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29 April 2020


Guest Blog Post: Ola Lundgren is an Integration Architect | University of Gothenburg

Founded in the late 19th century, and currently home to upwards of 50,000 students every year, the University of Gothenburg is one of the larger universities in Sweden. The University has an employed staff of roughly 6,500 teachers, researchers, and administrative personnel, as well as thousands of research students and external staff linked to the University in various capacities. As a result, the challenge of keeping a consistent view of identities, and their various affiliations to different parts of a sprawling organization, across a myriad of different IT systems grows larger every year.

From an IT architecture perspective, our integration landscape is heavily focused on service orientation and re-usability. This has a number of implications for the way we design integration solutions, and a key element is the application of standards. For our core provisioning services, we try to use standard message formats­ for the particular domain. We have found that this shortens development time when implementing new integrations and minimizes misunderstanding within the use of common concepts and nomenclature.

In the spring of 2019, we launched a project with the purpose of implementing a new system of record for the domain most adequately described as Person/Organization. An expressed purpose of the project was to provide a platform of integration services for aggregated organizational affiliations, whether they be employed or external staff, researchers, teachers or students of various kinds – in many cases several at the same time! Keeping with our principles, we started to look around for available standard formats to base these services on.

Our solution was to take our existing information model for this domain, along with a list of basic requirements, and search for alternatives. The initial list of candidates contained existing local canonical models, data formats published by Swedish national agencies, and global standards. Pretty quickly, however, we found that most formats were either too thin (i.e. lacked coverage in a lot of areas of our information model which would be a major extension driver), too verbose, or in other ways were not suited to our use case.

What we ended up with was the HR Open Standards Common library for Person, Affiliation, and Organization.

Among our basic requirements were:

  • Structured format: based on XML or JSON
  • Possible to validate messages against schema
  • Open standard: vendor independent
  • Extensibility: possible to make local additions
  • Localization: support for multi-language text fields

Not only did the HR Open Common types check all of these boxes, they also provided the necessary information coverage for “out of the box” data we needed to represent (Person, Affiliation, Communication, Security Credentials, etc.). Being an academic organization with a lot of research staff, we appreciated the built-in support for academic publications and educational merits, as well as the how easily the standards were extendable with both simple types and complex structures.

Adding to our support for the HR Open Common types, was its flexibility in the right areas. Other models were often too rigid or geared to a narrower use case, for example explicitly defining entities like Employee and Employment, or only providing one organizational affiliation for an individual. Since our extended use case involves a generic platform for organizational affiliation, the relevant individuals could be any type of staff, employees, or non-employees, guest researchers, or students, and even sometimes several of these choices at once!

In addition to providing an elegant way of describing this relationship (a Person with any number of Affiliations to Organizational entities), the HR Open schemas proved to be technically sound with the right amount of verbosity for a standard. The toolbox includes great extras like generic identifier types, structures for different types of contact information, language enabled strings, and so much more that we can continue to use as extensions in our messages.

We are very happy with this design choice for our integration services and look forward to seeing how the standard continues to develop in the future.

Ola Lundgren is an Integration Architect at the University of Gothenburg and has worked there since 2015. He has a M.Sc. Computer Science & Engineering with experience in Software Engineering and IT architecture in the Education sector.          


21 April 2020


When deciding to choose between XML and JSON it’s important to be able to understand the strengths and weakness of each – XML is older and more refined but JSON is lighter weight and more optimized for newer technologies. You need to understand your business case, how you will be using the data, and how the platforms you’re interacting with are exchanging data.

XML (Extensible Markup Language) is a markup language that defines a set of rules for encoding documents in a format that is both human-readable and machine-readable1. We discussed how the technology has been around longer, making the data easier to look at and allows you a greater possibility of knowing what problems will arise. XML may be more restrictive but HR Open provides a mechanism for extensions.

JSON (JavaScript Object Notation is a lightweight data-interchange format that is human and machines readable/writable2. As a newer technology JSON is lighter weight and able to accommodate changes in technology more easily. For instance, there’s more tooling available for building open APIs and connected data between properties.

Factors that help decide whether to use XML or JSON really depend on what you’re trying to accomplish. Data dumps are easier to read through XML, as the large file can act as a portable database. JSON is easier to transform objects using code and express the interconnections between the data. Sometimes your file format will be dictated by the companies you’re exchanging data with, in fact several people commented how they take data in through JSON and generate an XML output.

It’s also important to talk about APIs. Swagger3, JSON based, is a way to develop APIs and provides documents for accessibility. We’ve seen that a lot of the tools for developing APIs seem to be more plentiful than ones for XML which could present a move from XML SOAP to more RESTful web services (although XML can be restful too). The AWS API Gateway uses JSON to manage API configuration, development, and usage demonstrating that JSON is more mature.

HR Open considers the business cases when developing the standards, defining the JSON first , then generating the XML. This allows the implementer to determine which format to use when incorporating the standards in their products.



9 January 2020


HR Open Standards is celebrating its 20th Anniversary this year. We want to share some of our milestones with you and show you how we got to be the only independent, non-profit, volunteer-led organization dedicated to the development and promotion of a standard suite of specifications to enable human resource related data exchanges.

