CRM for Recruiting: How to Get Your ATS and CRM Software to Combine Forces

Last updated on: February 27, 2024

Recruiting is all about finding qualified people to match your client’s open positions. While your applicant tracking system may seem sufficient for the task, embracing the robustness of a customer relationship management tool could give your recruiting business the boost it needs.

“I have a CRM and I know how to use it!” – A really good recruiter, probably.

At its essence, a recruiter’s job is to serve as a matchmaker between job-seekers and hirers, to balance two ever-changing pipelines and ignite a spark between them. This proverbial spark is the act of hiring a candidate, and it requires timing, patience, organization, and lots and lots of skill.

New applicants with a diverse array of skills continually enter the candidate pipeline. Meanwhile, the client pipeline, which supplies open positions, also constantly rotates with different skill requirements, salary ranges, and so on.

Illustrating the relationship between clients, candidates, and recruiters for CRM for recruiting blog post


It’s tough to get it right, which is why customer relationship management (CRM) tools and applicant tracking systems (ATS) exist, and why they keep getting better and better.

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What is a recruitment CRM system?

A recruitment CRM system is a CRM used for recruiting and staffing, allowing you to manage relationships with both clients and candidates while simplifying the recruitment process.

Most people associate CRMs with sales teams and processes. But at its core, a CRM is essentially for relationship management, improving team efficiency, and enhancing a business’s productivity.

Incorporating a modern CRM system for your recruitment process will help you attract and qualify candidates and build credibility with job seekers.

What a recruitment CRM can do

Section header image for why recruiters use CRMs

Recruiters use a ton of different tools to keep track of their various pipelines. One of the biggest ones, however, is CRMs. As a functional SQL database designed for keeping track of many moving parts and data points, CRMs have enough versatility to be a good one-size-fits-all solution for recruitment as a whole.

Recruiters must communicate with clients regularly for a steady stream of open positions. CRMs are the perfect tool for client relation management, with a range of communication and tracking capabilities, organized pipelines, workflows, automations, and more, that render CRMs instrumental in managing the client pipeline.

CRMs also help recruiters save time by automating tasks. Most CRMs have personal email sequences that allow recruiters to automatically send a series of emails with standardized messaging, which is great for new candidates, soliciting open positions from clients, and much more.

Tracking applicants’ journeys through the recruiting pipeline is also critical to recruiting as a whole, and CRMs do this phenomenally. Many CRMs, like Nutshell (just sayin’), provide a range of stellar reports that recruiters can use to analyze and optimize pipelines and processes in the recruiting space and beyond.

The benefits of using a CRM for recruiting

As a recruiter, your day-to-day involves balancing interactions between clients and candidates. Bringing communication, record-keeping, and data into one organized system opens up several opportunities and benefits for your recruitment agency or department, such as:

  • Enhanced relationship building: Build stronger relationships with both clients and candidates when you have easy access to data and information related to both.
  • Speed up the hiring process: Spend less time on tedious administrative tasks by leveraging the power of automation within your CRM recruitment pipeline.
  • Level up all your communication: Send and receive messages and emails to team members, clients, and candidates in a flash from one user-friendly interface.
  • Stay on top of appointments and tasks: Never miss a meeting or call, and keep crucial tasks organized and top-of-mind with advanced CRM scheduling and task management tools.

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How to use your CRM for recruiting

GIF saying,

Although it’s not abundantly clear, recruiting and sales processes are similar enough that a CRM can satisfy the needs of both industries. CRMs typically have a bunch of functionality specifically designed to serve a diverse array of industries—Some cost a ton, others don’t.

CRMs with forms, for instance, are a wonderful resource for reposting jobs directly on your website and collecting information straight from candidates. Forms eliminate the need to solicit repetitive information via emails and phone calls, which opens up many recruiting possibilities.

Recruiters can also take advantage of a CRM’s automation capabilities by automating as many communications as possible.

Recruitment businesses send tons and tons of standardized messages—Resumes, contracts, consent for submission to open positions, retainers, etc. With a CRM, you can automate all these messages to trigger at specific points in the recruiting pipeline.

And CRM reporting features are instrumental as well. Inspecting any pipeline from the top down is crucial, and CRMs make this a piece of cake. From looking at reports regularly, recruiters can see which parts of their candidate pipelines and client pipelines aren’t functioning as they should.

Reporting also helps identify which clients are good clients, which recruiters are filling positions and any trends that may arise within a specific recruiting organization’s pipelines.

Essentially, CRMs serve to manage the two recruiting pipelines:

Pipeline one: Candidates and applications

The first recruiting pipeline serves to manage the ever-changing talent pool. The talent pool is the current accessible market of candidates, and keeping track of every single one is no easy feat.

