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Employment & Occupational Guide

Employment Interviewers
Source: General Services Administration

Significant Points

Sales ability is required to succeed in personnel supply services firms, where most employment interviewers are found.

Employment growth reflects expansion of personnel supply—particularly temporary help—firms.

Nature of the Work

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 personnel consultants, human resources coordinators, personnel development specialists, or employment brokers, among other job titles, these workers help jobseekers find employment and help employers find qualified employees.

Working largely in private personnel supply firms or State employment security offices (also known as job or employment 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.

A private industry employment interviewer is a salesperson. Counselors pool together a group of qualified applicants and try to sell them to many different companies. Often a consultant will call a company that has never been a client (cold-calling) with the aim of filling their employment needs.

Employers generally pay private (but not public) agencies to recruit workers. The employer places a "job order" with the agency describing the opening and listing requirements such as education, licenses or credentials, and experience. Employment interviewers often contact the employer to determine their exact personnel needs. Jobseekers are asked to fill out forms or present resumes that detail their education, experience, and other qualifications. They may be interviewed or tested and have their background, references, and credentials checked. The employment interviewer then reviews the job requirements and the jobseeker qualifications to determine the best possible match of position and applicant. Although computers are increasingly used to keep records and match employers with jobseekers, personal contact with an employment interviewer remains an essential part of an applicant's job search.

Maintaining good relations with employers is an important part of the employment interviewer's job because this helps assure a steady flow of job orders. Being prepared to fill an opening quickly with a qualified applicant impresses employers most and keeps them as clients.

Besides helping firms fill job openings, employment interviewers help individuals find jobs. The services they provide depend upon the company or type of agency they work for and the clientele it serves.

Employment interviewers in personnel supply firms who place permanent employees are generally called counselors. They usually place job applicants who have the right qualifications but lack knowledge of the job market for their desired position. Counselors in these firms offer tips on personal appearance, suggestions on presenting a positive image of oneself, background on the company with which an interview is scheduled, and recommendations about interviewing techniques. Many firms specialize in placing applicants in particular kinds of jobs—for example, secretarial, word processing, computer programming and computer systems analysis, engineering, accounting, law, or health. Counselors in such firms usually have 3 to 5 years of experience in the field into which they are placing applicants.

Some employment interviewers work in temporary help services companies. These companies send out their own employees to firms that need temporary help. Employment interviewers take job orders from client firms and match their requests against a list of available workers. Employment interviewers select the best qualified workers available and assign them to the firms requiring assistance. Sometimes employees placed with companies as temporaries are later hired as permanent employees.

Traditionally, firms that placed permanent employees usually dealt with highly skilled applicants, such as lawyers or accountants, and those placing temporary employees dealt with less skilled workers, such as secretaries or data entry operators. However, temporary help services increasingly place workers with a wide range of educational backgrounds and work experience; businesses are turning to temporary employees to fill all types of positions—from clerical to managerial, professional, and technical—to reduce costs of pay and benefits associated with hiring permanent employees.

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

The duties of employment interviewers in job service centers differ somewhat because applicants may lack marketable skills. In these centers, jobseekers present resumes and fill out forms that ask about educational attainment, job history, skills, awards, certificates, and licenses. An employment interviewer reviews these forms and asks the applicant about the type of job sought and salary range desired. Applicants sometimes have exaggerated expectations. Employment interviewers must be tactful, but persuasive, if an applicant's job or salary requests are unreasonable.

Applicants may need help identifying the kind of work for which they are best suited. 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.

After identifying an appropriate job type, 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 listings of available jobs.

Some applicants are high school dropouts or have poor English language skills, a history of drug or alcohol dependency, or a prison record, among other problems. The amount and nature of special help for such applicants vary 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 other services. In other States, specially trained counselors perform this task.

Working Conditions

Employment interviewers usually work in comfortable, well-lighted offices, often using a computer to match information about employers and jobseekers. Some interviewers, however, may spend much of their time out of the office interviewing. The work can prove hectic, especially in temporary help service companies which supply clients with immediate help for short periods of time. Some overtime may be required, and temporary workers may need their own transportation to make employer visits. The private placement industry is competitive, so counselors feel pressed to give their client companies the best service.


