Urban Outfitters’ store sales declined by an average of 9.5 per cent in 2014. It was also one of the worst-performing stocks on the S&P 500. The main reason behind the brand’s poor performance was its aggressive marketing of products with low demand.
However, Urban Outfitters has showed signs of improvement after it hired former VP of J. Crew Direct Trish Donnelly as president to lead its brand to recovery. It has been suggested that she has been able to leverage her retail expertise to resolve the brand’s shortcomings. But apart from fresh leadership and an increasing UK high street presence, Urban Outfitters’ efforts to elevate its shopping experience has had a positive impact.
Of course, this means that Urban Outfitters has joined the hoard of retailers trying to master the multichannel customer journey. But it hasn’t stopped there. As the retailer starts to spruce up its site, its hiring process has gone digital as well.
Maren Korellis, head of field recruitment for Urban Outfitters, suggested the evolution of technology has enabled her team to connect with candidates in non-traditional ways.
“Our candidates are our customers across all brands,” she said. “We want to do more than just sell them something. We pride ourselves on inspiring people. Urban has always wanted to inspire associates and candidates to push the limits.”
According to Korellis, a few years ago the company moved away from paper applications and transitioned their retail candidates to apply online through an applicant tracking system.
“While this added some efficiency, we realised that we didn’t have the solution to identify our best candidates or understand who they really were,” Korellis explained.
Because the employees would have to interact with customers, Korellis wanted to see their emotions and personalities. A profile or a resume can show experience “but doesn’t tell show how a person will respond to a customer” or present themselves on a sales floor, she said. Those intangible qualities were cited as being critical to their operations.
“Prior to digital interviewing, our retail stores used group interviews for hiring sales associates,” she said. “We would have six to eight candidates come in at once for a group interview. The retail managers didn’t feel this was an effective way to evaluate who would be the best fit for our culture. We realised this was just a quick snapshot of some candidates but, like an application, didn’t give us enough insight into their persona.”
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Urban Outfitters’ talent team has been intrigued by the concept of digital interviewing as an option so as to modernise and personalise the recruiting experience.
“The ability to use on demand interviews to gain insight into the candidates was extremely compelling,” she said. “We knew above all other recruiting technologies that digital recruiting would be a game-changer for our management teams to find and staff their stores with the best talent in the industry.”
They now survey all of their candidates, most of which claimed they loved the flexibility and convenience to interview anywhere, anytime and even from their mobile device.
“In just six months, we had nearly 16,000 digital interviews completed and 30 per cent of them were taken on a mobile device,” Korellis said. “Offering a mobile experience is so important to us, because we are meeting these candidates where they prefer to interact every day.”
Through this method, 90 per cent candidates have been able complete their interview outside of business hours.
“Moving to digital interviewing has transformed our hiring process into a true reflection of the Urban Outfitters culture,” she concluded.
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