In the old days we usually interviewed everybody, and I do mean everybody, who walked in the door, as long as they applied during application hours (and often when they didn't!). The good, the bad, and the ones you could smell before you could even see, we interviewed them. If we were hiring concrete laborers and a guy came in wearing a three-piece suit, we still interviewed him. No matter what they looked like, no matter what sort of work they were looking for, if they came in and filled out one of our applications we were going to interview them, no matter what.

Maybe other agencies didn't do it this way, but that's what we did. As a staffing coordinator in a busy office, it made for some pretty hectic days, often defined more by how many people walked through our doors than by the specific needs of our clients.

We would have loved to have given them all adequate time, get to know them a little, but that was often impossible. Instead, I became the master of the 5-minute interview. I would shake their hand, glance over their work history, mentally see if it fit anything I had or could possibly have coming down the pike, then ask my questions based on that. Naturally, I spent more time with people I thought I could help.

For example, I might ask a PhD a question or two about their topic of study if it interested me, but I wasn't going very deep because I knew I wasn't going to be able to help them and they weren't going to be able to help me fill my job orders. Nothing personal, just reality. These were the days before our Recruitment Division, of course. They could sit there in their Dockers and say they were willing to sling hash or dig ditches all they wanted, but I knew that as soon as I put them at our client and a better, more qualified offer came around they would ditch me and my $9 per hour assembly job faster than last weeks leftovers.

Some staffing agencies were doubtless way ahead of us on the technology curve, but the move to online applications sure helped us in a variety of ways. First of all, our applicant flow drastically increased. People could apply from the comfort of their homes and they didn't have to necessarily be unemployed to seek out other opportunities in relative anonymity. We could tailor our internet marketing efforts around getting as many people to apply online as possible. After all, you never know when you might need our services. Secondly, we could pick and choose who we wanted to talk with based on qualifications alone without having to take the time to physically interact with people we would likely never send to work.

Suddenly, we didn't just have to draw from those who presented themselves at our office anymore. Our databases grew and grew, search capabilities improved, and it didn't take nearly as much time or effort to find qualified candidates as it did in the old days of thumbing through personnel files.

There's always a trade-off, of course. In this case, its the loss of the personal touch, at least for those we never get to physically meet. Doubtless a few good ones have slipped through the cracks, but generally those who don't qualify for the positions our clients need never make it through the door. There's probably lots of interesting people I've never met because of this practice, but I can tell you from experience we've been able to do a lot more with less. A good, organized staffer can literally run thousands of hours instead of getting bogged down in useless interviews.

It works both ways, of course. Many job seekers today send out hundreds and even thousands of resumes before finally landing something. They can't possibly know anything about most of the jobs they are applying for, but they do it anyway. Its up to the recruiters and hiring managers to separate the wheat from the chaff. If we do our jobs well the result will be a higher percentage of people landing in the right jobs.

It's nice to be able to tell potential and current clients that we probably have half of Bristol in our database, if not more. If you've got a position you need to fill, do you really want to go through the time, expense, and effort to find the person yourself? Do you want to spend $300 on a newspaper ad, screen through all the non-qualified applicants to find the few qualified ones, interview several of those, then pick one only to have them potentially fall off after a week or two later, then start the entire process again.

Wouldn't you rather just go through door number two just pick up the phone and call us? We'll do it for you, and you only pay a little at a time, and for only as long as the person is actually working.

Staffing has always served a useful purpose in the hiring world, and it just keeps getting better.