How Sunglass Hut Used Assessment To Improve Their Volume Hiring

Imagine this scenario. You’re the only recruiter for Sunglass Hut, and you’re looking at hundreds of vacancies in stores and Christmas casual hiring is just months away. Your hiring managers are insisting that applicants have prior ‘retail’ experience, but you know that this doesn’t guarantee success in a Sunglass Hut store. You’re looking at resumes trying to get a sense of cultural fit, but you just don’t have enough information or time to investigate further. What do you do? Where do you start?
This is what Inari Saarinen, Organisational Development & Talent Business Partner at Sunglass Hut was facing last year.
This week Jenni Nelson talked to both Inari, and Prue Laurence, Managing Director of cut-e Australia, on how they worked together to transform Sunglass Hut’s  very manual hiring, with tremendous results. If you’re facing similar challenges, and looking to use assessment to improve your attraction strategy, find culturally aligned candidates, and gain real and measurable ROI for your efforts, you can listen to their discussion below. The transcript of this chat can be found at the bottom of this page.


What We Learnt From Talking To Prue And Inari


  • Assessment will always be relevant to the recruitment and selection process
  • The true value of an assessment is not whether it can predict leadership or teamwork; it’s whether it can predict leadership or teamwork in your organisation.
  • If cultural fit and candidate care are important, then give candidates opportunities to opt themselves out of the process
  • Sunglass Hut’s solution involved three components designed to improve their quality of hire, reduce the time to hire, as well as enhance their brand
  • Their implementation went smoothly, in part due to strong and continuous communication for the solution, as well as finding internal advocates who championed the assessment and celebrated its success along the way.



