The best free applicant tracking systems for hiring teams

The recruitment process looks vastly different than it did just a few years ago, with things like the COVID-19 pandemic and shifting employee priorities forever changing the employment landscape. Remote work is here to stay, video interviews have become more prevalent (and will likely become the norm), and many companies have slowed or completely frozen their hiring processes.

This has caused the open positions that do exist to become overwhelmed with applicants (with the average job posting receiving 250 resumes). That’s why organizations are turning to free applicant tracking systems (ATS) to help streamline recruiting, hiring, and onboarding.

While applicant tracking systems with paid plans tend to come with more robust features, they aren’t exactly cheap. Some paid ATS software can cost your organization $600+ per month, which is a luxury most smaller companies can’t afford.

Beyond that, there are plenty of free ATS platforms that will more than satisfy the recruitment needs of most small businesses and startups. Even if you work for a larger organization, your HR department may be able to get away with using a free ATS (or the free version of an ATS with paid plans).

After all, who doesn’t want to save some money?

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Countless applicant-tracking software platforms are out there, and some aren’t as reliable as others. That’s why we’ve put together this list of the best applicant tracking systems that are completely free, so read on to learn more.

How does applicant tracking software work?

It’s become increasingly more difficult for recruiters to source top talent for their organizations. There are lots of reasons why, including the COVID-19 pandemic, the prevalence of remote work, and changing priorities for job seekers.

Currently, 86% of recruiters and 62% of employers say the job market is entirely candidate-driven.

What does that mean?

It means that candidates have the upper hand right now, as hiring managers are eager to source top talent. As a result, recruiters and employers need to cater to the desires of top talent, which include a healthier work-life balance and the option to work remotely. Additionally, it means a hiring process that’s too slow or too disorganized could result in candidates being snatched up by other companies before you finish vetting them.

There’s a real need right now for organizations to enhance their candidate experience, and using an ATS is a great way to do so. An applicant tracking system is a piece of software that automates certain recruiting tasks, such as organizing applications, resume parsing, and ranking candidates based on how well they match the requirements for a job opening. ATS platforms also automate things like interview scheduling, emailing candidates, sending rejection letters, and posting job listings to career sites and social media platforms.

Since the average job opening receives 200+ resumes, and only 4-6 candidates will actually move on to the interview process, recruiters need all the help they can get to sort through all that data.

Moreover, when rejected, 94% of candidates expect to hear feedback, which is next to impossible unless you have an ATS to help streamline the recruiting process. With an ATS, you’ll be able to automatically respond to every candidate that you reject, which is something that would take ages to do manually.

To summarize, ATS features make recruiters’ and hiring managers’ lives far easier, and they make recruiting top talent a possibility instead of a pipe dream.

Must-have features for free ATS software

Not every ATS will have the same features, and that’s especially true for free programs and free versions of paid plans. Ideally, you’ll want an ATS that can handle candidate sourcing, candidate management, resume parsing, and automation (for things like posting to job boards and replying to candidates).

Other advanced features, such as offer management, onboarding, analytics, and reporting — are a luxury. More often than not, the bare-bones version of an ATS will only contain features for sourcing and ranking candidates, and they usually limit you to a few job postings.

Here’s a look at some of the most desirable features for free ATS platforms:

  • Resume search and parsing. The #1 reason HR departments utilize ATS software is to simplify the candidate selection process, which is what resume parsing and search are all about. This feature involves creating a job profile consisting of crucial skills and qualifications. From there, the ATS will analyze and rank each resume based on how well it matches the job profile. This saves recruiters countless hours and is the flagship feature of most ATS platforms. However, not every free version will include resume parsing, so it’s crucial to look out for it.

  • Automated job posting syndication. Another challenge recruiters face is posting open jobs to the most popular channels. Manually uploading job postings to job boards like Indeed and social media platforms like LinkedIn can be very time-consuming and cumbersome for recruiters. The best ATS platforms will automate this process by syndicating your job postings to numerous channels with the click of a button.

  • Advanced search filters. Besides being able to parse and rank resumes, advanced search filters are another way recruiters can speed up the hiring process. By filtering for things like years of experience, education levels, and specific qualifications, you’ll be able to identify the best candidates quicker than ever before.

