To fill job vacancies, Shane Jones, CEO and owner of Ace Personnel, in Shawnee Mission, Kans., used to interview 10 people out of the hundreds who responded to his help-wanted ads. But often the bright, experienced people he hired would disappoint him because of poor customer-service skills. Jones decided to engage the applicants in role-playing during initial screenings over the phone.

After giving prospects a short history of Ace and its successes, he and his managers asked them what made them best for the job. "We catch them off guard," Jones says. "We see who can perform under pressure." Then candidates have to pretend to be restaurant managers, while the interviewer plays a disgruntled customer. Ace gives points for poise and imagination, subtracting points for timidity or canned answers.

If the job candidates automatically agree to refund money, that's considered a poor decision. If they offer to trade product--a coupon for a free meal--that's a good start. If they ask questions to determine why the service was unacceptable, that's best. The more questions the job candidates ask, the better. The phone screening is so efficient that Jones hires about 75% of the prospects who perform well.

Copyright 1997 G+J USA Publishing