How to Build the Best Business Case for a New ATS

When it comes to cost savings, few software applications can compete with a modern, sophisticated applicant tracking system. Demonstrating those savings in the form of a sound business case is half the battle.

Economic downturns pose unique challenges to Talent Acquisition. Recent research from the Fosway Group, Europe’s pre-eminent HR Analyst Group, makes clear that our current crisis has exacerbated every organizations’ ability to find candidates with key skills and has highlighted the need for companies to boost agility. The Fosway Group’s study also found that increasing investment in recruiting in the coming years is a top priority for businesses.

Add to this that a 2017 McKinsey survey found that 82% of Fortune 500 executives don’t believe their companies recruit highly talented people.

Therefore, a plan to transform your TA platform needs to enhance hiring success within the constraints of given economic challenges.

What does hiring success actually mean? Many company’s use metrics like time-to-fill and cost-of-hire to measure hiring success. But a lower cost-of-hire and shorter time-to-fill just means cheaper and faster. Cheaper and faster does not account for quality. Therefore, time-to-fill and cost-of-hire are not adequate indicators of hiring success. We define Hiring Success as the ability to hire amazing talent on demand.

In our recent webinar, “Building the business case for your TA Transformation,” SmartRecruiters’ CEO Jerome Ternynyck urged organizations to “step up” their TA efforts in response to a recession. In our current downturn, there are two important ways to do so.

  1. In the wake of layoffs, transform your TA team into an outplacement agency.
    • AirBnB is a commendable model, in this regard.
  2. Improve internal mobility—enhance transparency, fluidity, communication, etc.
    • Send a clear message to your employees about how you are enhancing your commitments to internal mobility.
      • For example, “We will not hire externally for x period of time. We are instead stepping up our efforts to improve internal mobility by x, y and z.
Building Your Case

In an economic crisis businesses face two TA challenges:

  1. How to speed up innovation
  2. How to control the associated costs of innovation

No company has unlimited resources to allocate to innovating their TA platform. In most cases, firms have to innovate TA with less budget during an economic slump. Cost-neutrality is a best case scenario and an increased TA budget is highly unlikely. Firms therefore have to identify ways, in other words, to do more with less.

So, let’s be honest: Your CFO is unlikely to approve of a business plan to transform your TA infrastructure unless you can demonstrate hard cost savings. Simply enhancing candidate experience isn’t good enough.

The best way to improve your TA platform and lower costs is to focus on your applicant tracking system (ATS).

In many instances, ATS’s are outdated and those used by companies often resemble the Frankenstein monster—multiple programs acquired over an extended period of time piled on top of each other in a patchwork fashion. TA teams therefore have difficulty sourcing candidates because these systems don’t work effectively. This can deter hiring managers from using the ATS altogether, creating further inefficiency in the hiring process.

There are three potential areas for ATS improvement and savings and a modern TA suite provides value in each of these:

  1. Technology: Consider moving to a single, pre-integrated system that integrates everything from ATS, CRM, marketing, job integration and so forth.
  2. Sourcing: Reduce your reliance on costly external agencies and find ways to standardize and streamline your hiring process.
  3. People: With more efficient technology and sourcing operations, assess whether you can reduce the size of your TA team.

Your proposal to transform your TA process should clearly detail how your plan offers hard savings in each of these areas. Take a “spreadsheet approach” that shows both short-term and long-term cost savings (or cost-neutrality, at the least).

You can download a free ATS ROI calculator here. Detailed instructions on how to use it can be found in the video below with guidance from Phil Strazzulla, founder and CEO of SelectSoftware Reviews.

Your plan should also offer a timeline for this transformation. How long will it take to fully modernize the TA platform? What are the phases of this transformation, and so forth?

Lastly, don’t forget quality. How will your plan improve the quality of applicants, enhance candidate experience and increase velocity?


Improving your TA operations is essential in any circumstance, but an economic downturn places both added urgency and challenges to doing so. Modernizing your TA platform is an essential way to actualize the resiliency necessary to keep your business running during challenging financial times.

Interested in upgrading your ATS? Let’s talk! For a limited time, SmartRecruiters is offering eligible companies a below-market-rate offer for a complete and flexible talent acquisition platform that is easy to use and can help drastically reduce software and service costs