Applying for a job now takes minutes as bosses use software to automate hiring, cut interviews

For much of last year, Chris Boots was handling takeout orders for a steakhouse while applying for more than 100 jobs a week.

“They all said they’d get back to me,” says Boots, 40, who lives in Westchester, Pennsylvania.

Then, in September, a neighbor who was a UPS driver told him the company was looking for holiday workers. He applied on the company’s website in 30 minutes and got a message at the end of the session offering him a job as a $15-an-hour package handler.

“I thought, ‘Oh, wow, this is amazing,’” says Boots, who took the job and has since been promoted to supervisor. “I didn’t know how they could offer me a job in just 30 minutes.”

Faced with intense competition for workers amid the worst labor shortage in decades, UPS is among a growing crop of employers that have turned the weeks- or month-long courtship between employer and job candidate into the equivalent of speed dating, at least for many hourly workers. 

Companies have slashed the time required to complete often-cumbersome online applications to as little as a few minutes. And they are making offers right away,  sometimes without any interview or human involvement,  as long as the candidate checks all the boxes.

Looking a candidate in the eye? Checking for that firm handshake?


Filling hundreds of jobs ... fast

The fast-hiring trend began a few years ago with corporate giants such as McDonald’s, CVS, and Darden Restaurants that needed to fill hundreds or thousands of jobs rapidly. But it has taken off the past two years as the pandemic sparked a nationwide labor shortage, leading companies such as UPS to try to snag workers before they’re scooped up by rivals.

A handful of tech startups such as Fountain, Paradox, Lever, and Harver have paved the way by providing automated software, some with artificial intelligence, that boils down applications to the bare essentials, sometimes engage applicants in Bot-led conversations, and schedules interviews if needed.

Chris Boots checks on a roller, which transports UPS packages
Chris Boots checks on a roller, which transports UPS packages  

Last year, 42% of companies said they’re investing, or interested, in conversational artificial intelligence (AI) software to support recruitment, up from 7% in 2019, according to Aptitude Research, which compiles data on technology-related hiring trends.

It’s no wonder. Since July, monthly job openings have hovered near a record 11 million, and nearly 30 million workers – also an all-time high -- have quit jobs, typically to take other higher-paying positions.

Labor shortage sparks instant hiring

“The labor shortage makes (quick hiring) more important than ever before,” says Aptitude founder Madeline Laurano.

Adds Fountain CEO Sean Behr, “If four people are trying to hire me, I’m going to go with whoever moves the quickest and makes it easiest for me.”

The software is mostly being used to hire low- and mid-wage workers, such as in warehouses, delivery, restaurants, stores, factories, call centers, and moving and storage -- for both temporary and permanent jobs. But a somewhat longer version is bringing on more professional employees such as nurses or CVS pharmacists within days, and the tech companies say they’re looking at expanding to other types of white-collar roles.

If four people are trying to hire me, I’m going to go with whoever moves the quickest and makes it easiest for me.
Fountain CEO Sean Behr

While most of the positions require a phone, video, or in-person interviews – either during the job application or within a few days – some are forgoing the ritual entirely. For positions such as warehouse workers and truck drivers that include little or no interaction with customers, “I don’t really need to interview them,” Behr says.

No muss, no fuss job applications

The companies are also streamlining applications. Many employers require candidates to create an account and password and ask multiple questions about their education and prior employment, among other information. They also may want them to upload a resume. That can all be unwieldy and time-consuming, Behr says, especially when most workers are applying on cellphones, often for many jobs in a sitting. Forty-three percent of candidates drop off during the application process, Laurano says.

The fast-hiring software typically asks for their name, address, cellphone number, and a few relevant questions. Are they over 18? Do they have experience in the field? For truck drivers, do they have a commercial license? For warehouse or delivery workers, can they lift 50 pounds? Some ask applicants to complete a short personality assessment.

Two warehouse workers with boxes on a cart.  

If they pass muster, a manager can conduct a video interview on the spot if they’re available or the software can schedule one. Candidates may also answer questions on a recorded video that they can email or text. Others may be offered the job immediately, pending a background check, and start date is proposed.

In that case, an employment agreement is sent over, along with onboarding documents that ask for tax, direct deposit, and other information.

UPS, which includes a short video about the company and job,, launched its 30-minute hiring strategy in September as it sought to bring on 100,000 seasonal workers last fall. Seventy percents were drivers’ helpers and package handlers who were hired through the automated software, but the company is now using it to recruit permanent workers in those roles, says Matt Lavery, UPS’s global director of sourcing and recruitment.

UPS has shaved the hiring timeframe for such jobs from nearly three weeks or more to half an hour, dramatically boosting its conversion of applicants to employees without increasing the departure of such new hires, or turnover rate.  

“We’re living in an environment where we have to be quick and fast or we’re going to lose the candidate,” Lavery says. “It’s a fight for talent.”

'I forgot about all those other jobs'

Boots, the UPS package handler, was applying for office positions as well as a delivery driver and bartender openings. But when he got the UPS offer, for a permanent job as it turned out, “I forgot about all those other jobs,” he says. “It was exciting.”

And when he received the onboarding documents, “I felt like I was meeting with HR on the first day.”

Paradox, another hiring software provider, adds a virtual AI-based assistant named Olivia who asks candidates questions, schedules on-the-spot or later interviews, and generally holds their hand through the hiring process, says Josh Zywien, the company’s chief marketing officer.

It typically takes a couple of days to bring on a new employee, down from weeks, he says. And about 90% of applicants show up for interviews, up from about half. The company’s software has helped 27 million people apply for jobs and set up 5 million interviews the past three years, the vast majority in the U.S., Zywien says.

Regis Corp., a Paradox client and franchisor of 6,500 hair salons, such as Supercuts and SmartStyle, has struggled to find workers.

“A lot of people have left the industry because of COVID,” says Jennifer Kangas, Regis’s director of digital experience for talent acquisition.

To interview or not to interview?

By using Paradox’s software, she says, hiring has been cut from weeks to two or three days, including interviews. “I want to stop (the hairstylist) from applying” for other jobs by setting up an interview within minutes, she says.

Before, she says, perhaps 30% of people who started applying followed through. Now, she says, 90% set up interviews.

While Paradox, like Fountain, can provide fully automated applications and hire within minutes, few clients are interested, Zywien says. “The vast majority of employers would not be comfortable with completely removing the human from the equation entirely,” he says. “And if companies go that route, I think you’re going to see a lot of regrets.”

Behr, the Fountain CEO, disagrees. Interviews, he says, can inject the hiring manager’s biases – including racial, age, or gender -- which are eliminated by the automated software.

About one-quarter of its 500 clients are using its new “Instant Hire” program, including Wag, the pet care service, and Tovala, a maker of smart ovens.

“You’re giving everybody a fair and equal opportunity,” Laurano of Aptitude Research says.

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