HR Magazine, March 2001: Software Review

By David Shair Mar 1, 2001





A Flexible Web Tool for Ambitious Hiring

Perhaps you feel that you’re inundated with paper as you attempt to recruit job applicants. You want to respond to candidates right away, but you have a flood of letters scattered among numerous recruiters. You’d love to pinpoint hot candidates, but your slow, manual method of finding candidates is a stumbling block. As for equal employment opportunity reporting, you do it, but it’s tough.

Internet-based HireSystems 3.75 from BrassRing Systems Inc. automates hiring, allowing you to “process without paper from start to finish,” says one user, HR generalist Kara Pastorek at Borders Group Inc. in Ann Arbor, Mich. You can locate key candidates in minutes, not weeks, and do your EEO reporting automatically.

A Nifty Control Pad

Using your browser, you enter your user name and password. Then you see the handy HireSystems control pad on the left and a large working area on the right.

The control pad lets you point and click to do complete hiring—work with requisitions, post to job boards and other sources; handle candidate applications; screen and sort applicants; search candidates; market to potential candidates; and handle interviews, offers and acceptance letters.

To work with requisitions, for example, you click the jobs button on the control pad, then click job requisitions. A list of your requisitions fills the working area of the screen.

Icons to the left of the requisitions allow you to go into detail and look at candidates for the job, managers who have access to the requisition, the requisition itself and options with Joboo—BrassRing’s online job site, which this software uses to handle your corporate job site on the web.

HireSystems guides you through any activity. For almost every blank you have to fill, you can select an existing choice from a drop-down list box. As appropriate, HireSystems does things automatically in the background, such as e-mail every manager affected by a change in a job requisition.

Robert Barsik, a BrassRing salesperson, notes that if a candidate matches a minimum score according to pre-determined screening criteria, the candidate’s name immediately goes to the inbox of the recruiter, an automated function that speeds hiring.

The program has more than 100 built-in reports, such as “Time to Fill” and “Cost Per Hire.” Even better, a data export wizard allows you to export your data into a familiar reporting tool—such as Microsoft Excel or Crystal Reports—and work with data to your heart’s content.

Getting Results

The biggest question for any recruiting software is, “Does it improve our recruiting?” For users, the answer seems to be yes. “We do it to be effective, efficient. That overwhelms everything else,” says David Vine, employment systems coordinator with Gateway Inc. in San Diego.

The interface is sweet. “In terms of user friendliness, it’s there,” says Pastorek. Also, the flow of the system, reflected on the control panel, can match the flow of the recruiting process at your own company.

The information technology folks and system administrators love the underlying design of the system. Importantly, HireSystems is web-native, not just adapted for the web. “I spend less than 10 percent of my time on it,” says John Hickey, systems engineer for the Union Pacific Railroad Corp. in Omaha. With a previous, non-web system, he says, “Three and a half of us were trying to keep it living.”

Engineers also find HireSystems open and flexible. “The biggest thing to me was having hands-on ability to monkey with their system,” says Hickey. Vine concurs, tipping his hat to what he calls the system’s “customizability.” “Hire-Systems doesn’t have a built-in workflow,” Vine says approvingly. “It’s developed by you.”

Underlying this ambitious, detailed, end-to-end system is detailed, end-to-end support. As a whole, BrassRing is “very in tune” with clients’ needs, says Pastorek.

Get Top Management’s Blessings

Of course, a few cautions are in order. First, although the interface is intuitive, it is also quite a rich mix; plan on taking some training so you can exploit it properly.

Second, heed this advice from Patty Shanley, recruiting technology manager with Unisys in Blue Bell, Pa. “Put a lot into the implementation team to do it right the first time,” she says. “Get a group together that includes recruiters, recruiter assistants, some IT—and senior management.” And, she adds about senior management, “Get their blessing in the beginning so you implement it right the first time.”

BrassRing’s Barsik cautions implementers that forms are “a big deliverable.” Provide your implementation team with forms for background checking, skills tests and whatever else you plan to do.

Workflow is key to the design, and you have to plan that yourself. For instance, when you change a requisition, HireSystems will send out e-mail to all affected managers. For it to do so, you have to have entered the correct lists of managers.