JN: Hello. Today we are pleased to meet with Prue Laurence, Managing Director, cut-e Australia and Inari Saarinen, Talent Acquisition Specialist at Luxottica Retail Australia.  Prue and Inari are teaming together to co-facilitate a pre-ATC Workshop entitled:  Turning Assessment into Attraction and Engagement. So welcome Prue and Inari, and thank you for your time today.
PL: Thank You, great to be here.
JN: So Prue, I’d like to address my first question to you. We’re talking about ‘Assessment’ and ‘Attraction’ in the same breath.  With this in mind, where do you see ‘Assessment’ heading as part of the recruitment and selection process?
PL: Good Question Jenni, thank you for asking that. ‘Assessment’ is often a scary word, and people – particularly candidates tend to shy away from the thought of assessment, and indeed some of our clients prefer  not want to use the term ‘Assessment’ or ‘Test’, or ‘Questionnaire’  but what we’re seeing is that Assessment will never not be relevant, therefore they will always be relevant to the recruitment and selection process. What we’re seeing is that they’re heading down the path of needing to be more engaging. The assessments need to be shorter, more interactive, they need to be more innovative, and in particular they need- if they can- be more brand enhancing. They need to give a positive impression of the organisation to the potential applicant, the potential candidate.
JN: Ok, so that’s where we’re getting into the attraction and engagement, it’s about candidate care as well. So we’re also seeing ‘gamification’ emerge as part of the recruitment process and part of the assessments.  Do you see this as a growing area, and how will it complement an overall recruitment and attraction campaign?
PL: Yes indeed I see ‘gamification’ as a growing area of assessment and as part of the recruitment process. It has been very popular over the last couple of years and only just recently are people really understanding what ‘gamification’ is all about. There’s a bit of a ‘but’ at the end of  “yes, but..”. The value of gamification is less in the game component and more in tenets of ‘gamification’. So, what I mean by that, is that the tenets of ‘gamification’ include that there need to be-that the game or the assessment needs to be rewarding. It needs to be engaging. There needs to be feedback on the results, or how someone is tracking while they’re doing the assessment, and there also needs to be a leader board. Often what gets overlooked when people focus on gamification is the validation of the gamified assessment. What I mean by that is while it’s great to have a generic, gamified assessment that you can use for volume assessment and can say that ‘this game or gamified assessment will assess leadership, it will assess teamwork. Where the value in an assessment lies in ‘can it predict leadership or teamwork in your organisation? Is it true to the behaviour that is specific to your organisation. I think that is the different and the key.
JN: So the game -or whatever you want to call it-needs to actually deliver, it’s not just for fun. It’s delivering some science behind it.
PL: Great, absolutely, it needs a bit of science behind it.
JN: Thanks Prue, now to you Inari.  I understand that cut-e Australia worked with you to implement a candidate assessment solution for your Sunglass Hut brand.  Can you tell us a bit about the background here?  What exactly was the landscape and what problem were you trying to solve?
IS: Yeah sure, so the Sunglass Hut HR team met with cut-e, pretty much this time last year, so it’s been a year long project so far. Really there’s three folds as to why we wanted [this assessment]. Firstly from a purely recruitment process point of view, we have one recruiter , myself, doing all the recruitment for Australia and New Zealand. We have about 700 vacancies per year, plus Christmas casuals, so obviously that’s an awful lot of recruitment for one person to do, and then bearing in mind that we get hundreds of applications per role. Partly it was efficiency. It was to have the candidates go through the questionnaire, and through that, get to the right people quicker.
But also, what we’ve noticed over time is a lot of our hiring managers automatically go to retail experience and they think “Yup, we need someone with that on their resume” and that’s the right person for our business. But, what we found that that isn’t true because lets face it, the customer experience you get in retail stores today is quite appalling and it’s definitely a big focus for us. We’re a high end brand, you’re giving that one on one customer experience all the time so [past] retail experience didn’t qual a quality candidate, and it was more about culture. It was more about the right person for Sunglass Hut, and this was a solution for us to get to those candidates quicker, because at the end of the day all I can see at the very first instance is a resume, and you can’t really tell a person’s culture fit from a resume. And then, also, the third component is the brand awareness. So we wanted a little bit of that Gamification in the recruitment process, in that prior to applying they’re able to go onto our Careers website, and do a quiz to find out whether the way they naturally work fits Sunglass Hut, and they get feedback along the way and it’s a bit of fun, and they learn about the role as they’re going through it. So, we really had those three key things that we were targeting and that’s what we’ve been working with cut-e for.
JN: So that sounds like you were facing a huge challenge on your own doing all that volume recruitment. I bet you were looking forward to Christmas holidays. Really interested in the retail experience versus the right person. It sounds really interesting that you recognised that, and had that issue to address.
IS: Yeah, and I thought it was such a shame that we were discounting people, who were perfectly right, had that right energy, had the right fit, but because they didn’t have that experience, and let’s face it unless you get your first go, how are you going to get it? So we wanted to be the people who start our team member’s careers and learn those skills so they’re ready for their next [Career],whether that’s with us or not. That was definitely a key component.
JN: Great. Thank you for that. And so, Prue, can you tell us a little about – you’re presented with this problem, tell us a little about the solution you developed for Sunglass Hut. So what were they key components of your solution?
PL: Absolutely, and Inari definitely sums up the key challenges very well in terms of what they were facing. We were really excited to have this opportunity to put something together that would address the challenges. The key components of the solution, and this was for the recruitment of retail associates and also store managers within the stores. We have three components to the process.
The first one is a non compulsory realistic job preview. This is where someone can go onto the Sunglass Hut Careers website, and fill out a ten question quiz all about what they would do in real scenarios in sunglass hut. Real common scenarios of what it’s like to work in the store, and then get feedback on how well they fit in with the culture, and it encourages them if they are a good fit to apply, and if they’re not as good a fit, to think about if this is what they really want to do. So that was really about embracing the elements of ‘Gamification’ there, giving them reward, and giving them some feedback.
The next component is a situational judgement questionnaire, which both the retail associate and the store managers do, and this one is a specifically created questionnaire for Sunglass Hut, again we come up with a number of scenarios of what it might be like to work as a retail associate, or what it might be like to work as a store manager, and then there are three responses and of those three responses there is one that is more ‘right’ than the other responses, and we try to look at if people can pick the right response and if they do, then they’re more culturally aligned than those who don’t pick the ‘rightest’ response, so to speak. That assessment is validated, it is validated within Sunglass Hut first and so we know it can predict high performance in a store manager or high performance in a retail associate. The SJQ therefore measures performance fit.
The final component that only the store managers do is then a personality profile, and this measures their potential fit as well. We wanted to have a look at “Can they perform well in a store?” and “Do they have the potential to be leaders in the store?”.
JN: So there’s three components. So it sounds like at the onset, you’re giving an opportunity to the candidate to opt out of the process, if they feel ‘blergh’ “I don’t want to work here, this isn’t a fit for me”, and that’s a good thing from a volume point of view, because you only want the ‘right fit’ to get through the funnel.
PL: That’s exactly right, absolutely, and also – and I’m sure Inari can confirm this-because Sunglass Hut is strong consumer brand, they want to create a positive impression, no matter what experience an applicant has. So they’d rather encourage people not apply and be rejected, and still come in as customers and brand ambassadors.
JN: Right, so that leads me to my next question very nicely, which is about the attraction component of your solution, because we’re talking about ‘Turning Assessment into Attraction and Engagement’, so what aspects of that solution do you feel really meet up with the attraction aspect?
PL: That is definitely the Realistic Job Preview or RJP. Like I said, it’s not scored but it gives feedback along the way. After each question it gives you feedback on how much your answer ‘fits in’ with the culture of Sunglass Hut, and at the end gives overall feedback in a very positive way, in a way that really enforces the potential applicant. It’s a fun way to get a real understanding of the role in the organisation. We will look at RJPs where you can also use video, you can have current employees to talk about the different scenarios, you can interview those different employees. It can be as multimedia and engaging as a budget will allow.
JN: Ok thanks Prue. And so back to you Inari, it’s been about six months into the solution?  I know it is early days but can you tell us a little bit about some of the results that are starting to emerge?
IS: Yeah sure, so we are early days. We’ve had it implemented for about six months and given that the later part of last year was Christmas Casuals, it’s a truer reflection to talk about results from this year’s, so the first quarter. SOMETHING is a component that we’ll be talking about a lot more at the workshop, but I can say that for myself, as a recruiter, I’m definitely seeing a lot more efficiencies. I’ve got some of my shortlisting down to even ten minutes, and I’m finding that is because the people who are genuinely interested in working for our brand are doing the assessment, and I’m able to get to them quicker. So, from that efficiency point of view, I’m definitely seeing those patterns, and we’re now in the process of putting some dollar figures into that. From a brand awareness point of view there’s a lot of talk internally that the guys are really excited about having this profiling tool, and so they’re talking about it a lot, and putting a lot of emphasis in it when they’re talking to their candidates. And also, when I do speak to our candidates, they tell me how exciting it was to go through the quiz because the really understand what it’s like to work for us. So, there’s that anecdotal feedback that I can talk to now.
JN: I’m also interested in if whether there’s been a shift from the line managers desiring retail experience to accepting the results of the assessment tool. I guess that leads me to asking you what sorts of challenges did you face, especially with getting this over the line with your hiring manager community?
IS: I have to say that internally we had really really strong communications around this. It was from top down spoken about. We went through this process with Prue and the team, and you do need to have your advocates internally, and really celebrate the successes of it coming along. We had a whole day workshop with key people from the team, so that there was,  throughout the year there was talk about this until it was presented at a final end of year conference that we’ve got. It was that continuous communication, and that has not be difficult. It’s just naturally such an exciting thing to have, and we felt privileged to have it as part of our process. It isn’t a thing to sell to the team, and they’ve really embedded it into their way of thinking straight away.

