Courting candidates: the McDonald’s job day experience

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“Hi, could I have your order please?”

“Well, I’d like a job.”

“No problem: full-time, part-time, side job or apprenticeship?”


The convenience and efficiency of placing an order at a fast food restaurant is familiar to most of us. However, these qualities are less common to those looking for a job. That is starting to change. The words above, from a recent radio ad by McDonald’s in Germany, show that companies are increasingly borrowing from their customer experience playbooks to enhance the candidate experience.

The rise of the experience economy underpins the new service orientation permeating organizations themselves. As expectations of stellar customer service become the norm, people now expect the same from current and prospective employers. This is why companies are focusing on the employee experience by curating an environment that meets employees’ rising expectations and focusing on the moments that shape their journey within the organization.

One of those pivotal moments is applying for a job. In fact, as an individual’s first non-customer interaction with a company, a positive candidate experience is foundational to a delightful employee experience. Companies acknowledge they have some work to do. HR leaders identify a poor candidate experience as one of their top three talent acquisition pain points and fewer than 1 in 4 employees rate their company’s hiring experience as excellent, according to Mercer’s 2019 Global Talent Trends Study.

Designing a compelling candidate experience: McDonald’s in Germany

In response to these challenges, McDonald’s in Germany engaged Mercer | Promerit to create a new recipe for reaching job seekers. The aim was to get the word out about what a job at McDonald’s could be – showcasing the variety of roles and shifts available, highlighting the fun working environment, and giving candidates a sense of what it’s really like to be part of a restaurant crew. From the start, they knew that they didn’t want to take a purely digital approach; personal contact was critical to making the experience tangible and establishing trust between the company and prospective employees. Thus the idea of McDonald’s “Job Day” was born.

To develop the new candidate experience, McDonald’s leveraged a human-centered approach. After creating personas for each of its target groups, the team partnered with hiring managers, restaurant employees, and even potential candidates to design the career day around their needs. This included:

  • Slimming down the registration process to ask candidates only the most relevant information, with the aim of reducing attrition rates at sign-up.
  • Organizing events in 800 locations across Germany, to bring the application process to the candidates rather than the other way around.
  • Scheduling time slots to suit the targeted personas.

A thoughtful candidate experience continued on the Job Day itself. Candidates got an exclusive, behind-the-scenes tour and a chance to “ask the crew” (their potential new colleagues) what it’s  really like to go to work there. After the individual interviews, candidates weren’t left hanging – they received immediate feedback on the outcome.

Candidates were enthusiastic about the Job Day format (one Instagram post got more than 10,000 likes). They particularly enjoyed the kitchen tour and the opportunity to get to know each other personally. The results speak for themselves. On the first day alone, there were hundreds of new hires – some restaurants even hired more than 20 candidates at once! In addition, the cost per hire was significantly lower than the McDonald’s average, thus establishing the Job Day as a replicable concept not only within Germany but also in other locations. And others have taken notice. The McDonald’s and Mercer | Promerit team recently won the most important German HR award – the Trendence Award (Best Candidate Experience) and the HR Excellence Award (Best Candidate Event).

Imagine the experience that candidates crave

Amazing customer experiences are not accidental; neither are compelling employee and candidate experiences. They are planned, methodical, and draw on human-centered design. By creating better experiences along the candidate – and ultimately, employee – journey, HR leaders can drive sustained engagement and create an environment where people want to work.

Lucas Senzel
by Lucas Senzel

Managing Consultant Mercer | Promerit

Michael Eger
by Michael Eger

Partner, Mercer | Promerit