  • Communication tools. It’s also helpful to be able to communicate with candidates straight from your ATS. Some programs feature email automation, integrated chat tools, and other ways to keep in touch with your talent pool.

  • User-friendliness. The good thing about this feature is it applies to both the free version and paid version of an ATS. Therefore, if an ATS has a user-friendly layout, it’ll be easy to use at all pricing tiers, including the free version. The last thing you want is to implement an ATS that’s too complicated to use. Also, bear in mind how many team members you plan on using the program. If your entire hiring team will use the platform, then finding a user-friendly ATS is a must. Otherwise, you’ll lose a lot of time and money on employee training sessions.

  • Customer support. There’s no guarantee that any platform will work flawlessly 24/7. That’s why choosing an ATS with excellent customer support is a must. Whether you’re having trouble accessing the portal or can’t figure out how to use a certain feature, it’s always helpful to be able to speak or text with a trained customer support agent.

You’ll be on the right track if you can find a free ATS platform with at least a few of these features.

The best free applicant tracking systems for human resources teams

Some of the ATS platforms on this list were built from the ground up to be freeware, while others are free versions of paid software. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, depending on your needs.

Freeware is excellent if you’re looking for a simple platform built to handle ATS features like resume search, parsing, and job posting. However, free programs are often quite limited and lack advanced features.

In the future, you may desire other features for performance management, onboarding, and candidate relationship management (CRM). That’s when it makes sense to use the free plan of an ATS or an all-in-one HR software solution like an HRIS (human resources information system) or an HCM (human capital management). That way, whenever you’re in dire need of more advanced features, you can upgrade to a paid plan.

Once again, it all comes down to your specific hiring needs, as you may be perfectly happy with freeware like Indeed’s ATS. Here’s a look at what I feel are the best applicant tracking systems that you can start using today for free.

BreezyHR: An impressive free version for small organizations

First, let’s take a look at BreezyHR, an ATS that’s great for small-to-medium-sized businesses. The paid plans are reasonable, so you won’t have to break your budget just to obtain more recruiting features. More importantly, BreezyHR features a truly free version that stays free forever.

In other words, it’s not a free trial that will expire after a set amount of time passes. However, that’s not to say there aren’t limitations.

With BreezyHR’s free version, you’re limited to one user and one active job. For this reason, BreezyHR’s free version works best for smaller organizations that only bring on a few new hires at a time. If you need to fill multiple open positions at once, you’ll be better off with another platform.

Yet, if your small business has modest hiring needs, BreezyHR’s free version is excellent.

Despite being limited to one active job at a time, BreezyHR’s Bootstrap plan (the free version) still contains impressive features like:

  • Built-in video interviewing.

  • Candidate evaluation tools (like skill assessments).

  • Automated interview scheduling.

  • AI-powered resume parsing and keyword search.

  • Job posting syndication to 50 free and premium job boards like Indeed, Glassdoor, ZipRecruiter, and more.

As you can see, BreezyHR’s free version contains all the most important features for applicant tracking. There’s also excellent customer support, and the dashboards are user-friendly and easy to get used to.

Pros

  • Excellent ATS features for finding the most qualified candidates.

  • Streamline recruiting workflows with AI-powered automation and resume search.

  • Native integrations with popular tools and platforms like Slack, Gmail, and LinkedIn.

  • True free version that contains must-have ATS features.

  • Google Chrome extension.

Cons

  • The free plan limits you to one active job and one user, meaning it’s not a viable solution for larger companies.

  • There are compatibility issues with certain devices and web browsers.

Zoho Recruit: Best customizable recruiting software

Zoho Recruit is another paid ATS that offers a completely free version that anyone can use. Notable features include a customizable careers page, dozens of helpful email templates, and resume management (including parsing and search). Once again, Zoho Recruit checks all the boxes for must-have ATS features.

The email templates are particularly useful, as they greatly simplify communicating with candidates. As stated previously, 94% of candidates want to hear feedback from employers whenever they’re rejected, which is a tall task for recruiters dealing with hundreds of applicants. Zoho Recruit makes this easy with its pre-built email templates for offers, rejections, interview scheduling, and giving feedback. This ensures that you’ll be able to swiftly respond to every candidate, which will improve your company’s reputation among job seekers.

