Monday, September 27, 2004

Remote hiring catches on



By Michelle Mahfoufi
Gannett News Service

As Yaminah Moore begins her job at U.S. Support Co. in Shreveport, La., this month, she joins 400 other new employees who were hired without on-site interviews or paper applications. The entire hiring process was handled remotely and electronically.

"Companies are moving more and more to that line," said Margaret Plunkett, president of the Northwest Louisiana Society of Human Resources.

And you don't have to look much past U.S. Support Co. for reasons.

The company, a subsidiary of The Answer Group, has spent the last several months renovating a Shreveport, La., church into a call center operation. When word spread it was looking to fill the first of 1,600 jobs via an online application process it developed at www.ussupportcompany.com, more than 7,700 people flocked to the site.

Online visitors are greeted by a video introducing the company and its work environment, information traditionally reserved for the final steps of the hiring process. After watching the video, candidates can continue the application process, which includes an online test of basic technical skills. Passing the test gives way to a multipage explanation of hourly pay and bonuses. If applicants accept those terms, they are given a toll-free number to call for a phone interview.

"We're educating the applicant," said Bruce Quinn, president of The Answer Group. "We're allowing the applicant to say, 'Nah, I don't want that job' or 'Yes, I want it.' ... You can stop the process at that point. It saves both of us a lot of time."

Lowe's home improvement stores began using online applications at www.lowes.com for corporate positions about four years ago. Last year the company computerized all of its hiring. It added terminals in all of its stores that job seekers can use to submit electronic applications. The terminals also provide access to the application process for people who don't have computers at home.

BellSouth in Atlanta posts job openings on its Web site (www.bellsouth.com) , where applicants submit their resumes and download study guides for positions that require skill tests. Some tests are conducted online, and qualified applicants are interviewed by phone.

"From the employer's perspective, providing information on the Internet is much more efficient and cost effective than the paper method," said Kevin McCotter, a BellSouth regional director. "With the Internet, you have the opportunity to instantly update job opportunities throughout the entire region. The benefit to perspective employees is you can click on any state in the nine-state region and see the list of jobs open."




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