99% of retail talent leaders in the UK are concerned about talent shortages. UKHospitality estimates talent shortages are suppressing economic activity across hospitality by £22bn, as the sector battles 186% worse talent shortages than the UK average.
The recruiters we know in retail and hospitality haven’t taken a breath since… well, since Brexit, at least. Talent shortages have always been an issue but the pressure gauge has officially maxxed out.
A whole heap of bad stuff is happening as shortages continue, turning into a vicious cycle that threatens organisations’ survival:
- Reduced opening hours
- Reduced menus
- Room, restaurant and store closures
- Declining service levels
- Declining customer satisfaction
- Decreasing customer loyalty
- Decreasing customer lifetime value
- Slowing revenue and profitability
- Cost-cutting measures like layoffs
- Increasing pressure on existing staff
- Increasing burnout, stress, turnover
- Declining service levels
There are long-term issues here that individual recruiters can’t do much about – like movement out of the sector or immigration policy making international recruitment difficult.
But there is one big thing recruiters can control: the candidate experience.
Candidate experience: retail and hospitality’s lowest hanging fruit?
The truth is, candidate experience (CX) is usually very low hanging fruit for retail and hospitality recruiters. We work with lots of customers across this space and almost every team we know was having issues here, despite their best efforts.
- Problems like:
- Long application process
- Ghosted applicants and candidates
- Slow recruitment process
- Slow application load times
- Inconvenient, unintuitive application journey
- Unclear application instructions
- Limited or exclusionary job descriptions
- Job adverts live for closed jobs
- No way to contact the recruitment team
- Perceptions of bias
- Endless interview scheduling back and forth
- Being asked for the same info multiple times
- Incorrect offers and contracts
- Faffing about printing and signing contracts
- Lack of onboarding info before start dates
- Confusing overlap between agency and in-house recruiters
When you recruit for a sector with high turnover like retail and hospitality, recruiters are under endless pressure to replace headcount. Often to the tune of many thousands of roles.
When you’re juggling so many applications in such a fierce race to identify and process great candidates before competitors, it’s little wonder when CX falls by the wayside.
But candidate experience is super important – especially in sectors where the benchmark is low. A great experience can be a major differentiator, helping you build your brand as an employer of choice. (AKA: more applications; more completed applications; fewer dropouts; fewer declined offers or no-shows).
Is your CX a vicious cycle or a virtuous circle?
In their Business Impact of Candidate Experience executive brief, Talent Board emphasise the continued value of a great candidate experience both for the business and recruiters:
“Every year we ask job candidates, ‘How likely are you to change your relationship with us based on your experience?’ For those who said they had a great experience overall, they are more willing to apply again, refer others, make purchases if it’s a consumer-based company and be a brand advocate going forward, even if they didn’t get hired — which is most candidates for any given job”
This point is especially important for retail and hospitality, where high application volumes and an often-poor standard of applications* means mountains of unsuccessful candidates.
*For example, 37% of retail recruitment leaders say a lack of correctly skilled people in the sector is a major cause of talent shortages.
From Talent Board’s data, only about 10% of the candidates surveyed are hired – if the same’s true for you, how many candidates are left behind with a bad taste in their mouth?
That’s a real problem. Many recruitment teams are delivering a pretty good experience for their preferred candidates, because they know they need to act fast and portray the business in the best light. Plus even where those candidates didn’t have a great experience, receiving a job offer often softens the blow so there’s not such a negative impact.
But often, the other 90-odd percent are left behind. Ghosted. Frustrated. Hurt. No rose-tinted new job glasses to look through.
This might not feel like a big deal, on an individual level. But at scale, when you consistently deliver an underwhelming candidate experience to hundreds or thousands of candidates each year? Like a pebble dropped into a pond, the ripples spread outwards into some of your biggest business outcomes.
But luckily, the opposite is also true.
And because many teams are still doing this badly, there’s a major opportunity if you can become a leader in the CX space. Talent Board’s data shows the quality of candidate experience has decreased this year, for example, with only 25% of candidates in EMEA saying they had a great experience (the least of any region globally).
Likewise, the number of candidates reporting active resentment with the recruitment experience increased to 11% in EMEA.
There’s a huge opportunity for recruitment teams in retail and hospitality to stand out here, to become one of the minority whose great candidates apply again, refer talent, purchase from the business, and become a brand advocate.
Best practices for a great candidate experience
Improving your candidate experience might feel impossible given the other challenges you face – but it needn’t be.
- Here are some best practices:
- Offer mobile-apply and social media apply
- Enable one-click CV import
- Allow candidates to attach documents
- Design mobile-first application journeys
- Give clear instructions delivered through an easy interface
- Use responsive software that supports any device
- Offer anytime, anywhere video interviewing
- Anonymise applications
- Communicate via SMS as well as email
- Use e-signatures and digital contracts
- Offer self-book interview slots
- Automate candidate communications and status notifications
- Allow candidates to track their application status online
- Develop better processes for working with agencies, to avoid overlap
- Digitise and automate onboarding
- Use AI for faster pre-screening and evaluating candidates
- Offer an intelligent, intuitive job search portal
- Ensure top-tier accessibility for every user
- Embed recruitment chatbots to support immediate needs
- Automatically close job adverts after a certain time
Good talent acquisition tech should come with a heap of functionality like that, to automate the basics of a great candidate experience. (If your current software doesn’t, let’s chat).
Then you’ll also find you’ve got more time on your hands to go the extra mile for candidates.
- Be more creative with job adverts, including pictures and videos
- Create extra resources for new hires to welcome them to the team
- Give personalised feedback to candidates after interviews
- Collect candidates’ feedback on their experience (and acting on it…)
- Develop cool recruitment marketing campaigns
- Hone your employee value proposition to capture why you’re great
- Nail your employer branding across every online touchpoint
- Take a good look at your recruitment data to see where you could improve
Build a brand that shines
Delivering a great candidate experience is something most retail and hospitality recruitment teams struggle with, despite your best efforts. But don’t settle for believing that’s just the way things have to be.
Sure, retail and hospitality recruiters operate in an unenviably challenging environment. Growing skills shortages and massive competition for talent make for chaos. But with the right tools to support you, delivering a great candidate experience can become your new normal.
What better way to help your talent brand stand out?