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Building a brand as your hire: How Talbots engages the best candidates

 Integrated reference checks help store managers save time and find exceptional candidates faster

When you’re a fashion retailer, your job candidates are also some of your very best customers. And your employees, especially those serving in retail locations, must embody the brand. That means your hiring process must be an exceptional experience that helps your organization find extraordinary employees.

Talbots initially launched SkillSurvey Reference® for its corporate office and management roles. After recognizing how fast the solution improved efficiency and hiring decisions, the talent team decided to expand SkillSurvey online reference checks to its 500 retail locations for store managers to find the best candidates. Now, thanks to the integration with its talent management and CRM platform, Gr8 People, store managers can stay focused on their sales operations while they have a simple and seamless process.

“We were able to give our managers time back by integrating SkillSurvey Reference into our ATS, allowing them to initiate the reference checking process with one push of a button. Between the time-savings, which allows our managers to spend more time with our teams and our customers, and the feedback they receive to make better hiring decisions, using SkillSurvey is just a good business decision.”

Susan Collins

Director, Talent Acquisition & Employer Branding, Talbots

An empowering hiring process

The Talbots team uses SkillSurvey Reference and our Pre-Hire 360® workflow to put candidates in control of their own reference checking process and meet the company on an equal footing.

With the integration with Gr8 People, the reference checking process starts with just one click. Job candidates contact their references and ask them to complete a survey selected by the talent acquisition team to probe the behaviors and skills essential to success in the specific position they’re applying for— whether it’s a buyer, store manager or finance professional.

“The beauty of the solution is that the candidates are in charge of reference checks, and references can respond on their own time, not just during business hours,” said Susan Collins, Director of Talent Acquisition & Employer Branding for Talbots. “It’s all about setting up candidates for success. We think it’s important our candidates know we’re excited and we want them to feel ownership in the process and be excited about the next steps.”

The results of handing the reins to candidates have been great. Candidates typically respond to the request for reference information in less than 8 hours, and the Talbots talent acquisition team receives a full report in less than two business days. (It probably helps that references can reply from a mobile device, whenever they have a spare moment).

 Finding people who’ll live the brand

The Talbots team is constantly looking for candidates whose style, confidence, and dedication will help set its brand apart.

The insight that a Pre-Hire 360 report offers into candidate behaviors and values also helps the talent acquisition team select the candidates who’ll best represent the company’s philosophy and values, and ultimately help drive growth.

Collins says there have been occasions where the hiring manager is so excited about the feedback from references and the comments they provide, they will pick up the phone to share the news with the talent team to say they’ve found an amazing candidate.

And since one in every five references opt in to hearing more about future Talbots job opportunities, the organization is gradually building a sourcing database full of potential staff members.

Empowering teams

SkillSurvey Reference is also helping build bridges within Talbots itself.

In several cases, hiring managers extended offers to candidates whom the Talent Acquisition Team—based on reference feedback—felt weren’t right for the organization. Both candidates were let go fairly early in their tenure.

Such proof points are helping build the position of the Talent Acquisition Team as a strategic partner for hiring managers and create strong a relationship of mutual respect and trust.

“Our reference checking process puts you in the driver’s seat. The quicker you influence your references to put their information in the system, the quicker we can make a decision on our final candidates.”

Susan Collins

Director, Talent Acquisition & Employer Branding, Talbots

The Results


Candidates respond in less than one day
with full reference feedback reports
ready in 1.5 business days


1 in every 5 references joins
a growing pool of possible
future team members


87% of references responding and over
half of which are former managers


Recruiters and hiring managers spend 96% less time chasing references, saving more than 7,900 hours

About Talbots

Talbots is a leading specialty retailer and direct marketer of classic women’s clothing, shoes and accessories, with over 500 stores in the US and Canada, and an e-commerce site reaching customers across the world.  Encouraging its customers to achieve their best selves and inspires its associates to work smart, reach high, and have fun.

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