Fresh & Easy Recruiting Feeds Expansion Drive

The nation's unemployment rate hovers at around 9%, but you wouldn't know it from Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market's expanded recruiting efforts on Twitter.

“Join #freshandeasy!” trumpeted one tweet. “We're growing & #hiring! Read about our #hiring spree here.”

The four-year old retailer owned by Tesco of the United Kingdom operates some 184 U.S. Southwest stores and is in a growth mode here, even as it strives to become a profitable enterprise and adjust to a recent management reshuffling and new format size. The company is opening about 50 units a year, and earlier this month it announced plans to hire some 600 employees in California and Nevada to gear up for store launches early in 2012. A promote-from-within culture leads to the regular creation of new openings. All of this requires a well-oiled recruiting machine, which Fresh & Easy has worked to build.

The retailer, based in El Segundo, Calif., recruits through multiple outlets, including its website, local listings, job fairs and word of mouth, said Brendan Wonnacott, communications director, in a recent interview. Digital outlets are becoming more important, and the company just uploaded the first in a series of recruitment videos to its Facebook page and YouTube playlist.

Social media in particular is getting more focus. “You're not limited by geography or location,” he said. “It gives you an opportunity to have direct conversations with people.”

The retailer is no newbie to social media, which it also uses to connect with customers and potential suppliers. But it recently opted to add an additional Twitter account (@FandEcareers) for recruiting because of the potential to create deeper connections around that topic. Among strategies the company uses on Twitter are broadcasting news of specific openings (at all levels), talking up the company as a workplace and sharing career tips.

Recruiting won't be the only factor that determines Fresh & Easy's ultimate success, but it's an important one, a fact the company clearly recognizes.

Do retailers need to become savvy with new media to attract candidates today? Well, yes and no.

On the one hand, in this economy there's rarely a shortage of candidates. Fresh & Easy found that out at a job fair this summer, when close to 300 applicants showed up for 25 open positions.

However, smart companies are building their digital outreach capabilities now to get the best recruits and prepare for a time when candidates aren't so plentiful.

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