Please tell the machine why you want a job with thisorganisation (Times of London; 02/05/98)

The methods used by companies to attract temporary staff look likely to be fundamentally changed by technology over the next two years. The shake-up has been begun by Alfred Marks, the British subsidiary of Adecco - the world's largest recruitment company - which will this month launch a series of high- tech offensives to get more temporary staff on its books. Alfred Marks has also been in talks with leading supermarket companies, thought to include Tesco and Sainsbury, to predict how services such as Internet shopping will change the way people work.

Technology has already caused a minor revolution in the recruitment sector. Mobile phones make temporary employees contactable - and therefore available for work - at all times of the day. It is estimated that 70 per cent of white- collar temporary staff in Britain own mobiles.

The market is likely to change further with the use of interviewing software, the Internet, and videophones. Although the technology is still available only to a few, recruitment companies believe that services such as digital television may make it widespread within two years.

Alfred Marks will this month launch Xpert , a computer program that registers and interviews clients to find out their skills and attitudes, and whether they will enjoy working in a certain company.

The software dealing with attitudes has been developed with Saville and Holdsworth, the occupational psychologists. Alfred Marks says that it is labour- saving, thorough and unbiased. Simon Lillywhite, Adecco chief operating officer, said: "Employers demand a workforce that is carefully selected, not only to meet the skills required to do the job, but also to fit happily into the company's culture. The selection process needs to be right first time to ensure employers avoid costly mistakes."

Adecco expects to use Xpert -based software within two years to interview clients by videophone, allowing people to look for temporary work from their own homes in their free time. The company claims that it will take much of the stress out of interviews, encouraging more people to apply for jobs.

Adecco is also testing a scheme called Job Shop, which will involve it installing electronic kiosks in public places, such as railway stations, where potential clients can register with the agency and look for vacancies. Again, this allows people in jobs to seek temporary work outside office hours.

Adecco claims that all these methods of hiring staff are necessary in the present economy, in which jobs are increasingly short term. It also says that its research with supermarkets shows that there will be a huge demand for temporary labour - especially for warehouse staff and distributors - when Internet home shopping becomes more popular.

* Telephone banking systems will soon be able to recognise your voice, instead of making you key in passwords and account numbers. The same technology could be used to improve efficiency and security for many other telephone services. A European Union-funded consortium is expected next month to publish results of a research project - called CAVE, for caller verification - on the commercial future of the technology. It is expected to show that UK banks could be using caller verification by early 1999. The project consortium includes Union Bank of Switzerland, PTT Telecoms, of The Netherlands, and Vocalis, the British company already providing voice recognition systems for Abbey National.

The loss-making Vocalis this week welcomed as its chief executive Charles Halle, a former director of IBM's e-business division.

* Businesses yesterday heaved a sigh of relief when the European Commission said that it would not set up a regulatory body with legal powers to police the Internet. However, it said that international law needed to be clarified or adapted to cover disputes over transnational labour, data protection, copyright and consumer protection. It also called for a review of the system by which companies are registered on the Internet.