The terms “applicant tracking system (ATS)” and “talent relationship management system (TRM)” are often used interchangeably. But are these tools actually the same?

The short answer is “no.” While many TRMs incorporate ATS functionality, applicant tracking systems are narrower in their application and focus. The two types of software are similar in that they both exist to facilitate the process of recruitment and hiring by automating certain parts of the process. However, their focus is different, as can be seen by comparing the two types of software carefully.

Applicant Tracking Systems: What They Are and Why They Exist

In the world of evolving recruitment technology, applicant tracking systems pre-date today’s talent relationship management solutions. defines an applicant tracking system as “a software application designed to help an enterprise recruit employees more efficiently. An ATS can be used to post job openings on a corporate website or job board, screen resumes, and generate interview requests to potential candidates by email. Other features may include individual applicant tracking, requisition tracking, automated resume ranking, customized input forms, pre-screening questions and response tracking, and multilingual capabilities.”

Applicant tracking systems provide a centralized database for applicant information, helping companies manage their application processes and remain compliant with all state and federal hiring laws. For companies with large numbers of applications, applicant tracking systems save considerable time and money by largely automating the process.

Talent Relationship Management Systems: ATS and More

JobBoardFinder’s “Do You Really Need a Talent Relationship Management Solution?” states the purpose of TRMs in this way: “A Talent Relationship Management System gives you the possibility to engage and to nurture interpersonal relationships with prospective hires. Instead of forgetting about a not hired candidate, TRM software gives you the possibility to send automatized and personalized messages. That way you will have a talent pool with already engaged candidates for future needs.”

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While applicant tracking systems may limit functionality to the sourcing and short-listing of prospective candidates, talent relationship management systems have considerably more functionality and handle a broader spectrum of recruiting processes. According to LinkedIn, in addition to applicant tracking capabilities, talent relationship management systems often automate such processes as:

  • Resume parsing
  • Utility reporting
  • Collaboration tools
  • Social media integration
  • Mobile application

A good TRM allows you to segment your talent pool into specialized groups to facilitate matching candidates with whom you already have a relationship to new positions as the need arises. Thus, TRMs generally aid in deepening your talent pool considerably over time.

The focus of a talent relationship management system is to cultivate and nurture a relationship with potential candidates and build a healthy talent pipeline in the process. Thus, TRMs generally provide recruiters and hiring managers with a more comprehensive picture of their talent eco-system, enabling a more agile approach to recruitment and hiring.

The Best of Both Worlds with ThriveTRM

The good news is that you do not have to choose between an ATS and a TRM. ThriveTRM combines the best elements of an applicant tracking system and relationship management software into a simple, seamless system that drives network development and enhances collaboration. Schedule a demo and take ThriveTRM for a test drive today.