Best recruiting software of 2021: A buyer's guide


Ty Collins

Ty Collins
Jan. 06, 2021

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Table of Contents

The hiring process and the recruiting software recruiters use have changed dramatically over the last year. It’s still a people-focused process, emphasizing fit as much as it does skills and qualifications, but the way companies find those people is becoming increasingly complicated in 2021.

To keep up, employers have to fast-track their use of technology. About half of all employers now use an applicant tracking system, or ATS, which helps them to capture top talent. More than 98% of Fortune 500 companies are now using recruiting software to help with hiring.

What is recruiting software?  

Recruiting software is a tech solution designed to help businesses optimize their hiring process. Some recruiting and talent acquisition software programs are embedded within human resource management (HRM) enterprise resource planning (ERP) programs, while others are individual programs designed exclusively to manage recruiting and offer features like recruiting chatbots or direct messaging functionality.

Whether they stand alone or work as part of integrated systems, the best recruiting software solutions have two primary purposes:

  1. To streamline the hiring process with automation and organizational tools

  2. To broaden the scope of a company’s talent search by reaching more people

Within these areas of focus, the software serves to make the process easier for both talent and hiring managers by:

  • Drawing great talent to the right opportunities

  • Keeping candidates informed throughout the application process

  • Simplifying the screening and interview process

  • Supporting a personalized onboarding process that goes beyond standardized forms 

Different recruiting software tools have different functions. You'll want to examine each one carefully to see whether it does what you need it to do.

Keep in mind that no solution is truly comprehensive. To get the most out of any recruiting software, you'll need to partner it with other systems, such as Calendly's interview scheduling software or video interviewing tools like SparkHire or VidCruiter. The best solutions are always the ones that you customize and blend to suit your needs.

12 best recruiting software tools of 2021

Enterprise recruiting software

Enterprise-level businesses may prefer their recruiting solutions to be part of a larger human resources program, such as a talent management or human capital management (HCM) tool.  

1. JobAdder

JobAdder is a cloud-based recruitment marketing software designed for in-house hiring teams and staffing agencies. JobAdder includes functionalities across the recruitment timeline, including application tracking systems, automated job posting, and resume-position matching.

2. Bullhorn

Designed to be user-friendly and integrate with existing software, Bullhorn features an intuitive API that integrates with recruiting clients’ HR systems. It accepts resumes directly into the system and tracks applicants through the entire process, and client HR managers can follow everything as it happens. For its unique set of functions and user focus, Bullhorn has received PC Magazine’s Editor’s Choice award for dedicated applicant tracking systems.

3. Greenhouse

Created to support informed hiring, Greenhouse includes data-rich reports on processes like candidate sourcing, applicant feedback, and recruitment timeline progress. Advanced filtering lets you zero in on the right candidates, and multiple access levels allow agencies to delegate parts of the hiring process. Greenhouse also includes customized interview kits and makes communication easy with user-friendly collaboration.

Versatile recruiting software

If your company is growing rapidly or falls between business classifications, you may be better suited to a program designed for versatility.

There are plenty of software options on the market created to appeal to a variety of businesses, with features and functions for any and all recruitment needs. These programs are flexible enough to fit your company’s unique hiring practices, and powerful enough to tackle all the jobs you need done.

4. Taleo

Taleo is the most popular applicant tracking system on the market today, used by 30.2% of Fortune 500 companies. An Oracle company, Taleo offers numerous advantages including customizable workflows, advanced analytics, and applicant-centered communications. Taleo has an enterprise edition as well as a business edition for smaller companies.

5. iCIMS Hiring Suite

Another solution of choice for TechnologyAdvice and Software Advice, iCIMS Hiring Suite offers advanced analytics as well as applicant tracking and a top-level candidate experience including mobile-friendly applications and regular updates. iCIMS also offers preboarding and offer management to seamlessly integrate your new hires.

6. SmartRecruiters

SmartRecruiters is one of the few stand-alone recruiting software solutions that meet the complex needs of enterprise companies. SmartRecruiters is branded as an “all-in-one hiring success platform” with an internal hiring and referrals page, a centralized workflow with the ability to delegate individual recruitment tasks, and even a recruitment agency marketplace.

7. Workday

Workday is a cloud-based ERP solution for medium-sized and large enterprises. It allows companies to manage recruitment as well as talent development, performance, and compensation. Workday is an ideal recruitment management tool for those companies that want their hiring to integrate seamlessly with human capital management, allowing them to track someone from application through to their last days on the job.

8. Jobvite

Using the Continuous Candidate Engagement (CCE) model, Jobvite creates meaningful interactions at all stages of the hiring process. As an AI recruiting software solution, Jobvite also features an advanced Applicant Tracking System with social recruiting, video screening, and other industry-leading functionalities.