HR Open Standards: A Timeline

1999 |Formation: First discussion about formation of a consortium in Alexandria, VA which results in HR-XML Consortium Inc. being organized in December 1999

2000 |1st Meeting: First HR-XML meeting in January. HR-XML releases DTD specification for Recruiting and Benefits

2001 |HR-XML: August 2001 released first XML standards

2003 |Product Certification: HR-XML introduces its first Product Certification Program

2003 |Additional Releases: Release HR-XML 2.0 and 2.5 Standards

2009 |HR-XML 3.0: Release HR-XML 3.0 and specifications

2012 |Online Training: Announce online training courses to support growing adoptions

2013 |1st JSON: Release JSON lightweight recruiting standard

2014 |HR Open Standards: Consortium changes name to reflect complete openness and not limit to XML

2015 |JSON 4.0: Candidate HR-JSON 4.0 Standards (timecards and wellness)

2016 |Individual Certifications: Individual Certificate Program to further interoperability and satisfactions with HR OS standards

2018 |JSON Fully Supported: HR-JSON 4.1 Standards (Assessments, Benefits, Compensations, Interviewing, Recruiting, Screening, Timecard, Wellness)

2019 |New Workgroups: Employer and Earning Record, Contingent Staffing, Learner Record.

We continue to add more workgroups and projects to provide the best services and standards to the HR industry. Thank you to all the members, volunteers, staff, and Board of Directors who have contributed to the Standards over the last 20 years!

Icons made by Freepik from

9 January 2020


Why is it important to have standardized interview integrations? What does it do?

Standardizing the data exchanged between systems during the interview process increases productivity, improves the interviewees experience, and reduces data errors.

The purpose of the HR Open Interviewing Standard is to define communications that occur between the interviewing tool, the ATS/CRA, interviewer, and the candidate. Our case studies provide descriptions on ordering and scheduling the interview, questions to ask (without an interviewer) and how to process the result.

Currently, our interview work group is working on Synchronous Use Cases including the following:

  • Order Synchronous Interview
  • Schedule Synchronous Interview
  • Order Synchronous Interview for Preplanned Event
  • Synchronous Interview Cancel or Reschedule Request

In our last newsletter we discussed the process of Ordering a Synchronous Interview. The next step is Scheduling the Synchronous Interview; here the recruiter has found the perfect candidate and identifies the exact time and date for the interview, the interviewers, and the candidate. This triggers the recruiter to the system user interface where the system verifies it has all the information needed to order the interview and will create the interview request. The interviewing (or requesting) system handles interview participant communication and invites the interview participant to the interview.

Learn more about HR Open Interviewing, including previously released Asynchronous information on our website.

The interview work group meets weekly to develop the standards for the case systems. If you’re interested in joining any of these groups please contact us at

4 May 2015

How Standards Bolster Innovation

Written by: Romuald Restout

A Quick Look into the Past


Towards the end of the 19th century, electrical engineering became one of the core engines of the second industrial revolution. As Nicholas Carr put it, in “The Big Switch,” manufacturing energy provided factories “with a decisive advantage over other manufacturers. The company was able to expand the yield and efficiency of its factory. […] Like other factories of the time, they were as much in the business of manufacturing energy as manufacturing goods”. This of course, quickly changed, as power plants started to rise and provide energy at a low-cost to everyone.

An aspect that is often overlooked in that story is that none of this could have happened without the emergence of standards.

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22 April 2015

Standards are Worthless Unless You Use Them

Written by: Mike Seidle

A good standard is one everyone uses.

Well, duh, right?

While I was on the board of directors for an international standards consortium (HR Open Standards), the biggest battle has always been getting developers to use the standard.  When we did, we got amazing things to happen, like getting 18 states to start providing compliance receipts for job deliveries in just a few months. Like enabling entire marketplaces.

Nearly everyone who I’m aware of who launched an HR Open initiative has finished quickly for a few reasons:

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17 July 2012

Payroll Jurisdictional Requirements

As a global standards organization, HR-XML has developed most of its specification for the general population and extended those specifications for country and jurisdictional requirements. The Payroll industry is an exciting challenge as each country, province, state, city, etc. has its own rules, particularly when calculating taxes. For example, Canadian provinces utilize letters of waivers to authorize tax credits and deductions. Netherlands includes a tax credit for the elderly and Germany considers bargaining units when calculating taxes.

These and many other requirements must be discussed when developing the standard.

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5 June 2012

8 Reasons Why Standards Like HR-XML Save Software Development Time

I’m John Kleeman, Chairman of Questionmark, the assessment management systems company. Here is why open specifications and standards like HR-XML save effort when developing software.

Suppose you are responsible for application A, and your customer needs it to integrate with application B. How do you do this?

One option is to build a proprietary interface, where you write code which connects A to B directly.

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30 May 2012

App Stores, Standards, and the Power of Developers

Written by: Romuald Restout

Want to get the latest Florence and the Machine album or the latest “Game of Thrones” episode? There is an App store for that. Want to manage your pictures across all your devices? There is an App store for that. Want to manage your to-do list? There is an App store for that. Want to exchange files with your colleagues or family? There is a …. You get the idea.

App stores are convenient; they give you the ability to access all apps in the same virtual place, to browse apps for a particular category or function and to even discover needs that you didn’t even know you had. So it’s no surprise that App stores have become a predominant -if not the main- way for consumers to acquire (whether free or paying) software or media.It’s no surprise either that App stores are flourishing or that each social platform is creating their own. Latest to join the party is no other than Facebook.

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22 May 2012

Standards Working Together: An e-Learning Perspective

Written by: Steve Lay

I have been involved with the technical standards community for many years and was first introduced to HR-XML over ten years ago. I was working on standards for learning systems (with a particular interest in assessment) and the various consortia representing different industry sectors were just beginning to colaborate to prevent duplication of effort. I later worked, briefly, as the liaison between some of the working groups of the IMS Global Learning Consoritium and HR-XML.

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