An Alternative To Building Your Own Applicant Tracking System

A savvy HR professional uses a private label ATS as an alternative to building an applicant tracking system.

As of April 2022, 47% of organizations have positions they can’t fill, and 87% of HR professionals say they have “few or no qualified applicants.”

Organizations are turning to technology to combat recruiting challenges and increase their applicant flow—90% of organizations invest in HR technology. Recruiting, and retention is the top challenge driving HR technology acquisition, including applicant tracking systems.

90% of organizations invest in HR technology.

A steady stream of applicant flow is the lifeblood of any company looking to expand their team. While many organizations are happy to purchase a prebuilt ATS for their hiring needs, recruiting is not a one-size-fits-all process. Many organizations have niche hiring challenges they’d like addressed, so there’s been an uptick in organizations looking to build their own ATS solutions from the ground up. This ensures a hiring solution tailored to your exact needs but it is time-consuming, expensive, and requires ongoing maintenance once it’s finished. 

We believe customizing your hiring solution is key to taking your recruiting to the next level. An alternative that enables you to bridge the gap between the affordability and convenience of buying and the benefits of a bespoke solution is partnering with a private label applicant tracking system developer.

This post will go over the pros and cons of building your ATS, cover the basics of buying, and discuss why private labeling is a practical, affordable, timely alternative that gives you all the benefits of building your own ATS without all the hassle. 

Building Your Own ATS

There’s no way around it. Building your own ATS is expensive. There is no magic formula to determine the cost to build a SaaS platform, but estimates place the range for developing a  SaaS market viable product (MVP) between $50-250k. Keep in mind that this is an estimate, and if you’re looking for a competitive product, costs are likely to be much higher—hundreds of thousands of dollars isn’t out of the question. Additionally, 70% of software development costs occur after implementation, and unexpected challenges are why 53% of projects cost 189% more than the original estimate. You’ll also want to consider allocating money and time to update the product once it’s finished. Remember that time is money—your team members will have to work on the development and/or you’ll need to pay for outsourcing talent. 

Build times can range from 9-8 months to get a platform up and running, but recruiting challenges are besetting companies now, so many organizations with niche needs settle on buying.

Now, if you do a Google search on any variation of “building your own applicant tracking system,” you’ll find a myriad of tutorials with “tricks” for creating applicant tracking systems for your organization without spending the time or money it takes to engineer a project from the ground up. These “hacks” often advocate creating a makeshift ATS utilizing popular SaaS platforms many of us are already using, like Trello or Google Sheets. This might work for an organization that hires for one or two positions a year, but keep in mind that even in that case, this isn’t automating or streamlining recruiting, it’s just organizing it online, which is far from the functionality of even your most basic ATS.

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Buying an ATS

The benefits of buying a prebuilt ATS are that it is immediate and typically cheaper than developing a solution yourself. Since the bulk of SaaS services is subscription-based, you’re essentially noncommittal. 

Typical pricing models include usage-based pricing, where you pay for what you use, subscription-based pricing where you pay for monthly or quarterly packages or per-employee-per-month (PEPM) pricing based on the company’s internal employee count. 

As stated above, the downsides of buying an ATS are that they’re often superfluous, one size fits all, and don’t have the specific workflows or functionalities businesses need for their niche challenges and HR frameworks—there’s a reason so many organizations are researching how to build their own ATS.

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Seamless Integration is a Necessity

The HR Research Institute reports that only 16% of talent professionals say their HR tech integrates seamlessly with the other pieces of their HR tech stack, which is a huge consideration when deciding what route to take for your ATS acquisition. 

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If you’re buying a solution, you need to ask if it has an open API that connects to the other systems you’re using. If not, how will that affect the teams using your ATS? Is your engineering team prepared to take on a new project? When building your own ATS, you need to ensure you’re going above and beyond to ensure your product integrates well, which could entail extra time and money. 

Seamless integration is another reason we’d urge you to consider a private label applicant tracking system. Competitive private label applicant tracking systems are developer-forward, built with seamless integration in mind.

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Private Labeling an Applicant Tracking System Bridges the Build vs. Buy Debate

A private label ATS enables you to offer recruiting solutions to your customers by partnering with an ATS developer to create a bespoke recruiting solution that offers branding, customized workflows, and an open API that you can present as a proprietary solution. 

You may have also heard private labeling called “white labeling.” Though often used interchangeably, there’s a crucial difference between private and white label applicant tracking systems.

White-labeled platforms are produced by a SaaS company and rebranded by other companies. Private labeling goes a step beyond a white label applicant tracking system to allow companies to brand the ATS as their own and work with the developer to customize the platform to suit their organization's needs.

White label applicant tracking system vs. private label applicant tracking system capabilities.

Competitive private label applicant tracking systems are subscription-based, like the off-the-shelf solutions. You can start utilizing your ATS almost immediately and spend a fraction of the money you would if you were building an applicant tracking system from the ground up. Unlike an off-the-shelf ATS where you have the traditional purchaser/customer relationship, a private label solution is a partnership, so you’ll extend the bandwidth of your team, gaining the expertise and resources of your partners’ customer service, product, engineering, and marketing teams—private labeling is an especially savvy move for organizations that want to sell and market a proprietary recruiting solution to their customers. 

With private labeling, you don’t have to worry about development costs going over, integration issues, or hiring staff to support customers. You gain an expert recruiting partner. We’re adamant that private labeling is an exceptional alternative to building your own applicant tracking system. However, if you still need convincing, we’ve created an entire guide, What is a Private Label Applicant Tracking System? that breaks things down in more detail.

What is a Private Label ATS?

Want to know even more about the economics behind building your own private label ATS? Download our Economics of an Integrated ATS report here.


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About HiringThing

HiringThing is a modern recruiting platform as a service that creates seamless hiring experiences. Our private label applicant tracking system and open API enable technology and service providers to embed hiring capabilities from sourcing to onboarding. Approachable and adaptable, the platform empowers anyone, anywhere, to hire their dream team.


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