Best recruiting software for SMBs

SMBs often don't need as complex a function set as enterprise companies do. These smaller businesses can thrive with less expensive recruiting software, free versions often doing the job for the smallest companies.

Still, if you’re looking for a recruiting software solution for an SMB, you don’t want to compromise on quality. Make sure that the tool you choose has seamless integration capabilities, otherwise you’ll find yourself doing even more work to carry data over into your other systems.

9. Jobscore

If you need recruiting software free or at a flexible cost, check out JobScore. The free version only supports a single position, but you can upgrade to a paid plan if you like the software and want to do more with it. Even though it’s lower-priced than many other solutions, it supports advanced functions like automating candidate assessments and lets you evaluate candidates at a glance.

10. Workable

Workable is and online collaboration tool designed specifically to help SMBs with hiring. It’s a comprehensive solution that’s easy to install without help and streamlines the entire process. It has advanced automation functions, including profile creation from online candidate profiles. It even offers discounts for posting on paid job boards and lets you create your own branded careers page.

11. Breezy HR

Quick to install and easy to use, Breezy HR integrates seamlessly with the tools that hiring teams use. It syndicates job postings with your company website as well as online job aggregators to put your posting in front of as many people as possible. Breezy also features a smooth applicant tracking system and even applicant-friendly features like a candidate inbox and personalized career portals.

12. Recruiterbox

Recruiterbox is an ATS designed specifically for SMBs. Recruiterbox is appealing because it does more than just track applicants: it creates new available positions, posts announcements to social media, and customizes hiring steps.

Remember, your business size shouldn’t be the only thing determining your software choice. More important is how well the software supports your ability to hire great people.

For instance, if you’re a small business that wants to grow by attracting top people, you might want to invest in something like iCIMS to fast-track your candidate experience, even if it costs a bit more. Large companies, on the other hand, that prefer simplicity or that don’t want to bundle all their existing HR functions into a new system, may be happier with a more basic option.

Recruiting software comparisons

As you search for the right recruiting software, prioritize programs that have earned good reviews from experts and customers. All of the following businesses have been reviewed by TechnologyAdvice, on the same five-point scale.

Note that this table tells you which size and type of company the tool tends to work best for: whether that's recruiting software for agencies, enterprise companies, small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs). These are meant as recommendations rather than exclusive classifications, so don't restrict yourself based on company size.

Software Advice also offers recommendations based on business size and resource availability.

Be aware that Software Advice compiles star ratings based on user reviews, while TechnologyAdvice uses an internal evaluation system. 

The best recruiting software vendors  

The digitization of recruiting has created a new market that software developers have rushed to fill. There are now hundreds of solutions out there, each with a unique style and interface.

Any time you’re deciding between two or more vendors, rate them based on the user experience — both yours and that of your applicants. Look at user reviews and see what people say about how easy the software is to use.

What questions should you ask when shopping for recruiting software?

  • Is it customizable? 

  • How user-friendly are the dashboard and functionalities?

  • Do applicants have good experiences with it?

  • Does it support a team approach, allowing multiple HR roles to participate?

  • Does it allow you to analyze your process and make it more efficient as you go?

Be sure to consider the tools that your team already uses as well. You’ll get the most benefit out of a solution if it integrates with what you have. That may mean choosing a standalone system or shopping around for a new multifunctional system that has more to offer in the way of recruiting options.

Part of staying competitive in any business is keeping up with the norms of the industry. As recruiters and HR departments work to offer their best to candidates, recruiting software evolves in response.

To keep up in the face of a shifting industry, recruitment software companies have introduced new features at rapid rates to help HR professionals keep up with demand. What was advanced functionality a few years ago is now standard.

Today’s software solutions are comprehensive, assisting you through all aspects of the recruitment process from advertising to hiring. Most software on the market now includes most if not all of these features:

  • Candidate Rosters: Detailed lists of potential hires, both from inside and outside the company

  • Search Functions: Tools for advertising the company and potential openings, from social media ad management to the creation and editing of job postings

  • Candidate Processing: Screening, Evaluations, Progression, Offers

  • Applicant Tracking: Interview stages, recommendation results, messaging with candidates

  • Onboarding: Orientation, paperwork, training

These functions may have started as trends, but they’re here to stay. As the demands of the modern workforce become ever-more complicated, software has to be more powerful than ever to keep employee information streamlined and well-organized.

4 essential software features

Even in the face of changing norms and shifting trends, there will always be certain features necessary for any functional recruiting process.

