AMC Gives a Thumbs-Up to Applicant Tracking System

By Samuel Greengard Print this article Print
applicant hiring system

The operator of 350 theaters uses an advanced applicant tracking system to script a better HR strategy. The result? Top-notch employees and happier customers.

It's no secret that movie theaters face steep competition. Nowadays, people can view films on DVDs, order them through on-demand services, download them from the likes of Amazon and Apple, stream them through Netflix, or rent a copy of a recent release at a Redbox vending machine. In many areas, there are also a lot of cinemas.

"We're in an industry that is continuing to undergo significant changes … and challenges," observes Keith Wiedenkeller, recently departed senior vice president and chief people officer at AMC Entertainment.

The entertainment firm, which displays motion pictures at 5,000 screens across the United States and Canada, has set its sights on becoming a preferred destination for moviegoers.

"We have worked hard to differentiate ourselves in what is a very competitive business," Wiedenkeller says. "While we pride ourselves on innovation and providing a state-of-the-art viewing experience—including 3D and IMAX films—the challenge at the end of the day is to provide a high level of service. Technologies and theater designs can be easily replicated, but customer service is the differentiator."

AMC, which employs about 19,000 employees in its theaters and has approximately 20,000 employees overall, began focusing on hiring methods and processes in the late 1990s. One of the challenges it faced, Wiedenkeller says, was finding the right personality profile among a flood of 1.6 million annual applicants—mostly teenagers.

"We realized that training employees to be friendlier and more engaging with the guests was a difficult proposition," he explains. "If you don't have the right personality type to begin with, you're starting at a distinct disadvantage."

In the mid-2000s, AMC turned to IBM's Kenexa to build a better framework for hiring. Initially, AMC pinpointed the desired characteristics and personality traits, including an outgoing demeanor, dependability and a more sales-oriented approach. It then plugged these traits into the applicant tracking system and introduced an assessment tool designed to aid in the hiring process.

Managers at local cinemas use the system to identify applicants with the desired traits. They're able to view a hiring dashboard that provides simple green, yellow or red coding for applicants, based on how they've scored on a personality test. The managers interview from this pool and make a final hiring decision.

The applicant tracking system also connects to automated onboarding tools that generate the required paperwork for new hires. Overall, "It has significantly streamlined the hiring process and helped AMC become a more competitive company," Wiedenkeller says. Since introducing the system, AMC has witnessed a 1.2 percent spike in profits per customer and a 43 percent drop in turnover over a five-year span. During the first two years alone, it increased candidate leads from 250,000 to 1.4 million.

At the same time, concession sales have increased, and overall customer satisfaction has risen. According to Wiedenkeller, the percentage of customers rating their movie-going experience as superior rose by more than 20 points after AMC deployed the applicant tracking software.

"The system has revolutionized the way we go about hiring—and the way we run the business," he reports. "General managers are no longer making hiring decisions based on their gut. They're using assessment tools that are based on science."

This article was originally published on 2014-02-12

Samuel Greengard is a contributing writer for Baseline.

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