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How to improve candidate experience in retail and hospitality

Tags: Candidate Experience


Retail and hospitality recruitment has a bazillion moving parts that make delivering a great candidate experience difficult. 

Extraordinary (and growing) skills shortages. Large application volumes, often from poor-fit applicants. Mounting cost-pressure and shrinking recruitment teams. Low candidate loyalty. Seasonal surges.

But improving your candidate experience is a) super important, for candidates and your team. And b) a huge opportunity to deliver better recruitment outcomes. Let’s talk about that. 

Why does the candidate experience matter for retail and hospitality brands?

Candidate experience matters in all industries, but especially so in retail and hospitality because:

  • Candidates are often your customers too. In the retail and hospitality space, candidates often already know your brand and spend money with you as a customer. If your hiring process leaves a bad impression, you don’t only hurt candidates’ perception of your employer brand. You hurt consumers’ impression of you as a brand – and their likelihood of continuing to spend with you. 
  • You’re often dealing with large application volumes. When you’re juggling lots of plates like most retail and hospitality recruiters are, candidate experience is more likely to slip. Plus, more candidates coming through the door means bad experiences hurt more people. Higher reach = higher stakes. 
  • You’re usually battling heaps of competitors for talent. 99% of retail talent leaders in the UK are worried about talent shortages, with the same story echoed in hospitality. Retail and hospitality brands face fierce competition for talent and there’s little employer brand loyalty: candidate experience can make or break your chances.  
  • Candidates’ tolerance level is often lower. Retail and hospitality candidates are often pursuing many applications: your bad experience might be the 17th bad experience they’ve suffered this week. It’s not a recipe for forgiving moods. 
  • There’s a bigger opportunity to differentiate. The bar for candidate experience in retail and hospitality is low because CX can be so challenging to get right at scale. There’s a major opportunity to stand out if you do things right. 

Candidate experience is one of retail and hospitality’s biggest opportunities

What makes a bad candidate experience?

A good candidate experience is fast, friction-free, relevant, and respectful. That sounds simple but getting this stuff right is hard. Especially given the application volumes you’re probably handling.

Some of the most common causes of a bad candidate experience are:

  • Unclear application instructions
  • Lack of info about the hiring process
  • Short, generic or uninformative job description
  • Long, clunky application and/or hiring process
  • Applicants and candidates never hearing back
  • No notice when a position has been filled
  • Bias in the application or hiring process 
  • No onboarding info before start dates
  • Dinosaur pen-and-paper contract management
  • Incorrect or incomplete offers and contracts
  • No way to contact the recruitment team

By themselves, each of these issues doesn’t seem like much. But like we said above – if your candidates are consistently battling experiences like this, small things escalate into big problems. 

How can you improve your candidate experience?

This isn’t a comprehensive list (download our ultimate guide to candidate experience for that) but here are some quick pointers.

1 – Be transparent.

Be clear about the job and hiring process from the outset. Think beyond blocks of text in your adverts (especially generic blocks without any detail). Pictures and videos are an easy way to make your ad pop. 

Could you add a video of a day in the life of a store operations manager, for example? Or a video explaining your company recruitment process?

2 – Make the process fast and easy

Keep your application process short. Do you really need to ask all those questions? And do you enable candidates to import or upload their CV with a click? Can candidates apply easily from their phone?

3 – Try video interviewing

If you don’t already, video interviewing makes a heap of sense for retail and hospitality. Essentially, it means building a richer picture of candidates in less time (especially of those all-important customer service skills). Crucial for both time-to-hire and quality-of-hire. 

And more important, candidates typically like video interviewing. Video interviews give them a chance to show themselves off better than a CV but without travelling for an in-person interview. Win/win. 

And most important, it collapses the recruitment process massively – so candidates get an answer faster.  

4 – Keep candidates in the loop

In retail and hospitality, high application volumes mean candidates often slip through the cracks. But Tribepad’s research into ghosting found this is one of the most harmful mistakes you can make:

  • 65% of UK adults have been ghosted by a recruiter or prospective employer
  • 86% of ghosted applicants are left feeling down or depressed
  • 94% of ghosted applicants are left feeling negative about the employer 

The right recruitment tech can help you #EndGhosting for good

Core takeaway: Treat candidates like customers

If there’s one core takeaway here, it’s this: your candidates are customers; treat them accordingly. 

Organisations spend millions on delivering an excellent customer and store/hotel/venue experience. But delivering an excellent candidate experience is just as important, and lots of brands are still struggling here. 

Candidate experience is a huge opportunity for retail and hospitality businesses to stand out, do things differently, and earn hearts, minds, and market share. 

Tribepad is the trusted tech ally to smart(er) recruiters everywhere, designed to help you fall back in love with recruiting. Trusted by retail and hospitality businesses like Pizza Hut, KFC, Subway, Tesco, Superdry, Compass Group, Sodexo, Carpetright, Sofology, and Card Factory, 25 million people in 16 languages use Tribepad.  

Discover Tribepad for retail and hospitality here.

Or download our ultimate guide to candidate experience now.

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