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The Complete Guide to Retail Recruitment

Every business is only as good as its employees. Whether you’re running a franchise or staffing a multinational corporation, you rely on front-line retail workers to keep the lights on and customers happy.

Without an ironclad retail recruitment process, are you hiring the best people for the job? Find out how to develop highly effective retail recruiting strategies to attract hot talent instead of just warm bodies.

What is Retail Recruitment?

When it comes down to recruitment in the retail industry, it’s all about one thing — who’s talking to your customers.

Your retail employees interact with your customers regularly and represent your company in selling your goods and services. Positive or negative customer interactions can make or break your retail sales pipeline. Customers rarely forget a negative experience with a retail associate.

Retail recruitment is about hiring the best personnel — with the skills, product expertise and forward-thinking attitude necessary to deliver an excellent customer experience, every time.

Finding the right person takes more than just posting a few job ads. It takes a targeted strategy, starting with a core understanding of who would be your ideal employee.

Understanding Your Recruitment Needs

Creating a solid retail recruitment plan starts with you. Before you can attract top candidates, you need to define the ins and outs of your company. This includes your values, your goals and your target audience. With that knowledge, you can identify the type of candidate that will meet and exceed your performance targets.

What is Your Corporate Culture?

Your company might be laid back and friendly or buttoned-up and highly hierarchical. Much of this can depend on your customer base, whether you’re selling high-end luxury goods or discounted deals.

Your internal corporate culture reflects the face you want to show your customers and can define your brand. You want candidates who fit well into your business’s culture and adapt to your team structure.

When defining your corporate culture, ask:

  • What is your management hierarchy?
  • Which types of personalities get along best in your industry and business?
  • What do you value most in a team player?
  • How accessible is management to your retail staff?
  • What is the one word you’d use to define the attitude of your top employees?
  • How does your company approach solving problems?

Understanding these things about your company creates a template for a best-fit candidate. It also defines clear language, allowing job seekers a glimpse into your business environment.

What is Your Market?

When strategizing how to hire retail staff, understanding your market is crucial. Even entry-level jobs in retail can require highly specialized skills specific to particular markets and industries.

For example, a retail employee well-versed in animal care would thrive in a pet store. However, they might not have the necessary skills to sell high-end sound systems to savvy customers. Those savvy customers rely on customer associates for detailed product information. Targeting the wrong market in your candidate search can escalate retail recruitment woes with a bevy of unsuitable candidates.

Here are a few tips for improving your retail recruitment plan.

  • Ask yourself what differentiates your market from others. What unique skills and personality traits are necessary to your sector?
  • Research where people in your market are more likely to check for job advertisements. For example, a bookseller might advertise new jobs in Publishers Weekly. Tech sales specialists might look on Dice or other tech talent sites.
  • Avoid spraying job ads indiscriminately. You risk reaching job seekers in the wrong market or having your recruiting advertisement dismissed as spam.
  • Don’t be afraid to diversify! Current pandemic difficulties may create obstacles around in-person recruitment events. However, job fairs are still possible with appropriate safety measures. They can still unearth that amazing candidate who’d otherwise have missed your online ads.

Who Are Your Target Customers?

There’s no more important part of a retail employee’s job than customer service and support. Part of developing your business — and effective retail recruitment strategies — is understanding customer profiles. This includes narrowing down customer expectations, then hiring retail personnel capable of meeting those expectations.

Your customer-facing interactions may involve personal shopper or concierge services, problem-solving and more. You may need your retail employees to have a quick answer to customer questions about product details, service comparisons and pricing. Ask yourself what your customers need the most and set those criteria as top qualifications for potential job seekers.

Beating the Competition

Many have a misconception that retail jobs should be “churn and burn”. However, your best retail recruitment plan is to hire and retain employees who will yield solid ROI on the time and training invested in them. This results in long-term, loyal team members and brand ambassadors.

Especially in today’s difficult market, hiring top staff can mean beating out the competition. After all, you are competing to attract retail employees who are willing to invest their careers in your company.

Who Are Your Competitors for Top Retail Employees?

Sun Tzu said, “Know thy enemy.” One of the best tools in your retail recruitment arsenal is solid competitor analysis. Look at businesses operating in the same retail sector and identify their top performance points. Ask:

  • Where do they outperform your business?
  • How can you turn that around to reclaim dominance in those key metrics?
  • What makes their employees happy to stay with them?
  • Are their pay rates above or below the market average?
  • What benefits or incentives do they offer to attract star employees?
  • What do their hours and schedules look like?
  • Where can they improve in their employee hiring, retention and satisfaction?

Identifying where your competitors outperform you can open doors for improving your organizational performance and recruitment strategy. Identifying their deficiencies can open your eyes to a few areas to gain business. It could also optimize or pave the way to leverage your competitive advantages.

What Are Your Advantages Over the Competition?

Do you offer more paid time off? Maybe your benefits plan is better. Is your hourly wage higher? Maybe your corporate culture is more welcoming and supportive. If you offer better pathways for long-term career growth, advanced training and progressive perks, even better! Maybe you’ve just got a killer snack bar in the break room.

