Hot Topic | Fashion Retailer With Over 800 Stores

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“AI can turn dispersed candidate data into hiring recommendations faster and with more accuracy than what was ever possible manually … I can’t say enough about the impact this technology has made on our business, especially at scale.”
– Johnny Sanchez, Head of Recruiting at Hot Topic


Hot Topic Uses an AI-Powered Chatbot and Intelligent Automation to Identify and Hire Top Performers

The Company

Based in Los Angeles, Hot Topic is a music and pop culture retailer with over 800 stores in North America. Johnny Sanchez, Hot Topic’s Head of Recruiting and On-Boarding, approached Ideal to help process their applications as the brand continued to bring in upwards of 1000 candidates per day.

The Problem

  • Too many candidates to screen manually
  • High-volume of candidates without work experience or resumes
  • Extremely time-consuming and inefficient phone screening required

Hot Topic’s Challenges

“The problems we were having were all good problems,” Johnny explained. “At Hot Topic, our candidates are our customers. Our brand thrives off individuality and self-expression and our customers connect with the brand so much they want to work here.”

With a lean internal recruiting team and hiring conducted at the store level, Hot Topic began to seek out technology to assist them in optimizing their candidate experience at scale.

A challenge all too familiar for many retailers, Hot Topic’s applicants seldom had work experience on their resumes and many did not have resumes at all. Furthermore, simple “knock-out” criteria such as age or shift availability required a time-consuming manual phone screen from a busy Store Manager.

Ideal’s technology was an excellent fit for these problems. Using Ideal’s AI-powered screening functionality instead of manually screening resumes, Hot Topic could ensure every single applicant was assessed, regardless of volume. Second, Ideal’s intelligent automation, in this case a chatbot, was the perfect option to replace Hot Topic’s initial phone screen. Combining these two tools gave Hot Topic the talent intelligence they needed to make data-backed hiring decisions at scale.

Technical Requirements

  • No New Login – No one wanted to add a new software or interface to learn!
  • Seamless Integration With Lever – Store Managers have very little time to spend online so the solution had to work with their existing workflow.
  • All Activity Logged Within Lever – Hot Topic wanted all the candidate data housed within Lever.


First, Hot Topic used Ideal’s resume screening software to grade all candidates from A – D.

From there, Ideal added a deeper layer of candidate intelligence by collecting further qualifying information via SMS. These conversations with candidates were automatically captured and centralized within Lever. After compiling all of this information, Ideal’s system would automatically adjust their grade accordingly.

Johnny speaks to the convenience of Ideal’s ATS integration, “Having the integration with Lever is amazing. From our Store Managers’ point of view, it’s an all-in-one talent intelligence stack. I can go into Lever and access the power of Ideal and it all lives in one space.”


Applicant Screening

In the past, Store Managers were used to opening up their ATS, seeing an overwhelming number of candidates and not knowing where to begin. With Ideal, Store Managers would see a detailed shortlist of candidates, without ever picking up the phone. This allowed them to prioritize their outreach and spend more time with qualified candidates.

A great example of how Ideal increases screening efficiency occurred when Hot Topic did their first hiring fair using Ideal. After screening every candidate, the team invited only the As and Bs in for interviews. A staggering 80% of those interviews resulted in immediate hires. This is roughly double their historic hiring rate.

Intelligent Automation via a Chatbot

Prior to using Ideal, Store Managers could spend hours a day calling candidates, followed by days of phone tag, only to find a candidate was disqualified anyway (e.g., couldn’t work weekends).

Johnny says Store Managers have been given up to 30% of their day back by using Ideal’s screening technology. By using the chatbot, Hot Topic was able to reach candidates via their preferred method of contact, dramatically increasing response rates and improving the candidate experience.

Candidates were overwhelmingly receptive of Hot Topic’s chatbot capabilities. The chatbot allowed candidates to answer screening questions when it was convenient for them, any time of the day.

Using Ideal’s technology, Store Managers were able to effortlessly analyze all of their candidate information and turn complex data sets into actionable hiring recommendations.

Full Deployment

Since implementing Ideal, the screening chatbot has had thousands of conversations with candidates in place of time-consuming phone screens. Ideal’s technology is helping Hot Topic store managers across the nation make the most informed hiring decisions possible. Between Hot Topic as well as their sister brand, BoxLunch, over 800 locations are optimizing their talent intelligence using Ideal.

Since hiring is only one part of a Store Manager’s responsibilities, Johnny believes Ideal has impacted all areas of Hot Topic’s business. “By giving time back to our Store Managers, they are able to devote that time to driving top-line revenue.”

The Future

An industry thought leader, Johnny is excited about the future of AI and HR, “AI can turn dispersed candidate data into hiring recommendations faster and with more accuracy than what was ever possible manually. AI will improve and personalize the candidate experience and help us continue to put candidates in the positions where they will succeed.”

“I can’t say enough about the impact this technology has made on our business, especially at scale. It is a monumental leap forward.”

Somen Mondal, CEO of Ideal, speaks to the partnership, “Hot Topic takes a candidate-first approach and it shows in their application volume. We’re happy to help such a well-loved brand continue to lead the industry in candidate experience.”

About Ideal

Talent Intelligence for High-Volume Hiring

Ideal provides the intelligence that talent acquisition teams need to make repeatable, data-backed hiring decisions. Without sacrificing quality for speed, Ideal uses artificial intelligence to centralize rich candidate data such as resumes, chatbot conversations, assessments and on-the-job-performance reviews. Combining this knowledge with automation, Ideal increases quality of hire, slashes attrition and reduces bias.