HireSystems 3.75 is ambitious software for ambitious recruiting. Set it up right and you can forget about manila folders, lost candidates, unforeseen delays and the general frustration of the hiring process. Setting it up right, though, is a serious undertaking.

Jim Meade, Ph.D., based in Fairfield, Iowa, is an author and HR software consultant specializing in software selection. He is currently preparing The 2001 Guide to HR Software with Harcourt Profes-sional Publishing. E-mail him at: words@lisco.com.


Write Stronger Job Descriptions

Despite the proliferation of court challenges to management decisions—and the emphasis on recruiting the right employee in a tight labor market—one tool for making good, defensible hiring decisions has generally remained in the dustbin. HR often ignores the job description. With KnowledgePoint’s Descriptions Now 5.0, HR professionals no longer have any excuses for shirking their duty to write thorough and legally compliant descriptions.

Icons to the left of the requisitions allow you to go into detail and look at candidates for the job, managers who have access to the requisition, the requisition itself and options with Joboo—BrassRing’s online job site, which this software uses to handle your corporate job site on the web.

HireSystems guides you through any activity. For almost every blank you have to fill, you can select an existing choice from a drop-down list box. As appropriate, HireSystems does things automatically in the background, such as e-mail every manager affected by a change in a job requisition.

Robert Barsik, a BrassRing salesperson, notes that if a candidate matches a minimum score according to pre-determined screening criteria, the candidate’s name immediately goes to the inbox of the recruiter, an automated function that speeds hiring.

The program has more than 100 built-in reports, such as “Time to Fill” and “Cost Per Hire.” Even better, a data export wizard allows you to export your data into a familiar reporting tool—such as Microsoft Excel or Crystal Reports—and work with data to your heart’s content.

Getting Results

The biggest question for any recruiting software is, “Does it improve our recruiting?” For users, the answer seems to be yes. “We do it to be effective, efficient. That overwhelms everything else,” says David Vine, employment systems coordinator with Gateway Inc. in San Diego.

The interface is sweet. “In terms of user friendliness, it’s there,” says Pastorek. Also, the flow of the system, reflected on the control panel, can match the flow of the recruiting process at your own company.

The information technology folks and system administrators love the underlying design of the system. Importantly, HireSystems is web-native, not just adapted for the web. “I spend less than 10 percent of my time on it,” says John Hickey, systems engineer for the Union Pacific Railroad Corp. in Omaha. With a previous, non-web system, he says, “Three and a half of us were trying to keep it living.”

Engineers also find HireSystems open and flexible. “The biggest thing to me was having hands-on ability to monkey with their system,” says Hickey. Vine concurs, tipping his hat to what he calls the system’s “customizability.” “Hire-Systems doesn’t have a built-in workflow,” Vine says approvingly. “It’s developed by you.”

Underlying this ambitious, detailed, end-to-end system is detailed, end-to-end support. As a whole, BrassRing is “very in tune” with clients’ needs, says Pastorek.

Get Top Management’s Blessings

Of course, a few cautions are in order. First, although the interface is intuitive, it is also quite a rich mix; plan on taking some training so you can exploit it properly.

Second, heed this advice from Patty Shanley, recruiting technology manager with Unisys in Blue Bell, Pa. “Put a lot into the implementation team to do it right the first time,” she says. “Get a group together that includes recruiters, recruiter assistants, some IT—and senior management.” And, she adds about senior management, “Get their blessing in the beginning so you implement it right the first time.”

BrassRing’s Barsik cautions implementers that forms are “a big deliverable.” Provide your implementation team with forms for background checking, skills tests and whatever else you plan to do.

Workflow is key to the design, and you have to plan that yourself. For instance, when you change a requisition, HireSystems will send out e-mail to all affected managers. For it to do so, you have to have entered the correct lists of managers.

HireSystems 3.75 is ambitious software for ambitious recruiting. Set it up right and you can forget about manila folders, lost candidates, unforeseen delays and the general frustration of the hiring process. Setting it up right, though, is a serious undertaking.

Jim Meade, Ph.D., based in Fairfield, Iowa, is an author and HR software consultant specializing in software selection. He is currently preparing The 2001 Guide to HR Software with Harcourt Profes-sional Publishing. E-mail him at: words@lisco.com.


