What’s the Difference Between an ATS and CRM?

Here we explore the key differences between Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools. We look at each in turn and consider what they do, how they can help and whether you need both.

Fiona Kyle
Created on
February 22, 2024
Average time to read:

Two technology platforms that you often hear mentioned in a work context are ATS and CRM and, in this article, we’re going to take a look at what these platforms are, the features that differentiate an ATS from a CRM, and the benefits of having either–or both.

What is an ATS?

To get a good understanding of exactly what ATS and CRM are, and why you would benefit from either, we'll focus on them individually and explore the features unique to each platform.

An Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is specifically designed to simplify the recruitment process for both the talent acquisition team and for candidates applying for vacancies. It helps hiring professionals to track applicants from the initial application to the final hiring decision. The core features of an ATS include:

  • Distributing vacancies across multiple platforms.
  • Filtering applications based on specific criteria, such as skills or experience.
  • Streamlining communication with applicants through automated responses.
  • Managing interviews and assessment scores.
  • Compliance and reporting functionalities.

There are several ATS products on the market and, although most share the core features, if you’re making the decision to invest in one, it’s worth taking time to find out about extra features that are available. GeniusATS, for example, has AI built in as standard so job descriptions can be created with one click, and the ability to create and hold events within the system.

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What is a CRM?

A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system has a very different role. Rather than tracking candidates, companies invest in a CRM system to manage and analyse customer interactions throughout the customer lifecycle, with the aim of improving business relationships, retaining customers and driving sales growth. The main features of CRM systems include:

  • Tracking and managing customer information and interactions.
  • Sales forecasting and analytics.
  • Task and calendar management.
  • Marketing automation, like email campaigns.
  • Customer support and service functionalities.

In summary, the main differences between the two systems are in their primary users and goals: ATS for recruitment professionals focusing on talent acquisition, and CRM for sales and marketing professionals working on customer relations and sales.

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ATS and CRM: do you need both?

The decision to implement either or both systems depends largely on your business needs and goals.

  • Business Scale & Purpose: Smaller businesses or startups may find an ATS sufficient in the early days if their primary concern is hiring. However, as they grow and customer relations become more complex, introducing a CRM becomes important.
  • Cost Consideration: While both systems offer unique benefits, they also come with associated costs. Balance the benefits against the costs, considering both the immediate financial outlay and the long-term value they could bring.
  • Integration Possibilities: Many modern platforms offer integrated solutions that combine the best of both ATS and CRM functionalities. GeniusATS, for example, allows you to manage a talent pool and keep candidates engaged so if they’re not right for the job they applied for, you already have their details ready when the right opportunity comes up. If you're seeking the benefits of both systems without wanting to manage two separate platforms, this could be an ideal solution.

Recognising the individual strengths of an ATS and a CRM system and analysing your specific business needs will help in making an informed decision about which would work for you. Whether you choose one or both, ensure that it aligns with your overarching business objectives, it offers the features you need and offers scalability for future growth.

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