In-store kiosks serve a variety of functions. They tell you where to find products. They print coupons. These days, they can even get you a job.
Many retail and grocery stores now use the stand-alone computer stations for hiring. For some employers, it's another application option; others require job seekers to use a kiosk. Among the biggest chains using kiosks to hire: Albertsons, Best Buy, Borders, Circuit City, CVS, Kroger, Lowe’s, Nordstrom, Pathmark, Publix, Sears, Sports Authority, Target, Toys “R” Us and Wal-Mart.
“It allows managers to get basic information, so they can immediately start the screening process,” says Daniel Butler, vice president, merchandising and retail operations for the National Retail Federation. “They can process a large number of applications quickly and efficiently. And it saves time for both the company and the applicant.” It’s a trend that shows no signs of abating, Butler says.
Though they stand alone, kiosks work best when a hiring manager or assistant filters and analyzes the information, providing instant feedback as to whether the applicant proceeds to the next step: A personal interview.
One drawback of kiosks, says James Dion, president of retail consulting firm Dionco, is that they may screen out older candidates who lack computer skills or are afraid of keyboards or touch screens.
Job applicants using a kiosk should bring a copy of their resume or work history as well as contact information for references. Those questions are standard.
Testing and Timing
Some kiosk applications include tests. The average test can be completed in 15 minutes, though some take up to 45 minutes. Some test job-related skills, such as math, writing or reading comprehension.
Other tests ask applicants to write out their answers. An applicant for a sales job might be asked to describe how she would react in a real-life situation, such as dealing with a difficult customer. “Write out your response at home,” suggests Dion. “Check the spelling carefully. Then bring the response with you, and type it in at the kiosk.”
Clarity and brevity count. “People read a lot of responses,” Dion notes. “Short, clear ones get more attention than long, rambling explanations.”
It is important to read a comprehension test carefully. “Don’t skim,” warns Ultan Feighery, president of outsourcing firm The Human Resources Organization. “You may end up answering the wrong question. That’s as bad as not listening to a customer or manager.”
Some tests allow the job seeker to take as much time as he needs; others are timed. Those tests usually tell the user the time and number of questions remaining. “Pace yourself,” Feighery advises. “Don’t spend too much time on one question. The goal is to get through the test.”
To successfully complete your application, Dion advises preparing as you would for any job search. “Go to the kiosk, and find out the questions they’ll ask,” he says. You may have to sign on under a different name, or scroll through the application without actually submitting it.
Some companies offer Spanish-language applications and tests. If a company does not, Dion advises having a native English speaker help you prepare your answers at home or while you respond at the kiosk itself. “A store’s best employees may be just learning the language,” he says. “It’s a shame to be eliminated before you get a chance to show what you can do.”
Keywords Are Key
Because software searches responses for keywords, emphasize words that are useful to the job. For example, if you’re applying for a cashier position, describe your experience “handling debit cards and credit cards, and processing returns.” Negative keywords, such as “stealing,” are often flagged. Do not write “I was never caught stealing,” because the search engine might not recognize the context.
Credit Checks Can Happen
A credit check may follow your application, particularly for jobs that require money-handling. Credit checks require the applicant’s approval.
Because kiosks attract a high volume of applicants, instant background checks are usually too costly and time-consuming to administer. The purpose of a kiosk is to filter out applicants for the next round -- background checks may be performed after that step.
In theory, kiosk applications are not much different from in-person interviews. “Pay attention to what is being asked, just as you would when talking with someone, Feighery says. “Some tests -- and people -- ask the same question several ways. And, of course, research the job and the company beforehand, as you would with an interview.”
No company hires solely on the basis of a kiosk application. “Your whole strategy should be to get that face-to-face interview with a hiring manager,” says Dion. “The kiosk is only the first step.”
“There are thousands of tests,” Feighery adds. “Some are good; some are bad. If you think you did poorly on a test, maybe it was a bad test. That could mean the job would not be a good fit either.”
If you think you performed poorly on a kiosk test or made a mistake, talk to the on-site store manager. He may allow a retest or permit you to refile a hard copy application.