Darren Evans recounts Asda’s extensive recruitment process in readiness for the opening of a new store

With one of the lowest levels of unemployment across the country, we always knew that recruiting 450 colleagues for a new 50,000 sq ft store in Crawley was going to be a major challenge.

Of course, the fact that Asda is new to this part of West Sussex and has been named consistently over the past few years as one of the UK’s top 10 places to work stands us in good stead. But that should not mask the hard work on the ground that has been put in to create a real buzz around the town.

This began in February with a meeting at the JobCentre to agree service levels. Press adverts, recruitment banners on the hoardings around the store, visits to local schools’ and college careers conventions all followed. We held an open day, complete with magician to keep children entertained, manned a stand at Crawley Carnival and placed posters in the local community centres.

Sit back and expect people to come to you, and your recruitment plans will fail. It’s really important that businesses take the time to get to know the local area. Simply relying on people to come to you isn’t enough, especially in areas like Crawley. That’s why we seized every opportunity we could to let people know that we were recruiting, sometimes using slightly quirky methods like the Asda ‘ad bike’ or handing out calling cards to people we saw offering fantastic service to their customers.

We’re grateful for all the help provided by the JobCentre team - members screened all the applications for us. But because there is only so much you can ascertain from an application form, we called each of the applicants to tell them a bit more about the company and the kind of jobs available. This 10-minute informal chat helped us to establish whether people had the kind of personality and attitude we look for in our colleagues just as much as it helped them find out whether they would be comfortable with our culture.

Group selections started at the end of April. During each two-hour session we gave people background information about the company history and culture, the benefits offered by Asda, such as the Sharesave scheme and colleague discount card, and information about the range of flexible working packages. It is important to make candidates feel as comfortable as possible during the selection process to ensure we spread the net as wide as possible in terms of targeting potential new recruits.

We ran an average of five sessions a week with between 16 and 20 people attending each. Of the 4,000 applications received, a total of 1,400 people were group-screened, and 900 of them were invited back for a one-to-one interview with the relevant department manager.

Recruitment has been hard work, it always is, but it hasn’t been as difficult in Crawley as we feared it might. The JobCentre opened on eight
consecutive weekends for us (a first for Crawley JobCentre), provided extra office space for interviewing and assigned two dedicated colleagues to work with us throughout. We also forged close links with Remploy, the UK's leading supplier of employment opportunities for disabled people and, as a result, have recruited five colleagues we may not otherwise have had the chance to meet.

We’re now just about ready for opening day on September 1 (Monday) and all of us at Crawley are looking forward to being a part of the local community for years to come and striving to be the best place to work and shop in Crawley.

n Darren Evans is people manager at Asda, Crawley.
Wide selection focus