FENTON, Mich. -- Two Michigan retailers are improving their potential labor pool through an automated interview system that screens applicants who call a toll-free number.
VG's Food Centers and Pharmacy here, and G&R Felpausch Co., Hastings, Mich., have gained better access to the labor pool through an automated telephone interview service, despite a tight employment market. Both retailers are using the system chainwide, and plan to expand its use for staffing of new stores.
VG's went live with the system in all of its 13 stores last month. The system, originally implemented to staff the retailer's new Sterling Heights, Mich., store in April, provided results almost immediately.
"About 30 people applied for positions through the system by the second day," said Danny Thomas, vice president of human resources at VG's. "That is pretty good for an area with an unemployment rate of around 3%."
According to Thomas, within two months 200 potential workers applied by phone. The system identified 25 who were under the age of 16, 15 who were unable to be contacted due to incorrect information and 80 other applicants who did not match job requirements at that time.
"We hired 80 applicants. I am unsure how many of those would have been hired, or how long the process would have taken, without the automated screening system," Thomas explained.
Similarly, Felpausch implemented its system a year ago when recruiting employees for a new store in Jackson, Mich.
"We needed to hire and train 150 employees within three weeks, and the system helped us draw from a low-unemployment labor market of 4%," said Gary Randall, training manager at G&R Felpausch. The retailer now uses the system chainwide in its 19 stores.
Applicants are urged to call a toll-free number that is published in newspaper want ads or on store signs. As potential hires call, they are greeted by a description of the chain, the community it serves, and available employment opportunities. Users are directed to respond directly on their telephone's touch-tone keypad.
The system can be customized, allowing retailers to ask detailed 'yes or no' and multiple-choice questions, including work hours, store location, specific positions, and even more personal questions related to work ethics, in order to learn more about potential employees.
"I was hesitant to ask questions involving theft. However, when we asked applicants if they had committed an act of theft within the last five years, 5% of applicants honestly answered yes," said VG's Thomas. "Questions like that helped to flag certain applicants and eliminate some people instantly."
Applicants' answers are analyzed by the system provider, Reid Psychological Systems, Chicago, and faxed to retailers for their assessment of potential employees.
The major benefit that both retailers believe the system offers is the ability to learn more about the applicant before inviting them in for a formal meeting.