No matter what your advantages are, use them. Make sure your job advertisement lets potential candidates know just what you offer over the competition. Don’t be shy about touting the benefits of working for you. Those benefits could attract that perfect retail candidate.

Defining Your Ideal Retail Candidate

So, who is that perfect candidate? By now you’ve probably got a clear-cut picture in your head of the ideal employee. It’s true, flawless new talent probably won’t step right off the street and into your office. However, knowing what makes your perfect retail employee can help your target hires identify themselves.

Make a List — and Check it Twice

Enhance your retail recruitment process by making a list of the top ten traits your ideal employee should possess. Here are a few things to consider.

  • What specialized industry or trade skills should the job seeker possess?
  • How many years of experience do you require?
  • Are you flexible around commensurate experience in other industries?
  • What minimum education or specialized training and certifications do you require?
  • Which soft skills would make a candidate a great fit for your team?
  • What is your target availability and required weekly hours?
  • What would be a great bonus talent or trait that isn’t necessary, but desirable?

Part of effective retail recruitment is candidate self-selection. If you include clear criteria, candidates will more easily self-exclude or realize they’re the perfect match and send an application.

Dealbreakers Aren’t Just for Relationships

You know what you want — but you should know what’s an automatic rejection, too. While you should avoid anything involving discrimination or bias, you may still have concerns about unqualified candidates lacking the necessary requirements.

For instance, an associate who works in your warehouse division may require a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License) to transport large trucks of goods between your retail locations. No CDL? No good. Establishing firm criteria can help you quickly weed through applications to narrow down your top potential hires.

Crafting the Perfect Job Advertisement

Once you’ve figured out your ideal candidate traits, your market, your corporate culture and where to target your job advertisements, it’s time to write an effective job description designed to efficiently recruit retail employees. You want to avoid overly descriptive, complicated job ads.

Dedicated job seekers scan through dozens or even hundreds of ads per day. Longer ads that bury the lead often get passed over by qualified candidates.

Your job advertisement should consist of:

  • A short 2-3 sentence introductory paragraph about your company, your industry and the position you’re hiring for.
  • 3-5 sentences covering the core duties of the job.
  • 3-5 sentences describing your ideal candidate.
  • A bullet list of no more than 8-10 brief items listing key candidate requirements — skills, education, years of experience, etc.
  • Clearly stated hourly/schedule expectations.
  • Clearly stated pay rates, benefits, incentives and signing bonuses.
  • 1-2 sentences about the application process and screening/hiring period.
  • A link or other directions to your application form.

Make sure to include other relevant details. For example, is a credit or background check required? Provide job seekers with enough relevant information to make a smart decision about applying.

Identifying Your Challenges to Retail Recruitment

Not everything about retail recruitment is smooth sailing. Whether it’s a depressing job market or a target applicant pool in less tech-accessible sectors, certain retail recruitment challenges can set roadblocks in your path.

Why Aren’t You Finding the Best Candidates?

Is your job advertisement truly effective? After you craft your job posting, ask for outside opinions. External feedback from colleagues or HR professionals can help you refine your job listing. The goal is getting your message across to the right candidates.

How accessible is your application? A difficult or malfunctioning application process can turn away many eager job seekers. Avoid overly complicated application forms requiring dozens of pages of paperwork or multiple website click-throughs. Keep your application process narrowed down to the basics and remove any unnecessary bells and whistles.

How is the Market Affecting Your Search for Retail Employees?

Market challenges can lead to hiring droughts, short-staffing, supply chain problems and much more.

Keep an eye on the economy and its impact on your specific market sector. A massive economic downturn can lead to layoffs and a large available candidate pool. This can lead to a larger quadrant of unqualified candidates. In that case, you might need an incisive strategy for weeding out those who aren’t a good fit.

Economic surges can also present their own challenges. With business booming, competitors may get ahead of you. They might snatch up the best candidates before you’ve even started screening applications.

Stay sharp, and always be ready to put yourself at the forefront of hiring. You may have to adjust incentives to remain competitive, but it’s worth it to score top talent.

Are You — and Your Retail Recruitment Methods — COVID-Ready?

The pandemic has made retail store operations more difficult, including localized differences in policy over masking, occupancy and social distancing.

When creating a staffing plan, consider how COVID requirements affect hourly scheduling. They also affect staffing requirements and what portion of your retail business can transition online with remote employees. You may even need an entirely separate team for online customer service and fulfillment. This would require a unique set of skills from your in-store associate team.

Retail Recruitment Planning for the Long Term

Having a strong retail recruitment strategy isn’t just about fulfilling immediate needs. With a smart plan in place, you can optimize your recruitment process. Ultimately, you want to attract qualified retail associates committed for the long haul.

Building a lasting team requires flexibility, strategic decision making and a flawless methodology. Once you’ve established a suite of retail recruiting best practices, you’ll have a solid foundation for sustainable business growth.