Another perk is that Zoho Recruit supports 26 different languages, making it easy to build a diverse talent pool. If you decide that you need more than the free version, Zoho Recruit’s paid plans start at a modest $25 per month (per user), which is doable for most smaller organizations.

As for the free plan, you’re limited to one active job posting, one recruiter, and a measly 256 MB of storage. Still, beggars can’t be choosers when dealing with free software, and you can’t beat the wide array of ATS features you gain access to with Zoho’s free version.

Pros

  • Customizable career pages, workflows, and email templates.

  • Combines ATS and CRM features.

  • Integrates with lots of popular third-party tools.

Cons

  • The UI for the paid plans isn’t very user-friendly.

  • The free plan has a strict storage limitation (256 MB).

  • You’re limited to one active job and one recruiter on the free version.

Freshteam by Freshworks: Best free ATS for HR teams

Next up is Freshteam, which has a free version that you can use for up to 50 employees. That’s a breath of fresh air compared to the other free tools that limit you to one active job posting at a time.

Freshteam is part of the Freshworks suite of HR tools, and it contains features for applicant tracking, onboarding, hiring, and employee data collection. If you’re looking for HR software features in addition to an ATS, then Freshteam is the perfect free version for you.

Besides ATS features like resume search, automated posting to career sites, and tools for communicating with candidates, there are basic HRIS features like employee profiles (for recordkeeping) and an organizational chart.

Freshteam also combines ATS and CRM features for the best of both worlds. This means you can source new candidates while guiding others through your hiring process. You can automate email replies, resume screening, and job posting with the free version of Freshteams.

You’ll also gain access to powerful onboarding features like digitizing cumbersome new hire paperwork, assigning tasks, and collecting feedback during every stage of the process.

Another perk is that Freshteam features IOS and Android mobile apps that enable applicant tracking on the go. With the mobile version, you can access your employee database, screen resumes, approve PTO requests, and view HR reports and metrics.

Overall, Freshteams is the best free ATS if you’re looking for some HRIS features in addition to applicant tracking. There is one significant downside to Freshteam’s free Sprout version, though.

Resume parsing is not included in the free plan, which is definitely a shame. For this reason, recruiters may want to look elsewhere if they’re in dire need of ATS automation to quickly identify the most qualified candidates from a gigantic pool of job applications.

Pros

  • Contains ATS, CRM, and HRIS features in one free package.

  • A beneficial mobile app that’s compatible with IOS and Android devices.

  • User-friendly interface.

Cons

  • The free version does not include resume parsing.

  • Limited options for customization.

  • No features for video interviewing or candidate scoring.

Indeed: Best free ATS for simple uses

The popular job board Indeed actually contains a built-in ATS that anyone can use whenever they post a job on the platform. It’s true freeware that has no paid plans, so there’s no upgrading if you eventually feel that you need more advanced features. Yet, Indeed’s ATS can be more than enough for startups, small businesses, and independent contractors.

What does it include?

Indeed’s free ATS is surprisingly robust, including interview scheduling, candidate management, and offer management. It also contains basic CRM tools for keeping in touch with applicants. You have access to performance reports that will weigh in on the success of your job postings, which will help you perfect your hiring process.

There’s also the option to create a custom career page that contains all your job openings posted on Indeed, complete with a unique URL.

The candidate management dashboard is extremely intuitive, so you shouldn’t have any trouble getting started using Indeed’s ATS. While it lacks robust automation features like resume parsing or advanced search filters, Indeed’s ATS is still useful for smaller organizations — and it’s entirely free to use.

Pros

  • Performance reports to help you refine the recruiting process.

  • Tools for interview scheduling, emailing candidates, and viewing stats on screened applicants.

  • User-friendly dashboards.

  • The ability to create branded career pages.

Cons

  • Lacks more robust features like automated job posting and resume parsing.

  • Isn’t comprehensive enough for larger organizations.

Final takeaways: Best free applicant tracking systems

Sourcing and hiring top talent has never been more difficult, but free ATS software definitely makes it easier. The free versions of specific programs will grant you access to time-saving features like resume parsing, job posting syndication, and helpful email templates.

Other platforms, like Indeed’s free ATS, are perfect for smaller companies needing interview scheduling, email templates, and candidate management. Whichever ATS you choose, having a program capable of managing open job postings is always a huge help.