Becoming One: HRIS & ATS Technical Integration

My last article for ERE – on the integration of Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS) and Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) – observes that although these two systems serve distinct needs in a company’s employment landscape, it is highly beneficial to integrate both ends from an informational as well as a technical perspective. That article focuses on informational integration; here let’s look at technical integration issues. Data Flow The phrase “technical integration” can be loosely applied to several methods of copying data from one system to another. In the systems world, the rules that govern these transmissions are called “protocols.” With the use of protocols, data in a client/server or mainframe system can feed into an outsourced ASP-hosted application, for example. (For more information on protocols, visit With these methods, information can go back and forth between two systems in directional patterns and in various time frames. Information flow can be:

  • unidirectional: one-way in or one-way out
  • bi-directional: two way in/out or two way out/in
  • real-time
  • triggered only when certain data fields change
  • on a set schedule, as in once per day, once per week, etc. Formatting data for transfer is also an issue. Data fields have to be identified in one system, coded into a properly formatted file and mapped to the destination system. If any of this coding is out of place, the “feed” will fail.

<*SPONSORMESSAGE*> Let’s look at two typical data integration needs between the HRIS and ATS:

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  1. Requisition Information If your HRIS, like PeopleSoft, is capturing requisition information from managers to initiate a request for an opening, that data can feed into the ATS for recruiters to start their process and avoid double entry. In many cases, the information from an HRIS may represent only 50% to 70% of what you are looking for to track requisition activity. The remaining percentage of needed information must be entered into the ATS directly. This “extra” information could include items like “specific recruiter assigned to a req,” “cost per hire data” and “posting information.” The better your informational integration, the smaller the percentage of “missing” or misaligned data coming from the HRIS. A one-way data flow here would imply that the ATS would “own” the requisition, because all the dynamically updated information would be housed in that system. Two-way integration would imply that either system could be used to get updates, but only one system, the ATS, would have the complete picture.
  2. Hire Information On the tail end of the process, the other key data to integrate is hire information. The amount of data transferred can be as little as “name” and “start date,” or as lengthy as an integration I worked on which had more than 30 pieces of hire information. This is the true informational baton pass between the ATS and the HRIS. In most cases, the ATS has done its job to track the hiring process. To set up for smooth integration, the ATS can house a mirror image of what the HRIS needs to start the payroll/employment process and use that as the blueprint for the data feed. Once in the HRIS, this initial information serves as the foundation for that employee’s entire data history with the company.

So What? HRIS/ATS integration has real impacts on a recruiter’s daily life and productivity:

  • If requisition data is better integrated, the recruiter does far less work up front to manage initial requisition information, thus saving valuable time to recruit.
  • If hire data is seamlessly feeding back to the HRIS from the ATS, chances are the processes that need to kick into gear – like sending out welcoming packages, setting up new workstations and scheduling orientation – can be on their way to completion more quickly…and favorably impress a newly hired recruit!
  • If the two systems are integrated, then hiring managers, often estranged from accessing real-time pertinent requisition data, can self-serve on an accessible HRIS, and forego picking up the phone to call the recruiter for a requisition report, for example.
  • If standard information is used as much as possible in both systems, employees applying to open positions can rely on familiar terms and data in the hiring process to help facilitate better communications and easier application processes.
  • If important hire data feeds into the HRIS then recruiting managers and VP’s of HR can have the benefit of analyzing data that is uniquely collected in both systems, such as comparing performance review with source of hire information, or retention rates by recruiter assigned.

Organizations without HRIS/ATS integration should reassess their systems. As a recruiter, raise the issue to your recruiting manager. As a recruiting manager, continuing dialogue with relevant people in IT will start the ball rolling to discern what is feasible and reasonable for your organization and system-specific requirements. As a recruiting technology manager, prioritizing technical needs is important. Even before tackling HRIS integration issues, make sure recruiters can access and fully utilize the ATS itself. Then focus on the system integration opportunities your organization should be reaping benefits from.

Gretchen Sturm ( is Knowledge Manager of Services with Recruitsoft, the leading provider of Internet-based recruiting solutions for major corporations. She manages the implementation, eLearning and product knowledge transfer for Recruitsoft's consulting services and global client base. Her career has focused on integrating technology into the full hiring cycle and establishing effective Internet recruiting strategies. Previously, Sturm managed the recruitment technology and online recruiting areas of the Unisys worldwide recruiting team and oversaw recruiting technology and sourcing for CIGNA Corporation's US-based operations.