What Employ’s latest acquisition says about the ATS market

Recent news that ATS and CRM provider Employ bought fellow ATS provider Lever highlights the state of the applicant tracking system market: It’s crowded with overlapping solutions; providers are hunting for new clients in different-sized companies, and the sense hovers that more ATS mergers are coming.

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Acquisitions are really how Employ came to be. According to CEO Pete Lamson, Jobvite merged with JazzHR in spring 2021, purchased NXTThing RPO’s ATS business soon after, and then changed its name to Employ. The companies will continue to operate under their own names, and Lever CEO Nate Smith, who will moderate the panel session “Improve Your Hiring Process with Data-Driven Recruiting” at the 2022 HR Tech Conference, will continue to oversee the company.

Admitting that there is some “blur” between SMBs and what he calls the “upper middle market” space, Lamson says Lever can help companies with more than 2,000 employees.

“We’re [designed] for businesses looking to make that step from homegrown solutions into a technology-based recruiting solution,” he says.

Some recruiting and HR technology experts and professionals expressed surprise at Lever’s addition to the Employ fold.

“This makes no sense,” said Tim Sackett, president of HRU Technical Resources. He discussed the acquisition last week during a Tech Trends roundtable discussion moderated by analyst Madeline Laurano, the founder of Aptitude Research. It’s reminiscent of Employ’s creation, he says, adding “There’s very little difference between Jobvite and Lever.”

Kyle Lagunas, former head of talent attraction, sourcing & insights for General Motors, recalled that Lever came to market in 2012 as a near-instant “hot competitor” with a strong focus on diversity recruitment and technology that supported that mission, which helped it to stand out in a crowded field of ATS offerings.

“They were very passionate about being a different kind of tech partner for culture-led companies. And when they first entered the market, [Lever] was eating quite a bit of Jobvite’s lunch,” said Lagunas.

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Laurano, who will moderate a mega-session on the TA tech landscape at the HR Tech Conference this fall, expects that the deal means Lever clients will be urged to purchase Employ’s CRM solutions. But Lamson denies that clients will be pushed to upgrade to their CRM. “We look at a customer’s recruiting needs holistically. Certainly, businesses can bring their own CRMs. This isn’t ‘Hey, you gotta use our solution or nothing at all,’” he says. 

Regardless, the Lever purchase is a big deal: Employ now serves more than 18,000 customers with a network of 1,200 partners to host 3.1 million open jobs and 500 million candidates. 

The acquisition also highlights that the ATS market is full of solutions aimed at serving companies and their recruitment goals, whether it’s firms focused on hiring diverse candidates or filling open roles in job sectors like high tech. And more mergers are on the horizon. Lamson good-naturedly declined to reveal what company Employ might purchase next.

“Lever joining Employ is something that we’ve been working on for a long time, and we feel like it rounds out our solution. For the time being, we will continue to focus on better serving our customers with the solutions we now have in place,” says Lamson.
For practitioners, Lagunas, who worked at ATS provider Beamery before joining GM, would prefer to see fewer ATS deals and more focus on solutions powered by artificial intelligence.

“I really want this market to cool off so that we can get real AI that comes into maturity,” he said. “I really want to figure out how this market gets better for practitioners.”

There will be seven sessions dedicated to talent acquisition and the needs of recruiting professionals at the 2022 HR Tech Conference that will take place Sept. 13-16 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. Register here.

Phil Albinus
Phil Albinus is the former HR Tech Editor for HRE. He has been covering personal and business technology for 25 years and has served as editor and executive editor for a number of financial services, trading technology and employee benefits titles. He is a graduate of SUNY New Paltz and lives in the Hudson Valley with his audiologist wife and three adult children.