HR Tools Applicant Tracking Software from Archer Software

By Jim Meade & John Day - Compiled by Leigh Rivenbark Nov 1, 2000
HR Magazine,   July 2000Vol. 45, No. 9

Low-Cost Applicant Tracking; Applicant Tracking Tailored for Recruiters.

A job candidate wants to know the status of her application. You look sheepishly at the filing cabinet where you’ll have to dig for the answer. “If only I had thousands of dollars for applicant tracking,” you sigh as you begin rummaging through the paper.

You don’t need thousands of dollars. HR Tools Applicant Tracking Software from Archer Software gives you easy applicant tracking for $195 for a single user.

HR Tools is a simple device for a simple purpose—an applicant tracking version of a can opener or a pair of pliers. Company founder Ed Carson says, “You put the data down electronically, and you can be able to refer back to it later.”

To put in applicant information, you choose from a menu, type in information such as name and application date, click on a series of tabs like Profile, Address and Notes, and fill in the blanks. Often you can fill in a blank by clicking to open a drop-down list. Carson notes that those lists can be altered as you like.

To get information out, you click to conduct a search, and type in a search criterion such as name. (You can even search your own notes that you attached to files.) In a sense, that’s all there is to it. Put in information. Find it quickly. Look at it on demand.

You also can print and edit letters, print labels, run a mail merge, prepare reports and do system tasks like import and export files.

HR Tools comes with seven built-in, basic reports, including applicant lists by name or applicant lists by recruiter. An equal employment opportunity (EEO) report shows total applicants by race, gender and EEO class. 

Basic Steps for a Basic Price

What’s so great here? First, this program is just plain simple. It breaks down the much-touted “applicant tracking process” into such simple steps that it leaves you wondering, “What was all the fuss about before?”

Second, this program is cheap. Dirt cheap. “For the price, you cannot beat this program,” says Daryl Kolator, HR assistant with the Newport Hyatt Regency in Newport, R.I.

It also gives new meaning to the term “easy to use.” “It was built with the idea not of a computer-savvy person using it but a personnel secretary,” Carson explains. Just such a person, HR administrative assistant Leandra Gallardo of Robert Morris College in Chicago, says she likes HR Tools because it’s easy.

Though simple, HR Tools is powerful. The program will guide you step by step through Boolean searches. The program also keeps complete histories for each applicant—when you interviewed him, when she last called back, everything.

Support? It’s all Ed Carson, and you can’t beat it. “He calls you back the same day,” says Kolator. How are his fixes? “He’s just like a little whiz person,” she says, adding that HR Tools “saves me hours over the course of a week.”

Not Just for Small Firms

This program is so cheap, it must have something wrong with it—right? Yet none of the users interviewed was forthcoming with any criticisms. All Kolator could come up with was this: “If you only have 30 applicants a year, don’t waste your money.” At $195, though, what’s to waste?

This inexpensive software might seem to be suited just for small companies, but Carson notes that his list of past and present clients features large firms including Calvin Klein Cosmetics, the U.S. Postal Service, Bridgestone/Firestone Inc., and Marriott International Inc.’s hotels.

Kolator actually considered PeopleSoft and other vendors’ packages but elected to go with HR Tools, and not just on the basis of price. Other software included too much functionality for Kolator’s needs or wasn’t “people-friendly” enough, in her estimation.

Another possible risk might be that, if the word gets out and everybody buys this, the support staff might not be able to handle the load. Carson does this work virtually as a hobby, and works full-time at a company as a director of information services. With his “whiz person” capabilities, though, and the simplicity of the program, I would bet that he could meet expanded support needs.

The number of built-in reports is small and the report writer isn’t simple to use. Take that as a negative if you wish, but note that report writer functions, as a breed, aren’t particularly easy to use.

Worth a Try

Basically, when you are paying $195 for a program, there’s not much to quibble with. If you don’t like it, throw it away. For myself, here’s what I’d say about HR Tools: “How did this one ever slip through the cracks?”

Here’s what I mean. Have you ever heard those stories about inventions that give the big companies fits—the razor blade that doesn’t cut your skin and never wears out, the tire that never loses a speck of tread, things like that?

HR Tools is one of those things. Some HR giant ought to buy the rights to this product and never let it out to the public, because it does great applicant tracking for almost no cost. If you’re still working with paper files and you need a simple, direct way to record and retrieve data about job applicants, check this product out.

