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Building a business case for an applicant tracking system

January 4, 2021
iCIMS Staff
9 min read

 “Work was already going to change thanks to consumer demand and business innovation. Now, the pandemic of 2020 forces you to leap five years forward in your workforce strategy in a single bound.”

Forrester, The Future of Work Starts Now, 2020

We all feel it. Talent acquisition is undergoing a significant transformation. Stemming from the state of the world in Q1 2020, we now see a massive shift in how we work.

The good news is you can make your business more resilient to change and achieve ambitious talent goals by equipping your teams with technology purpose built for talent teams—beginning with your applicant tracking system. Today we’ll cover the obstacles talent leaders face today and how to choose an ATS that meets those needs. Think of this as your comprehensive guide to buying an ATS.

You can expect to learn how to:

  1. Align specific tech priorities to current business goals
  2. Get specific about the required functionality to get hiring right
  3. Evaluate which foundation will support your desired functionality
  4. Focus on benefits to show ROI
  5. Know your stakeholders and translate advantages that matter to each of them

To learn the solutions above, you’ll first need to understand and reflect upon the obstacles you face today.

The typical objections encountered as you present your case for intelligent recruiting software include:

(Click on the objection you connect with most, or read on to learn about all five)

Typical objection #1: New tech that isn’t integrated seamlessly risks harming efficiency

If your problems are operations and efficiency, align specific tech priorities to current business goals.

You can start with top-level alignment because your business case relies on a clear path to business value.

Take a moment to determine which of the following sample goals align with your current and future business needs (and adjust as necessary):

Current business goals

  • Present new offerings to the market by Q1 2021
  • Allocate 15% more spend on R&D efforts in 2021
  • Elevate diversity and inclusion in the workplace
  • Scale staff by 10% by EOY 2020
  • Bring project-based teams together

Future business goals

  • Enter new markets through offerings/products
  • Expand into new territories by EOY 2022
  • Scale staff by 20% by EOY 2022

Suppose your company relates with any of the above current or future goals. That’s just one path to opportunity through your applicant tracking software.

An intelligent, connected applicant tracking system helps you:

  • Create a better candidate experience with precise hiring for skillsets matched to new offerings and specific projects, both internally and externally
  • Connect directly with job seekers in any location, which in return, gives you the ability to hire remote talent based in prospective new locations
  • Reduce job advertising spend and automate job postings at scale
  • Grow your applicant pool and influence inclusion starting with an unbiased selection of diverse new hires

The goals you chose are your foundation for business transformation.

Two employees discussing the applicant tracking software

Typical objection #2: Lengthy procurement and implementation processes can disrupt hiring

Suppose you’re experiencing problems with lengthy procurement and implementation processes that disrupt hiring. In that case, get specific about the required functionality to get hiring expedited and accurate.

You can start by determining your core functionality needs.

Here is an example of core functionality tied to talent attraction:

  • Job distribution and XML feed synced with your ATS
  • Easy sync to preferred job posting platforms
  • Career sites configurable by hiring type (internal, gig, entry-level, etc.)
  • Career site templates that reflect the desired branding
  • Excellent candidate-facing interface
  • Job-to-candidate matching and recommendations
  • Candidate-to-job matching and ranking
  • Star profiles to consider candidates against
  • Machine learning recommendations with visible logic
  • Mobile optimization at all touchpoints
  • Job alert opt-in option on career site
  • Consolidated recruiting event administration

Once you’ve marked off your core functionality, it’s time to lean on those benefits and value. Below are some of the top benefits of a focused ATS for employers and candidates.

When you align your core functionality needs to tangible value, procurement is more likely to listen to your business case.

Employer benefits and values:

  • Ongoing nurture and rediscovery of qualified talent
  • Diversified and informed talent pipelines
  • The most robust available slate of talent for each position and hiring type
  • Remediated bias through automation and AI
  • Improved job description quality and search optimization
  • Exposed AI logic that supports accountable recruiter decisions
  • Accelerated resume review and pipeline building
  • Single front-end experience for both candidates and recruiters​

Candidate / employee benefits and values:

  • A quick view of relevant positions
  • Ability to express interest without applying
  • On-demand access to internal opportunities or projects

The final step in this section is to show proof. (Check out all these customer success stories to find the best example for your specific situation.)

