John Lewis centralises recruitment process with new online solution from WCN

Great customer service is a key element in recruitment at John Lewis, according to the retailer’s resourcing manager, Carole Donaldson.

Speaking at a breakfast seminar, hosted by WCN, a leading global e-recruitment software supplier, Donaldson said: “Every candidate is also a potential customer, so much so that applicants could equate to a significant amount of potential revenue in custom. It’s vital they leave the application process having had a good experience of our customer service. With 95% of our recruitment being in volume such as seasonal jobs, we need to ensure each applicant goes away with a positive brand opinion.”

John Lewis said it is looking to revolutionise its recruitment by moving the whole resourcing department into one unit. The aim is to increase efficiency, reduce costs and increase the candidate’s experience when applying. John Lewis said it wanted to streamline the process as it went from paper to online, making the whole process faster and smarter, not just for HR, but potential employees; John Lewis now receives 99% of job applications through its website.

During the presentation Donaldson identified three lessons learnt so far while moving John Lewis to a centralised recruitment model.

Ask questions

“Firstly, ask lots of questions; understand what everyone’s role is. We found the recruitment practice was different between stores – there were different types of candidate communications and recruitment tests that we didn’t even know we had. Asking questions will help create a clear strategy; we now have one standard application form which has flexible elements.”

Understand the process

“Secondly, process maps – come to love them, so you can see the full recruitment process. It will help you identify where you can eliminate certain steps from the application process, creating a targeted system that is fast and efficient. Our aim is to enable hiring managers to get their vacancies filled efficiently so they are in their roles delivering great service to our customers as soon as possible.


“Lastly, you need someone who understands technology. When you move everything to one location the e-recruitment technology needs specific functionality, for example, if you are looking to fill 40 new roles and over 100 apply, it is helpful to ‘bank’ the extra candidates so they don’t have to reapply for a similar role. John Lewis is now developing its own bank of talent.”  

Centralisation has enabled John Lewis to revolutionise its retail recruitment process, according to Gabrielle McManus, WCN account director for John Lewis.

“John Lewis is a multi-brand organisation and with over 360,000 applications to digest, creating a centralised location means everything can be scaled back, making the application process easier for both parties and 100% secure,” she said.

WCN developed two ways for John Lewis to recruit; one to fill volume roles, the other for bespoke roles, so each candidate would be directed down the right route. For the volume roles CV screening was a big process.

McManus said: “A line manager’s job is to be on the shop floor rather than shifting through various applications. The WCN system supports this by removing most candidates who are unsuitable for the role so the line manager only looks at a small percentage of applications.”

WCN said the John Lewis e-recruitment site looks and feels completely in tune with John Lewis’ branding. The interactive system allows candidates to schedule their own interviews and accept online offers formally, creating a self-serving intelligent vacancy process which makes the process easier for both the applicant and company.