Employment interviewers held about 87,000 jobs in 1996. About 4 out of 5 worked in the private sector for personnel supply services, generally for employment placement firms or temporary help services companies. About 1 out of 5 worked for State or local government. Others were employed by organizations that provide various services, such as job training and vocational rehabilitation.

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 for interviewer jobs, a degree is not always necessary. Hiring requirements in the private sector reflect a firm's management approach as well as the placements in which its interviewers specialize. Those that place highly trained individuals such as accountants, lawyers, engineers, physicians, or managers generally have some training or experience in the field in which they are placing workers. Thus, a bachelor's, master's, or even a doctoral degree may be a prerequisite for some interviewers. Even with the right education, however, sales ability is still required to succeed in the private sector.

Educational requirements play a lesser role for interviewers placing clerks or laborers—a high school diploma may be sufficient. In these positions, qualities such as energy level, telephone voice, and sales ability take precedence over educational attainment.

Entry-level employment interviewer positions in the public sector are generally filled by college graduates, even though the positions do not always require a bachelor's degree. 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 other jobs (including clerical jobs) in a job service office. In States that permit employment interviewers to engage in counseling, course work in counseling may be required.

Most States and many large city and county governments use some form of merit system for hiring interviewers. Applicants may take a written exam, undergo a preliminary interview, or submit records of their education and experience for evaluation. Those who meet the standards are placed on a list from which the top-ranked candidates are selected for later interviews and possible hiring.

Other desirable qualifications for employment interviewers include good communications skills, a desire to help people, office skills, and adaptability. A friendly, confidence-winning manner is an asset because personal interaction plays a large role in this occupation. Increasingly, employment interviewers use computers as a tool; thus, basic knowledge of computers is helpful.

Advancement as an employment interviewer in the public sector is often based on a system providing regular promotions and salary increases for those meeting established standards. Advancement to supervisory positions is highly competitive. In personnel supply firms, advancement often depends on one's success in placing workers and generally takes the form of greater responsibility and higher income. Successful individuals may form their own businesses.

Job Outlook

Employment in this occupation is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations through the year 2006. The majority of new jobs will arise in personnel supply firms, especially those specializing in temporary help. Job growth is not anticipated in State job service offices because of budgetary problems and the growing use of computerized job matching and information systems, and as States increasingly contract out employment services to private firms. Other openings will stem from the need to replace experienced interviewers who transfer to other occupations, retire, or stop working for other reasons.

Rapid expansion of firms supplying temporary help will be responsible for much of the growth in this occupation. Businesses of all types are turning to temporary help services companies for additional workers for handling short-term assignments or one-time projects, for launching new programs, and to reduce costs of pay and benefits associated with hiring permanent employees.

Expansion of the personnel supply industry, in general, will also spur job growth. Job orders will increase as the economy expands and new businesses are formed; this is expected to heighten demand for employment interviewers. Firms that lack the time or resources to develop their own screening procedures will likely turn to personnel firms.

Employment opportunities should be better in private placement firms than in State job service centers. 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 workers with highly specialized training, such as lawyers, doctors, and engineers.

Employment interviewers who place permanent workers may lose their jobs during recessions because employers reduce or eliminate hiring for permanent positions during downturns in the economy. State job service employment interviewers are less susceptible to layoffs than those who place permanent or temporary personnel in the private sector.


Earnings in private firms vary, in part, because the basis for compensation varies. Workers in personnel supply firms tend to be paid on a commission basis; 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 business they bring in. This is usually based on the type as well as the number of placements. Those who place more highly skilled or hard-to-find employees earn more. 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 widely 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. The commission provides the incentive and opportunity for higher earnings.

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

Related Occupations

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

Personnel officers screen and help hire new employees, but they concern themselves mainly with 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.

Career counselors help students and alumni find jobs, but they primarily emphasize career counseling and decision making, not placement.

Counselors in community organizations and vocational rehabilitation facilities help clients find jobs, but they also assist 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, contact:

National Association of Personnel Services, 3133 Mt. Vernon Ave., Alexandria, VA 22305.

National Association of Temporary Staffing Services, 119 S. Saint Asaph St., Alexandria, VA 22314. Homepage:

For information on a career as an employment interviewer in State employment security offices, contact offices of the State government for which you are interested in working.







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