The best and worst ATSs in your job search

It feels like they’re always getting in the way – Applicant Tracking Systems, or ATSs – the software that companies use to accept, and track, your application to work there.

Ladders has completed two huge studies of ATSs, one based on data collected from 50,000 employers, the other based on survey results from you, our users. I’m very happy to share both with you this morning. 

Overall, we found the newest entrants in the ATS business are the best performers in the category.

Greenhouse and Lever, both founded in 2012 and both with modern, cloud-first software, are attracting more employers, more high-end jobs, and more applies to $100K+ jobs than ever before.  On Ladders’ Golden Gatekeepers’ ‘Most Interesting Jobs Index’, Lever was the far and away favorite, with jobs hosted by Lever attracting double the attention of jobs on the average ATS.

Looking at each category in turn, we found:

Most Jobs: If you’re looking for a high-end professional job in the US, then Workday, iCIMS, and Taleo/Oracle are the ATSs you’re most likely to encounter. These three large and established ATSs have been the favored choice of American companies for over a decade, so it’s no surprise to see them come out on top of the total $100K+ job listings category.

Most #100K+ Jobs Chart

Best ATS: Workday was readers’ favorite ATS, with 28% of respondents picking the leading HR software provider for its ATS module.  They are followed by Taleo, with 24% of readers selecting it as their top pick, and ADP, at 13% of respondents.

Most Employers: Greenhouse, Lever and Workday are the ATSs favored by the largest number of $100K+ employers in the US. New companies and growing companies are disproportionately choosing Greenhouse and Lever, aiding their leap in the rankings.

Most $100K+ Employers


Worst ATS: When given a chance to give a “thumbs down” to one ATS, Taleo came away the least favorite in our Readers’ poll, with 21% of respondents naming it the worst. Second worst was Kenea/BrassRing with 14% of votes, followed by iCIMS at third worst with 13% of readers picking it as the worst.  Which were the least worst? Well, no surprise, Greenhouse and Lever tied for the fewest votes in this category. 

Most Applies: The ATSs most frequently used for applying to high-end professional jobs are Workday, Greenhouse and iCIMS. Looking at actual applications, we found Workday had lost 5 points of market share and Greenhouse gained a similar amount since 2019.

Most $100K+ Applies

Most Interesting Jobs: The ATSs with the most interesting jobs – those which attract more applicants per job than any other ATS – are Lever (by a large margin), Greenhouse, and UltiPro. Lever is popular among small tech startups and fast-growing companies, so perhaps it’s no surprise to see them at the top of the list. UltiPro, which struggled with market share in every category, is the surprise entrant on the Most Interesting Jobs list, coming in third.

Most interesting jobs index


Most Jobs per Client: The ATSs with the largest clients, on average, are BrassRing, Taleo/Oracle, and Workday. BrassRing is apparently no longer being marketed or sold, and as a result, smaller customers are defecting, while large legacy customers take a few years to move off of the platform.

Most $100K+ Jobs/Clients

Best Known: Taleo is the most widely known ATS among Ladders’ readers, with 76% of respondents recognizing the name. Workday and ADP statistically tied for second, with each recognized by 64% of readers.

Share Rankings

We ranked the top ATSs based on their share of volume in Ladders’ system in three categories; employers, jobs published, and applies by Ladders members, expressed as a percentage share within Ladders’ system.

Overall, we found that the newest entrants in Applicant Tracking Systems for high-end professionals continue to take share from established players and, if anything, have accelerated their momentum through the lockdown. 

In aggregate, Lever and Greenhouse each gained a total of 11 points of market share across the three categories, while Taleo gained 4. The Biggest losers were Workday with a loss of 10 aggregate share points, ADP which lost 6, and UltiPro which lost 5.

Rankings changes since 2019

Q1 is a good representative time sample in recruiting as it represents a peak in annual activity.  Due to the impact of COVID on last years’ numbers, we’re comparing 2021 numbers to 2019 results.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that the newer entrants, Greenhouse and Lever, have shown the most improvement over the past two years.  They notched share gains in all three categories – jobs, employers, and applies.

Winners in Biggest Improvement in Share of Jobs were Taleo, Greenhouse, and Lever.

ATS Most $100K+ Jobs table

Biggest Improvement in Share of Employers were Lever and Greenhouse.

ATS Most $100K+ Employers

And Biggest Improvement in Share of Applies were Greenhouse, Lever, and Taleo.

Most $100K+ Applies

The largest share losses were experienced by Workday, ranking worst or 2nd worst in all three categories.

ATS Awareness and Usability

Overall, 92% of Ladders readers said they had some or a lot of familiarity with ATSs and what they do.

Unfortunately, 70% of Readers indicated that they found ATSs difficult to navigate.

Founding Dates
Lever2012
Greenhouse2012
Smartrecrutiers2010
Jobvite2006
Workday2005
iCIMS2000
BrassRing1998
Taleo/Oracle1996
UltiPro1990
ADP1949

These survey results are useful to companies looking to make a decision about their ATSs.  The $100K+ workforce represents 25% of the American working population, and more than 50% of all earnings.

Ladders has found that the average 18-minute application greatly frustrates the typical $100K+ earner, and dissuades many candidates from completing job applications. Paying attention to these metrics is important for companies to maintain a healthy recruiting process. So for companies looking to make a decision about their ATS, understanding the preferences and behaviors of $100K+ professionals is important.