Hiring in Retail: 10 Tips to Find and Recruit Superstar Employees

Boutique: Owner with Help Wanted Sign

Finding and recruiting top talent should be a priority for all retailers. Having awesome people in your team can help you sell more products, be more efficient, and most important, serve customers better.

The question is, how do you find these top performers?  To answer that, we’ve looked into the hiring practices of other companies and got in touch with managers and recruiters in the retail space to give you a solid guide to finding, attracting, and hiring great people for your store.


1. Beef up your online presence

Top performers always do their research, so you want to make sure that they like what they see when they Google your company. See to it that your website and social accounts look presentable and contain adequate information about your business.

If you haven’t done so yet, head to Glassdoor.com and complete your company profile. Add photos and provide as many details as you can. Also read the reviews that your employees (both past and current) have about your business. If you see some unfavorable reviews, talk to your staff about them and see what you can do.

It’s best to resolve any internal issues first before taking on new hires. The last thing you want is to bring in someone new when there are unresolved issues and politicking involved. The more at peace your company is on the inside, the more attractive it’ll look to applicants and the greater the chances that they’ll stay.


2. Be a multi-channel recruiter

Retailers of today are operating in a competitive space that requires forward-thinking as well as online and social savviness. If you want to attract applicants who have those traits, you should take your recruitment efforts beyond traditional channels such as job boards.

Social media is known to be an effective recruitment tool. LinkedIn for instance, has a number of talent solutions that enable you to find, vet, and contact candidates.

Sites such as Facebook and Twitter, while not specifically made for recruiting, can also help you find new hires. Use Twitter to spread the word about your openings and put a special careers tab on your Facebook page where your fans can browse and apply for jobs.

Even Instagram has proven to be a good platform, particularly for companies looking for young and fresh talent. As Software Advice cited in this piece on Instagram recruiting, “a recent study by the Pew Research Center found that the largest group using Instagram is adults between 18-29 years of age with some college education.” This makes it an ideal platform to attract youthful applicants.


Consider what Vocus is doing. Veronica Segovia, the company’s brand manager told Software Advice that they encourage their recruiting team to regularly share work-related images on the site and tag @vocuscareers on all their photos. That way, she can get comment notifications and whenever someone expresses interest in working for Vocus, she can direct them to the company’s career page.

It’s also ideal to have a jobs section on your website where people can view and apply for jobs. Target, for example, has a special careers page that enables candidates to search for openings and submit applications.

And don’t forget about mobile. An increasing number of users are now using their mobile devices to access job boards and look for career information, so make sure your posts and listings are optimized for the small screen.


3. Take a walk with them on the store floor

“One lesson for stores is don’t confine your interviews to the office,” says retail executive Don Uselmann. He recommends that merchants bring the candidates to the sales floor and watch how they interact with department managers and employees.

Bill O’Malley, Managing Partner of Connector Team Recruiting, echoes this advice.

“You can tell a lot about people as they walk a retail building with you. How do they relate as they walk the floor? How do they engage with people? Do they smile? Are they polite?

Try to have a hiring manager at the store level speak to every applicant. I have made, seen and witnessed many great hires that were made because the hiring authority took the time to meet someone at the counter or in the store.”


4. Have your team role-play as customers

Brian Drescher, a former retail operations and category manager in the retail grocery and specialty industries, says that he has his team engage with interviewees as if they were customers.

“You learn quite a bit and get to see if they were friendly or standoffish. If we were unable to get them to engage in conversation on the sales floor, it could be a sign that they may not bode well with what we were trying to do. Either way, I could learn more about the candidate and I’d be able to address any issues specifically during the interview process.”


5. Get multiple perspectives

Business consultant Amanda Taylor advises recruiters to get multiple perspectives when vetting an applicant. According to her:

You can do this by creating an interviewing team. Usually this will be comprised of the people this candidate will be interacting with the most. Ensure everyone on the team has interviewing training. Agree on what questions each person on the team will ask ahead of time.

Have your team conduct individual interviews instead of a panel interview. I’m a big fan of having an open discussion as a group to discuss the interview results of each candidate.


6. Don’t just conduct an interview—have a conversation

Don’t let your interviews be too scripted. Guide questions are okay, but don’t be afraid to have a real conversation, and let the other party do most of the talking.

“You will be surprised what you can learn about a person,” says Amanda. “Ask a question to start the conversation, then listen, and continue to ask probing questions to their response.”

She adds, “ask the candidate what questions they have for you. The questions that a candidate asks on their own will tell you a lot about their attitude, their thought process and their priorities much more than their rehearsed answers to your interview script.”


7. Be realistic about the job

Painting an accurate picture of your company and the position will enable both you and the applicant to determine if they’re a good fit for the job. So while it may be tempting to only gush about the good things about your store, but don’t oversell the job or misrepresent your company. Be forthcoming about the demands of the position and what your expectations are.

According Amanda, “This is especially true if you are a small business owner or are in a rapid-growth phase and the person in this position will have to wear multiple hats, work long hours and the only thing that is constant is change. Be honest and transparent about any challenges the candidate might face in the position.”


8. Pressed for time? Interview remotely

We get it. Running a retail business can be crazy busy—and that’s probably one of the reasons you’re looking to hire more people. If you’re pressed time, consider conducting the first round of interviews remotely.

Bill recommends Skype, Go To Meeting, or ooVoo when conducting initial interviews.


9. Motivate your current employees

Incentivize your staff to help you recruit more employees. “Your current employees know what it takes to do the job. They have a vested interest in bringing in people who will make the workload lighter, not heavier,” says sales consultant, author, and speaker Barry Maher.

“And since, as the cliché goes, birds of a feather stick together, they are very likely to know others who are much like them. Which is why you should take the recommending employee into consideration when considering the person they’re suggesting.”


10. Don’t rush the process

Finally, recognize that when it comes to hiring employees, getting it done right is better than getting it done fast. Don’t settle for a candidate who isn’t perfect for the job, just because you want to get the process over with.

As Amanda puts it, “Only hire the best and ensure they are the right fit for you. It takes time and patience but you will be greatly rewarded when you have the right butts in the right seats!”


Your take

Do you have any retail hiring tips you want to share? How do you find and screen applicants in your business? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Recommended Reading

Now that you know how to find and hire the right people, the next step is training and empowering your new hire. To help you do just that, download  The Ultimate Guide to Training and Motivating Retail Employees, an in-depth resource packed with actionable takeaways for motivating employees and boosting staff productivity.  

About Francesca Nicasio

Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.

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