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Labor is never easy, but an artificial intelligence tool is speeding up time-to-hire and helping managers focus on operations and candidates every step of the way.

Three years ago, McDonald's made a concerted effort to revamp the process and dubbed the new project McHire. A key focus was the candidate screening and hiring experience. In essence, the company sought to make applying to a job as easy as ordering a Big Mac.

"Our goal was to deliver feel-good moments—as we did for our customers—for our candidates and deliver a best-in-class experience," said Josh Secrest, senior director of global talent strategy at McDonald's. "This meant being fast and easy for candidates, but still facilitating a fair, high quality selection process. At the same time, we recognized the need to simplify the hiring process for hiring managers."

That process led the company to Paradox, an AI communication start-up focused on hiring. The firm is also about three years old, and Josh Zywien, the chief marketing officer for the company, said the experience was built alongside McDonald's. The big goals were cutting the application time in half and improving the experience. The application process dropped from 10 minutes to two and the time-to-hire sped up significantly.

"I think their average time to hire was about 14 days; that's not so bad for salaried hiring. If I'm hiring a marketing person, it might take a month or two, but for hourly there's no reason it can't be the next day," said Zywien. "Their goal was to get it down to seven and they thought it would make a massive difference to the stores and for the employees. They got it down to an average of two days. It just cut out all that administrative work that slows it down. When a manager has to review a resume and reach out, that delay lessens the likelihood that you’ll fill the role fast."

Basically, someone sees a hiring sign in the window or in an ad. They text the listed number and are immediately in the screening process. The AI, named Olivia, asks the candidate questions about work history, experience—all the basics. One key and the reason AI isn't just a trendy term for automated here is natural language processing.

"Let's say someone said, 'I want this job but I can only work weekends until 7 p.m.,'" said Zywien. "A lot of AI will break with that question."

Candidates that pass the initial screening are kicked to managers for an in-person interview based on the manager's schedule or—especially during COVID-19—asked to answer a few questions on video.

"The other piece is that McDonald's is using automated offers and onboarding, so we go all the way through someone being hired and through the first few days afterward," said Zywien. "All the manager has to do is hit a button and that sends an offer to their phone, that triggers all sorts of paperwork. Olivia can say, 'Here are your tax forms and they can fill that all out in their text dialogue."

Secrest said that saves real time for managers just trying to keep up with the day-to-day.

"Hiring managers are loving McHire, with many calling Olivia their 'new best friend,'" said Secrest. "They’ve shared that they’re getting hours in their week back to better meet the needs of customers and their employees."

He said managers are getting better candidates, too, because of that speed and ease. The typical QSR candidate is applying to multiple jobs. If Wendy's, Arby's and Burger King in the same trade area all get an application, but McDonald's sends an offer in two days compared to even five, it's a real competitive dive into the labor pool.

Even candidates that don't get the job enjoy the experience. According to Zywien, Pradox and Olivia have a 99.8 percent positive feedback.

"Getting a job can be rough, it takes forever and you never hear back," said Zywien. "That candidate experience, when you're a brand like McDonald's, your candidates are very likely the people who are eating your food. There's some data to suggest that when candidates have a bad hiring experience, they’re more likely to not do business with that company for a period of time. If that’s 4 percent of people and they're losing 4 percent of sales because they're hiring process stinks, that can be significant."

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