Here is an employer example:

Room&Board teal background logo Room & Board achieved a turnover rate under 15%. It maximized their new talent pipelines by automating outreach to prospective job seekers and maintaining robust talent pools to fill open roles across 16 locations.


Interested in learning more about core functionality and their benefits and value for:

  • Talent engagement
  • Hiring automation
  • Collaboration and user experience
  • Analytics and insights?

…then download “The business case for focused and inclusive applicant tracking software.”

Employee using applicant tracking software on laptop

Typical objection #3: Budget is not allocated, and ROI isn’t clear enough to change that

Suppose your problem is that your budget is not allocated, and ROI isn’t clear enough to change that. In that case, evaluate which foundation will support your desired functionality.

You can start by determining the applicant tracking functionality you’d like to improve or introduce. Consider the underlying platform you need to keep everything running smoothly.

Many buying committees face the choice between:

  • HR platform: An all-in-one offering covering all people activities from talent acquisition to employee management and payroll, focusing investment primarily on post-hire activities.
  • Focused, inclusive talent cloud: Purpose-built to support the modern functionality required for the entire talent lifecycle, then seamlessly connect with an HR platform to continue the post-hire experience.

But it boils down to this: modern hiring requires more than an add-on recruiting module within your HCM.

If you’re struggling to make a case for an applicant tracking system that won’t disrupt your HCM workflows, here are some key points to support you:

When recruitment is not your HCM vendor’s priority, your team is vulnerable to:

  • Constant asks of IT to evaluate, implement, and maintain contracts for every new tool needed to fill gaps
  • Data integrity concerns from integrations that misalign tech, budget, and security requirements
  • Wasted recruiter time spent jumping between systems at the expense of quality candidate interactions
  • The inability to pivot quickly when the world inevitably shifts or your business success relies on it

Gartner shares that by 2025, 60% of enterprises will invest in an HCM for HR and talent management but will still need to source 20% to 30% of their HCM requirements from other solutions due to functionality gaps.

When a focused ATS integrates with your HCM, results happen:


2+ hours of productivity gained per recruiter ($2K in savings)
Reduced 43 manual tasks to 0
$13M saved and 700% increase in talent pipeline


Typical objection #4: Resources are spread thin, and learning curves can deter results

Suppose your problem is resources are spread thin, and learning curves can deter results. In that case, focus on benefits to show ROI.

Honestly assess the ROI of change. To better understand the benefits, costs, and risks associated with the investment in focused talent acquisition software, Forrester interviewed experienced users of the iCIMS Talent Cloud.

Their key findings include:

Benefits to show ROI

Interested in learning more about the qualified benefits and unqualified benefits for:

  • Increased productivity of hiring teams
  • Avoided revenue loss due to open headcount
  • Reduced executive search firm costs
  • Reduced impact of compliance violations?

…then download “The business case for focused and inclusive applicant tracking software.”

Typical objection #5: There’s fear of risking data integrity when syncing between new systems

Suppose your problem is that there’s fear of risking data integrity when syncing between new systems. Know your stakeholders and translate advantages that matter to each of them.

You can start by identifying your key players, like CHRO, HR Ops, CTO, CEO, and CFO, and aligning their priorities to critical opportunities.

CHRO priorities to align to:

  • Equip teams to manage rapid growth
  • Stay ahead in a fast-moving landscape
  • Leverage technology to create efficiencies
  • Prepare for the future of work
  • Maximize the % of positions filled on time
  • Positively impact employee day-to-day
  • Hire globally and increase internal mobility
  • Unify analytics
  • Create cohesion between all HR tools and functions

Align your needs with what your CHRO cares about:

Building a dynamic and adaptable organization takes solutions that deliver the right strategic data, insights, and flexibility to create a more productive, more inclusive business. A focused and inclusive ATS embedded in a talent cloud does that while complementing our HR platform.

Check out “The business case for focused and inclusive applicant tracking software” to discover which priorities and opportunities align to your HR Ops, CTO, CEO, and CFO.


Interested in learning more about buying strategies? Check out the conversation in our recent webinar: “Simplify your search for talent tech.”

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