How Scottish Canals energised their recruitment strategy with Jobtrain

How Scottish Canals energised their recruitment strategy with Jobtrain


Scottish Canals looks after Scotland’s canals, conserving them as part of their heritage to play a vital role in Scotland today. The British Waterways Board, operating as Scottish Canals, has been a standalone public body since 2012.

Scottish Canals implemented Jobtrain as their first applicant tracking system in 2018. Here, we meet their Head of HR and talk about the journey they have been on since implementing Jobtrain.


What were the recruitment challenges before Jobtrain and what’s changed since you it was implemented?

Scottish Canals is a very traditional organisation and is a public body, so there’s a lot of traditional ways of working. I like to embrace technology and always look at how it can assist us with efficiencies throughout the business. When I joined in 2016, straight away I saw that recruitment was managed on an ad-hoc basis, and it was very fragmented.

With lots of admin and paperwork flying around along with emails and phone calls, it was a very long-winded way of doing something which should be easy. From my own experience, I know recruitment selection can be as simple as you want it to be.

Scottish Canals is also a very seasonal business. At any point during the year, we can take on up to 80 new staff and for our small HR team, that’s a huge burden on them with no recruitment technology in place.

Was it these challenges that helped you get buy-in from the business to implement an ATS?

Scottish Canals living wage

Yes, it was one of the biggest selling points to the business.

Our recruitment was so admin heavy, we were manually managing all the sifting, time-consuming interview arrangements and more and it was these types of things we needed to improve.

Before Jobtrain, we were lagging behind where we should be and we knew there was technology that could make recruiting much easier, especially for our seasonal recruitment. Even with our ad-hoc jobs, the ability to start an approval process at the click of a button and with governance in place, the efficiencies of having software in place were clear.

“The admin side of things before Jobtrain was horrendous – implementing Jobtrain brought us into the 21st Century”

What was the candidate experience like before using Jobtrain?

I was concerned with the quality of applications we were receiving and the experience we were giving candidates wasn’t helping this. Candidates were asked to fill out the same long and detailed application form, regardless of if they were applying for a Waterway Operative or for Chief Executive. It was a one size fits all application form, and this was likely excluding candidates from applying, who quite rightly didn’t want to fill out a lengthy form just for a seasonal job.

“In the recruitment software we chose, we wanted to make sure that the candidate experience provided was going to be fit for purpose and fit for the candidate audience, to attract the right types of people and not exclude anyone from the process.

Jobtrain allowed us to do this and configured the system according to our needs.”

How did you start your search for an ATS?

It started off with just a basic Google search. Even though we are a public body, we were keen to look at the wider market as opposed to going down the down the procurement route straightaway. We found another Scottish organisation using Jobtrain, and although we’d already heard Jobtrain was a good ATS, we wanted that direct testimonial from one of your clients before we reached out and contacted you.

After visiting your client, the feedback from my team after they’d seen Jobtrain, was “this is amazing”, “it’s so easy to use”, “just a click a button you can do that”.

“They were like children in a sweet shop!”

I was also interested to see the candidate experience with Jobtrain’s other clients. I put myself in the candidate’s shoes and applied for a few positions and went through the candidate journey on your clients’ websites which was really helpful. It’s important that you understand what the experience is from both sides – from the candidate’s and employer’s point of view.

Once we’d done our own research, we got in touch with you and began the procurement process with you and two other suppliers.

Has using Jobtrain helped bring Hiring Managers onboard and given them ownership of recruitment?

We’ve been through a lot of change within Scottish Canals, and a big part of that has been Hiring Manager accountability. Previously, HR were seen as the managers of all the recruitment from beginning to end. But bringing in Jobtrain gave us the opportunity to align Hiring Managers with their own recruitment. It’s not HR that’s recruiting for this job; it’s the business that’s recruiting, and the Hiring Managers are responsible for that.

Approval processes used to be cumbersome, so by introducing Jobtrain it gave Hiring Managers the ability to own the recruitment process from beginning to end. And when they need to recruit, they just go into Jobtrain, add the vacancy details, and start the approval process – and have complete ownership.

We understand that the number of systems our Hiring Managers have to use can sometimes feel overwhelming, so we offer support in our ‘toolbox talks’. It helps to make sure they know we’re listening to them, and we can always support and make sure bad habits or old ways of working don’t slip in. The sessions are always really very well received.

From the objectives you first set out in 2018 when you implemented Jobtrain – have you been able to meet them?

Yes, Jobtrain’s met all the objectives we wanted to and for a future project, we also want to start managing a talent pool of volunteers once we’re able to start that journey internally.

Governance within the public sector, the third sector and local government is hugely important and that was one of the main things when we implemented an ATS – and Jobtrain has helped that improve vastly.

We must make sure we have governance in place, so everything is auditable, and it’s that that I would always share with other public bodies that Jobtrain creates a space where there is absolute certainty that everything is well governed within your remit.

“Jobtrain creates a space where there is absolute certainty that everything is well governed within your remit.”

Scottish Canals’ objectives when they implemented Jobtrain:

Introduce greater control


Reduce duplicate applications and time wasted


Share talent more easily


Drive meaningful reporting out of the ATS


Create a simple, faster process, & a personalised candidate experience


Use social media to attract a varied demographic of candidates


Reduce time to hire


Reduce administration


Speed up vacancy approval


Empower Hiring Managers

“Everything is so much faster.

The candidate experience is so much better, it professionalises us as an organisation.”

We also want to be an employer of choice. Although we’re small, we strive to be the best that we can be, so using a recruitment system like Jobtrain with a remit of making it more personal with a great candidate experience, has really helped.

The reporting features are quick and easy to use and are used regularly as part of our weekly Management Information that goes to our executive management team.

What’s exceeded your expectations of Jobtrain, and what’s surprised you?

The level of customer service we receive from our Continuous Improvement Consultant, Jamie, is beyond anything we expected.

From the first meeting we had with Jobtrain, we were blown away by the level of expertise and absolute certainty of the product. We almost thought it sounded too good to be true! It was so positive and brilliant and then when we started implementation, it continued with clear communication; ‘this is what we’ll do’, ‘this is how we’ll do it’, ‘this is the process we’ll follow’, ‘these are the timescales’, and everything was smooth and slotted in.

“We were blown away by the level of expertise and absolute certainty of the product”

The speed of configurability changes has really exceeded our expectations too. For example, we recently made the system more bespoke to give our executive management team more reassurance on certain aspects.

Do great things
It’s written on our Jobtrain office walls – ‘do great things’

All we had to do was explain what it was we needed and from there it was a ‘can do’ attitude and in a very solution-focused environment, and that really shines through.

Even with any updates to Jobtrain, we always know why you’re doing them, and we know that they are improvements and will make the system even better for us to use. And the follow ups we get after updates, it’s always a very personal service.

The customer service and care we receive, the quality of the system and its reliability, and just the whole experience is just very positive – it makes Jobtrain stand out from other ATS providers.

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