Southwest’s Ultimate Time Saving Hack: Automated Interview Scheduling
Struggling with messy calendars and inefficiencies during the candidate interview process? So was Southwest Airlines...until they automated interview scheduling to maximize recruiter efficiency, provide a great candidate experience, and reduce time to hire.
In this IAMPHENOM 2023 session recap, Southwest’s Joanna Ferrara, Team Leader, Recruitment Marketing, and Alison Meland, Associate Recruitment Marketing Consultant, give an inside look at how automated scheduling has sent their TA team soaring to new heights — saving 3,000 hours of time in the first year of usage and enabling more than 1,000 additional interviews.
Facing the Pain Points of Manual Scheduling
Since 2021, Southwest’s talent acquisition team has really taken off: the team grew by 250% in 18 months and hired 18,000 external new employees in 2022. Part of this success is directly attributable to the team’s overhauled interview scheduling process, which they optimized in 2022 with Phenom AI Scheduling.
But a few years ago, Southwest was hitting the same turbulence that so many organizations experience when it comes to candidate screening and interview scheduling, according to Ferrara. Lengthy, manual processes sucked time and energy from recruiters and left candidates cold. Headaches from coordinating multiple interviewers and last-minute changes detracted from the experience for all stakeholders.
“Our recruiters would manually add their individual time slots into the system by cross-referencing with their Outlook calendar. After that, they'd export a list of the candidates they'd like to interview. Then they’d upload that list into the system, and from there send out all of the invitations to the candidates they'd like to invite,” Meland said, explaining the former process. “But that wasn’t the end. Recruiters would then need to check back in the system to see who's scheduled, put that time on their calendar, or send out those confirmations.”
In addition to streamlining interview scheduling, Southwest wanted to provide consistent, branded communications personalized to candidates’ needs. “Someone interviewing for a customer service role will follow a much different process than a pilot or flight attendant position,” Ferrara explained. “We wanted to be able to customize the workflows and messaging.”
From Scheduling Hassles to Best-in-Class Experience
A Phenom client since 2018, Southwest was thrilled when automated scheduling became a capability available through the platform — especially since it integrates with the CRM, which recruiters were already familiar with. “Coming out of the pandemic and a hiring freeze in 2021, there was a lot of change. We had to pivot quickly and introduced a lot of new tools. We were concerned about tool fatigue, and having the scheduler integrate with the Phenom CRM really helped us minimize complexity and avoid that fatigue,” Ferrara said.
AI Scheduling uses an API connection to integrate with calendars of recruiters, candidates, and hiring managers. The tool analyzes calendar data and sends automated invites for a time that works for all stakeholders.
Best of all, it runs around the clock — meaning interviews can be seamlessly scheduled 24/7.
The tool drives much faster screening and interview scheduling, cutting entire days off of the process. In fact, since launching in 2022, it’s saved a collective 357,8901 hours of recruiter time for Phenom clients. “In a competitive labor market, getting to the right talent as quickly as possible moves business forward and ensures a great experience for all involved,” said Ljuba Bogdanovich, Senior Director, Product Management, Phenom.
AI Scheduling also gives candidates the ability to self-schedule an interview time that works best for them. Rescheduling can be done with a click, with immediate automated updates and confirmations sent to all parties involved. “From our perspective, we want to make sure we’re respecting candidates’ time,” Bogdanovic added.
Improving the Talent Experience: The Sky’s the Limit
“It was clear that AI Scheduling would have a huge time savings impact for recruiters and give them back that time to make more personal connections with their candidates,” Meland said.
Since implementing the tool, Southwest has seen positive impacts in three focus areas — candidate experience, recruiter capacity, and speed to hire. Stand-out metrics include:
30,000 interviews scheduled with automation
Over 3,000 hours saved (a 63% reduction in time spent scheduling)
1,000 additional interviews scheduled per month
1-3 day decrease in time to hire
“That reduction in speed to hire becomes very meaningful when you’re bringing on 7,000 employees (net of attrition) in one year,” Ferrara pointed out.
“Automated Scheduling gives us the opportunity to provide a best-in-class experience for candidates,” Meland said. In addition to a much easier scheduling process, Southwest leverages the tool’s integrated chatbot as a 24/7 resource for candidates to get immediate answers to questions they have about upcoming interviews.
And with customized workflows, recruiters can personalize confirmation emails to candidates with information specific to the role they’ve applied for and the type of interview they’ll have, giving them a heads-up so they know what to expect. “We’re providing candidates with resources they want and can benefit from,” Meland said.
Meanwhile, the tool’s reporting and analytics dashboard makes it easy for TA leaders to keep a pulse on adoption and usage. “We use it to identify top users who can be champions for the tool, serving as a first line of defense in answering questions and supporting other team members with usage,” Meland said. “Then we as recruitment leaders can dive in and provide additional support as needed depending on where issues are, or where we’re noticing areas where we could up usage.”
Southwest expects to see these stellar results continue, predicting that planned enhancements will translate to increased adoption. For example, they plan to roll out updates that will enable group interview scheduling, a common format for high-volume hiring.
“Our partners at Phenom have just been really wonderful in keeping an eye on our adoption, Meland said. “They provide us with the resources we need to make sure that we're using this tool and making the most of it.”
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