Fortunately, software like ATS systems and CRMs both solve for this by allowing recruiters to make a new entry in the database for each person, and document their associated data (skills, requirements, education, location, preferences, etc.) on their profile in the system.

CRMs also allow recruiters to attach candidates’ resumes directly to their profiles. Having the resume on hand is great for making candidate phone calls, communicating, and attaching the resume to emails to submit to clients.

The various ways of viewing data in CRMs are also helpful. For instance, you can search for a skill (or any data point) directly within the system, making it easy to parse big lists of candidates with diverse data points.

For instance, if trying to find a candidate with SQL skills, a recruiter might start the search by typing SQL into the CRM search bar and exporting the results.

At the end of the day, this pipeline manages all the candidates that a recruiter might want to submit to a client. If it’s not doing what it’s supposed to be doing, it doesn’t matter how many open positions there are. There will be no applicants to match them with.

Pipeline two: Clients and open positions

The second pipeline is the business development pipeline, often called the client pipeline, which implicitly highlights the contrast against the candidate pipeline.

This pipeline literally serves the function of new business development, which is a standard practice performed by business development representatives in any industry. Sometimes, the goal is to secure investors, sell a product, or score a work contract.

In this case, the goal is to garner open positions to fill with applicants who become employees at the client’s company. If this pipeline isn’t functional and the available positions stop flowing, all the applicants in the world can’t help, which is why it’s important to keep both pipelines healthy.

A quality CRM almost always services the client pipeline, which helps BDRs and recruiters keep track of open positions, client communications, and all of the client’s needs in one place.

Since this is often a collaborative process, CRMs with built-in team collaboration tools are instrumental in reducing the risk of crossed wires. These tools prevent duplicated communications and keep the business development team in the know regarding the status of a lead or deal.

A final important point on the client pipeline is that it must always remain up-to-date to approach clients and candidates with the most relevant information.

What is an applicant tracking system?

Technically speaking, an applicant tracking system is quite similar to a CRM. They’re almost entirely the same software—a SQL database at its core with a neat UI—but branded differently and fitted with industry-specific functionalities. CRMs typically lean in the sales direction, and ATS systems lean in the recruiting direction.

ATS systems and CRMs both serve as a repository for candidates and their pertinent information. They both allow each person their own “page” where all their skills, employment history, and current information is viewable like a hub. Both systems allow for uploading attachments, such as resumes and employment documents.

Another critical feature that both systems offer is the ability to search the system quickly with keywords, making finding applicable candidates an effortless experience.

Section quote image for CRM for recruiting blog post

The most commonly used feature that both systems possess is the ability to keep notes on each candidate throughout the recruiting process. Notes can be for feedback, reminders, or anything pertinent to the candidate (or client) and are viewable in real-time by all team members.

Applicant tracking systems versus CRMs

CRMs and ATS systems have a lot in common, but there are a few key differences, including:

  • ATS systems are geared toward recruiting, while CRMs are open-ended.
  • CRMs offer more general-purpose functionality.
  • ATS systems often manage the application process out of the box.
  • Some ATS systems can manually create candidates from a resume.
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Combining the pipelines

Combining ATS and CRM pipelines for CRM for recruiting blog post
Click this image for the full-size version. 🙂

Most recruiting companies use an ATS in conjunction with a CRM. While some just use an ATS, and others just use a CRM.

In the following section, we’ll focus specifically on how to use a CRM to maximize efficiency at each stage of the recruiting process.

The candidate pipeline

The candidate CRM pipeline for CRM for recruiting blog post

The candidate pipeline is the path that candidates take before they are ready to be submitted to clients. There are several stages involved in qualifying and preparing a candidate for submission:

1. Creating a candidate or collecting a resume

This step varies from company to company, but a typical model for this recruiting step involves importing a resume into the CRM from Dice, Monster, Linkedin, Indeed, or any other employment platform.

Occasionally, candidates will submit their resumes directly to the recruiting team. However, they’ll still be created in the CRM as a person with their resume as an attachment.

2. Screening the candidate by phone

The phone screen is usually just to get to know the candidate and set some goals from the start. Typical questions for a phone screen include:

  • Generic skills test or verbal skills assessment
  • Job-specific skills test or verbal assessment
  • Salary expectations
  • Location preferences (willing to relocate, etc.)
  • Consent to submit the candidate to open positions

All of the takeaways from the phone screening conversation are saved in the CRM as a note so that any team member can view it and comment.

3. Signing the consent form

This step is quick but serves as a pivotal moment in the recruitment process, so it gets its own step. Candidates without a signed consent form will forfeit submission to open positions. Otherwise, issues can arise down the line—like the candidate outright bailing after being offered a job, which looks bad for everyone.

The signing of the consent form is captured in the CRM by attributing the candidate to this pipeline stage and attaching the consent form to their person hub in the CRM as an assurance so that nothing slips through the cracks.

