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Retail Recruitment:

A Straightforward Guide for Modern Merchants

If recent history has taught us anything, it's that the world of retail can change overnight — and that goes for your retail recruitment strategies too.

But with the dust finally settling on the e-commerce explosion, a lot has changed in a short amount of time. How can modern retailers find the employees they need in order to meet and exceed customer expectations moving forward?

From running continuous recruitment events to drilling down on competitive job offers, forward-thinking retailers are diving headfirst into hiring. We won’t lie — it’s not always easy. But it doesn’t have to be so hard, either.

In this guide to modern retail recruitment, we’re sharing advice to help you grow your brand, starting with the people who keep your stores running.

Whether you're a brick-and-mortar retailer, an online merchant or an omnichannel mega-brand, it's time to create a recruitment strategy you can grow on. These simple steps will help you make sure you always have the retail talent you need.

Nail your retail recruitment strategy in 6 steps

  1. Differentiate between seasonal and everyday hiring
  2. Target high-quality retail candidates
  3. Tighten up your company culture
  4. Create an interview process that reflects the role
  5. Hold onto great retail candidates
  6. Ask candidates for feedback

Retail hiring challenges: How it started vs. how it’s going

Though the recent retail frenzy has meant better dividends for many growing brands, it’s also come with an increased demand for workers.

But similar to hospitality, child care, and many other industries hit hard by the pandemic, the talent market in retail has shifted. Today’s retail workers have a whole different set of priorities, making it harder than ever for retail businesses to find the staff they need, especially during busy shopping seasons like Q4.

Here’s how the research analysts at Korn Ferry summed it up in their recent article, How retailers can attract and retain frontline talent amid the Great Attrition.

“No other US industry is more affected by the ‘Great Attrition’ than retail, simply because it employs more people than any other sector in the US economy. ”

Regardless of category or business model, you need the right people to keep your retail business moving. And we’re not going to sugarcoat it, you’re up against a lot.

Higher than average turnover rates

While Gartner estimates that the average turnover rate is about 20%, the average turnover rate for the retail world is a whopping 60%. Many retailers are stuck in an endless cycle of rehiring and retraining, a process that can negatively affect your cost of hire (and if we’re honest, probably your mental health too).

Seasonal and high-volume hiring needs

High-volume hiring is the norm for most retail industry recruiters, but hiring for a large number of open positions in a relatively short time — say, for a busy holiday season like Cyber 5 — means that recruitment decisions are often rushed leading to more costly turnover.

Stiff competition for local talent

For brick-and-mortar retailers and those with their own warehouses, you’re competing against every other retailer in your area for the same talent. And with over 90% of retailers confronting a talent shortage, you need a strong recruitment strategy if you want to sway those talented locals to join your team.

6 steps to a rock-solid retail recruitment strategy

1. Differentiate between seasonal and everyday hiring

A football flying through goal posts

First things first: to get your retail recruitment strategy right, you need to define your hiring goals from the get-go.

These goals should focus on the number of new hires you need at different times of year.

For retail hiring teams, there are two main things to keep in mind:

  1. Seasonality: Retail is a seasonal game, and (depending on your product type) you’ll already know your busiest times of year. Always make sure to take both the seasonal highs and lows into account so you don’t end up over or understaffed.
  2. Turnover: High employee turnover is expected in retail jobs, so it’s important to keep your pipeline full at all times. Your past turnover rates will give you an idea of how many new hires to aim for at different times of year. 

To help define your hiring goals, ask yourself these questions: 

  • How many employees do you need?
  • When do you need them?
  • What are your current turnover rates? 
  • Does your turnover increase during peak seasons?
  • What type of roles are you looking for?
  • In which seasons will you need more employees?
  • How quickly do you need to be able to hire new candidates?

No matter how you define the answers to these questions, remember that the best way to meet your recruitment needs is to keep recruiting.

Keep your eyes peeled for high-performing applicants year-round. You can even nurture your existing talent pools to keep your pipeline engaged over time. That way, when it comes time to hire additional staff for the busy season, you’ll already have five-star workers on deck.

2. Target qualified retail candidates

a target with a bird laying in front of it

Now that you know how many new hires you need and when, it’s time to drill down on your target candidates.

Many retailer brands wait until the eleventh hour, rush to post an open role, then sit back and cross their fingers that the right candidates find them. But knowing exactly who you need to bring on board will help you get ahead of the game with your recruitment marketing strategy. 

Think about where candidates are currently hanging out online, how to approach them, and what types of work opportunities they’ll respond to best.

To get started, you’ll need to build a strong candidate persona, so you can market new job roles to the right candidates. 

Here are a few things to think about:

  1. Demographics Age, location, current job title and desired income
  2. Experience and skills — Education, qualifications, certifications, work history and required or preferred skills for the role
  3. Personal characteristics — Strengths, weaknesses, interests and pain points
  4. Goals — What are their professional goals? Will this role help them get there?
  5. Objections — Why would this candidate not apply for or accept the job role? What would make them lose interest?
  6. Online habits — Where might you find your ideal candidates hanging out? Where would they look for jobs?
  7. Motivations — What motivates them to get out of bed in the morning? What keeps them at a job for a long period? What are they looking for in their work environment?

