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Four Recruiting Bottlenecks to Avoid in Restaurant & Retail

Before the pandemic, the restaurant and food services industry projected it would provide 15.6 million jobs in 2020, or 10% of all payroll jobs in the economy. But the impact of the coronavirus caused staffing levels to fall across all restaurant and foodservice segments, with restaurant employment below pre-pandemic levels in 47 states and D.C., according to the National Restaurant Association. Restaurants got hit harder than any other industry during the pandemic, and still have the longest climb back to pre-coronavirus employment levels.

Retailers also took a hit, with many large chains like Lord & Taylor, New York & Company, and Brooks Brothers filing for bankruptcy. Many retailers pivoted swiftly and made up for losses during the initial shutdown with e-commerce, and even long established brands like Macy’s is planning on shutting down 45 locations as it struggles to fend off bankruptcy.

However, 2021 brought a comeback. U.S. retail sales could rise as much as 8.2% to more than $4.33 trillion this year as more people get the COVID-19 vaccine and the economy reopens, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).

The economy is expected to see its fastest growth in over two decades as the rollout of the vaccine to consumers should permit accelerated growth during the mid-year and NRF expects the overall economy to gain between 220,000 and 300,000 jobs per month in 2021. This means that restaurants and retailers are hiring, and doing so in volume. With the arrival of summer, recruiters aren’t just looking for full-time servers and retail staffers; they’re also looking for seasonal talent, which puts even more pressure on recruiting teams.

Because of the fast pace and turnover in the restaurant and retail sectors, recruiting teams have to focus on speeding time to apply and time to hire. Candidates aren’t waiting for a response from one company before applying for another. How can we tighten down our processes to hire faster and smarter? Start with your recruiting and HR metrics. These numbers play a big part in understanding where our recruiting bottlenecks are and to develop strategies to lessen or eliminate them altogether.

Finding the Recruiting Bottlenecks That Could Cost You Candidates

There’s a lot we can do (and that you’ve likely been doing since 2020) to help recruiting teams reach more entry-level candidates and make offers to hire quickly. Here, we’ll talk about four areas to scrutinize, adjust, and improve bottlenecks in recruiting quality candidates.

1. Time to hire.

This measures the number of days between a candidate applying for a job, and them accepting a job offer. Time to hire gives insights into recruiting efficiency and candidate experience. The more efficient your hiring process is, the shorter your time to hire will be. To reduce your time to hire, start by identifying what caused it to be higher than you’d expect.

How to ensure it isn’t creating a bottleneck:

Work with your store managers, operations team and your hiring managers to give them interview training, templates for in-person and phone interviews, and the autonomy to make on the spot offers in store. If hiring managers in your store locations are able to make offers on the spot to walk in applicants or to candidates attending a hiring event, you can speed your time to hire exponentially.

2. Interview scheduling.

This directly relates to candidate experience. A 2021 Candidate Expectations Survey from Cronofy reports that responsiveness during the hiring process came out on top as the thing that matters most to candidates in the U.S. In fact, 64% of US candidates said that the process of interview scheduling directly impacts their perceptions of an employer, and even more so with those applying for senior roles.

How to ensure it isn’t creating a bottleneck:

Ensure that your candidate communication, whether automated messaging or direct, lets candidates know two important things: where they stand in the hiring process and what next steps they can expect. Using an automated online scheduling tool (your ATS may have one built in) can help eliminate any scheduling confusion for busy recruiters and enthusiastic candidates.

3. Hiring or store manager approvals.

The more people involved in the interview process, the slower your time to hire will be. Your hiring managers want to make candidate offers as quickly as you do, but it takes time to schedule multiple candidates for multiple rounds of interviews.

How to ensure it isn’t creating a bottleneck:

For entry-level roles in restaurant and retail, no more than a single interview should be required, and the offer should be followed up with “when can you start?”

4. Your application process.

Two things: Is it easy and is it mobile friendly? In retail and restaurant recruiting, your ideal candidate is very likely applying via mobile. A slow to load application platform on mobile increases your chances of applicants abandoning the process before they’ve fully completed their application. If it’s too complicated? Same results.

How to ensure it isn’t creating a bottleneck:

One of the easiest ways to see if your application process is candidate friendly is to check it yourself, on your mobile device, away from wi-fi. Is it intuitive? Does it take longer than 10 minutes? Is it slow to load? Is it clear to candidates what the next step is? Think like an e-commerce marketer trying to solve the problem of abandoned carts. Track the candidate experience through the entire application process and work to eliminate any obstacles.

Related: Creative Strategies for Hiring in Restaurant & Retail

Finally, if you know you’re losing candidates to your competitors, make sure you know why. Are they really faster or are they offering higher wages? Candidate surveys can help you dig into this area, as will competitor analysis. Retail and restaurant hiring is going to be a significant challenge in 2021 and beyond, so the more improvements you can make to your hiring process that help speed time to hire and improve candidate experience now will deliver results in the long-term for you and your team.