Finding an applicant tracking system

In the last weeks I used almost every waking hour to find the best suited applicant tracking system for our little recruiting agency. This comparison is for other agencies who look for software supporting their workflow.

The market for ATS software is very fragmented, the products themselves are very complex and hard to evaluate. Also, once you chose a product you are stuck with it and data-migrations are hard. Even bad products are able to stay in business because the person who makes the purchasing decision isn’t necessarily the same person who actually uses the product. The list of features products have are often impressive, but in reality do features sometimes suck or don’t work.

We looked for solutions that had pricing on their landing-page and hence seemed to be suited for small businesses. So, we left out SmartRecruiters, Greenhouse, Recruiterbox and others. The exception was lever, because it was was recommended by Aline.

We focused on leverworkablebreezyzoho-recruit and CATS, which all looked all like good fits for our needs running a small, niche tech-recruiting agency in Switzerland. We are niche as we serve only tech companies in Zurich and we try to get software engineers to notice us by writing great content about the city.

To be able to compare, we looked at eight dimensions:

  1. Annual price – If you buy SaaS as a business, you can often negotiate some of the price, especially US-based companies are used to this.
  2. In the market since – A very important metric to estimate how mature the product is and how high the probability is that the company will die.
  3. Number of customers  –  How widely used is the ATS already?
  4. Type of customers – Are mostly in-house recruiters using it or agencies?
  5. Resume parsing – A feature that can make a recruiters life significantly easier. There are big players like TextKernel and Sovren on the market that sell resume-parsing as a service. But some ATS build their own parsing tool.
  6. API – A possibility to extend functionality on top of the ATS. This is crucial for us as we want to keep the freedom to build features on top of each third-party tool that we use.
  7. Customer support – A proxy for how reliable the software is.
  8. EU data-protection compliance – Switzerland trades a lot with the EU, which is the second largest economy, and in order to collaborate with EU-based firms, Swiss data-protection regulations are similar to the ones required by the EU; so we need our SaaS vendors to follow these rules.


Lever is a shiny ATS from Silicon Valley and impresses everyone with their great content about recruiting and outreach. It is on the premium-end regarding pricing and it competes with Greenhouse and Workable and caters mostly in-house recruiters.


Unlike the other player, they don’t give trials and force you to get all your questions answered in a demo. Also, the migration of data is done by them and there is no admin interface (yet) where you can do all migration by yourself. Unfortunately, there is really no API you can just fetch job-listings and that is it.

  1. Annual price: 3000$ – 5000$ – priced per user
  2. In the market since: 2012
  3. Number of customers:  Standard in Bay-area. Not so much in Europe.
  4. Type of customers: Inhouse-recruiters, 10% recruiting-agencies.
  5. Resume parsing: Sevron
  6. API: No
  7. Customer support:
  8. EU data-protection compliance:




Workable is the most known ATS in Europe and build in Greece. In the pre-sales process, it was disturbing to notice that pre-sales people are measured against how many prospects are pushed to a demo. Pre-sales would reluctantly refuse to answer some of my questions (e.g., how big is the percentage of agencies in your client-pool). So, after they ignored all my qualifying questions and pushed me to a demo. You could really hear the *sigh* of the demo-guy when I mentioned that I am comparing Workable to five other products.

They don’t use any third-party resume parsing solution but build their own which works worse compared to TextKernel or Sovren. Workable seems like a mature product but is attacked from both Breezy from the small / medium market and by lever from the high-end market.

  1. Annual price: 3000$ – priced per job
  2. In the market since: 2012
  3. Number of customers:  7000
  4. Type of customers: 25% recruiting agencies
  5. Resume parsing: Their own.
  6. API: Yes
  7. Customer support: 1
  8. EU data-protection compliance: ?


Breezy went into the market with cool, new features like build-in video interviews such and a superb calendar-scheduling feature.


Their customer-support is very good by US standards but it seems that they are trying to save money on the wrong end. It took me over a week to convince them to upload 300 CVs in bulk (they are the only ATS that lacks this feature in the GUI). The argument was that they have to pay Sovren money with every resume they parse and that is why they do not offer bulk uploads in trial mode. The UX feels a bit artificial and they still are in the process of adding core things (adding candidates without linking them to jobs, copy-by-reference of candidates)

  1. Annual price: 1000$ – priced per job
  2. In the market since: 2014
  3. Number of customers:  3000
  4. Type of customers: 15% recruiting agencies
  5. Resume parsing: Their own.
  6. API: Yes
  7. Customer support: 1
  8. EU data-protection compliance: ?


This is one of the products in the Zoho family of business software. I got lured into trying it out because firstly it is a fraction of the price (100$ / year) of other products and secondly the complementary products they offer also looked promising (zoho-mail, zoho-campaign). Also, they clearly support EU-data protection policies by offering all their services under


You can really feel that this product is build by an army of programmers somewhere in India: The chrome extension has a nice design but does not work at all, however other features seem to work although they appear a bit clunky.

  • Annual price: 1000$ – priced per job
  • In the market since: 2009
  • Number of customers: ?
  • Type of customers: ?
  • Resume parsing: Their own.
  • API: Yes, but clunky.
  • Customer support: 3
  • EU data-protection compliance: yes


CATS did start as OpenCATS,opencats, a open-source ATS which was initially released 2002. It quickly grew past what was feasible for an open source product and required dedicated development and support teams. Since 2005 CATS has been in the market as CATS Software. The on-boarding experience is a charm as the trial is filled with reasonable demo-data (that can be erased any time). Also adding candidates, jobs and companies just makes sense and the flow through the product is superb. CATS feels like they understand how agency recruiters work.  

Their API is exhaustive, consistent and easy to use. Fields can be reasonably extended. For instance, I categorise clients into three categories: A, B and C (A are the to ones I serve primarily, B’s are second and C I serve last). This was easy to integrate into CATS by just going to the Admin-section and adding some values to the “status” field.

Also, the support is extremely collaborating and helped with every single issue I had (shout-out to Mike Gallagher!).

Special features include submitted a candidate to a client using a link to CATS, where the CV is attached and letting the client “approve” or “decline” the candidate. Some clients seem to like it, and others prefer to have the resume just attached to a mail. Also another nice feature is sending reminder emails to clients about a candidate.


  • Annual price: 1000$ – priced per user
  • In the market since: 2002
  • Number of customers: 2000
  • Type of customers: 66% recruiting agencies
  • Resume parsing: Sovron
  • API: Yes, but clunky.
  • Customer support: 5
  • EU data-protection compliance: yes


We compared Leverworkablebreezyzoho-recruit and CATS. Below a short diagram about important factors that we found. Summarized you get the following table:

Lever3000-5000$???SevronOnly job-postings5?
Workable3000$2012700025% recruiting agenciesTheir ownYes2?
Breezy1000$2014300015% recruiting agenciesSevronYes4Can host client data on Frankfurt-AWS
CATS1000$2002200066% recruiting agenciesSevronYes5Semin-support

Showing 1 to 5 of 5 entries


If you are a tech recruiting agency and you want to collaborate with us, shoot us a mail. We own a Swiss recruiting license  that is mandatory if you want to collaborate with Swiss companies.

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