One simple but powerful way to attract retail candidates is to simply tell them what you’re looking for. Not only will this help them self-select, it will also create a smoother path toward scheduling the right interviews with the right individuals.

And remember, for many retail roles, experience isn’t everything. Focus on personality, skills, and motivations over qualifications.

3. Tighten up your company culture

a spilling coffee cup with the words you rock on it

Most retailers spend hours thinking about ways to appeal to new customers, but how many of them put in the work to figure out what attracts team members? 

You know your company is awesome. Now it’s time to let potential candidates know it, too.

The way you position your employer brand will directly affect the number and quality of candidates you attract, so it’s important to get this one right.

Here’s how to make sure your company culture is worthy of awesome applicants:

  • Prioritize the candidate experience: From the tools you use to how quickly you respond, this one is all about making candidates feel special from the moment they hit ‘apply now’. If you need some hiring inspo, ask candidates for feedback about the recruitment process to see where you can fine-tune things for the next go-around.
  • Empower candidates from day one: With an army of millennial and Gen Z candidates longing for autonomy in the workplace, it pays to hand candidates the reins early on. Self-scheduling and flexible work shifts are a great way to show the next gen of retail talent you get it.

Don’t overwork your employees: Burnout is real. Especially in the retail world when shifts are long and pay isn’t always stellar. So when you’re making the weekly schedules, keep their mental and physical health in mind. Not only will healthy and happy employees work harder, but they’ll also enjoy their jobs and be way more likely to stick around.

4. Create an interview process that reflects the role

a person standing in front of a mirror shaking hands with their reflection

Great news — if you’ve made it this far, you’re sure to have a pipeline full of quality candidates by now. 👏🏼

The next step is all about an awesome interview process. 

When it comes to retail recruitment, here’s what a great interview process might look like:  

  • Screening questionnaires: Okay, so this technically comes before the interview, but it’s all part of the quality-control mission. By screening the right candidates in, you can save yourself (and your candidates) a ton of time.
  • Use candidate-first hiring tools: For high-turnover retail roles, the interview process needs to be simple and fast. With the right Applicant Tracking System (ATS), you can reduce the time (and cost) of hiring by at least 30%.
  • Keep it simple: These days, candidates expect interviews to be flexible and easy to attend. That means process-smoothers like self-scheduling interview links and video interviews are top of the list.

Ask the right questions: Check out Breezy’s sales and retail interview questions for 400+ pick-and-play questions, ..and use interview guides to keep your hiring team on track.

5. Hold onto great retail candidates

person hugging a rainbow disk with the word candidate on it

Next, you have to decide whether to offer them the role or not — but either way, it pays to treat them right, especially if you want to hold onto that talent for future hiring needs.

There are two main routes to take to hold onto quality retail candidates:

  1. Offer and retain: It takes time, money, effort and tears to hire quality candidates — so once you’ve found them, you don’t want to lose them. Focus on your retention strategy to make new hires feel welcome and want to stick around for the long haul. Think: A streamlined entry process, first-day protocols, integrated ATS + HRIS for seamless onboarding, all the good stuff.
  2. Reject and nurture: Every seasoned HR pro has been there: You find an awesome candidate you know would be a great match for the company, but they just don’t fit the role. Luckily, that’s where candidate nurture comes in. By keeping potential candidates ‘on the books’ and engaged with company news, you can get those missed-opportunity candidates back in for the next open role. Need a helping hand during busy season? BOOM, you’ve got one in your back pocket!

Next time you set out to hire awesome retail candidates for your brick-and-mortar store, remember: The more plans you put in place now, the better your chances of hiring quality candidates later. 

6. Ask candidates for feedback

When it comes to fine-tuning your recruitment strategy, ask the experts: your own candidates! 

Gather constructive interview feedback re: your hiring practices so you can identify areas for improvement. Not only will this make your employees feel seen, but you’ll also cultivate a better candidate experience for the future. And lower turnover. And increase satisfaction levels. The list goes on!

Find the right retail workers, minus the headache

chess piece telling another chess piece "your in"

Retail recruitment is a tough game to play, but with the right strategy and a few smart tools to help, you can find the right people in no time. 

Before you dive in, take a little time to uplevel your hiring plan to reflect your ideal candidates so that you can hang onto them once you’ve found them, even if they’re not the right fit right now. The more quality candidates you have in both your pools and pipeline, the more likely you are to keep up with whatever the future may bring.

With the help of all-in-one recruitment software like Breezy, you can transform your retail recruitment process to make sure you have the right staff year-round. From instantly posting your open roles to all the top job boards to easily scheduling interviews across hiring managers and time zones, Breezy makes retail recruitment easy. 

Find out how it works with a free 14-day trial.

Are you ready?

Boost your employer brand from day one with the right recruitment system.

Get your free Breezy HR trial today!

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