It used to take five days for a new Parkland USA employee to start working. Now that time—from when a candidate fills out an application to when they’re working in a store—is down to about four hours.

Laura Varn, vice president of people and culture and communications, with the Calgary, Alberta-based chain, says the unprecedented tight labor market and persistent workforce shortages in a post-COVID world caused Parkland USA to make some changes in spring 2022. At that time, the chain had about 212 convenience stores, 200 openings and zero recruiters, she says. She encouraged two current Parkland employees to solely focus on recruiting for c-stores for three months. The efforts were startling, Varn says, and extremely positive.

In one region, for example, Parkland went from having 55 openings to two. It also reduced overtime by 773 hours in another region.

“The bottom line is, it really quickly brought about higher morale [and] better customer service,” she says. To maintain the progress, Parkland permanently added on two dedicated roles for recruiting.

The success came from “a lot of manual work,” Varn says. Frequent communication between the recruiters and the store managers, as well as the recruiters and candidates, “cut out a lot of the noise and the dead time,” she says.

Part of this included having a simpler application—one with only a handful of questions for potential workers to fill out.

Speed to market is key, she says.

“If [potential employees] can’t quickly and easily apply, they’re going to leave and go down the street to someone else who has it figured out,” Varn says.