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Fast food giant saves time, money by turning to technology to screen candidates
Hiring managers as well as human resource leaders at Burger King Corp. had grown increasingly frustrated with the fast food company’s paper-based job application process. Paperwork was unwieldy to manage, restaurant managers too often spent valuable time screening candidates who didn’t pan out, and there were significant cost and time inefficiencies in processing I-9 and Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) forms.
So when Burger King rolled out an online-only hiring system in April 2010, featuring an applicant tracking system (ATS) from Kronos Inc., line and HR managers were quick to embrace it. Now, when candidates stop into a restaurant to apply for jobs ranging from hourly team member to management positions, they’re handed cards that provide detailed instructions for applying at bkcareers.com. Burger King is among the first quick-service restaurant chains to abandon paper for an electronic-only hiring system in all of its corporate-owned U.S. locations.
Candidates can apply from their personal computers and cell phones or from computers in libraries or coffee shops. Human resources staff experimented with placing hand-held devices in restaurants during a pilot test but found most applicants preferred to complete applications in more-private settings.
Among the biggest benefits of the new system is the reduced time that busy hiring managers need to spend on front-end screening of job candidates, said Burger King Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Jose Tomas. The online application process includes a 100-question behavioral assessment tool developed by Kronos’ industrial-organizational psychologists. That team conducted extensive research inside Burger King to validate the tool.
“We were looking for a far more robust and efficient hiring system that could save our managers time, result in improved quality of hire and drive cost savings through reduction in paper,” Tomas said.
The Kronos ATS is fully integrated with Burger King’s HRIS system, reducing the handoffs once needed to input and track paper applications. “It’s a fairly seamless integration, so the time and labor component around processing applications has been reduced significantly,” Tomas said.
The assessment tool is designed to gauge the proficiency of candidates for restaurant jobs in two key competencies: customer service and reliability. Burger King wanted employees with a strong aptitude for dealing with people and a history of doing what they say they will do. Workers who aren’t customer friendly, don’t show up for shifts or perform unreliably have a big impact on operational results, Tomas said, especially during peak lunch-hour periods.
Based on their assessment scores, candidates are rated automatically by the system as red (not recommended), yellow (proceed with caution) or green (strongly recommended), with line managers moving them to the next hiring stage at their discretion. That winnowing reduces significantly the time managers spend making phone calls during initial screens, freeing them to spend more time interviewing prequalified candidates.
In addition, the system translates applications completed in Spanish into English for non- Spanish-speaking managers, so managers no longer have to ask co-workers to take time to translate for them.
An initial concern that the assessment might result in too few candidates being recommended for the next hiring stage proved unfounded. “There have been enough applicants scoring green that we’ve received very few complaints from managers,” said Priscilla Messir, a Burger King recruiter.
Jeanette Lixey, a company business manager, said the ATS has saved her valuable hiring time as well has helped managers under her purview hire more efficiently.
“My restaurant general managers were constantly making phone calls and interviewing in the old system, but now they spend less time on the front end and can skip over interviewing ‘red’ candidates they may have spent time with in the past,” Lixey said.
Another feature of the system garnering positive reviews is the ability for managers to consider candidates who’ve applied directly to their restaurants and other area restaurants as well (those within a 10-mile radius of an applicant’s ZIP code.) For example, if a job candidate applies to a nearby restaurant but that restaurant doesn’t act on the application for three days—usually because it doesn’t have an immediate hiring need—managers from other restaurants can view and act on that application. Such cross-system hiring wasn’t possible under the paper-based application process.
“Overall the system has provided much more insight into the candidate pipeline and flow than Burger King has had before,” said Messir.
Human resources has been able to move paper-based compliance forms online, creating a number of new efficiencies. For example, 1-9 forms are now completed online by new hires as part of the application process, eliminating the need to mail paper forms to a third-party vendor for processing.
“Everything is done electronically, so if we are audited it’s already in the system,” said Messir. “There’s also been a big cost and time savings by reducing the amount of paper in our new-hire packets.” Questions regarding eligibility for WOTC are addressed in online applications. “If we decide to move forward with a candidate, the system will automatically determine whether they are in target groups that qualify for tax credits,” Messir said.
The Kronos ATS interfaces with Burger King’s background check investigation system, another development embraced by line managers.
“Previously our hiring managers had to fax the paper application, consent form, proof of education and more to the background check company, but now it’s all done with the click of a button,” Messir said.
Like most fast-food restaurants, Burger King experiences high turnover during hourly employees’ first 90 days on the job, but Tomas said anecdotal data shows that turnover rate has been reduced significantly in the new hiring system’s first six months of operation.
Since rolling out the ATS, Burger King has received more than 265,000 online job applications. “I can’t imagine our managers going through that many applications under the old paper system nearly as effectively or efficiently as they do now,” said Tomas.
Anecdotal feedback from general and assistant store managers suggests the assessment tool has led them to hire better employees.
“They believe employees coming in now have more of a predisposition toward serving our guests well,” Tomas said.
Tomas said that getting buy-in from key line managers on the need for the online hiring system proved a key to its success. “This wasn’t just an HR initiative we wanted to implement for cost-efficiency reasons,” he said. “We knew it would make hiring managers’ lives easier, save them time and improve the quality of people they hired.”
Dave Zielinski is a freelance writer and editor in Minneapolis, Minn.
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