Recruiting Graduates


Graduate Recruitment 16/0704


Tesco is the UK's leading retailer, described by The Sunday Times in its 'Best Companies to Work For' league as an 'open' and 'charitable' employer offering 'generous' benefits, it's not surprising that over 5,000 graduates apply to join Tesco each year.

The problem

Slow graduate recruitment

Graduate recruitment was an arduous, manual task as every application was submitted by post and required individual attention from the HR team in the sorting process. Tesco recruits around 120 new graduates each year across many business functions, including finance, IT, research and retail. Each function requires graduates with particular skills and attributes, making manual sifting extremely time-consuming. In the worst scenario it could take the team up to five months to get to offer stage.

Expensive process

Costs were high too, with large sums of money spent on recruitment advertising in the national press and specialist graduate directories. This hiring process also called for large numbers of candidates to be invited to attend full-day assessment centres.

Preparing for change - Discovering the 'retail gene'

To improve the speed of selection and time to hire, the recruitment team developed a common standard for their selection criteria. Tesco identified the traits and skills of their successful graduate employees and encapsulated these in a ‘retail gene' document. Central to this ‘gene' is the desire to make an active contribution to the success of a large, well-known retail brand.

Other impediments

Tesco identified other issues that were reducing their hiring capability. These included:

The solution

Debut site

PeopleBank worked with Tesco to create a new graduate section for the existing Tesco careers website. This became the gateway for receiving and managing all graduate applications during 2003. In the autumn, Tesco further expanded and re-designed this area to serve all young people interested in working for the supermarket and the Debut site was born. It has a younger ‘look and feel', and even caters for young people already working for Tesco. Existing employees can register online to join ‘The Debut Club' and benefit from a host of discounts, advice and job opportunities.

Better assessment

PeopleBank's psychometric partner, PSL, developed an assessment test to help the recruitment team identify graduates with the all-important ‘retail gene'. The test was embedded into the PeopleBank technology and has become a seamless part of the application process.


1. Higher calibre of graduates Screening has greatly improved Tesco's hiring rate and the quality of candidates attending assessment centres has increased by 65% (Autumn 2002 campaign).

In addition, access to in-depth career information available on the Debut site allows candidates to decide if they are really suited to the company, or the career, before submitting an application.

"Having a recruitment system behind the careers site has sharpened the screening side, which means fewer poor quality candidates make it through to assessment stage. The rise in calibre was noted by all the directors involved throughout the assessment day."
Kate Aspinwall, Resourcing Manager, Tesco

2. Reduction in cost per hire
The cost per hire has been reduced by 40%, saving Tesco approximately £240,000 in hiring costs in their first full year using PeopleBank.

New starters in 2003 cost: £3,000 per hire
Previous campaign cost: £5,000 per hire

3. Reduction in time to hire
The recruitment lifecycle - starting with receipt of application to making an offer - has been reduced from five months to eight weeks.

4. Improved candidate care
By paring down the application sorting process, the recruitment team has more time to deal with candidates personally.

"What we've saved on admin we've been able to re-invest in candidate communication. You always want to treat candidates better - and having the site lets us do that."
Kate Aspinwall, Resourcing Manager, Tesco

5. Increased productivity of new graduates
With offers now being made by mid-February, Tesco is able to conduct inductions with new graduates in advance of their actual start date in September. Graduates are able to meet and spend time with their new team and benefit from a ‘buddy scheme'. By the time they start working, newly hired graduates feel part of a team and confident with key processes and requirements.

6. New recruitment advertising strategy
Tesco now advertises largely online with additional offline advertising prompting candidates to go to the website to apply.