Hiring Is No Big Deal for Horseshoe Casino

Problem: Gearing up for the grand opening of Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati, Caesars Entertainment needed to identify 700 potential table dealers and supervisors skilled at customer service and motivated to sign on for a 12-week training academy.

Solution: Horseshoe Cincinnati filled every available seat in its training program in five weeks by using virtual technology to accelerate screening, interviewing and scheduling.

Horseshoe Cincinnati’s Winning Hand
• Speed: Identified 700 hires within five weeks from project kickoff to on-site hiring event.
• Scale: Screened more than 5,500 applicants in a compressed time frame.
• Quality: Scheduled interviews with more than 1,800 high-quality candidates.
• Branding: Communicated the casino’s employment brand to every candidate.
• Experience: Received positive feedback on the recruiting process from most applicants.
— Cindy Cutaia

Caesars Entertainment has launched more than 50 gaming establishments around the world, and each carried unique challenges. Its casino in Cincinnati was no different. The time frame to hire enough employees and be ready to open a new facility is often tight. In this case, talent leaders had five weeks to attract, screen, interview and select 700 individuals.

Typical challenges Caesars Entertainment experienced with grand openings included: large applicant volumes; tight time frames; lack of technology to efficiently evaluate and process applicants; resource constraints affecting the ability to review candidates; inability to fully engage every candidate; inconsistency in the candidate experience; and scheduling challenges for candidates.

Lisa Rexroat-Steele, vice president of human resources for Horseshoe Cincinnati and Caesars Entertainment, faced a dilemma. The casino was scheduled to open in spring 2013, when construction would be completed. Every seat in its 12-week dealer academy training program had to be filled before the end of 2012. With a commitment from Caesars to hire 90 percent of its team from the Cincinnati metro area, expectations were that thousands of local residents would apply. A sister property, Horseshoe Cleveland, had more than 12,000 applicants for fewer than 1,000 dealer positions a year earlier.

Breaking Ground
As the company’s third on-site hire at the new Cincinnati casino location, Rexroat-Steele found herself squeezed into a small construction office that was more focused on building plans than staffing plans. Despite having no team in place to take on the recruiting challenge, her goal was to make a good first impression on her company’s host city.

“There was no existing talent pool to draw from since the gaming industry was fairly new to the state and completely new to Cincinnati,” she said. “Beyond that, Horseshoe wanted to become part of the fabric of Cincinnati as an active community partner. Knowing that Cincinnatians would be critical to making that happen, our plan was to hire for attitude and train for aptitude. We also needed to have great people on the casino floor on day one or no one would come back. There would be no second chance.”

Rexroat-Steele looked at a number of options to tackle these challenges. She chose virtual technology to screen, interview and schedule a large number of applicants. All steps — from initial application to the hiring event scheduling — were completed online, which streamlined and accelerated the process without placing a burden on casino staff.

The digital interview process allowed candidates to interview at any time from any webcam-equipped device, including a smartphone or tablet. Practice questions were offered as well as instructions, including automated diagnostics, to ensure the best sound and video quality. The process also:

• Provided a built-in opportunity for Horseshoe to market its employment brand.
• Increased compliance via use of validated questions and probes.
• Enabled the Horseshoe hiring team to focus its time on the highest-quality candidates.
• Ensured a high participation rate through use of multiple reminder emails and automated “robocalls” to candidates.

This process helped Horseshoe build on its new relationships with a number of community partners, who set up digital interview hubs and computer labs for candidates unfamiliar with the technology.

To accommodate efforts to process thousands of candidates in a matter of weeks, first talent leaders at Horseshoe Casino defined what success looked like. That formed the basis for a tailored set of questions designed to uncover desired characteristics during the digital interview. Every candidate was asked the same questions in the same way. The methodology, including a standardized scale to rate candidate responses, ensured consistency and fairness, while streamlining the candidate review process.

The jobs being offered did not require prior gaming experience, but they did call for energetic, reliable individuals with upbeat, positive attitudes and a passion for entertaining customers. Given the tight time constraints and limited resources, it would have been difficult to speak with every applicant.

The digital interview process made it possible for every candidate to tell his or her story and convey individual personality traits. Using this technology, all applicants were able to engage in the process, and all were rated — more than 5,500 digital interviews.

As candidates passed the initial screens, they were invited to self-schedule a face-to-face interview for a central hiring event. This scheduling technology, which was also used to confirm and remind candidates of their time slot, eliminated the need for talent managers to schedule interviews via email or phone. It also made this typically time-consuming task easier and more convenient for candidates and the company.

Hitting the Hiring Jackpot
Using enhanced screening processes, coupled with digital interviewing and automated scheduling technology, Horseshoe Cincinnati was able to assess 5,500 applicants and identify more than 700 high-quality candidates within a five-week window.

“The candidate experience really tells the story,” Rexroat-Steele said. “It was easy, quick and convenient. It made us look innovative and creative, and 92 percent of our candidates rated the digital interview a 4 or higher [out of 5] for ease of use.”

Informative communications built into the digital interviewing process contributed to a successful candidate experience. By the time candidates entered the hiring event, they had already learned a great deal about the company.

“We have a great group of people. They took the time to take the digital interview, come to the hiring event, and went through the training, putting more of themselves into the hiring process than is typical,” Rexroat-Steele said.

Training retention was high, with attrition of less than 60 people.
“The people we hired are our front-line ambassadors, and they are passionate about what they do,” she said.

Passion has led to profit. In its first month of operation, the casino had 441,000 visitors and brought in $21 million in revenue.

Cindy Cutaia is the senior director of talent acquisition solutions for Aon Hewitt. She can be reached at editor@talentmgt.com.