A ‘National Hiring Day Event’ Can Solve Your Hiring Problems in a Single Day

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Oct 17, 2016
This article is part of a series called How-Tos.

WOW, wouldn’t it be great to literally solve your hiring problems in a single day?

Well, then you should be aware of a recruiting approach known as “A National Hiring Day Event,” which have been used by multiple firms to hire as many as 8,900 people in a single day.

Currently, almost every major corporation spreads out its hiring over a 365-day period. But that is problematic because it means that there is no single day or time period during the year when everyone focuses on recruiting. With no “focus-on-hiring days,” managers will never be forced to focus on hiring. And without an external hiring day that the press could publicize, it is highly unlikely that your firm will ever gain significant external publicity for your hiring effort.

So, if hiring thousands of workers in a single day would be a WOW to your executives, corporate leaders should consider a “National Hiring Day” recruiting strategy. The primary factor that makes these events so powerful is the widespread free publicity that these events receive. These recruiting events have demonstrated that they are guaranteed to garner positive and free external publicity that will literally attract thousands of applicants. A simple Google search on “National Hiring Day” reveals the tremendous amount of external publicity that numerous firms have received because media editors know that their readers and viewers are highly interested in large-scale hiring opportunities. And even if you’ve never heard of them, the National Hiring Day approach has been used by many major U.S. and Canadian firms. In retail and QSR, users have included Macy’s, McDonald’s, Chipotle, Toys “R” Us, Kroger, Avis, Lowes, Old Navy, and PetSmart. And firms in other industries that have used them include Avis and Convergys.

I have been writing about “one-day hiring” for years. However, the widely publicized success of Chipotle’s National Hiring Day effort in 2015 and the recent drastic shortage of talent has made this approach even more popular in 2016. There are many reasons why you should adopt this approach, and they are found in the next section.

The Many Benefits Associated with a “National Hiring Day” Strategy

A National Hiring Day recruiting strategy has many benefits and advantages. The top 12 benefits are listed below, with the most powerful ones listed first.

