Top 5 strategies for attracting the best retail talent

Good customer experience starts with great frontline associates

Your associates know the brand. They know the products and they’re excited to help customers solve problems. But to attract and hire those top employees (and then keep them over time)… well, you’ve got an uphill battle on your hands.

First, there’s the shrinking labor pool. Unemployment is at an all-time or near-all-time low in many areas of the world. 3.5 per cent in the U.S. 5.5 per cent in Canada. And just 3.9 per cent in the U.K. In other words: there aren’t many people looking for jobs in the first place.

Then there’s the problem of skyrocketing turnover. With turnover rates as high as 81 per cent for part-time retail workers, store managers are always searching for candidates, reading applications, conducting interviews, onboarding new staff and filling out exit paperwork. It’s a never-ending process.

It's not uncommon for individual stores to have over 100% turnover in a single year, depending on their location. Imagine how much more productive and profitable your people and stores could be (and how much happy your managers would be) if turnover was improved, even slightly.

Now consider that every retailer is competing for the same narrowing field of job-seekers. It’s clear why attracting employees is such a struggle.

So, how do you find those superstar candidates when the deck seems stacked against you? Don’t fret—we’ve got five tips to help.

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Think about current employees who wow you and your customers. What qualities make them shine? That’ll help you nail down what you’re looking for.

Build candidate-centric
job descriptions

You think about your customer experience a lot, but what about your candidate experience? What do they need to know before they apply to your position, and what will get them excited about working for you?

  • State up front what the job entails. Include whether it’s part-time or full-time and the kind of shifts they’ll be working so candidates know what to expect right off the bat.
  • Cast a wider net by prioritizing qualities that are must-haves rather than nice-to-haves (and be transparent about that, too).
  • Let people know what’s in it for them–beyond just a paycheck. For example, if they’re fans of your brand, they’ll love an employee discount.
  • Inject your brand’s personality into the description. Remember, a good fit is about culture too, so attracting the best talent might require a taste of what it’s like through the language you choose.

Make positions
easy to find

What good is a perfectly written job description if no one can find it? Your next step is to make sure superstar candidates know you’re hiring.

  • Put your social channels to work. Your followers and fans are a great pool of potential talent. Plus, they come pre-loaded with knowledge and love for your brand.
  • Think SEO for applicants. What sorts of keywords are they using when they’re searching for work? Aim to rank high in the results by including those terms in your description.
  • Post jobs on a mobile-friendly careers site alongside deeper information about your company and some behind-the-scenes insights into what it’s like to work for you.
  • Encourage your store managers to connect and build relationships with local community groups. Building an extended network of potential candidates through these groups can shorten the time it takes to fill open positions.
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Think about where your best employees spend their time outside of work, both online and offline. Chances are, others
like them are following the same patterns.

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Don’t let good talent slip through the cracks. Keep notes and an ongoing email list of past employees and stand-out candidates so you can reach out when the time is right.

Work your
network

Your network might be big, but combine it with the networks of your employees, past employees and past candidates and you’ve got a huge untapped pool of potential talent on your hands.

  • Ask for referrals. Your employees are your best advocates because they know what it’s like to work for you already. They’ll also feel valued when you hire someone they’ve recommended. If you can add in even a small referral bonus for successful hires, you’ll increase engagement even more.
  • Reconnect with past employees and seasonal workers. If their experience working with you was a good one, they might be more than happy to return.
  • Consider candidates who didn’t make the cut last time. Yesterday’s near miss could be perfect for the job today.

Go beyond
the resume

A resume is great at giving a high-level overview of skills and experience, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Retail jobs increasingly demand frontline staff to excel at soft skills and your interviews should reflect that. After all, the day-to-day process stuff can be taught quickly and easily. A winning attitude? Not so much.

During your interviews, look for things like:

  • Eagerness to learn new things and develop new skills
  • Patience and empathy when dealing with problems
  • Open communication with customers and other members of a team
  • Comfort with making decisions on their feet
  • Creativity when solving problems
  • Passion for your brand (and helping customers, too)
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Don’t get caught up looking for someone with retail experience. Great candidates can come from many walks of life. Leading retailers have started to inject psychographics into their recruitment process to find candidates that best align with their values, which ups the success factor for both the retailer, and employee.

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Add extra incentive by making your training fun. Not only are you investing in your frontline staff by building skills, but you’re boosting their experience working with you.

Give yourself
an edge

Did we mention the same candidates applying for your jobs are applying for your competitors’ positions, too? If you want to top their list of preferred employers, you need every advantage you can use.

  • Timing is key. Research shows almost 40 per cent of job offers get rejected because applicants already accepted a job somewhere else. If your hiring process is fast and furious, you’ll be first through the door with an offer.
  • Go beyond wages. Sure, a paycheck is nice, but you can offer candidates so much more by thinking outside the box. Maybe you can throw in a gym membership, allow for flex time or give in-store discounts.
  • Invest in their development. Employees are attracted to companies that teach them new skills and provide room for growth.

Attracting the best talent is hard—especially for the holidays—but it’s possible.