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March 09, 2000
On-Line Interviewing Surges: Retailers Happy Users
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seems that just about everything has become computerized these days and job interviews are no exception. Increasingly taking the place of face to face interviews in retail chains is the computer interview, where a job candidate fills out an automated application on-line

A recent New York Times feature reported that in-store applications kiosks seem to dramatically increase spontaneous applications. Since help is hard to find, any tool that attracts viable candidates, even those who don't want to endure stuffy waiting rooms and the scrutinizing glare of an employer, is a valuable one.

While this seems to be the answer for anyone who fears interviewing, it also poses a moral dilemma for those who don't wish to disclose personal information about themselves to such an ambiguous source. Some legal experts are concerned that the kiosks may not sufficiently protect the rights of applicants. Could the data be shared with other companies? How valid are the psychological questions that are frequently a part of the application process? At least one legal professor believes that the resulting psychological profiles done on the computers may not be completely, or even nearly, accurate

Nevertheless, many high profile retail chains have been implementing this system for job applicants. One of them is Home Depot, who has begun using these computers in almost all of their 900 stores. Alan G. Frost, Home Depot's director of management development firmly believes in this system. "It's just a matter of time before the technology advances and before more companies get involved."

The kiosks, many developed by the companies using them, but also widely distributed by Decision Point Systems, Inc, generally consist of a small monitor and keypad. The " Interview" consists of a series of initial questions designed to assess the type of employee applying. Some give psychological tests through a series of personality trait questions while others tend to evaluate based on the candidate's views about handling stressful situations, attitudes towards drugs and alcohol, and honesty. Store managers quickly get a report that summarizes the candidate's strengths and suitability for employment 9 sometimes even with possible interview questions.

One company that has had success from the computer interview is Good Guys Electronics. The "Times" reported that its 79 stores have seen an amazing boost in job applications since they did away with pen and paper applications. And this seems to be the continuing trend. As more and more candidates opt for quick, less demanding interviews the more this system will be used. Whether or not these job seekers are putting themselves at risk or not is a chance they seem to be willing to take.

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