Video interviews advance Loblaw's on-campus recruitment (National HR Awards)

Winner, Technology/Innovation Award
By Sarah Dobson
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 09/21/2015

Campus recruitment can be a tiring affair, going through the same motions every year in trying to find the best of the best.

Looking to change the equation, Loblaw decided to implement video recruiting, interviewing and assessment technology in September 2014 as part of its campus recruitment. And the results were impressive, with cost reductions, strong response rates and quality candidates.


Loblaw continually reviews not just what it’s doing but how it’s doing, and the campus program for Loblaw Pharmacy was pretty much the same for a number of years, according to Marc Viola, senior director of talent acquisition.

Previously, Loblaw planned, executed and attended recruiting events and career fairs at nine pharmacy schools across the country. A team of five to seven talent acquisition specialists, HR business partners and hiring managers travelled to each event to meet with students over a two- to four-day period. 

While the traditional approach was delivering quality candidates, the company started thinking there was a better way, he says.

“The video interviewing piece was very intriguing to us because it was a way to enhance not just the experience for candidates but also the recruiters, hiring managers — everyone involved — and also create  a lot of efficiencies through that process.”

Loblaw was looking to be more certain by “meeting” candidates online and asking questions earlier in the screening process (specifically, their locations of interest) before passing them on to meet with hiring managers.

There were some hesitations, says Viola, as the technology is not as mature in Canada as it is in other parts of the world. 

“We talked at length about what the pros/cons, what the risks might be in doing that,” he says. “But when we really started to dive deeper, the potential to create an overall more efficient and better experience, that far outweighed what we felt were the risks involved — there was huge potential with this tool and we were excited to try it.”

On-demand, cloud-based system

After looking at several vendors, the 134,000-employee company settled on the videoBIO Recruiter system, which offered on-demand, one-way and live video responses and submissions from any device, allowing for a virtual, digital process — and the assessment of candidates without having to travel across Canada to different locations.

The system is cloud-based with no software downloads, and it allows for different types of interviewing, can integrate with an applicant tracking system and has back-end support. 

The actual implementation only took two weeks, with the recruitment team trained in an in-classroom session at Loblaw offices. One of the company’s pharmacists also recorded a professional video invitation to personalize the invitations and drive up responses. 

Each recruiter account was preloaded with candidate lists and applicant questions while the employer branding page featured the Loblaw brand. 

And the system was user-friendly.

“We wanted to ensure we had the right system that was seamless and easy to use from an applicant standpoint that would ensure the highest number of applications and engagement,” says Ushma Desai, senior manager of talent acquisition at Loblaw. “It also provided a more convenient option for busy student applicants to apply from any device, anywhere, at anytime within our deadline.”

And while it was important for people to feel comfortable with the technology, the communication strategy was just as important, says Viola.

“Career centres across the country, student reps and clubs, had never had something like this delivered on campus before so being able to share the why, share the how, was extremely important and also to alleviate any of their concerns that they had and really keep two-way communication open prior to launch, and actually even during, to address anything.”

There was also an email marketing campaign encouraging students to submit their bios, says Desai. And as part of the system, a tutorial showed candidates how to put together their best profile, with options to use Teleprompters or edit the video.

“Scripted video said everything that we wanted to hear but didn’t showcase the candidate’s personality; the unscripted video showcased the candidate’s personality, so we were able to see both — and both types of individuals have a place for us depending on the location. So there’s advantages and disadvantages to both,” says Desai.

And the video allowed for observation.

“As recruiters, we’re able to pick up on verbal and non-verbal cues to identify if we think some of that scripting was playing a role in how somebody answered,” says Viola.


The video interviewing helped level the playing field and reduced bias as candidates were asked the same set of questions and provided the same technology experience. For recruiters, the system allowed them to screen, short-list, rank, comment, share responses and interview — all online in one aggregated video profile, streamlining the process.

“We had always done the interviews with hiring managers on campus but what worked out well for this was that we would shortlist a group of say four or five for a particular location and the hiring manager would interview those candidates at that particular store or location that the candidate would work in, so it was a nice way to interview a candidate in the environment that they would potentially be working in and maybe potentially introduce them to the pharmacy manager and other members of the team as well,” says Desai. 

From a cost perspective, the time to fill was reduced — 63 hours of interviewing time were saved by the hiring manager, at an approximate cost of $5,000 — while travel and hotel costs were also reduced for a total of $22,000.

There was also an overall reduction in time spent on the interviewing process. The time spent on conventional format interviews was 30 minutes, compared to the time spent reviewing each video submission at four minutes — adding up to total time savings of 150 hours.

“The time that it took to review the responses was definitely an advantage… so that time that it would take to review six video screens was the time that it would have taken to complete one interview,” says Desai.

And there was no lack of response, as 347 video submissions were received, in line with the number of in-person interviews conducted in 2012 and 2013.

“We actually eliminate the scheduling factor as part of that too, so we would send out the link to complete the video interview and we can come in the next morning and have dozens of video interviews completed,” says Viola.

The biggest concern was whether using this technology would see Loblaw losing its competitive edge over others in the industry. And one of the biggest challenges for pharmacy recruitment is attracting students to remote locations.

“Pharmacy is a very competitive industry — there’s a lot of players and a very small amount of talent that graduates every year, so our biggest concern was that by not being able to build face-to-face relationships with students, we would not be able to get some of those a-quality students willing to go to remote locations,” says Desai.

But the response rate, depending on school, was anywhere from 43 per cent to 75 per cent, she says, “which is more than what we were getting for in-person interviews during our last year, so that was unfounded, that concern.”

And the quality of the candidates was fabulous, says Desai.

“Thoughtful answers, great presentation, we were able to see students in their environment depending on where they filmed themselves; we were able to see really candid answers showcasing their personalities, which is one of the big things for us — as the pharmacy profession changes, we’re looking for folks or colleagues to join our team that display real passion for customer service... so we were able to see a lot of those kinds of qualities.” 

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