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Walmart Hires More Than 500k New Associates Within Months with Modern Hire’s Virtual Job Tryout

Erin Iafelice
walmart grocery store

It’s easy to be awed by the sheer numbers of Walmart:

  • 11,300 stores in 27 countries
  • 2.2 million associates worldwide, including 1.5 million in the U.S.
  • Thousands of applicants a day

When it comes to hiring, though, it’s much more than a numbers game. Walmart is hiring for keeps. About 8 in 10 store managers are initially hired as hourly associates. In 2019, Walmart promoted more than 215,000 of these associates to jobs with more responsibility and higher pay.

One of the keys to Walmart’s retention and internal mobility success is its Retail Associate Assessment, a custom pre-hire assessment developed in partnership with Modern Hire. Walmart was awarded a 2019–2020 Human Resource Management (HRM) Impact Award by the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) and SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) and their foundations for what may be the world’s highest-volume hiring engine.

The challenge of developing a modern pre-hire assessment

As David Futrell, PhD, a senior director of Global Selection and Assessment at Walmart, and Josh Allen, PhD, Director, Global Selection and Assessment Strategy at Walmart describe in a recent industry article, there were multiple criteria to meet and several challenges to overcome in developing Walmart’s Retail Associate Assessment. Some requirements were driven by the logistics of high-volume hiring, such as the length of the assessment and efficiencies in hiring teams’ use. One of the primary challenges was maintaining a relevant, valid assessment in the face of constant change in the job and work environment.

As Futrell and Allen note in the article, “To meet these requirements and constraints, we sought a pre-hire assessment that would be developed based on a rigorous job analysis and supported by a large concurrent validation study. Walmart selected Modern Hire, the creators of the Virtual Job Tryout® (VJT) pre-employment simulation, to develop and validate a multimethod, pre-employment assessment….As a team of industrial-organizational psychologists, our top priority in creating the Retail Associate Assessment (RAA) was that it be firmly grounded in science. Our team worked with the Modern Hire team throughout the design and validation process and made every effort to follow the principles of rigorous and objective test validation established by the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures (1978) and the Principles for the Validation and Use of Personnel Selection Procedures (2018).”

Attention to the candidate experience

Another challenge Walmart faced is familiar to many organizations: their applicants are also their customers. To that end, the Retail Associate Assessment had to create a positive experience for its candidates. In choosing Modern Hire, Walmart gained the advantages of Modern Hire’s Virtual Job Tryout to create hiring experiences convenient and personal to candidates. Hallmarks of this multi-method assessment are that it presents candidates with a day-in-the-life experience, gathers considerable and varied job-relevant information during the assessment and tracks candidate feedback.

As Futrell and Allen indicate in the article, “[Data] suggests the application process is a positive experience for candidates and provides them with a greater understanding of the role.” Completion rates for the assessment averaged 95%, and nearly 100% of candidates indicated they would recommend applying to Walmart to others. A survey of Walmart’s hiring managers confirmed that candidate scores on the Retail Associate Assessment are a top factor in their selection decisions for interviews and hires.

Retail Associate Assessment delivers millions in ROI

To measure the Retail Associate Assessment’s financial impact, Walmart conducted a retention predictor study with thousands of applicants who were hired.

In the article, Futrell and Allen cite a multi-million return on investment by eliminating replacement costs from not hiring the lowest-scoring candidates. 

At the forefront of data-driven hiring

The emergence of the global pandemic in 2020 began an extreme test of hiring operations and resources for many retail organizations, including Walmart. Walmart’s data-driven hiring process was a definite advantage as the retailer brought on 500,000 new associates since March. Learn more about how Modern Hire helped Walmart fast-track hiring at scale.

Futrell and Allen detail the ongoing improvements to the Retail Associate Assessment, noting, “This selection system has been held to the highest standards and required to show impact and results across many stakeholders and time periods…We plan to continue developing new items, algorithms, and methodology (including machine-learning techniques) to continually improve prediction while maintaining fairness and minimizing applicant time.”

At Modern Hire, our team of more than 40 industrial-organizational and data scientists leads the industry in the investigation and use of advanced analytics and technology in the hiring environment. We are so pleased to have the opportunity to collaborate with Walmart in putting innovative, data-driven hiring practices into action as it sets the standard in high-volume hiring.