Engage, Qualify, Hire, Repeat: How Circle K Tackles Always-on Recruiting
Leading convenience retailer Circle K faces a common HR challenge: attracting a high quantity of candidates for more than 15,000 locations — without sacrificing quality of talent.
Darin Averill, Head of Global Talent Acquisition and Strategy at Circle K, discusses how organizations can balance hiring workloads through reimagined processes and automation that make high-volume hiring efforts more efficient and effective.
Keep reading to catch the highlights or stream the full episode below.
Tell us about Circle K’s employer brand
With roots as a family-run business, convenience store company Circle K now operates 15,000 stores in the U.S. alone, as well as in countries worldwide — but their business model prioritizes preserving local autonomy. That means not only catering to regional preferences but also giving stores flexibility when it comes to talent acquisition (TA).
“It’s a global organization that stays super-local with this business unit model,” Averill said, adding that working there doesn’t feel “corporate.” Circle K has retained a family-run feel.
What TA challenges do Circle K stores face?
The company’s TA challenges tend to be very localized, Averill said.
For example, European locations typically have a “massive” candidate flow requiring a focus on recruiter efficiency. In the U.S., however, there is more competition in local areas with fewer candidates, demanding fast responses from hiring teams.
“The talent acquisition struggle through a global lens is just varied,” he said, adding that even the U.S. market has pockets that see good candidate flow. This challenge is one of the reasons why his team uses Phenom’s Intelligent Talent Experience platform, a solution that empowers Circle K to take a business-level approach while retaining local independence. “We have to have a solution that adapts.”
How are you using automation to stay competitive?
Using Phenom High-Volume Hiring, Circle K applies AI and automation to the hiring process in a few key ways, Averill explained:
Candidate matching. For support-focused job roles, AI helps recruiters quickly find top talent. “[AI] is super helpful in identifying the right talent for the right roles based on field matches and their profiles.”
Automating high-volume hiring. On the store side, Circle K hires huge volumes of candidates every year. Averill is developing an automated strategy to identify top candidates for store roles. It’s particularly advantageous for hard-to-fill roles like overnight shifts, he said. “If a candidate is qualified as the strongest match candidate based on the criteria we’ve built, we can generate an offer based on that screening,” he said, bypassing in-person interviewing and securing the candidate before another company swoops in.
Self-scheduling for a superior candidate experience. With automated self-scheduling tools, Circle K can give candidates a magnetic experience that solidifies their interest in the company. “One of my goals across the board is to not have candidates waiting for us to reach out to them, but letting them take control of their journey, self-schedule an interview — assuming they passed the screening criteria we’ve established — and move them through the funnel.”
A high-quality mobile experience is critical. What tools do you use to create that?
Circle K has to meet their candidates where they are — and that’s typically on a mobile device rather than a desktop screen. About 80% of North American candidates apply through a mobile device, according to Averill. To achieve a stellar mobile experience, Circle K uses SMS text-to-apply applications, a chatbot allowing end-to-end application completion on the career site, and Phenom Hosted Apply.
The hosted apply aspect of their hiring process layers on top of Circle K’s ATS. “We’re able to provide a more seamless candidate experience, especially on mobile, where it doesn’t redirect to another site,” Averill said. Responses flow into the ATS for data consistency on the back end. On the front end? An easily accessible apply experience with a seamless login process.
How does the text-to-apply function work?
It’s a sophisticated process that often begins with a good old-fashioned printed sign. “They still work,” Averill noted, adding that Circle K attributes 35% to 40% of application inquiries to printed store signs.
“We advertise a text-to-apply number and a QR code that… will take them either to the SMS [application] or to our career site chat feature so that they can start engaging with an AI bot that helps them find a job that’s relevant to them,” he explained.
Candidates receive job matches tailored to their availability, preferred shifts, and location, which makes it easy for them to find the right role quickly.
“We’re doing some things through AI as part of the SMS and chatbot apply feature to make it even easier and more relevant to the candidate.”
Post-apply, how do you ensure a smooth hiring process?
Interview scheduling and employee onboarding present challenges that automation has helped solve, Averill said. Automated self-scheduling gives candidates flexibility and speed in connecting with recruiters or hiring managers.
Circle K also uses video interviews to meet candidates where they are, which is customizable to individual stores. “We can actually potentially skip the interview altogether,” Averill said. “We can make a hiring decision based on the video interview.”
And for stores that really need to fill key roles quickly, the automation is set to generate an immediate job offer for applicants who are a perfect fit.
In short, Circle K uses the Phenom platform to tweak the hiring process according to the urgency and needs of individual stores and hiring managers, while preserving the integrity of candidate information so that high-quality hiring decisions can be made.
What strategies do you use for stores struggling to target best-fit talent?
In addition to applying automation for stores with candidate flow challenges, Averill has designed a “recruiting playbook” with strategies for boosting applicant flow specific to stakeholders at various levels of the TA process.
The store manager checklist, for example, includes managing in-store candidate marketing and promoting referral bonuses for employees.
Meanwhile, a page out of the district manager’s playbook involves outreach to local schools to advertise Circle K’s tuition reimbursement program. The playbook also covers how to engage a recruiter or HR professional to help with marketing tactics like billboards and Google ads.
It’s a layered approach designed to start with organic recruiting. “Then we just keep walking upstairs from there until we find the avenue that fills jobs,” Averill said. He uses robust analytics to identify which stores need the highest-level approach.
What recruiting tools do you plan to leverage in the future?
Expanding video assessments. Averill uses video interviews to staff his own team, and to him, the benefits are obvious: chiefly, speed and consistency. He plans to encourage his managers in the field to experience the benefits of video interviewing for themselves.
AI-supported lead capture. When it comes to filling support roles, capturing data from career site visitors who showed interest but didn’t convert into applicants has been “wildly successful,” according to Averill. “How do recruiters go and fill the funnel when they don’t have a funnel? Capturing leads in the career site is a good way to do that.” Recruiters can re-engage these warm leads with relevant outreach that keeps Circle K top of mind.
Cloud-based job sourcing. Using AI to engage talent through third-party job boards and matching them to open job roles is another exciting feature Averill plans to optimize. “I’m seeing more value in that solution than I originally even thought.”
Discover how you can hire like Circle K by booking a personalized demo here.
Join us for more TXL every Thursday at noon ET. Get notified for all upcoming TXL episodes here.
Kasey is a content marketing writer, focused on highlighting the importance of positive experiences. She's passionate about SEO strategy, collaboration, and data analytics. In her free time, she enjoys camping, cooking, exercising, and spending time with her loved ones — including her dog, Rocky.
Get the latest talent experience insights delivered to your inbox.
Sign up to the Phenom email list for weekly updates!