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Employment Interviewers

Whether you are looking for a job or trying to fill one, you could find yourself turning to an employment interviewer for help. Sometimes called account representatives, manpower development specialists, counselors, or personnel consultants, employment interviewers have two principal duties: They help jobseekers find employment and help employers find qualified staff.

Working largely in private personnel consultant firms or State employment security offices (also known as Job Service centers), employment interviewers act as brokers, putting together the best combination of applicant and job. To accomplish this, they obtain information from employers as well as jobseekers.

Employers generally pay private (but not public) agencies for finding them workers. Either way, the employer places a "job order" with the firm that describes the opening and lists requirements such as education, licenses or credentials, and experience. Depending on the kind of job to be filled, an interviewer might visit the employer's facility to get a better feel for the firm as well as the job in question. Site visits also provide a chance to discuss future staffing needs and develop rapport with the employer.

Maintaining good relations with employers is an important part of the employment interviewer's job since this helps assure a steady flow of job orders. Successful employment interviewers know that employers need a supply of prescreened applicants. Frequent telephone calls and visits help identify an employer's present and future needs; help demonstrate the employment interviewer's dedication to finding the best applicants possible; and allow time to test and prescreen applicants with the employer's needs in mind. Employment interviewers know that being prepared to fill an opening quickly is the best way to impress an employer. Besides helping firms fill job openings, employment interviewers help individuals find jobs. The services they provide depend upon the type of agency they work for and the clientele it serves. In Job Service centers, for instance, interviewers' duties reflect the fact that applicants may lack marketable skills.

Upon entering a Job Service center, applicants are asked to fill out forms that ask for educational attainment, job history, skills, awards, certificates, and licenses. An employment interviewer reviews these forms for completeness and legibility before interviewing the applicant. During the interview, the interviewer asks about the type of job sought, salary range, and any special needs such as requirements for the handicapped.

Applicants may need help identifying the kind of work for which they are best suited. Some of have no preference. In such cases, the employment interviewer evaluates the applicant's qualifications and either chooses an appropriate occupation or class of occupations, or refers the applicant for vocational testing. Applicants sometimes have exaggerated expectations. Employment interviewers must be tactful, but persuasive, if an applicant's job or salary requests are unreasonable.

Once an appropriate type of job has been identified, the employment interviewer searches the file of job orders seeking a possible job match, and refers the applicant to the employer if a match is found. If no match is found, the interviewer shows the applicant how to use the public job listings, and may suggest that the applicant return every few days to review them since they are frequently updated. These listings do not always provide the employer's name or address. The jobseeker must request this information from an employment interviewer, who approves the match before making the referral.

Applicants with limited job skills and no clear idea of what kind of work they can do pose a challenge for Job Service personnel. But some applicants are hindered by additional obstacles: Poor English language skills, no high school diploma, a history of drug or alcohol dependency, or a prison record, for example.

The amount and nature of special help for such applicants varies from State to State. In some States, it is the employment interviewer's responsibility to counsel hard-to-place applicants and refer them elsewhere for literacy or language instruction, vocational training, transportation assistance, child care, and the like. In other States, specially trained counselors perform this task.

Employment interviewers in Job Service centers have other duties as well. They may coach applicants in interview techniques; at least one State videotapes mock interviews which are reviewed and critiqued for the job-seeker. They may explain the grounds for complaints of job discrimination, and initiate referrals to job training programs. Employment interviewers in private placement firms are generally called counselors, a title used regardless of whether or not they have completed formal coursework in counseling or hold professional credentials in the field. They usually place job applicants whose educational background or job skills are such that little extra assistance is required. Counselors in private placement firms do, however, offer tips on personal appearance, suggestions on presenting a positive picture of oneself, background on the company with which an interview is scheduled, and recommendations about interviewing techniques. Many private placement firms specialize in placing applicants in particular kinds of jobs-- secretarial, word processing, engineering, accounting, law, or health, for example. Counselors in such firms must be familiar with these fields.

Some employment interviewers work in temporary help service companies. These companies send out their own employees to companies that need temporary help. Employment interviewers take job orders from client companies and match their requests against a list of available workers. The employment interviewer notifies the selected worker that work is available and refers him or her to the firm requiring assistance. Subsequent to the referral, regular checks are made to insure that the temporary employee has been properly placed.

Regular evaluation of employee job skills is an important part of the job for those interviewers working in temporary help service companies. Initially, interviewers evaluate or test each new employee's skills to determine their abilities and weaknesses. The results, which are kept on file, are referred to when filling job orders. Periodically, the interviewer may evaluate or retest employees in an effort to identify any new skills they may have developed.

Working Conditions

Employment interviewers usually work in comfortable, well-lighted, temperature- controlled offices. Work can be hectic, especially in temporary help service companies which supply clients with immediate help for short periods of time. Some overtime may be required and use of personal transportation may be necessary to make employer visits.

Work is occasionally hectic, requiring an employment interviewer to juggle paperwork, phone calls, and interviews. Employment interviewers occasionally face the frustration of trying to place a difficult applicant or fill an unusual job order. Difficult situations sometimes arise; an applicant may become distraught, unruly, or even violent.


Employment interviewers held about 84,000 jobs in 1990. Three out of five worked for employment firms or temporary help service companies in the private sector. Most of the rest worked for State employment security agencies.

Employees of career consulting or outplacement firms are not included in these estimates. Workers in these firms help clients market themselves; they do not act as job brokers, nor do they match individuals with particular vacancies.

Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement

Although most public and private agencies prefer to hire college graduates, a degree is not always necessary. Temporary help service companies and personnel firms that place clerical workers generally put top priority on "people" skills and other personal characteristics.

Entry level employment interviewer positions in the public sector are generally filled by college graduates, even though a bachelor's degree is not always a formal requirement. This situation may reflect the abundant supply of college graduates interested in State government jobs. Some States allow substitution of suitable work experience for college education. "Suitable work experience" is generally defined as public contact work or time spent at different jobs (including clerical jobs) in a Job Service office. However, college graduates are likely to be at an advantage in competing for jobs as employment interviewers in State employment security agencies. In states that permit employment interviewers to engage in counseling, coursework in counseling may be required.

Most if not all States and many large city and county governments use some form of merit system for hiring purposes. To establish eligibility for positions covered by a merit system, applicants may take a written exam, undergo an interview, or submit records of their education and experience for evaluation. Those who meet the standards for a particular position are placed on a list from which the top-ranked candidates are selected for interviewers.

Hiring requirements in the private sector reflect the firm's management approach as well as the placements in which it specializes. Firms limiting themselves to placement of individuals such as accounts, lawyers, engineers, physicians, or executives prefer their counselors to have some training or experience in the field. Thus, a bachelor's or even a master's degree becomes a prerequisite for placing highly trained individuals in particular jobs.

Firms placing secretaries, word processing operators, and other clerical personnel do not ordinarily stress educational background when they hire interviewers or counselors. Qualities such as energy level, telephone voice, and sales ability take precedence over educational attainment.

Advancement as an employment interviewer in the public sector is often based on a system providing regular promotions and salary increases for those meeting or exceeding established standards. Advancement to supervisory positions is highly competitive. Advancement in personnel consulting firms generally takes the form of greater responsibility and higher income. Successful individuals may form their own careeres.

Job Outlook

Employment in this occupation is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2000. Most new jobs will be in temporary help or personnel consulting firms. Relatively little growth is anticipated in State Job Service offices. Additional job openings will result from replacement needs, which are substantial because of relatively high turnover.

Rapid expansion of firms supplying temporary help will be responsible for much of the growth in this occupation. careeres of all types are turning to temporary help service companies for additional workers during busy periods, for handling short-term assignments or one-time projects, and for launching new programs.

Expansion of the personnel consulting industry will also spur job growth. Job orders will increase as the economy expands and new careeres are formed; this is expected to heighten demand for employment interviewers. Firms that lack the time or resources to develop their own screening procedures are likely to turn to personnel firms. It is also possible that careeres that rely on young workers will make greater use of personnel firms in the years ahead, inasmuch as competition for these workers is expected to intensify significantly.

While little job growth is foreseen in the public sector, prospects in the private sector should be excellent. Entry to this occupation is relatively easy for college graduates (or people who have had some college courses) except in those positions specializing in placement of lawyers, doctors, and engineers. A relatively high turnover rate, due to job stress and an inability to meet job demands, will provide many opportunities in addition to those generated by very rapid industry growth.


Private sector earnings vary, in part because the basis for compensation varies. Workers in personnel consulting firms generally are paid on a commission basis while those in temporary help service companies receive a salary.

When workers are paid on a commission basis (or salary plus commission), total earnings depend on how much career they bring in. This is usually based on the type as well as the number of placements. Placements of more highly skilled or hard-to-find employees command a higher price. An interviewer or counselor working strictly on a commission basis often makes around 30 percent of what he or she bills the client, although this varies from firm to firm. Some work on a salary plus commission basis because they fill difficult or highly specialized positions requiring long periods of search. The salary, usually small by normal standards, guarantees these individuals security through slow times while the commission provides the incentive and opportunity for higher earnings.

Some personnel consulting firms employ new workers for a 2- or 3-month probationary period during which time they draw a regular salary. This is intended to provide new workers time to develop their skills and acquire some clients. At the end of the probationary period, the new employees are evaluated, and are either let go or switched to a commission basis.

According to the limited data available, average earnings of interviewers or counselors in personnel consulting firms ranged from about $18,025 to $26,500 in 1990; some earned considerably more. Salaries are typically higher for those placing professional workers than those placing clerical workers.

Starting salaries for employment interviewers in State Job Service centers vary from State to State and ranged from about $10,600 to $23,325 a year in 1990.

Starting salaries for employment interviewers in State Job Service centers vary from State to State and ranged from $10,400 to $21,425 a year in 1990.

Related Occupations

Employment interviewers serve as intermediaries for job seekers and employers. Workers in several other occupations do similar jobs.

Personnel officers screen and help hire new employees but their major concern is the hiring needs of the firm; they never represent individual jobseekers. Personnel officers may also have additional duties in areas such as payroll or benefits management.

College career counselors help students and alumni find jobs, but their primary emphasis is career counseling and decisionmaking, not placement. A master's degree is usually the minimum educational requirement for these positions.

Counselors in community organizations and vocational rehabilitation facilities help clients find jobs, but they also provide assistance with drug or alcohol dependencies, housing, transportation, child care, and other problems that stand in the way of finding and keeping a job.

Sources of Additional Information

For information on a career as an employment interviewer/counselor and requirements for becoming a Certified Personnel Consultant, contact:

National Association of Personnel consultants, 1432 Duke St., Alexandria, VA 22314.

For information on a career as an employment interviewer in State employment security offices, contact:

International Association of Personnel in Employment Security, 1801 Louisville Road, Frankfort, KY 40601.

For information on a career as an employment interviewer in temporary service companies, contact:

National Association of Temporary Services, 119 South Saint Asaph St., Alexandria, VA 22314.


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