Retail Recruiting Strategies: What You Need to Do to Attract and Hire the Best Employees

We all know that it’s happy, helpful employees that keep customers coming back and spending money.

And yet, the retail industry has one of the highest employee turnover rates. Not putting enough attention on hiring and training is one reason for this astonishing number.

So here’s a question: how are you finding new hires? Simply throwing a “help wanted” sign in the window of your store? If so, you might be sabotaging your business. Here’s what you need to know to find the ideal employees to help your business thrive.

It All Starts with the Job Description

Did you know that most job descriptions out there don’t even describe the job they’re hiring for? They’re nothing more than a list of experience and skills. So is it any wonder that a new employee might feel inadequate at the position and leave after a few months, causing you to start the process all over again?

That’s why your retail job description needs to be absolutely clear on not only the experience you want a new hire to have, but also:

  • Duties and responsibilities the role entails
  • Personality traits that make this role successful
  • Physical requirements

Knowing, for example, that your job requires candidates to be able to lift 50 pounds, would prevent anyone who couldn’t meet that requirement from applying. And presumably, if someone weren’t at ease in dealing with customers face-to-face, they wouldn’t apply either.

If you’ve hired for this role before, spend some time writing out what the current employee does daily. Beyond being able to check out customers, you might realize that you also want this position to manage your Instagram account or help with inventory. Reviewing what an employee actually does in this role can give you perspective on what to include in your job description.

Your Hiring Checklist 

How do you know if your job description is flawless? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Did I include all pertinent tasks that this job entails?
  • Did I separate the experience musts from the nice-to-haves?
  • Did I make our company seem appealing to candidates?
  • Did I share some of the perks of working here?
  • Did I keep the description short (400-800 words)?

It can be helpful to have the person who currently has this role review the description to see if it accurately portrays what they’re responsible for. If it doesn’t, edit your document. 

Now, Attract the Best Candidates

Once you’ve perfected your job description, you want to do more than put up that “help wanted” sign. Posting your opening on online job boards can help you attract more — and better — candidates than you’d get with walk-ins.

Because you can categorize your opening by industry, as well as filter candidates by experience, you won’t get the flood of unqualified applications that you’d get through Craigslist (though Craigslist is still useful if you’re hiring for minimum-wage unskilled labor).

You can post a job for members to apply for, or you can browse resumes that meet your requirements on sites like Indeed, Monster, and LinkedIn. These sites are especially useful if you’re hiring for a more skilled position like a retail store manager.

Consider using an applicant tracking system to help you post to many job boards at once and even track and organize applicants.

Your Hiring Checklist

Spend time reading similar descriptions on these job boards to both make sure that the role you’re hiring for is one people search for and to see how your description stacks up. To make sure your posting gets maximum exposure:

  • Only post it on relevant job boards (some will be industry-specific, like AllRetailJobs).
  • Read guidelines for posting on each site so your listing doesn’t get flagged.
  • If possible, set requirements for who can apply. This will winnow down your list.

Interview Your Top Picks

While a candidate’s application or resume is the first checkpoint in the hiring process, the interview is what will really help you discover who is the best fit for the role. 

Keep in mind that people are always on their best behavior during interviews, and will typically give you canned responses that they think you want to hear. Instead, consider the interview to be more of a conversation. Encourage the applicant to do most of the talking so you can get to know their personality and work ethic.

Your Hiring Checklist

The interview is your opportunity to find out how skilled a candidate is at selling, up selling, and dealing with irate customers. Try out situational questions like these:

  • How would you get a customer to buy an additional item?
  • A customer comes in, angry that her newly-purchased shirt is stained. How do you handle it?
  • If you don’t have the answer to a customer’s question, what do you do?
  • You’re having a bad day. It’s raining, and customers are being rude. How do you find a smile for them?
  • The checkout line is 10 deep, and there’s no help in sight. How do you soothe customers?

Training, Training, Training is Key!

There’s no getting around the importance (or cost) of training your retail employees. It’s estimated that it costs about $3,328 to hire, onboard, and train a $10/hour employee. This cost is essential if you’re hoping to keep that employee around for longer than a few months.

Establish training programs to streamline the process. Training manuals or online courses can be used over and over for new hires, and will reduce your time and money spent on the process. Just make sure you cover all of the responsibilities the new hire will have, or you’ll end up with a deer-in-the-headlights new employee who might feel overwhelmed with her responsibilities.

Your Hiring Checklist

Don’t wait until you’re onboarding a new hire to figure out your training process. Follow these tips before you even hire so that you’re ready to ramp up an employee into daily operations:

  • Ask a current employee to list all her duties and skills she had to learn.
  • You or she should outline the steps for each duty and document it. (Photos are helpful.)
  • In training, first demonstrate each process (one at a time), then watch your hire try each one out.
  • Allow plenty of time when customers are not in the store for her to practice.
  • Follow up in a week and ask what questions she has about her new duties.

Hiring the best employee for your retail business starts with a great job description, but it also requires you to look in the right places for your next hire, dedicate time to the interview process, and make sure that your new employee is properly trained.

Recommended Reading

Now that you have more insights into retail recruiting strategies, it’s time to learn more about how you can keep your staff engaged and productive. Vend’s Ultimate Guide to Training and Motivating Retail Employees will help you do just that. Check it out!

Author Bio
Marc Prosser is the co-founder and managing partner of Fit Small Business, a site that provides reviews and articles for small business owners. Prior to starting Fit Small Business, Marc was the CMO of FXCM for ten years. He joined as FXCM’s first employee and grew the company to more than 700 employees.

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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