Reducing recruitment costs and improving candidate experience with an online application tool at Weight Watchers.

Weight Watchers is famous across the world for promoting sustainable weight loss and a healthy lifestyle through education and group support. In the UK they have been operating for over 45 years and are the country's fourteenth largest grocery brand, with a thriving online business and magazine.

Weight Watchers employs 185 people in the UK and has 1,800 self-employed leaders who run the Weight Watchers' meetings. In the past the organisation recruited all its employees through agencies, primarily because their small HR team lacked the time to conduct the recruitment process in-house. This all changed in August last year when Weight Watchers launched its online application tool to help streamline the recruitment process.

The decision to move to online recruitment was driven not only by a desire to reduce costs but also to make the most of available technology to improve the candidates' experience and speed up the application process. Leah Queripel, Weight Watchers HR Manager, reports:

'As a progressive brand, Weight Watchers' online application process (delivered by Harbour ATS) is a logical solution that fits perfectly with changing trends and candidates' busy lifestyles. The online application function helps us bring the power of the Weight Watchers brand to our media advertising campaigns. This tool is far superior to the previous hard-to-manage 'email your CV to apply process'; the online applications are much simpler to administer and ideal for measuring the exact return on recruitment spend.

'Now applicants can search for vacancies and apply online through our website via an online tool; they can also register their details if they don't see a current vacancy that matches their skills, expertise or requirements. Online application questions such as, 'Are you eligible to work in the UK?' quickly and automatically filter out unsuitable candidates. Other questions – such as 'How many years' customer service experience do you have?' – can be used to prioritise quality and relevant candidates.

'Last year many organisations were making redundancies which resulted in an increase of candidates looking for roles. We found we were getting a lot of candidates applying for vacancies that may not have been suited to their skills set, with many being overqualified. We were able to use this opportunity to look at the bigger picture. Due to our succession planning we were able to screen candidates not only for the current vacancies but also assess for roles that were going to arise in the near future. The online system has allowed Weight Watchers to build up a database of 250 people, in addition to the 1,600 candidates who have applied for specific roles, who simply register they are interested in working for Weight Watchers should a suitable vacancy arise including their salary requirements, the region and department they are interested in working in.' (Leah Queripel, HR Manager)
Today very few vacancies are advertised through agencies. Switching to an online application process has had numerous benefits. The company estimates they have saved  £110,000 since August 2009 on agency fees. Their application process has speeded up and the time taken to process applications reduced. The company also attributes improved retention to the new process: 'When we were using agencies to recruit they would typically contact people in their database to see if they were interested in working for Weight Watchers. Now we have our own database of people who have come to us because they want to work for our brand. Many people who have been through our weight loss programme want to work for us because they really believe in our product and want to be a part of a company that has helped transform their lives. If we have no suitable vacancies at the time, the online process allows us to capture their details for the future.' (Leah Queripel, HR Manager)
The candidates' experience has also improved. Applicants can access information about the job and the company online.

'The online tool also allows us to send many communications from “acknowledgement of application” to “invite to interview” and “regret” emails. We have even had a lot of people replying to thank us for these. They tell us it is really nice to hear something back, even if it is “regret”, and that they don't hear anything from many companies.

'Our brand has been strengthened by delivering a superior online recruitment process. We've been able to tell our employer story to more people and in more places than ever before. Helping us deliver all this is a specialist online recruitment marketing company (called Beyond Interactive Communications). High and completely measureable success rates mean that we've built up a strong and productive relationship over time – and we use their advice to fine-tune our advertising strategy. They also offer excellent rates and can report the exact return on our recruitment spend.

'The new recruitment section on our website is a culmination of our online ambition to be seen as a modern recruiter in touch with changing lifestyle and media trends. The next step for us is to take advantage of the exciting opportunities offered by social media. No longer will recruitment marketing be a one-way conversation. We will be able to engage with and maintain conversations with large audience groups. This gives us an incredible talent pipeline, PR and employer brand management possibilities.'
Information provided by Leah Queripel, HR Manager, Weight Watchers



  • 05th October 2012
  • Reducing recruitment costs