KnowledgePoint is a subsidiary of CCH Inc., a legal reference source. The software has been available for years in various versions, but 5.0 marks a content overhaul and a leap onto the web.

This software, now with extensive Internet links, brings into sharp focus the inherent HR values of up-to-date job descriptions.

An Overlooked Tool

As a former HR manager, I decided to conduct a completely unscientific survey among some of my senior HR contacts as to the state of their job descriptions. The result: Some had none, while others had only selected descriptions on hand. These HR professionals say they rarely do annual reviews or regular updates of descriptions. Most pull descriptions out of storage only when there is a job opening.

Why the neglect? My colleagues say they have too many more urgent demands on their limited time and limited staffs.

Don’t underestimate the importance of having descriptions. They underlie basic HR functions, as well as provide employers with defenses in an era when the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has lawyers examining “essential” job duties and “reasonable” accommodations.

Descriptions also can boost an employer defense against discrimination charges. And don’t forget how useful descriptions can be when you need to hire.

With Descriptions Now 5.0, you can create thorough, accurate and legally compliant descriptions in record time. The descriptions this software generates are not simply laundry lists of duties and qualifications; they encompass the competencies needed to carry out duties. Employees gain a road map for how to complete their tasks satisfactorily, and managers and supervisors receive more guidance for performance evaluations and training.

How It Works

The welcome screen takes you promptly into the task of building the basic description. Four “folders” display tabs for job description, customization, hiring and reports.

There are two paths to developing a description. You can find a reasonably close match among the thousands in the software’s extensive job library, which Knowledge-Point renews constantly to keep up with rapid changes. You can search the library by title, keyword, category or industry.

Or you can start with a blank form, which calls for filling out questionnaires to provide job information details, duties and responsibilities. Using a description wizard, you can add other needed qualifications, such as physical demands, work environment, education, experience, computer skills, language skills, licenses and certificates.

To obtain a more balanced picture, you can print questionnaires for distribution to various parties, such as the hiring manager, supervisor or a former holder of the same job. The software allows you to customize its questions easily to reflect your organization’s structure, and you also can import descriptions already held in other sources.

The program also prompts you to select appropriate competencies from specific categories such as intellectual, interpersonal or leadership competencies. In short order, the software presents you with the finished description, ready for the final customization tasks of formatting, spell checking, etc. Then you can place your completed description into the “User Job Library” containing your unique documents.

The software’s Hiring Center performs multiple tasks using the newly completed job description. You can use the description to develop interview questions and a form for the hiring process. Click on “write an advertisement” to create a job ad, also based on information in the completed description. Need advice on how and where to place an ad? Want to go directly to the Internet to post your ad? It’s all at your fingertips. You also can generate a diverse series of reports to track how you are using your descriptions.

There are a few things to watch for as you use the software. Edit the language in job competencies to avoid duplicated phrases. Also, be sure to customize details in the pre-loaded descriptions from the software’s library. You can save time by creating lists of qualifications or competencies specific to your industry or organization.

Attention to Legal Details

Descriptions Now ensures that descriptions will meet classifications defined in the ADA, such as essential, nonessential and marginal. Extended discussion on how to identify qualifications as “job related and consistent with business necessity” is included. And, an “exemption tester” advises you on whether your descriptions meet the status requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

To help you avoid legal trouble in the hiring stage, the section on job interviews lists questions you can and cannot ask job candidates. The glossary of terms proves to be a quick course in ADA and FLSA problem areas.

Useful Extras

Knowledge Point offers some useful adjuncts to this software. Job-Description.com 2.0 is available by subscription as part of a package or on a stand-alone basis. Direct links to a host of HR-related products on the web, including HRTools.com, might be enough to justify the modest price.

At review time, the 5.0 version of Descriptions Now was so new that no users were on board yet, but the company says that customers of earlier versions, informed of the new capabilities, were planning to convert. They should not be disappointed. Nor should you.

David Shair is a retired vice president of human resources. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Human Resources Association of New York (HR/NY), an affiliate of the Society for Human Resource Management.

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