Sheetz Gets 'Realistic'

Chain's online system drives prudent hiring, turnover reduction

Steve Dwyer, CSP Reporter

ALTOONA, Pa. -- With employee turnover continuing to be an industry bugaboo, Sheetz Inc. is finding success with a web-based solution that takes much of the guesswork out of the hiring process. Drilling down to enhance selectivity, the tool has reduced employee turnover 2% per year for the Altoona, Pa.-based chain since its spring 2006 launchand garnered several other ancillary benefits along the way.

"It has gone beyond our goals. We've reduced total employee turnover (lower-level positions and managers) from about 60% to 56% in two years. We're enabling hiring managers to pinpoint [image-nocss] the best candidates and to make better use of their time," Earl Springer, manager of recruitment, for Sheetz, told CSP Daily News. "Hiring managers are able to dispense with evaluating job candidates that would eventually be passed over," which is critical for managers who earn $20 to $30 an hour, he said.

And evaluating job candidates can take on a life of its own, Springer said, because at Sheetzon averagenine applicants apply for every open position at one of its stores. In some cases, 18 applicants apply for a position.

In March 2006, Sheetz, which has 345 c-stores in six eastern states, spent $50,000 to develop and launch Realistic Job Preview, a tool that provides a "behind the scenes" look at what it's like to work at the company. Supported by Pittsburgh-based web design firm Five Star Development, Realistic Job Preview has paid for itself and then some in just over 24 months, noted Springer.

On, prospective employees scroll to a button titled "Job Opportunities" and then can click a button titled "Job Preview." They engage in a brief screening interlude to determine if they are Sheetz material. The ones that do not pass muster discontinue the processsome voluntarily, others through prompting within the online system. Candidates view five interactive sections in sequence, including an interactive survey to help determine if Sheetz is right for them before investing additional time in the formal application process. (Click here for the Sheetz Realistic Job Preview page.)

The site uses a "fuel tank" to benchmark prospects. If someone receives a three-quarter tank to full tank reading, this is "a gateway to advancing along in the hiring process," said Springer. Those with less than three-quarters of a fuel tank more than likely receive a prompt that informs them there is not a match.

In the past two years, 36,456 candidates have accessed Realistic Job Preview, and 13,938 completed it. Of those, 88% passed the Compatibility Measure of the process, and 62.5% of those proceeded to the formal application process.

Springer said 10% of prospects failed the Compatibility Measure, while 2% abandoned it altogether. Full disclosure of Sheetz' expectations with its employees often helps weed out incompatible prospects. "We'll inform them upfront that they will more than likely have to work on Christmas Day and other holidays," he said.

Sheetz also has physical appearance codes for employeesmade clear on the websitethat helps whittle down the universe of candidates. People, for instance, who sport a tattoo are informed upfront that it must be unexposed while on the job. It is also prohibited for men to wear an earring while working.

Springer said that the chain's physical appearance standards were adopted from the Disney employee handbook. Now, other retail chains are beginning to emulate Sheetzone of them is JC Penney, which recently adopted similar online screening components that was inspired by Sheetz, said Springer.

On the site, prospects view information that states Sheetz is "a high-energy place filled with hard-working, hard-playing individuals dedicated to innovation and quality. We are always looking for individuals who share our commitment to excellence."

As compatible candidates navigate through the process, Sheetz managers are able to access an applicant tracking system called "Deploy" that enables them to see where candidates stand within the hiring process. The information can be accessed electronically and instantaneously, rather than having to scour manually for paper applications. Springer added that Realistic Job Preview also "removes the 'uncomfortableness' of having a manager tell a prospective hire they won't be considered for the job, something that no manager likes to do."

Springer said one of the objectives that that the online solution strives forand is achievingis that it reinforces the notion that a position in the c-store industry, and with Sheetz, is a desirable onesomething it could not impart as powerfully in face-to-face fashion. That is because prospective employees see how hard they must work to be considered for a Sheetz positionlet alone land the job.

Sheetz is presently ranked 12th in Pennsylvania as the best employer to work for in the Keystone State, while it is ranked fifth in Ohio, said Springer. "The harder we make it for people to land a job with us, the longer we tend to keep them. I think it dispels the notion that getting a job in the c-store industry is simple. Often, people take a job in this industry and use it as a spring board for what they believe to be a better retail position down the street. We want to demonstrate to them that Sheetz is the place to be."