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iPhone Apps Break into Human Resources

by David Kaufman

In April, a Connecticut teenager downloaded the billionth application from Apple’s iTune App Store. An “app” is an application or program that allows a user to play a game, surf the Web better, keep track of caloric intake, or tens of thousands of other things. In just nine months, Apple has created a revolutionary software delivery mechanism for iPhones and iPod Touch devices. It is estimated that there are 35,000 applications available for download.

Some apps are free, but most cost $3 to $10. The most expensive application is “I Am Rich,” which simply places an icon on your iPhone that shows you (and everyone else) that you have enough disposable income to pay almost $1,000 for a virtual status symbol. The powerful dynamics of the App Store model are creating its own industry segment with a wide proliferation of development companies and service providers.

It’s not surprising that it has spawned competition from some pretty formidable competitors, including Google (Android App Market), BlackBerry (App World), Nokia (Ovi Store), and Microsoft (Windows Marketplace for Mobile). But don’t count Apple out just yet. “Apple’s App Store remains the benchmark for the rest of the industry. No other approach matches the total user experience, from the device to ease of purchase, integration with the PC, and use of iTunes as a distribution mechanism,” commented Mark Lowenstein, a leading industry analyst, consultant, commentator, and managing director of Mobile Ecosystem.

Most of the apps are just for fun or just silly like “I Am Rich.” A popular App called “More Toast” allows you to make virtual toast. According to its developers, “with toaster sound effects, adjustable settings from light to dark, one or two slice capacity, and a choice of toast . . . after your toast is done, you can apply photo-realistic toppings to it, take a snapshot to share with friends, and even virtually eat it!”

However, since apps are growing so rapidly, it is not surprising that there are some very serious ones being developed. Many of them are designed to help job seekers and HR professionals. The trend guarantees that if you aren’t using apps in your business soon, it’s a safe bet that your employees are using them either on the job or to get a job.

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Job Seekers
For just 99 cents, applicants can get the inside track on potential interview questions. The “Hire Me!” app is geared to the potential job seeker. Its developer proposes, “In today’s economy, you want to make sure that you are prepared to the best of your ability when having an interview. Buy this app to give you a one up on your competition by practicing questions that your prospective employer may ask you.” The app generates 300 random questions that an applicant may be asked during an interview, such as “Describe your contribution to a project on which you worked.”

Networking and good communications are important parts of any job search. The “FollowUp — Personal CRM” app is designed to help individuals do a better job of keeping up with their personal network of contacts. According to its developer, this app is designed to help “users track conversations with contacts as well as remind them when to follow-up on past conversations.”

Career coach Deborah Brown-Volkman has even transformed her coaching advice into an app. Her “Job Search Coach” app is designed to help users be more effective in their job search communications, including “What should I say to get the job I really want?” “What should I say to get an interview?” “What should I say to get people to talk with me?” and “What should I say at a Job Fair?” Of course, the online job boards have gotten into the app act. Careerbuilder.com has a “Jobs” app that is designed to make it easier to search for jobs on its website.

HR Professionals
Apps are being developed to help employers in addition to potential employees. “Interview Assistant Lite” is designed to assist companies develop “a logical method for determining the potential benefits and problems when hiring.” Interestingly, the developers include a disclaimer that it isn’t in “any way a psychological device capable of replacing professional judgment that may be employed in the hiring process.” So hiring is more complex than, say, making toast.

If you work in a sales business, there is an app dedicated to tracking sales and commissions. The “Sales & Commissions” app gives a user the “ability to track sales for different employees or categories.” The developers promise that “the Sales & Commissions application will help you to stay on top of your business and saves you valuable time each day.”

For those companies with employees who travel, an app has been developed to easily communicate per diems and other travel allowances. The “Per Diem FY09” app provides employees with the U.S. government-authorized per diems for locations around the country. In addition to the government, government contractors and many companies have adopted the government’s schedule for meals, lodging, and other incidental expenses. The app automatically calculates the allowable expenses — even using GPS to track a user’s location.

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Current Employees
Apps are available for employees to keep track of their own compensation and benefits. The “Sales & Commissions” app discussed above could be used by an employee to keep track of her own performance. Employees can also use the “Pay Stub Pal” or “Net Pay 2009” apps to track their own compensation. The inexpensive applications ($2.99) make it easy for employees to see just how their compensation is calculated and how tax deduction allowances, 401(k) contributions, and other elections affect their net pay.

Your Management Life
There are a wide variety of apps to help HR executives succeed in their jobs. They include many different project-management applications and time-management programs. A program also is available to provide you with the right motivational quote for every business situation. For those who need to jot notes down on the fly, the “iNapkin” app allows users to write their inspirations onto virtual napkins for future reference or even send them to a contact or business associate.

Watch Out for This One
In addition to all the productive apps available, a popular app takes a much darker view of work life. “iHateMyJob” is an app that lets users “vent without ever having to say a word and get in trouble with your boss.” This virtual venting perhaps is a way to actually reduce employee tension — without the need for disciplinary action.