HR Technology: What API Means to Human Resources

HR, API, APP… We explain all these acronyms while convincing you that HR Technology is the way of the future!

Candidate Experience
People Strategy

Stephan Poirier

Sunday, July 12, 2015


Nowadays, it is pretty much impossible to work in the domain of technology without hearing about APIs (Application Programming Interface). Essentially, this concept lies at the very foundation of the digital world. But when you work in human resources, API sounds more like “A-P-what!?”

Actually, you regularly use APIs without knowing it given that most platforms use this technology. The reason for that is quite simple: it is just impossible for an application to fulfill all of the needs of a company or of a group of consumers without it.

But before you run away screaming thinking that this is a purely technological article that doesn’t concern you, I recommend you give it a chance. Who knows – maybe it will make you an IT expert during your next spontaneous discussion with the computer guy by the water cooler!


What Is an API?

According to Wikipedia, an API is a set of standard routines, which are accessible and documented, whose purpose it is to help the programmer build software applications.

I admit that this definition, even to me (a confessed former developer), does not sound very enlightening. So here is my own way of explaining what it is, exactly.

Given that IT solutions do not know everything, and don’t have all of the information that may be needed, they can call upon external help when they don’t know or don’t possess the necessary data.

In order to get a firmer grasp on the concept, watch the first part of the following clip – you might then get a better understanding of what I am trying to say.


Credit: Ben Kobulnicky

The participant in Who Wants to be a Millionaire doesn’t know the answer to the question. What does he do? He calls a friend who quickly gives him the proper response (before even seeing what the choices are!).

This is exactly how APIs work, too:

  • An entity requires information that it doesn’t have
  • In order to receive an answer, a call is made to an external entity
  • The external entity instantaneously provides the right answer.

To give another example, think about the weather application on your mobile phone. It is obviously impossible for your app to know the temperature for the next 14 days for every city in the world. When you add a city to the weather app, it calls upon a weather service provider for the selected area. The result is that you can know, in real time, the weather in the Bahamas right now! (I may or may not be dreaming about that kind of climate as I am writing this.)

And when you look up a chicken recipe for this weekend’s barbecue on Yummly, you will also be calling upon an API that gathers recipes from all over the web.

And finally, when you have looked up stock prices this morning on your smartphone, you have once again used an API to obtain this information.


But why is an API important for HR Technology?

There are probably as many applications to support the different tasks involved in HR as there are for your other daily tasks. It can become quite complicated to move from one platform to another without forgetting your user code and your password for each and every one of them, without losing any information, or without entering the same data twice or thrice.


Let’s look at the hiring process as a demonstration of that principle.

  • Publication of the job posting on an employment board
  • Reception of candidatures
  • Review of candidatures
  • Interviews (shortlist)
  • Psychometric testing
  • Hiring
  • Completing forms for the payroll and the HR systems


Now, let’s have a look at a digitized process involving different APIs, based on an ATS (Applicant Tracking System).

  • Publishing the job posting on several employment billboards (billboards’ APIs)
  • Reception of candidatures (billboard’s and ATS’s APIs)
  • If basic qualifications are met
    • Administration of a psychometric test (Atman API)
    • Comparison to a pre-established standard (Atman API)
  • Technical testing (test provider’s API)
  • Production of an interview guide (Atman API)
  • Hiring of the candidate (and that is your responsibility!)
  • Transfer of the file to the payroll system (pay system’s API)
  • Transfer of the file to the HR management system (HR system’s API)

All these steps are fully transparent to the hiring entity, since all these calls to different APIs happen in the background. As a result, the recruiter can use a single platform in order to do all of these different recruiting tasks, and therefore save a humongous amount of time and money to the employer.


You Guessed It: AtmanCo Has Its Own API

For instance, our Atman for Salesforce application functions in that exact way.

The Salesforces application calls directly upon our own API to send a test to the candidate and then compares their results to one of our 250 benchmarked jobs. The results are then stored directly in Salesforce, without the client having needed to log into our platform.

The AtmanCo platform already has a flurry of features that have been used by our clients for many years. But they can also add a number of our features directly into their recruitment platforms, like in the “careers” section of their own website or directly into their recruitment platform (ATS, for those in the know). Hence, they could choose to include the passing of a psychometric test in their own recruitment process.

All in all, in 2015, APIs are essential to any self-respecting IT system. Without APIs, integrations between different systems are excessively complicated and need substantial investments.

Need a last example that describes an API call? By subscribing to our newsletter, you will also be using Hubspot’s API, which will promptly inform us of your interest. We will then be able to send you pertinent and beneficial HR content that you will have a great time discovering.

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