Success Stories

An appetite for improved results in grocery

Raising Standards, Reducing Shrink and Slashing Turnover in the Grocery Industry.


This 56-location largebox grocer had enormous difficulty staffing open positions, and local managers were desperate, hiring virtually anyone who applied.

Put a system in place that made it easy for very large numbers of people to apply, while at the same time raising standards and making it harder to get hired.

In late 2006, Fit First® was retained to install their online selection process in the Eastern division of a large National grocery chain that operates 56 large format locations. At the time, their most pressing problem seemed to be one of attraction. What they did not realize at the time is that this one issue was so monumental that it masked a number of others that were hurting them just as badly. 

Nearly all locations were critically understaffed; some stores had such a hard time finding people willing to work nights that they had to perform all their overnight activities through the day while shoppers were in the store, resulting in operational nightmares. 

An interview with one store manager at the start of the rollout is a good illustration: “This store has a full complement of 350 employees, including me, two assistant managers and 24 department heads. I have to figure out how to hire 60 people TODAY just so we can operate to standard. I lose 8-10 people every week, and I have only 4 applications on file, from the last ads we ran”. 

Their approach to attracting and selecting talent was fairly conventional. Walk-ins were sent to Customer Service to complete an application and were often interviewed by a department manager and hired on the spot. The company had heavily advertised a number of job fairs in major metro locations at an average investment of $12,000 each, often hiring fewer than a dozen candidates from any one event. 

Solved Attraction 

HiringSmart®’s first order of business was to build a multi-store hiring portal for each metro area, with a unique URL for each store location. That address was promoted in each store; business cards were placed at Customer Service; the company flashed their URLs on advertising flyers and at the bottom of cash register tapes, and top performers were asked to invite their friends to go online for an interview. 

Within two weeks, the store manager quoted above had 197 people pre-qualified and waiting for their second interview – this time with a hiring manager on site. When we followed up again a month later, the hourly lead who had been trained to take over and coordinate hiring at the store informed us that she only needed to find about ten more people, but there was no panic and that she was learning to be ‘awfully picky’. At the eight month mark, the company had a data bank of over 15,000 completed first interviews, without tying up a single minute of management time. By the two year mark, that number had swelled to in excess of 35,000, including over 200 management candidates, far in excess of what they had been able to generate through an expensive national job board campaign. 

In a comparison of the first eight months using Fit First® vs. the same period the year before, it is interesting to note that the client actually hired fewer people – and yet they were able to achieve full staffing for the first time ever in their history. 

Reduced Turnover 

Turnover was reduced from 51.9% to 29.9% in that same period, and further reduced to 20% at the eighteen month mark. More importantly, the profile of the turnover changed: in the eight months before HiringSmart®, nearly half of all turnover occurred after the 60 day mark; with HiringSmart®, the same proportion occurred in the first 30 days. Managers were no longer held hostage to poor performers, and moved more quickly to replace them. 

Raised Standards, Reduced Shrink, Attracted Better Quality 

This client found lots of benefits and used them to promote the program. Managers were spending far less time in the interview process, with better people. Some had to learn, for the first time, how to be selective. They were only spending time with those candidates who had the highest likelihood of success. In stores that had critical needs, the fact that there was suddenly a pipeline of pre-screened candidates who could be identified, assessed and selected in less than 24 hours was a game-changer. 

One of the biggest dividends, however, was that even as they asked more than ever before from candidates in terms of time invested in getting hired (remember, they went from a one-step process to a four-step process that required candidates to invest 30-35 minutes in an online interview and the same again later in the process to complete an online assessment of their attitudes towards Integrity, Reliability and Work Ethic). 

The immediate result of integrating this particular assessment into their screening process? Both the number and the quality of candidates they attracted went through the roof. Attendance improved – absenteeism went from being a daily event to a very occasional one, and people showed up for their shifts on time or early. There was less overtime because stores were staffed and work was getting done in the allotted time. And shrink went down so dramatically that the client made it a focal point in a training video they produced to sell the HiringSmart program internally. 

Instilled a Strong Sense of Pride 

In spite of the increased time and effort required of candidates, it’s clear that candidates themselves appreciate a more rigorous process and feel a strong sense of pride in making the grade. A conversation with Cory, a Halifax associate they hired through the HiringSmart® process, is very telling of the candidate’s experience: 

The online interview was cool. It asked me a bunch of questions I wasn’t used to, but they really made me think about what was important to me… it was hard to get hired here for sure. The standards are high. But now that I’m in, I feel like I really belong here. I feel kind of proud to be part of the team… and the people here are so much better than the losers I used to work with at [a major office supply retailer]. Here, people really care about getting the job done and doing the right thing for the customer.”


from ‘hire on the spot’ to a bank of 15,000 completed first interviews on file 

from chronic staff shortages to every store fully staffed – for the first time in their history 

reduction in turnover 

in shrink, absenteeism & overtime, as people showed up for their shifts and the work got done in the allotted time.