Meet the people shaping talent assessment to support organisational needs

Employer News spoke to Martin Fahy, Talent Acquisition Manager at Screwfix, to find out which talent project he’s most proud of, and why.

Screwfix is part of Kingfisher plc, the international home improvement company which has approximately 1,380 stores in eight countries across Europe. Screwfix is convenient, straightforward and affordably-priced, helping its trade customers get the job done quickly, affordably and right first time.

Screwfix relies on its supportive culture, top training programmes and development opportunities for colleagues to get the job done well. As they continue their expansion, they’re developing their talent strategy to ensure their people grow with them.

What talent project are you most proud of?

We’re incredibly proud of our Volume Recruitment Project. By partnering with Aon’s Assessment Solutions, we’re transforming the way we pick top talent for our teams to make sure we’re getting the right people for our business in a time when we’re growing so quickly.

Recently, we’ve opened 30 new stores, taking the total number across the UK and Ireland to 725. These new stores have brought us closer to our busy tradespeople, many of whom have played a crucial role in keeping homes warm, safe and with power throughout the pandemic.

This growth has led to significant recruitment at Screwfix, including welcoming to the team over 1,000 colleagues aged under 24, the age group, coincidentally, that has been impacted the most by the pandemic. The overall growth brings the number of new jobs created by Screwfix in the past five years to 4,000, during which time the business has opened on average, a new store every week and doubled sales from £1bn to £2bn.

As well as this, we are investing in our people too. More than 800 colleagues have been promoted internally, including many colleagues who have completed apprenticeships this year. Internal development is a key part of our strategy, with over 70% of our management positions filled through internal promotion, so bringing in the right people that match our values is critical to our growth plan.

Over the last year, like for so many businesses, a lot changed. Because we’re an essential retailer, we stayed open during the lockdowns but we had to adapt quickly. We had to make sure our colleagues [and customers] were well looked after and could adapt to these experiences.

Even with these shifts, we’re still opening new stores, and applications for roles have nearly doubled since this time a year ago. We’d been planning the rollout of the project prior to this and when lockdown came and employees – including myself – were put on furlough, we questioned whether implementing a recruitment project was the best thing to do.

In the end it was an easy answer. We could see external market applications were going up in other businesses, and because we employ a lot of young people, we knew we’d have more applications when new cohorts left education. So really, it was more important than ever to get a system in place to help us select the right people for positions where vacancies were open.

A quick overview of the project

We’re improving the quality of our external hiring – and do this in a way that looks at candidate behaviours beyond skills and experience, whilst removing unconscious bias in the selection process.

For entry level positions, we don’t make decisions based on a CV, we base it on scoring against our chat-based job simulation, a virtual assessment situational judgement test, which aligns candidate behaviours with Screwfix’s own behaviours and values. This helps us understand who would make the best fit and thrive in our company environment.

Our virtual chat-based job simulation combines psychometric testing and a scoring method with input from our people to create real-life situations and plausible answer options.

Because of this, we can base our recruitment decisions on robust knowledge of the applicant, rather than on a first come first served basis, which had sometimes been the case.

We’ve also created a more robust telephone screening. It’s a longer interview, so more in depth but does two things: it reduces the number of people in-store for interviews – as well as the time spent in store conducting interviews, so the process is carried out in a more COVID-safe environment, reducing risk for everyone.


Measuring success: key achievements

We’ve been able to help everyone involved – candidates, hiring managers and the business.

From a candidate experience perspective, we make sure they get feedback at each stage of the hiring process to help them feel connected and understand their application, but this aims to increase their success in the process as well.

One of the greatest achievements of the project has been the ability to broaden our thinking. We’ve been able to give better guidance to hiring managers around the type of people that we invite to interviews based on data and science. This isn’t about an individual’s preference – we can remove personal bias.

Having more robust data also improves the confidence behind our decision-making. We can choose candidates who match our values of curiosity, humility, excellence, simplicity and teamwork.

The virtual chat-based job simulator also helps people to deselect themselves as they can see if they feel they’d fit with our teams. This doesn’t improve the quality of the candidates but it does improve our ability to shortlist the best people for our needs so they can meet our hiring managers. It also aims to help us retain the most talented.

This is now part of our future, which is hugely exciting.


What have you learned?

It’s part of our company culture to recognise what worked yesterday may not work tomorrow. We’re always ready to adapt. If there are new ways we can aid candidate or customer experience, we’re open to that.

Indeed, being open to trying new things has helped us and is even more important being a retailer in a pandemic as everything shifts so quickly. We’re making changes to issues we weren’t even aware of before.

We learned that implementation of new processes can be far quicker than we ever expected. Normally, we trial new processes in a division, get feedback and then implement it slowly. But that can’t happen with the pandemic, where new guidance and safety processes in stores had to be implemented straight away. We had to find a way through, and in the end, we trialled this new recruitment project, gained evidence for it and moved it forward seamlessly.


This is the sixth in a series of profiles on talent innovators. Read the others – Serco, Ocado, Siemens Energy, Schroders and Vodafone – and watch out for more.