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John Lewis reveals e-recruitment lessons

John Lewis reveals e-recruitment lessons
Monday March 25 2013

Retailer identifies thee lessons learned during its transition to a centralised recruitment model for volume, seasonal and specialist hires

Great customer service has always been a part of the John Lewis brand ethos. It is also a key element to its recruitment, according members of the multichannel retailer’s human resources (HR) team revealed at an event last month.

The event played host to a discussion about the benefits of a centralised retail recruitment model, where Carole Donaldson, resourcing manager from John Lewis spoke about working with global e-recruitment software supplier, WCN.

Candidate experience paramount

To John Lewis, every candidate is also a potential customer, so much so that the retailer considers applicants could equate to a significant amount of potential revenue in custom. “It’s vital they leave the application process having had a good experience of our customer service. With 95% of our recruitment being in volume such as seasonal jobs, we need to ensure each applicant goes away with a positive brand opinion,” said Donaldson.

John Lewis is consolidating its recruitment by moving the whole resourcing department into one unit with the aim of reducing costs and increasing efficiency as well as the quality of the candidate application experience. It wanted to streamline the process as it went from paper to online, making the whole process faster and smarter not just for HR but potential employees. John Lewis now receives 99% of job applications through its website.

Donaldson said defining a common recruitment practice was the first step towards a smooth e-recruitment transition. “Firstly, ask lots of questions; understand what everyone’s role is,” she said. “We found the recruitment practice was different between stores – there were different types of candidate communications and recruitment tests that we didn’t even know we had. Asking questions will help create a clear strategy; we now have one standard application form, which has flexible elements.”

Mapping practice onto process

Mapping those practices onto clearly understood processes was also key. “Secondly, process maps – come to love them, so you can see the full recruitment process,” she continued. “It will help you identify where you can eliminate certain steps from the application process, creating a targeted system that is fast and efficient. Our aim is to enable hiring managers to get their vacancies filled efficiently so they are in their roles delivering great service to our customers as soon as possible.”

But Donaldson also said it was important to have the technical knowledge required to accurately reflect the business processes in any supporting IT systems. “You need someone who understands technology. When you move everything to one location the e-recruitment technology needs specific functionality, for example, if you are looking to fill 40 new roles and over 100 apply, it is helpful to ‘bank’ the extra candidates so they don’t have to reapply for a similar role,” she added. John Lewis now developing its own “Bank of Talent”.

WCN provides John Lewis with a secure, centralised location from which to manage over 360,000 applications. Gabrielle McManus, WCN account director for John Lewis, explained it developed two ways for John Lewis to recruit – one to fill volume roles, the other for bespoke roles, so each candidate would be directed down the right route. 

Matching to skills to requirements

CV screening for volume roles is a big process. McManus said: “A line manager’s job is to be on the shopfloor rather than shifting through various applications. The WCN system supports this by removing most candidates who are unsuitable for the role so the line manager only looks at a small percentage of applications.”

The John Lewis branded e-recruitment site provides candidates with an interactive system for scheduling their own interviews and accepting online offers formally. This has created a self-serving intelligent vacancy process, which is easier for both the applicant and company.

A year ago John Lewis began an IT recruitment drive, as part of a wider investment in its omnichannel strategy that it said at the time would see the business take on over 50 IT specialists during 2012.

Tagged as: John lewis | e-recruitment | IT | hiring | project manager | business | system | analyst | WCN