1. Analytics

As with any business process, the only way to optimize your hiring process is to analyze the data. Use information from past hiring projects to find where you’re most efficient and identify bottlenecks. You want a recruiting software solution that will make this easy, providing you with  plenty of analytics and reporting for metrics like applicants per vacancy, cost per hire and offer acceptance rates.

Your recruiting software should help you track your success in these areas, ideally with minimal extra work on your part.

2. Candidate relationship management

In today’s job market, companies are the ones competing for the attention of candidates, rather than the other way around. With this shift has come an increased focus on the candidate experience. Consider these statistics from CareerBuilder:

  • 78% of applicants believe that their experience as a candidate reflects how they will be treated as employees

  • 75% of candidates view their experience getting the job as the first part of their employer relationship

  • 86% of applicants believe that they should be treated with the same respect as current employees, but only 49% believe that happens

Savvy companies understand the prevalence of these sentiments and design their candidate evaluation processes accordingly. They use recruiting software to make the process as smooth and professional as possible for candidates, seeking out functions like:

  • Intuitive employee referral pages

  • Advanced applicant tracking functionalities, such as automatic applicant ranking and sorting, predicted onboarding timelines, etc.

  • Customized candidate search functions with advanced filtering, so you can find the candidate with the ideal blend of skills, work history, education and even home location  

  • Integration with text messaging to more easily reach qualified applicants

  • Video conferencing to evaluate how candidates would work within your team

  • Group interview schedule tools suited to multiple formats like round-robin, group, or one-on-one.

All of these features help you manage the candidate experience more effectively.

3. Automated candidate updates

According to CareerBuilder, lack of communication from employers is the number one frustration that applicants have with the job search process. More than 80% of job seekers believe that more updates on application status would improve the experience. In response, companies are looking for software that informs candidates when the company has chosen to decline them, move them to the next phase of consideration, or extend an offer.

4. Interview scheduling

Candidates want to work for companies that respect their time, and they start to look for this respect during the hiring process. To attract top candidates, many employers are responding by scheduling interviews with software like Calendly, which streamlines the interview planning process. Calendly even makes the interview itself more efficient by allowing schedulers to add preliminary questions, send reminders and requests for the interview and set up convenient video interviews with Zoom integrations.

Key functions for Enterprise, Agency and SMB recruiting software

All of the features described above are useful, but your priorities and needs will be different than those of a differently scaled business. Here we’ve broken down the kind of functionality you should be seeing in a recruiting software solution that’s likely to meet the needs of your type of organization.

Enterprise recruiting software  

For the most part, enterprise companies need recruiting functionalities that integrate with a comprehensive enterprise resource planning solution. From a recruitment perspective, the best solutions are those that make the most of collaborative functions like data-sharing and recording of feedback from interviewers.

Enterprise businesses are also more likely than smaller companies to want a branded application portal, internal job board, and careers page: tools that help you hire from inside the company.

How to choose the best recruiting software   

When you have this many options to consider, choosing the best recruiting software can be a daunting task. Focus on what you need and forget the rest. Remember, all of these choices exist because different companies have different needs. 

Step 1: Identify goals  

As with any business process, you should have recruitment goals in place to tell you how you’re doing. These should be as specific as possible so you can evaluate your process. Maybe you want to:

  • Fast-track your hiring process

  • Spend more time with people and less time looking at resumés

  • Boost efficiency and reduce your cost per hire

  • Get closer to your hiring targets

Once you have a list of goals, put them in order of priority. You may not find a solution that has everything you need, so what can you compromise on and what is an absolute must?

Step 2: Make a wish list of features  

Think about your goals and decide what your recruiting software needs to do to help get you there. Divide that list into two smaller lists, one for necessary features and one for features that would be nice to have.

Your must-have list will be your deal-breakers. If a feature isn’t there, you won’t choose that solution.

Step 3: Short-list some vendors  

Review the tables and vendor lists above and make a list of four or five software titles that might suit your business. Take some time to look at the reviews linked. For the ones that seem like they’re the best options, dig a little bit deeper and find reports, case studies, and customer testimonials.

Step 4: Test out your favorites  

Once you have your list narrowed down to one or two options, find a way to try them out. Visit the developer’s website and see if they offer a free trial. If not, request a demo. You want to get your hands on the tool and make sure that it both works the way you need it to and is intuitive enough for your team to adopt it without extensive help.

In the end, you'll choose the recruiting software that fits best within your company and streamlines the hiring process for everyone involved.

Ready to make your recruiting process more efficient with Calendly? Sign up for free today.

Ty Collins

Ty Collins

Ty is a digital marketing leader, content management expert, and Calendly alum.


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