When you get right down to it, the hiring process is really a Catch-22. You need to fill that vacant spot quickly before work piles up, but a thorough search takes time, the main thing your newly expanded workload doesn't allow you. As disruptive as it is to have someone leave, finding their replacement can be even worse.

When Linda Tossey joined her company four years ago, the director of operations and marketing for United Services of Des Moines brought with her a timesaving interview process. When the company has a vacancy, Tossey immediately places an ad and then spends the next day or two screening candidates over the phone. She invites those who meet the basic requirements to a "group information session," held just a few days after the ad is placed. During these 45-minute sessions, Tossey gets up in front of the group -- usually no more than 15 candidates per session -- and gives an overview of the company, the available position, and the pay scale and benefits offered, with time allotted for questions in between.

"It's been an enormous timesaver," Tossey says, noting that she doesn't have to go over all that basic information with the handful of candidates that make it past the group sessions to the personal interviews. Once they've whittled it down to five or six individuals, Tossey and the heads of the department doing the hiring only spend another half-hour, at most, talking to each candidate.

The policy also saves the company time that it would normally spend weeding out candidates whose interest in the position is lukewarm, at best. Actual job applications aren't made available until after the group session, and Tossey gives people two opportunities to leave during the session. "By the time we've gathered all the applications, we're down to a group that knows our company, wants to work for us, and is willing to accept the salary and benefits," Tossey says. "We don't want to waste time, both ours and theirs, interviewing someone who won't take the job."

The company doesn't use this process for all vacancies, but Tossey says it's particularly useful for administrative and sales positions -- jobs where good people skills are a must. "It gives us a chance to hear them and see them," she says.

Karen McFall, an administrative assistant who was hired through this process in July, notes an added benefit: It projects a good image of the company. "I could see that they respected their time as well as mine."