  1. An amazing volume of hires — because of the external publicity these hiring events receive and the fact that hiring is spread across an entire country, the number of hires resulting from a National Hiring Day event can be stunning. For example, this year McDonald’s (Canada) broke its six-year National Hiring Day record by “adding more than 8,900 new employees.” On its first try, Chipotle hired more than 4000 workers, and an amazing 65,000 individuals registered for interviews. As a result, Chipotle repeated its event this year and it added 1,000 hires to its target. Macy’s event this year targeted 83,000 hires for its one-day event.
  2. Free publicity changes everything — media editors love to inform their readers and viewers about large-scale job opportunities. So, a National Hiring Day announcement and press release from your firm is almost guaranteed to be widely written up externally. And not only is this publicity extensive, but it is also free. And the fact that neutral media sources are also announcing the event gives it further credibility and standing. In contrast, when you spread out your hiring over 365 days, the odds are small that editors (or potential applicants) will ever take notice.
  3. Speed positively impacts both quality of hire and business results — if you don’t make a quick decision on a top applicant, they simply won’t be available in as few as 10 days. Because speed has such a large impact on hiring quality, the National Hiring Day strategy will likely increase your all-important quality of hire because it completes the hiring process including interviews and reference checks in a single day. In addition, single-day hiring all but eliminates the high dropout rate (as high as 50 percent) that occurs when candidates get frustrated with how long the typical stretched out hiring process takes. Making a hiring decision fast impresses applicants, who generally assume that your firm has good managers because they’re capable of making fast decisions in important areas. Forcing top applicants to make a decision on the spot will also increase your offer acceptance rates because they are still at the event and still highly excited when they make their decision to accept. Incidentally, filling your positions faster and having fewer “position vacancy days” means that you will experience the higher levels of productivity and customer satisfaction that come with being fully staffed.
  4. Your offer acceptance rates will be higher — on-site events are many times more exciting than standard interviews. There more exciting because individuals who attend usually get to meet the entire team, their likely manager, and get a tour of the facility. These components usually create a high energy level on the part of team members and recruits, which together will positively impact offer acceptance rates. To some, being selected for a job in this environment makes them feel like they’ve won the lottery” And they usually accept quickly because they know that many others are immediately available if they hesitate.
  5. Events attract lots of people — simply holding an event of almost any kind will attract lots of people. The thought of attending an event is exciting to most people because no one wants to be left out from experiencing an event. So, by making it a one-day-only event, you are literally likely to get thousands of applicants (e.g. McDonald’s first event drew 62,000 people). And as an added benefit, many of the attendees will be “passives” who are not currently active in the job market.
  6. This approach is especially effective during a tight job market — today almost every recruiting leader is discovering that most of their traditional hiring approaches are simply no longer working very well. That is primarily because these tools were not designed to work in today’s extreme talent shortage environment. And that means that recruiting leaders have no choice but to begin seeking out new approaches that at least a few firms have used successfully. And fortunately, the National Hiring Day strategy is highly effective in a talent shortage environment because of the high level of external publicity that these type of events receive. Well-designed hiring day events routinely get at least 100 applicants at each individual site and the total reaches into the thousands nationwide. Even in a candidate-driven market, potential applicants are attracted by the exciting atmosphere of a one-day recruiting event.
  7. You are likely to attract your own customers, who make great hires — your current customers that already know, like, and shop at your firm are the most likely to attend the recruiting event. Because your customers already know your product, they will likely also be excellent loyal employees who get up to speed quickly.
  8. This event will increase your growth image, which may spur applicants and sales — spreading the message that your firm is hiring thousands of people gives the impression to the public that your firm is highly successful and growing. As a result, holding a hiring event with so many openings may help build your employer brand image. All of this widespread positive publicity may also have the side benefit of increasing sales at your firm.
  9. Your managers will be forced to focus on hiring — unfortunately, it’s almost universally true that managers don’t pay much attention to hiring. However, a National Hiring Day is guaranteed to get their attention and to increase their focus on hiring. The mere fact that executives would sponsor such a recruiting day sends a message to all managers and employees that hiring is a major issue at your firm. And in addition, hiring managers will get most of their hiring done in a single day, limiting their frustration with hiring and freeing them up to spend more time on their regular work. Although they have to work hard on “recruiting day,” the immediate and dramatic reduction in their workload after the event will also make your recruiters very happy.
  10. Comparing candidates is much easier — because all of the interviews are held back to back on the same day, it’s much easier to compare candidates against each other, especially when compared to traditional interviews, where weeks may pass between the interviews of the different candidates.
  11. A high number of diversity prospects — events generally draw a wide spectrum of the population and one-day recruiting events are no different. If you have specialized sales pitches tailored to the different diversity groups, you will dramatically increase your diversity hiring. Have your diverse staff present on recruiting day so that they can interact with potential applicants.
  12. Act quickly before your competitors do — the first National Hiring Day in an industry or country will garner the most interest and the most applicants, thus giving your firm a competitive advantage. Unfortunately, if your firm acts after others have their event, most of the good applicants will already be gone. 

The Key Elements of a National Hiring Day Implementation Plan

My recommended actions steps for firms that are considering implementing their first “National Hiring Day” are outlined below.

