It's a tough time for restaurants. Customers are returning to dining rooms, but workers aren't rushing back to serve them. For Michael Miller, director of talent acquisition at Chipotle, the challenges of the labor market create an excuse to try something new — anything that will get workers in the door.
So when the marketing team at Chipotle came to him with a proposal, it was easy to say yes. The idea: Host a virtual career fair on Discord, a popular online chat platform. The move would allow the burrito giant to build its brand, connect with likely Chipotle fans and distribute links to its application to potential job seekers.
Chipotle set up a number of rooms within its Discord server, allocating spaces for members — Discord speak for users — to ask questions about benefits, career paths and more. And it rounded up its recruiting team to field direct messages from potential candidates.
On May 13, just three days after it announced wage increases, it launched the event. More than 3,000 members joined the server that week, and Chipotle saw a 77% week-over-week increase in applications, results Miller said he's thrilled about. In an interview with HR Dive, Miller shared how his team brought the event from idea to execution and dished on how nontraditional recruiting events may play into the restaurant's future. The following conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity.
HR DIVE: How did the Chipotle team decide to host a hiring event on Discord?
MILLER: You have to go where the energy is, versus fighting the situation that we're in because we're not alone. It's challenging the times that we're in. It's almost cliche — it's unprecedented, right? But I don't want to be the martyr of talent acquisition. Instead of applying the same remedies, and being even more disappointed that the results aren't necessarily what they would be in a different time, let's literally try different things.
What we do in talent acquisition, there's an operational component to it, certainly, but we're part of crafting the story, of creating a narrative and, hopefully authentically, presenting what it is about the brand that makes us special. It helps when our guests already know so much and those guests become candidates.
But as far as Discord is concerned, we were saying: "What can we do differently? What can we do that's unique?" I've done this for a while. I've done this for a little over 20 years, and so I don't want to do the same stuff. I don't want to use the same ideas. I don't want to use the same platforms. I want new thinking, new energy — where is that energy? Where are our guests and candidates hanging out? Some of our contacts in marketing came to us and said look, there could be some synergy here. I don't know what your recruiting team thinks. And I said, I guarantee you we would be into this.
It felt like the right idea, like our people felt like it could be the right partnership. And there was a lot of enthusiasm initially, with our team, with their team. I could start to feel the momentum. So I was really intrigued after the first call. And then it came together so quickly, a week later.
I want to hear more about how the event came together so quickly — that's shocking to me.
MILLER: When you can leverage the energy and the enthusiasm around an idea, wonderful things can happen. And they can happen quickly. What I loved about this was the fact that we could come together and make this happen, literally in one week.
That was an effort between the Discord team, between our internal marketing team, our social team, and all of the recruiters, who were just thrilled because it was something that we've never really done before. So we came together and thought, alright, we want to have an almost recruitment support center. It kind of took me back to my AOL chat days because you're answering in real-time.
What did you learn from the event?
MILLER: I really love the pop-up nature of what we made happen here. I love the energy and how quickly it came together. It was absolutely a success from our perspective. I would absolutely pursue that again.
We're also taking a look and open to utilizing some other social outlets as well, just to drive interest. I think a lot of the messaging remains the same, our value proposition remains the same. But we need to meet people where they are. We need to have conversations where they're already conversing.