A kid dropping in at Blockbuster Video to rent "The Accidental Tourist" may become the accidental job applicant if Blockbuster has its way. The company is the latest retailer to embrace automated employment screening.

During the next 14 weeks, the video rental and sales giant is debuting eye-catching, bright blue employment kiosks in approximately 4,000 stores around the country. The kiosks, manufactured by MII Inc., Lincoln, Ill., stand 36-in. tall and are approximately 30-in. wide, and are equipped with a built-in seat and a keypad and screen.

Employment kiosks do away with the conventional ink and paper application, as job prospects fill out an application and answer a variety of skills assessment questions using the kiosk's keypad and screen.

An applicant's responses are automatically forwarded to Decision Point Systems, Inc., Beaverton, Ore., which measures the answers against the hiring criteria set by Blockbuster. It then returns the results to the store manager within 10 minutes.

The benefits to Blockbuster: The approach slashes the cost and time it requires to screen employees by allowing hiring managers to quickly rule out prospects who don't meet the basic profile they seek. It also lets them pinpoint the most promising candidates, and then focus their interview questions on the candidate's strengths and weaknesses that are identified in the assessment.

In addition, electronic screening gives Blockbuster a leg up on the competition in its quest to land top hourly employees-an increasingly scarce commodity in this tight labor market-who most closely align with their company culture and skill needs. The kiosks tend to draw young, tech-savvy applicants, attracted by a little technological wizardry, who may be intimidated-or turned off-by traditional paper-based applications.