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How River Island created a transparent hiring process across 240 locations

If you’ve shopped on the UK high street, you already know River Island, the family-owned fashion retailer that provides more than sustainable and high-quality clothing. For over 7 decades, Islanders (as their employees are affectionately known) have been creating ripples in the retail industry, prioritising memorable shopping experiences across their 240 physical locations and online.

At the heart of this thriving retail brand, you’ll find Hannah Clarke. A dedicated Islander for nearly 12 years and the Talent Acquisition Manager in River Island’s head office since 2021, Hannah is a living testament to the brand’s ethos of adaptability and constant growth. Hannah fondly refers to River Island as a workplace unlike anywhere else. “There’s always an opportunity to change and keep up with trends,” she explains. “If you like to be kept on your toes, it’s a great place to have a career.” 

In their quest to keep “life on the island” up to date with evolving trends, River Island recognises the importance of investing in cutting-edge technology, both customer-facing and behind the scenes. Supporting the Talent Acquisition Manager at the time, Hannah saw an opportunity to leverage technology to reach River Island’s talent goals: a fast and flexible Applicant Tracking System (ATS)

Challenges: Lack of visibility and poor user experience

River Island’s former ATS wasn’t a dedicated platform, making it arduous and manual to use. Without a centralized platform accessible across the talent acquisition team (not to mention hundreds of hiring managers), it was increasingly difficult to find and hire the best candidates for the job. 

“For what we were paying, we weren’t getting the level of product or service we would expect,” says Hannah. She describes the old process as “clunky,” reliant on Outlook and—with no centralized visibility—apt to crumble the moment someone on the team was out on sick leave.

Hannah and her team had a lot on their wishlist for a new ATS, from branding and candidate experience to collaboration and reporting. Their hiring managers, (often store managers), needed the new platform to provide direct insight into the process in a user-friendly way. Hannah was looking for a tool that would infuse the candidate experience with the high level of care that River Island puts into everything they do.

Solutions: A beautiful careers site

When Hannah embarked on her journey to overhaul River Island’s ATS, she knew she needed a fast and flexible solution that could handle any challenge. Retail is a fast-paced, ever-evolving industry, and any ATS for retail needs to be able to keep up. “One week, you’re going left, and then the next week, it’s like—actually, no, you’re going right,” Hannah laughs. 

We needed software that could be tailored to our complex recruitment process. Pinpoint was an up-and-coming product. We saw that it would adapt and grow in the same way we would.

Hannah Clarke
Talent Acquisition Manager, River Island

Her first priority was to update River Island’s careers site, transforming it into a faithful reflection of vibrant Island life. The beautifully branded careers website—Hannah’s brainchild—now serves as a digital signpost, signaling to talent that they’re in the right place. 

Candidates who are doubtful about a long career in retail need only visit River Island’s recruitment page to see the benefits of working in this industry. River Island’s values and employee stories demonstrate how retail can be a path to a variety of meaningful careers, particularly for those who thrive in a fast-paced environment.

A smoother candidate experience

If there’s one characteristic Islanders have in common, it’s a passion for their work. They’re innovative thinkers who are unafraid of trying new things and even making mistakes now and again. That’s life on the island—fast pace, rapid change, and the daily knowledge that your work has an impact. 

To attract candidates with that Island mindset, Hannah knew she would need an application process that was a pleasure for candidates to move through. In-store QR codes take prospective employees directly to the careers page, where applications are quick and easy to submit.

With all candidate information and messaging centralized on each candidate profile, the talent team can quickly respond to applicants with personalized texts or emails. Hiring managers have their own portals so they can see how candidates are moving through the process—no mean feat in a company with 7,000+ employees.

Efficient workflows for unique teams

Hannah knew early on that any Island-worthy ATS would need to provide support for both the talent acquisition team and the in-store hiring managers. The daily business of running a store takes up most of the hiring managers’ time—recruitment is just a small portion of what they do. While it’s a critical task, store managers can’t spare hours to learn a complex or difficult tool.

Hannah implemented a more streamlined recruitment process within Pinpoint to increase recruitment efficiency and visibility across the team. Their team designed templates for roles that pop up repeatedly, with unique hiring workflows for different role types. And with visibility across team members and departments, no one is left to wonder what’s happening next or when. 

The small learning and development team has also implemented strategic automations to make onboarding quick and painless. “Automation is saving us a huge job,” says Hannah. 

Easier collaboration across locations

One of River Island’s original goals was to bolster collaboration between head office and hiring managers across locations, supported by a tool that could be tailored to their complex recruitment process. Under the old system, one key person on holiday or sick leave could cripple the recruitment workflow, leaving other team members with no visibility into what communication a candidate had received or where they stood in the hiring process.

Since implementing Pinpoint, Hannah has gone above and beyond her original objectives. Thanks in part to an intuitive user interface, hiring managers picked up Pinpoint right away and easily learned how to make the most of the new functionality. 

Pinpoint has brought a whole new level of efficiency to the team. It’s having that transparency; if someone’s off, someone else can easily pick up. Nothing’s getting missed. No candidates are being left to wait.

Hannah Clarke
Talent Acquisition Manager, River Island

When additional information is warranted, Pinpoint’s customer success team is at the ready to answer questions and provide support, freeing the TA experts at River Island to focus on their areas of expertise.

Actually useful reporting

Eliminating bias from the recruitment process is difficult without the support of tools that help summarize candidates in an equitable and merit-based way. That’s why Islanders love Pinpoint’s candidate scorecards, which take the bias out of hiring and ensure a level playing field. “The scorecards have supported quick and fair decision-making in stores, ensuring a more consistent approach to who we’re hiring,” Hannah told us.

And scorecards aren’t the only tool for data-based decision-making in River Island’s new recruitment toolkit. Reporting is now “streamlined and straightforward,” providing useful metrics like time to hire and cost per hire. River Island was particularly excited to measure the impact of their employer brand strategy, from initial contact all the way to offer management and onboarding

Painless high-volume hiring

River Island’s greatest asset also poses a significant challenge: high applicant volumes, particularly when the holidays prompt a seasonal hiring push. Store managers supervise massive levels of work during seasonal surges and can’t afford any delay in onboarding new Islanders into the business.

Reviewing a high volume of applications and automating the bulk movement of candidates was one of Hannah’s key priorities when moving to a new ATS, and she’s pleased to announce that the whole team has felt supported by Pinpoint, even when they’re at their busiest. 

Thanks to functionality including bulk candidate communication, customizable templates, and hiring workflow automation, River Island’s hiring managers have never been better equipped for recruitment year-round. 

No talent acquisition team is an island

River Island’s legacy has always been defined by ambitious goals. In an industry that is constantly evolving, their talent team can always provide high quality experiences for candidates and hiring managers with a fast, flexible ATS. 

Hiring managers love the ease of direct access, with notifications regarding changes or progress requiring their attention. They can easily keep in step with the talent acquisition team, complete with direct visibility into where applicants are in the process, how many screenings are taking place each week, and other key details. The TA team can similarly track their progress, gathering greater insight into their role and the impact they have on the business. 

Pinpoint has made a world of difference. I can’t rate their team highly enough. Whenever we ask about a new feature, the answer is always ‘Yes, we can do that,’ or ‘It’s on the roadmap.'

Hannah Clarke
Talent Acquisition Manager, River Island

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