  • Pick the day for the event — Hold the event on a Saturday because most individuals who are currently employed (the best targets) simply don’t have the time to take off of work to attend an event or an interview. So many more will come to a weekend recruiting event that is held at a retail store close to them. In addition, many may bring their family with them, who will shop while one family member looks for a job. In cases where hiring managers are reluctant to work on weekends, weekday events are an acceptable alternative. Obviously, it makes sense to hold the event before the start of your firm’s busy season or when you have the budget for significant hiring. For seasonal hires, pick a date about 30 days before the beginning of the season.
  • Issue a press release and post media ads  if you want the media to report on your upcoming event, you need to effectively distribute press releases to national and local media. An announcement at the site, online, and in a large newspaper ad are also a good idea. Also be sure you designate someone to quickly respond to media requests. Some firms like Sprouts have also increased their community involvement efforts in order to ensure that everyone knows about the upcoming event. In your announcements, you should note if on-site childcare will be available, because that will increase the number of attendees, even on a weekend.
  • Provide an online opportunity to sign up for the event in advance — it is generally a good idea to allow potential applicants to express their interest by signing up for the event in advance. This also has the effect of giving the firm a good idea of the staffing levels that they will need at each site. Signing up also increases attendance because when individuals have officially signed up, their commitment increases (in part because they feel that not showing up may hurt future employment opportunities). Don’t require a full application prior to the event, but you should at least advise them online and in newspaper announcements to bring an ID and a paper resume to the event.
  • Provide an opportunity to participate, even if they can’t attend — most firms provide an online alternative to those who can’t attend on the day of the event. For those online individuals, quickly process and hold telephone interviews with these individuals within a few days.
  • Have a sign-in kiosk — it makes sense, if your technology allows it, to have potential applicants sign in and to provide their contact information electronically. Where appropriate, you can also ask them to provide a link to their LinkedIn profile.
  • Show them a recruiting video — increase the excitement level of attendees, and the best way to do that is to allow them to see an exciting but authentic video covering the firm and the work that they will do. A presentation and a Q&A by a manager is also appropriate (if there is available space) but it will need to be repeated several times during the day.
  • Have an initial screening step — with hundreds appearing at each company site, have an individual handle the prescreening based on presented paper resumes. Obviously, you should designate the “move forward criteria” in advance. Those “move forward” screening criteria should focus on the firms they worked at, the number of years of relevant experience, and any relevant job titles they might have had.
  • Speed interviews — short 5-minute “speed interviews” have proven to be successful at many firms. Use them as a second step for “screening in” the best candidates in each job family.
  • Regular interviews — hiring managers at each site normally interview about 100 applicants throughout the day. Make sure that the managers and the recruiters that you select are effective interviewers that also excel at selling the firm.
  • On-site reference checking — you should line up an electronic reference checking vendor in advance and complete the reference checks before the finalists receive an offer. An alternative is to make the job offer contingent upon the successful completion of reference checks within the next few days.
  • Making the offer and successfully closing — because of the excitement related to the event, most who are offered a job will be more than willing to accept. However, in order to convince those who are wavering, the individuals making the offers should have a “side-by-side selling sheet” showing how your firm is superior on all important aspects to your competitors. There should also be a sheet containing common finalist questions and the best answer to them. Incidentally, most firms have their offered candidates formally accept in writing before they leave.
  • Keep track of the silver medalists — build your talent pipeline by noting the individuals who came close (i.e. silver medalists) but that didn’t get hired this time. Contact them later down the road when they have a little more experience.
  • Event follow-up — during onboarding, ask new hires who came from the event what they liked and didn’t like about the way the event was run. Then at one month and six months after the new hires have started, measure the new-hire turnover rate to see if it is above or below your average for new-hires. After six months, measure quality of hire. Take a sample of the new hires from the event and check their records to identify the on-the-job performance (or performance appraisal scores)vs.  all new hires. Don’t be surprised if your retention rates and your quality of hire from those hired at the event are both significantly higher than those hired from job boards and standard career fairs.

Final Thoughts

If you’re fighting a “war for talent” and you find that you are losing out because your hiring process takes forever, add a National Hiring Day to your recruiting options. In addition to speed, this approach has the advantage of turning recruiting into a well-publicized event. This makes it highly attractive both to applicants and to the local and national media. Yes, it takes some work to organize. But once you get the system down, you can repeat the National Recruiting Day event every year and you can also spread it to different countries throughout the world.

Don’t let the fact that few in recruiting talk about these events, because those who have used them swear by them. And finally realize that the time for corporations to act is now before your industry competitors offer it first and gain most of the free publicity and all of the quality applicants!

This article is part of a series called How-Tos.
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