Imagine opening a recruiting office in a shopping mall. The U.S. military has had them for years, appropriately referred to as a station. What we’re talking about here, though, is not that metal desk, stiff backed chair, linoleum floor office, but a carpeted “living room” with two big screen TVs, leather upholstery and a cheery greeting from a recruiting professional.
“Welcome into our living room,” says Patricia McKinney, HR manager for the Starwood hotel properties in Houston. “It has that kind of feel to it,” she adds, describing the recruiting center that opened Nov. 19th in the Memorial City Mall in Houston.
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc . is opening three new hotels over the next 18 months or so in the Houston area and needs some 400 workers to staff them. What better way to recruit them, says McKinney, than at a mall.
“This is the time of year people are out shopping. There’s high traffic and they’re curious. You wouldn’t believe the number of people we get who stop in because they’re curious. They want to know what this is all about,” McKinney explains.
Because the recruitment center shares mall space with the sales office for the hotel, potential employees are able to see what the new facilities will look like and feel like. Two sample hotels rooms share the space so recruits can see “the kind of quality workplace we have,” McKinney proudly told us. “We want to give people a sense of what the hotel will feel like; the kind of place they’ll want to work at.”
In the three weeks the store has been open, a few hundred prospects have stopped by and 25-30 hires have been made.
Starwood has done this before in a handful of other cities where it was opening new hotels. But except for the military and the occasional hiring kiosk in malls, no other company has done this as far as CareerXroads’ Mark Mehler knows. “It’s a pretty bright idea,” he says. “Anytime you can get in front of a lot of people it has benefit.”
Volt, the staffing company, had a booth at a recent Asian bridal fair, he told us. There, amongst the wedding photographers, dress shops, caterers, and banquet hall managers Volt was recruiting IT staff on behalf of Vonage.
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“I have no idea how well they did, but there they were. The only recruiting booth there,” Mehler said. “It’s the talent war. It’s come back.”
Starwood’s mall store is, in some sense, a manifestation of that talent war. The company’s outreach for candidates included the University of Houston, which has a hospitality program, and the state’s career services offices.
The mall store is conveniently open Monday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The weekend hours reach working people while the shortened hours allow for evening interviews, McKinney says. Candidates and the curious come in during the day, watch videos, and read about the new hotels and the Starwood experience. The next step is to have them fill out an online application, which is processed through the company’s Taleo ATS. McKinney, who works onsite in the mall recruitment center, is notified of all qualified candidates. When the hiring manager is present, the prospect can be interviewed on the spot. Otherwise, an evening interview is scheduled. If they make it through, the screening company is across the street from the mall.
The first hotel opens after the first of the year. McKinney says her toughest job now is keeping the workers who have been hired. They don’t start until later in January, so she works to keep in touch with each of them, hoping to convince them not to take another job until they go on the Starwood payroll.
That may be the tough part, but overall, McKinney said earnestly, “I love this.”