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More job applications going paperless route
By DAVID P. WILLIS The Asbury Park (N.J.) Press
Looking for a job at Blockbuster Video?

You won't get a paper application. The retailer will now send you to a small computer or to the Internet to fill out an application and answer some questions.

From there, you might get a call for an interview if your answers fit the mold of the employee they are looking for.

Companies, especially retailers such as Pathmark Stores and Circuit City as well as restaurant chains, are turning to technology for help filling hourly positions, such as sales and customer-service jobs.

Neptune, N.J., resident Adam Custer, 21, expected a paper application form at Blockbuster Video, but was directed instead to a small keyboard under a sign that read “Welcome to our Employment Center.”

“I was just hoping for a paper application. I could do it at home,” said Custer, who instead spent 40 minutes in the store answering questions and got a job there later.

Custer used a computerized system to fill out a job application at Target as well. “Every place is going to be using it,” Custer said.

Here's how it works. Some stores use terminals or small computers equipped with a telephone. You give not only the basics, such as name, Social Security number and address, but you also are asked to answer a series of questions seeking to gauge your personality.

Technology can now how help managers screen out potential bad fits, employees who may not work out. For instance, the system used by Blockbuster scores applicants and uses a color coding system of green, yellow and red, with red being less desirable.

“Companies are having a difficult time finding quality people,” said Kevin Rutherford president of PeopleMax, a human relations consulting company in Houston, Texas. “The standard for the average hourly worker is a lot higher than it used to be years ago. Now they are requiring you to not only have great customer service skills, you have to be friendly, fast and efficient.”

And not only that. Companies want to find employees who will stay put. Turnover is an expensive problem, costing firms companies about $600 per employee to replace, not counting the expense of retraining, Rutherford said.

The computerized process takes some of the subjectivity out of hiring workers. “Every single applicant is evaluated using the same exact criteria,” said Charles Handler, owner of Rocket-Hire, a New Orleans consulting firm that helps companies chose assessment tools.

“You really want to find out when the rubber meets the road, ‘Does this person have the ability to do the job or think a certain way?”' Handler said.

In a system developed by Unicru Inc., applicants can be asked a series of questions meant to determine a person's traits in the areas of customer service, dependability and job retention, among others.

For instance, you might be asked to what degree you agree with the following statements:

  • You have confidence in yourself.
  • You keep calm under stress.
  • You criticize people when they deserve it.
  • You agree with people more than you argue.

Employers also can use the system to perform background checks or make sure Social Security numbers are valid.

Raymond Olewine, manager of the Blockbuster Video store in Eatontown, N.J., said the system has increased the number of applicants for jobs. In the “old days” of paper applications, only 5 percent to 10 percent would be returned, he said.