M&S reaps benefit of image makeover

Applications to Marks & Spencer’s graduate trainee scheme have surged by
115 per cent on last year’s overall figures, with a month still to go before
the scheme’s cut off point.

John McElwee, head of graduate recruitment, said the rise was due to
improved perceptions of the employer brand and a new, streamlined, online
screening process.

"M&S rose from 25 to 16 in The Times Top 100 this year and we’ve
received fantastic feedback about our rebranded recruitment literature and
website," said McElwee.

The recruitment process itself has been overhauled – with the help of
graduate recruitment consultants WCN and online screening consultants SHL –
using feedback from graduate focus groups.

Now the online process itself screens applicants through four stages –
eligibility, verbal reasoning, numerical reasoning and a forced-choice talent
screener.

Unsuccessful applicants receive automatic feedback generated at whichever
stage they fail. If an applicant gets as far as the talent screener they
receive a one-page report on their profile that highlights the areas that do
and do not match what M&S is looking for.

Successful candidates that pass through the entire online process are
invited to attend a final-stage assessment centre.

In previous years, candidates filled in a one-stage online recruitment form,
the latter half of which elicited lengthy text-based answers. M&S
recruitment staff then sifted through these to select candidates for interview
and those that got through the interview attended a final assessment centre
stage.

McElwee said: "The focus groups highlighted that this was a very
time-consuming procedure for the applicants, both in terms of the form and
travelling to interviews."

M&S has cut out the interview stage and incorporated the psychometric
tests, previously done at the assessment centre, into the new online system.

"This means the assessment centre stage is now more of two-way process,
which includes a store tour where potential recruits get a taste of the working
environment they’ll be coming into," he added.

By Sarah Ball

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