Management at the engineering and information technology recruiting firm Techstaff wanted an up-to-date computer system that would make their recruiters more effective. They couldn’t find an off-the-shelf application to their liking, so they turned to chief information officer and network administrator Joyce Dieck and her staff and asked them to develop such an application.

That was three years ago. It took Dieck’s team about a year to get the application up and running and rolled out to Techstaff offices. Since then, they’ve been tuning and tweaking in a controlled environment.

Earlier this year, with Techstaff’s blessing, the team spun off to become The fledgling firm is offering its product, also called, as a hosted web application. The company claims the software is more useful to recruiters than a generic contact management system and less expensive and hassle-prone than a multi-user applicant tracking system, especially for an operation like Techstaff, with a need to share candidate information among offices around the country.

This software, though developed for and by a recruiting firm, also could be used by HR departments that do their own recruiting.

Straightforward and Speedy is essentially a centralized database containing data on applicants and on hiring departments or, in the case of recruiting firms, clients. The database also stores job requisition information and Rich Text Format versions of applicants’ resumes.

The first screen that a user sees after logging in presents system messages flanked by function tabs: Update Utility, Hot List, Quick Entry and Clients on the left border of the screen, running from top to bottom, and Applicants, Job Orders, To-Do List and Miscella-neous on the right border. is a straightforward applicant tracking application, consistent in its presentation from one function to the next. Click on Hot List, for example, to see a list of the most “placeable” applicants. Another list shows the types of applicants most sought after by the hiring department or client.

The options available to a recruiter who clicks on Applicants include search, help and “quick find.” Quick find allows recruiters to retrieve multiple screens of information on a particular applicant by keying in the applicant’s name, or by keying in just a couple of letters, in which case displays a list of all the applicants whose names begin with those letters.

Applicant records display contact information, education, work history, notes, the applicant’s resume, submittals and miscellaneous information such as the applicant’s last salary and desired salary.

Users can search their firms’ databases of resumes by keyword or phrase. The user can perform a Boolean search on particular criteria, then save and later modify the search, which saves time in subsequent searches. The user also can count the number of resumes that meet the desired criteria, which is helpful when searching a large database. The user can choose to display relevant resumes.

With its letter processing function, automatically addresses and formats correspondence to applicants. Users can access letter processing from each screen in a candidate’s record, selecting a form letter from a pull-down menu and then picking a transmission method (e-mail, fax or postal delivery). The letter processing function facilitates prompt and frequent communication.

Letter processing is just one example of how this application makes intelligent use of pull-down menus to speed data entry. In short, is built for speed, which is essential these days, when qualified applicants can be so hard to find. presents a lot of information about applicants in readily accessible, easily digestible formats that should boost a re-cruiter’s confidence when presenting an applicant to a client—or a hiring manager, if the recruiter works in-house for an employer.

Navigation is fast and easy. The ability to find a candidate without having to know how to spell the person’s name is a real time-saver.

Optimized for Recruiters

With only eight tabs on a screen, it shouldn’t take a user long to remember what’s where, without having to read the label on the tab. But for new or occasional users, the vertical tab labels are difficult to read without tilting one’s head. I also found the typeface a tad too artsy.

As a newcomer to the application, I’d have preferred to see the sequence of instructions match the order in which the tabs are listed.

I also expected an application designed for Internet Explorer to display the Internet Explorer toolbar. Since it does not, I took a minute and some fumbling to discover, for example, that “back” was accessible with a right mouse click. And the bottom of my screen, where open pages are displayed, was soon cluttered with myriad Explorer icons. Alt/tabbing among them, it was difficult to keep my place.

The application understandably seems optimized for recruiting firms. It includes features, such as billing screens, which a corporate HR department wouldn’t need. A modified version might be more effective in corporate environments. And, with its price tag starting at $9,000 for 10 users, appears to be priced to appeal to larger organizations. Small firms may be tempted to look at less costly alternatives.

What’s the bottom line? With competition for quality applicants so fierce, recruiters need every edge they can find. Quibbles about cosmetics aside, the functionality and highly relational nature of make it worthy of serious consideration, especially for recruiting firms.

Editor’s Note: Inclusion in this column does not necessarily imply endorsement by SHRM or HR Magazine.

Compiled by Leigh Rivenbark, associate editor for HR Magazine.

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 Professional Publishing. E-mail him at

John Day is a freelance writer based in Decatur, Ga. He regularly contributes to several technology trade publications.


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