This job's really not for you

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The Independent Online
WATCHING A graduate recruit being tied to a chair and locked in the warehouse is not what you expect from a corporate video designed to entice graduates into retail management. This, however, is not your everyday corporate video.

On this year's milk round anyone expressing an interest in joining Asda will no longer be receiving a polite request to forward a CV. Instead they will be sent a 20-minute fly-on-the-wall video documenting a day- in-the-life of three graduate trainees. "Retail management isn't right for everyone," says the catchline, and, unusually, the hectic life portrayed is going to put off a lot of people.

Apart from the refreshingly unprofessional horseplay in the warehouse, prospective recruits will be entertained by bleeped-out swearing, shots of a harassed trainee manager helping to stack shelves, and the revelation that the glamorous office they might be expecting could turn out to be a cupboard. "A lot of people will be put off by it," says Sonia Qureshi, one of the video's three stars. It will get rid of the sort of people whose expectation of retail management is white-collar desk work."

Getting rid of this sort of unsuitable applicant is one of the aims of the video. Asda gets about 130 applications for every vacancy that comes up, virtually all of which are from people who have no idea what retail management involves.

The video, which has just won "Best off the Page Innovation" at the Reed Graduate Recruitment Awards, will educate them quickly. Borrowing from the docu-soap style, it follows the three recruits through a single working day. It shows the long hours, the constant footwork up and down the store, the necessity of being able to turn a hand to anything at a moment's notice, and the sense that the trainees are working at full pelt just to keep ahead of the various tasks. Equally it shows the camaraderie, dynamism, and big-bucks responsibility which go with the job.

"The idea is to get people to self-select," says Andrea Vowles, graduate resourcing manager at Asda. "We're giving graduates the full picture, the highs and the lows, so that they can make up their own minds. We want to motivate the candidates who are right for us and discourage those who are unsuitable.

As this year's CVs start to come in, the effect of the video is beginning to tell. "Applications are down by 50 per cent, which is great," says Andrea, "but there has been a vast improvement in the calibre of the CVs we've been getting."

If other companies were to follow Asda's example and present a realistic portrait of trainee life it would have a major effect on the annual milk round. Graduates would no longer apply for unsuitable jobs and the recruiters would have even less administration to do.

"It's an interesting idea," says Frances Cutts, corporate press officer at Marks & Spencer. "We'll be watching it go forward. Here we have such a complex range of career options and benefit packages that it would be difficult to encapsulate this in a video. There isn't a universal panacea to the problem."

Two techniques M&S uses to help candidates assess whether a retailing career would be right for them are a comprehensive self-assessment questionnaire and the use of what is acknowledged to be one of the most demanding application forms in the market place. Other companies insist on tight deadlines for the return of forms to discourage casual applications.

However, there is one further bar to the adoption of fly-on-the-wall video as a recruitment technique. Many of the major recruiters are too sensitive of their brand image to risk following Asda's example.