Q&A with RetailData’s Terri Shiffer: Hiring Part Time Workers in Today’s Fiercely Competitive Market by Streamlining the Candidate Experience

Terri Shiffer is the Human Resources Director for RetailData, a company that partners with the largest retailers in the world to deliver timely and accurate pricing intelligence at massive scale. With 88% of their workforce in the field performing essential data collection, RetailData’s growth depends on the fast and efficient high-volume hiring of part time field representatives. Here, Terri shares how streamlining the hiring process, activating recruiting automation across workflows, and more have helped them differentiate and develop a competitive edge.

Tell us more about RetailData.

For more than 30 years, RetailData has been a pioneer and unrivaled leader in progressively improving methods for collecting competitive retail prices. Our continuous investment in attracting and hiring talented team members who create and leverage innovative technology solutions and tools has worked to continuously strengthen RetailData’s partnerships with the world’s largest retailers. The data, tools, and insights we provide are crucial to their business decisions.

During the pandemic, as you might imagine, our insights were even more essential to these essential businesses. Think about the inventory challenges last year, particularly with cleaning and sanitizing products, masks and gloves, and the rapid changes in how we now choose to purchase our groceries. Over the last 18 months, this pandemic precipitated a five- to ten-year advancement in how consumers make their grocery purchases. Our data and the related insights gathered by our field representatives provided retailers with an immediate view of both in-store and online trends.

Our field representatives are key to procuring and transmitting specific information to our team of data analysts such as item prices, promotions and more in every retail environment imaginable. Every field representative is critical to the ability to deliver product—our data and sophisticated analysis—to our clients. Our team of reps span all of North America. For us in talent acquisition, this is a high-volume recruiting role. Our recruiting efforts are always on and in recent months we are averaging 200+ openings at any given time.

What’s your #1 challenge when recruiting for these high-volume roles?

All of our field reps are remote and the majority of them tend to work 8-18 hours per week. What’s different and a selling point is that the role offers a unique blend of the perks associated with being a traditional company employee as well as some of the autonomy and flexibility of gig-work. For example, collection “windows” provide incredible scheduling flexibility. However, our biggest challenge is that it has become increasingly competitive to hire part time workers. For RetailData to successfully convert applicants into hires, we must quickly engage with them and strive to deliver the best candidate experience possible to set ourselves apart from the competition.

What hiring processes did you identify to improve the candidate experience for faster and friendlier hiring?

Well, we love data! Just like our customers, it informs everything that we do. With GR8 People we were able to zero in on funnel status to both critically and collectively assess our hiring process steps. Looking at drop off and close rates, we realized fewer steps would lessen candidate “fatigue” and streamline the process for our hiring managers at the same time. For example, combining a two-interview process into a single hybrid interview was a big, but impactful, decision. Honestly, we had some worry that the interview consolidation might result in not being able to truly assess candidate fit and we’d see that impact in higher turnover. We’ve monitored our turnover data and are not seeing any red flags, just faster hires. We are now converting our hires in less than half the time (from seven days to three days) as a result of eliminating that extra interview step. Plus, another benefit of collaborating with our internal stakeholders when revamping our hiring process was that we now have up to five hiring managers actively engaged in the recruiting process. They are using our GR8 People ATS, GR8 HIRE, in an expanded function. This has created our own in-house resource for “recruiting capacity on demand”.

How were you able to drive strong user adoption of your applicant tracking system with hiring managers?

This is one of the reasons why we selected GR8 People. We needed an ATS that was more progressive, intuitive, and brought unified tools and solutions together into a talent platform. Our previous ATS wasn’t keeping pace. We’ve built a modern career site, started leveraging text recruiting, and have hosted virtual hiring events with GR8 People. We couldn’t do any of that with our previous solution.

We review our processes fairly often and when it makes sense, we can easily add efficiency, simplify a process, and measure improvements. This has included morphing and shifting who handles certain aspects of our recruiting process too. GR8 People’s ability to meet us where we are, not just with the technology but with a high level of support, has made user adoption so successful across the board.

Our GR8 People support team consists of great listeners. They provided our hiring managers with excellent training and support when we launched and have continued to help us retool anything we need or want the platform to do.

As a result, our hiring managers now have a self-service workflow and the know-how to be able to work autonomously in GR8 HIRE. I’m not saying that they are now GR8 People gurus, however, this level of user-friendly efficiency, let alone training and support, would never have been a reality with our former ATS.

What other ways are you striving to achieve increased speed and efficiency with GR8 People?

Our team was able to conclude that it was often taking 24, 48, and in some cases up to 72 hours to connect with a candidate. The culprit? Waiting for an email reply back from the candidate. This was just too much of a gap. Now, our apply process encourages candidates to opt-in to receive text messages. We clarify that we are asking for their cell because we want to get in touch quickly. We also clearly state that all messages are strictly limited to their candidacy—no spam. This helps build trust and set expectations with those we hope to hire. In GR8 People, we’re also able to include a companion text to emails we send on every action, including onboarding. Our candidates and our new hires never go into a black hole. We are able to communicate with them immediately and efficiently.

What performance metrics are you tracking?

GR8 People presents comprehensive metrics and dashboards, but it was a huge win that the platform has an API that talks to our Power BI too. We are actively monitoring time spent at each stage in the funnel to identify if there is a stage that’s associated with candidate withdrawal from our field representative talent pool. We are currently very focused on the number of new applicants by day and our average time to fill. We also created a “priority status” for each job requisition. This now allows us to hone in on building the necessary applicant flow for priority openings.

What advantages with recruiting automation are helping with hiring not just field representatives, but with any open position within RetailData?

We have built a broad range of workflows. In GR8 People they are easy to build, browse, and modify, but they also help us maintain consistency as we collect information and screen candidates. For example, having knock out questions linked to automated disposition communications has eliminated what was once a manual task. Another example, if an applicant’s status is in selection mode, a trigger is set to request a motor vehicle check. Once that’s submitted, HR is notified that this person needs to be prepped for onboarding and an automated message is then sent to the candidate introducing them to their onboarding specialist—essentially decoupling them from their initial recruiter. Imagine the time savings across every workflow. It’s huge.

By being able to continuously evaluate our processes, activate new strategic tools like text and smart applications of recruiting automation, we are always gaining traction. We’ve become savvier and GR8 People has been able to keep up with us at every turn.