"The census is the largest mobilization of the workforce in peacetime, the biggest project the government takes on short of a war," says Mike Pelto, the director of human resources for the Census 2000 Data Capture Center in Phoenix, Arizona. "And this last time the census was taken was the first time the census had been outsourced to a private industry. The ability to hire lots of people quickly was a real key to the success of this project."
That ability was provided by NCS (now NCS Pearson) through a service known as Quik-Screen, an automated recruiting tool that screens and classifies job applicants, obtains information for background checks, and even generates reminder notices about upcoming interviews.
"We had three months to hire about 3,500 people, mostly unskilled entry-level labor, and all of them had to be interviewed, all of them had to pass a government background check, and all of them had to be oriented and trained," says Pelto. "We had to process between 11,000 and 12,000 applicants, and to do that we knew we needed some technology. The Quik-Screen system was a great help to us."
The census office, says Pelto, advertised about the jobs heavily in the local media, and published a toll-free phone number for applicants to call. That number connected the applicants directly to the Quik-Screen interactive voice response (IVR) system. The first level of the system allowed the applicants, in both voice commands and keypad touches, to enter basic screening information (over age 16, legally entitled to work in the U.S., never been convicted of a felony). It then went on to capture the required information for a background check (date and place of birth, Social Security number, etc.). The system then played recorded information about job openings, pay ranges, and other current employment information.
"The last thing the process did," says Pelto, "and what was perhaps one of the most valuable things, is that it actually scheduled an interview for the person."
The seven recruiters working under Pelto would interview about 15 people a day at the peak of the recruiting effort -- one every half-hour, over the phone. The appointments and interview schedules were generated by the Quik-Screen system. And, to cut down on no-shows, the system even produced reminder cards that were sent to applicants days before their appointments.
"That system was up 24/7, and we had about 10,000 people come through it," says Pelto. "It did a lot of our legwork for us and we knew we were getting screened, qualified applicants for the interviews. And the NCS people responded very quickly to our requests. This was a very severe test of the capabilities of this system and it worked very well."