensive option work alongside manual tasks done outside the system.

The Right Integrations for Your Software Stack

The top applicant tracking system only does what it’s supposed to when you can integrate it into your existing technology framework. These systems collect applicant data and, when used optimally, feed this information into any other technologies you’re already using. This means other human resources platforms, payroll systems, or other elements of your business that have some greater technological tie-in.

Tying an applicant tracking system into your company’s tech infrastructure (also known as your software stack) can help you make the most of your purchase. Sure, these platforms can work entirely on their own with no integration with your other tools, but you’ll end up duplicating efforts, doing work manually, or could even miss out on the perfect candidate’s data in the process.

The Best User Experience for Your Style

With price, features, and interoperability accounted for already, the last big deciding factor between applicant tracking systems is user-friendliness. The best platform is the one you’re comfortable using: be it for applicant tracking, payroll, or operating system. The more you enjoy being in the software of your choosing, the more likely you are to use it often and make the most of what it offers. 

Don’t underestimate how important it is to feel familiar and confident with the tech you bring into your organization. If a platform doesn’t feel intuitive, is hard to use, or is simply too complex to learn, go with something that feels right. An app that works better for you with fewer features is more valuable than the one you never use—even if it’s packed to the gills with helpful tools.

Top Applicant Tracking System Options for 2020

As we’ve mentioned, there are a ton of applicant tracking systems on the market today. Some are designed with large companies in mind, others for small- and medium-sized businesses. This means that you can easily find the right top applicant tracking system for your company, no matter how big or small it might be.

Here are a few of the best applicant tracking system options in 2020. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks, so we’ve tried to evaluate each of them based on some of the must-have criteria listed above. 


For small and medium-sized businesses, BambooHR is a great option with a wide array of features. BambooHR simplifies the hiring process by helping keep track of open positions, job descriptions, application collection, and interviewing processes. But BambooHR is much more than just an applicant tracking system: In fact, it also helps you keep track of your staff’s vital information, tax forms, payroll history, company calendar, and much more. So if you’re interested in seeing what human resources can do beyond just applicant tracking, there are plenty of reasons to consider BambooHR.

Cost is an essential factor in any applicant tracking system evaluation. BambooHR does not provide upfront pricing on its site, but it does offer two different tiers of service. The lower-priced option, BambooHR Essentials, only includes HR management and employee self-service functions—thus, it won’t work for anyone looking to use the platform for applicant tracking. BambooHR Advantage, on the other hand, includes applicant tracking in addition to other handy features like onboarding, offboarding, electronic document signature, and training tracking. 

If all of these features are more than you need, you may want to look elsewhere. If you’re willing to take the plunge and bring your HR system into the cloud, then BambooHR might be a great fit for your business.


One of the most well-known and feature-packed applicant tracking systems in the industry, Greenhouse helps companies of all sizes by streamlining the job posting process, interviewing steps, and recruiting efforts. The system also helps automate the process of sifting through applications, managing rounds of interviews, and setting up new employees as they go through onboarding and other training requirements.  

Unlike some of the other platforms mentioned, Greenhouse focuses specifically on the applicant tracking system processes you might need while bringing on new staff. This program can also help you set up interviewing rubrics, improve inclusion efforts, and foster collaboration among people in your firm who are part of the vetting and hiring process. Greenhouse is a great fit if you’re looking for a solution that focuses on hiring and retaining the right people, rather than having these features sit within a broader array of functions.

Greenhouse doesn’t provide pricing on its site, but it does break down its product into three tiers based on the features you need. From there you can reach out for a demo or a custom-tailored quote. 

applicant tracking system

Breezy HR

Breezy HR is similar to Greenhouse in terms of its focus on the specifics of applicant tracking and hiring. If you like to use Trello or Kanban organizational boards in your work, then you’ll love the Breezy HR interface. This app uses a similar tile-based applicant tracking system to help monitor applicants through the vetting process: You can move their tiles along to help keep track of where your candidates are, and to make sure that none of your top prospects get lost in the shuffle. If you’re a visual person, Breezy HR might be a slam dunk.

The Breezy HR platform isn’t just a large Trello board, though. Rather, the platform can help you post job openings, track applicant information, schedule applicant emails and messages, and monitor hiring team collaboration. You can also use Breezy HR to measure analytics and see where most of your applicants are coming from—a helpful tool if you want to find ways to improve your job posts.

Unlike Greenhouse and BambooHR, Breezy HR offers upfront pricing: Their Basic platform is $149 a month, Business is $299, and custom-built plans are also available if the features of Basic or Business don’t cut it. These rates reflect an annual purchase, broken down by month. Monthly plans cost $171 and $343, respectively. 

Zoho Recruit

Zoho Recruit is one of the most affordable, feature-rich applicant tracking system options around. The platform makes it easy to host a careers portal for your business, publish on job boards, establish an applicant pipeline, and manage hiring workflow among other tasks. Better yet, Zoho Recruit offers one of the only free applicant tracking system solutions out there via its Forever Free Plan. This can be a great option if you’re unsure whether or not you want to dive into a paid platform, and only need basic functions like candidate management, email management, contact information collection, and interview scheduling.

The platform’s pricing comes in three flavors: Standard ($22.50 per user per month), Professional ($45 per user per month), and Enterprise ($67.50 per user per month). Standard gets you a pretty comprehensive set of tools, including resume parsing, email management, job templates, and more. Professional includes a candidate portal for applicants, pre-screening assessments, advanced analytics, and other helpful features. Enterprise, at the higher end of the pricing spectrum, also offers employee referral management, unlimited records, and customizability functions not found with lower-priced options. And if you’re looking for software to meet your company’s needs beyond hiring, Zoho has several other offerings, as well.

Applicant Tracking Systems: The Bottom Line 

Hiring the right people is difficult, but it can certainly be made easier with the right software. Applicant tracking systems help make the process more automated, less intricate, and easier to administer for you and your hiring team. If you pick the right applicant tracking system for your company, you may also find that other elements of your HR infrastructure work a little better as well. And with all this time you save, you can focus on other elements of your business, like welcoming your new employees and helping them succeed in their role.

Brian O'Connor
Contributing Writer at Fundera

Brian O'Connor

Brian O’Connor is a contributing writer for Fundera.

Brian writes about finance, business strategy, and digital marketing. He is the former director of digital strategy at Morgan Stanley, and has worked at Foreign Affairs magazine, Student Loan Hero, and as a partner of a small consulting firm, too. Combined, these experiences allow him to offer a unique perspective on the challenges small business owners face.

Read Full Author Bio