JN: Thanks for that. Now I just wanted to come to my final question, just to focus on the workshop because both of you will be presenting a workshop, based around this case study, but also to help people who are considering such an implementation- so who would you recommend attend and why? What sort of profile are you looking at to attend, who would get real value out of this?
PL: That’s a good question. I think in the first instance is anyone whose organisation has a consumer brand, so one like Sunglass Hut, like an airline or telecommunications company. Something where the consumer brand is very important and can be impacted by experiences people have from the employer brand. Anyone who does volume recruitment, this is very much about the detailed screening of a high volume of candidates, and making those efficiencies in the more high touch area of the recruitment process, or down the end of the selection process, making sure the right people are at the assessment centre, or at the interview. Finally, anyone in an organisation where cultural fit and cultural alignment are key to the success of the organisation. If those things are important, then I would recommend that those people come along to the session.
JN: Thanks Inari and Prue for your time. Are their any other comments you’d like to make at all?
PL: I just wanted to reiterate some of the feedback Inari just gave. We have really loved and continue to love working with Sunglass Hut. We see them as an ideal client, in the sense that they are innovative, that they are open to new and challenging ideas, and that they are really living the brand, through not only in assessment, but in everything they do. It has been a pleasure working with them, and hopefully we’ll continue working with them.  
IS: Likewise, and we’re really looking forward to seeing what the next steps are, and the progression in this, because I think if you talk to us at the end of the year they’ll be much to celebrate. Really looking forward to that.
JN: I think the workshop will be really interesting, I’m really fascinated by this whole area. Just as a final plug to people, Prue and Inari will be facilitating a half day workshop at the Sydney Hilton covering this topic. The workshop is on Tuesday June the 23rd, and you can find out more by heading to our website Thanks Prue and Inari, have a great day.
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