Reviewing recruitment software can be overwhelming at the best of times and you’ll have tonnes of questions to ask and points to consider, one of them being whether you opt for a Recruitment CRM or recruiting ATS. It’s a highly spoken about debate and one which has no right or wrong answer but we thought we’d offer some guidance and explain what the difference is between a CRM and ATS.

What Is A CRM?

CRM stands for Candidate Relationship Management and is used to develop relationships with candidates (yep, you guessed it) and clients, manage recruitment business’ processes and store their entire database as well, holding data on candidates, companies, contacts, jobs and placements. It is designed to help source, attract, engage and manage applicants and their journeys whilst automating tasks like sending emails, scheduling interviews and running background checks. An important part of its functionality is its ability to measure and monitor performance using reporting tools as well as its ability to integrate with other products to offer additional functionality.

What Is An ATS?

ATS stands for Applicant Tracking System and is generally used to manage the recruitment processes itself rather than all processes combined. From sourcing candidates to making placements, all activity can be tracked and reported through your ATS and kept in one central system. The majority of tasks involved in the hiring process such as posting jobs to job boards, scheduling interviews and making offers can all be completed and integrations with other recruitment software products can be set up to provide additional functionality. It stores applicant data, automates basic processes and can identify the most suitable applicants for a role through analysing CVs using criteria set by recruiters or AI.


As you can see, CRMs and ATS’ can easily be mistaken for the same thing but there are some key differences between them.

1. An ATS is software for the hiring process of applicants whereas a CRM is more like the backbone holding a recruitment agency and all its processes and data together, making it easier to manage all aspects of your business and boost ROI.

2. ATS’ have been around a lot longer than CRMs have so naturally, they come to mind first when deciding on new software but there is a huge amount of functionality available in CRMs which you just don’t get with an ATS.

3. Most ATS’ require a lot of TLC to function effectively and all this admin can be extremely time-consuming whereas CRMs contain a lot more automation.

4. ATS’ are only based on candidates who have already applied which is no good if you’re actively sourcing candidates.

5. CRMs are popular amongst recruitment businesses in general whereas ATS’ are a more popular choice for in-house recruiters.

It goes without saying that you should look for a recruitment solution that combines both the capabilities of a CRM and an ATS to ensure you have all the functionality you need to be successful. You can have one without the other but you’d be much better off with a system which does the whole shebang.

If you need more information on what to look out for when reviewing the market then our guide is filled to the brim with informative and completely unbiased content to do exactly that!