Kohl's sends out letters wooing the parents of prospective interns as it battles in retail's 'war for talent'

Kohl's internsGlassdoor

  • Kohl's sends out offer letters to the applicants accepted for its college internship program.
  • Todd McClement, the director of talent acquisition at Kohl's, told the audience at National Retail Federation's 2019 Big Show that his company also mails letters to candidates' parents.
  • The Kohl's executive explained that parents often have a major influence on students' internship decisions.
  • "I've had students come back and say, 'I accepted the job at Kohl's because of this letter,'" McClement said.

NEW YORK CITY - Kohl's doesn't just try to win over promising young candidates through its college internship program.

The retailer strives to impress their parents, too. Todd McClement, the director of talent acquisition at Kohl's, spoke on Monday about his company's unique, parent-focused recruitment strategy during the National Retail Federation's 2019 Big Show in Manhattan.

Every successful college internship applicant gets an offer letter from Kohl's in the mail. Their parents receive a matching note and an informational packet, letting them know that their son or daughter was selected for the program over "tens of thousands of students."

McClement said that his talent team found that "parents are such important contributors to a student's decision on ultimately where they go to work after they graduate."

But when his team members came up with the idea of mailing offer letters to the parents of prospective interns, McClement said his initial response was a resounding "no." At the time, he said he felt that applicants needed to "stand on their own."

McClement's team didn't back down.

"They did it anyway, which I love about them," he said.

The Kohl's executive said that he came around after a successful pilot program, which resulted in "parents reaching out to us, telling us how amazing" the letters were. He said that the company always asks permission before sending a letter to the parents of prospective interns. Students can also request that the retailer mail the letter to caregivers and relatives other than their parents.

"We had students reaching out to us saying, 'My dad posted this on the refrigerator,'" McClement said. "Because they loved it and loved the outcome of being able to connect with an employer in that way. Because it is a bigger decision than just an individual candidate."

According to McClement, Kohl's offers internships across all of its departments, and it gives students the opportunity to "test drive" the company. He said that the company had a class of approximately 500 interns last summer.

Read more: JCPenney is enticing workers with free vacations to New York and Miami as retail's 'war for talent' heats up

Home Depot's head of global talent acquisition, Eric Schelling, commented on Kohl's recruitment tactic, saying, "That's a perfect example of how you have to adapt to what the war for talent really is. They're changing what the talent expects. That's a great idea."

Schelling and Greyston Bakery VP Alan Gaynor participated in the "retail war for talent" panel, which NRF Foundation President Ellen Davis moderated.

"I've had students come back and say, 'I accepted the job at Kohl's because of this letter,'" McClement said.

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