The candidate is now ready to be submitted to clients. 🎉

The client pipeline

The client CRM pipeline for CRM for recruiting blog post

The business development team focuses its efforts on the client pipeline to keep the open positions flowing.

As with most other business development processes, this one more intuitively matches CRM functions despite both pipelines being fully manageable from a solid CRM. The client pipeline is as follows:

4. Understanding your business development pipeline

This step isn’t worth overly analyzing as it varies profoundly depending on which strategies companies use to acquire leads. It can include any of the following:

  • Generating leads from the website
  • Scoring referrals from partner organizations
  • Leveraging a database of long-standing clients
  • Hosting job fairs
  • Attending events and seminars
  • Much, much more

This step exists on the flow chart to acknowledge your own business’s lead generation initiatives. Consider it a *your existing pipeline goes here* placeholder.

5. Listing a client’s open position

When a client lists an open position, it’s approximately the same as a candidate signing a consent form. It means that the pipeline has produced a tangible lead, in this case an open position ready to be filled.

When a position is open, for instance, a client says, “I’m looking for three Senior Software Developers,” you’ll create that position as a lead in your CRM. When it exists as a lead in the CRM, your team can attach people (and companies) to it, so shortlisted candidates can all be tacked onto it and managed directly from there.

Information about the client company and all other job description information is also tacked onto the lead to serve as a reference. This also makes it super easy to communicate directly with the client about the position. All it takes is a click on the lead and then a click on the company and hiring manager associated with the position to send an email to them directly. The email is tracked and visible in the CRM for the entire team. 

Dollar amounts can also be attached to each lead, signifying the total compensation the hiring organization is willing to pay for a candidate or the amount your company stands to gain from closing the position. It pretty much depends on whichever metric you’d like to show up in your reporting and breakdowns.

The matchmaking pipeline

The matchmaking CRM pipeline for CRM for recruiting blog post

This pipeline is the convergence point between both pipelines, and it’s often horribly mismanaged, as many companies hand off from their ATS to email communications at this point.

Having a tech handoff at such a critical stage prevents the entire team from being able to view communications going forward unless they’re CC’d on the subsequent email messages. It’s also the end of any reporting because the pipeline software (CRM or ATS) typically doesn’t have visibility into the following stages of communication.

Lastly, the previous stage of creating a lead to signify an open position gets no conclusion unless you continue the recruiting process within a CRM.

A CRM manages an excellent matchmaking pipeline in the following way:

6. Submitting the candidate to the client

Usually, you will submit the candidate to the client, and the client will reach out to the candidate to interview them directly. The staffing company will sometimes set up the appointment themselves, but not always.

Again, when you submit a candidate to an open position, the candidate’s profile in the CRM system will be attached to the lead that signifies the open position. In the future, if not offered the role, you should remove them from the lead and mark their profile accordingly with a note.

The CRM will also automatically log the introductory conversation so all team members can view it.

7. Accepting the offer

If the client offers the candidate a position, and the candidate accepts it, that’s a success! This means you can safely mark the deal as closed. It’s the actual final stage of the pipeline.

8. Updating the CRM accordingly

Naturally, whoever manages the recruiting CRM will update the pipeline accordingly—if it’s not configured to do so automatically—to reflect that the candidate has accepted a position and that the open position is now closed.

The lead is also marked as “won” in the system and will continue to exist in the system for reporting purposes.

What if the client rejected the offer?

You’ll follow these steps should the client fail to accept the offer:

9. Rejecting the offer

If the client rejects the offer or doesn’t make an offer to the candidate, you will create a note in the CRM system explaining the reasons why. At this stage, the candidate can be removed from the lead to show they are “unsubmitted” for the position.

Some companies may prefer to leave the candidate submitted on the lead, and just include a note on the candidate’s profile that explains that they are no longer in the running for the job. It’s preferential, and is really just determined by what the CRM managers want to see in their reports.

10. CRM is updated accordingly, and a new candidate is sourced

After updating the CRM, you can source a new candidate and submit them for the position. In board game terms, go directly to step 6.

The pipeline is cyclical rather than linear, and using a CRM to keep track of it accommodates the cyclical nature of finding candidates, submitting them, getting rejected, finding another, submitting them, and so on.

The industry-leading CRM for recruiting

For a robust CRM primed to boost your recruitment efforts, look no further than Nutshell.

When you choose Nutshell as your CRM for recruiting, you can look forward to a world-class system with a host of features designed to streamline your processes and increase your productivity, including:

  • Powerful workflow automations
  • Smart and effortless web forms
  • Advanced meeting scheduler
  • Top-notch email marketing tools
  • In-depth data analytics and reporting
  • Enhanced team, client, and candidate communication
  • Seamless contact management and record-keeping

Experience efficiency as you’ve never experienced it before with Nutshell, the perfect recruitment CRM.
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