How can retail stores open doors to higher quality applicants?

Discussion
Photo: RetailWire
Oct 11, 2017
Mel Kleiman

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of an article from Convenience Store Decisions magazine.

Convenience stores have long struggled with high turnover, but a few simple tips can help hiring.

First, stores should always be taking applications, even when they have a full staff.

Secondly, even if fully staffed, every manager each week should interview at least two of these applicants. With options at your fingertips, you’ll be able to hire smarter and faster when you lose an employee.

With unemployment at record lows, making your jobs easy to apply for has never been more important. When job seekers have their choice of employers, most will take the path of least resistance. If you don’t have all of the “doors” that could gain entrance to your hiring system open, you’re sure to lose applicants to the competition.

Here are some questions you should be asking: 

  • If you have a real door they can walk through, what hours is the door open and what will happen when a job seeker enters? 
  • How easy is it to find the door on your website? Is the online application process simple and quick or complicated and lengthy? 
  • Can they walk through the social media doors? 
  • Can they open a door with a text message? 
  • Can they enter through your phone system?

Whichever door they choose, you’ll want to have a procedure in place to ensure whatever happens next in your hiring process makes applicants feel appreciated and gets each person fully engaged in your hiring process.

When it comes to bringing in applicants, employee referrals are a key consideration. Consider giving an incentive to employees if they bring in a successful hire.

When applicants come in for the interview, in addition to past employer referrals, ask for the phone numbers of three people they have worked with who can provide references on the candidate’s work ethic. This not only gives you good reference information but, more importantly, an opportunity to connect with three more employed people you can ask about your candidate as well as whether they may be interested in exploring employment with your organization.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What tips do you have for recruiting retail store employees? Are there any suggestions you would add to the article?

Braintrust
"If you have a high retention rate, it lets applicants know you’re a place that people want to work."
"Employers need to speak to the desires of potential applicants (and applicants of different age groups will have different needs)."
"We need a follow-up article about finding the “WHY” of working in retail."

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14 Comments on "How can retail stores open doors to higher quality applicants?"

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Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

At the most recent meeting of the Store Operations Council, multiple participants said that their company policy is not to hire associates full-time. By denying associates enough hours to make a living wage, they struggle to attract the most capable talent. This can’t be a good strategy in the era of customer engagement.

Ian Percy
BrainTrust

Cathy, you provide a great and common example of how companies deliberately drain the operation of any energy. What astounds me is that corporate “leaders” think they’re making brilliant decisions.

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust

Distant management policies may hit cost savings metrics, but Cathy is right on that they demotivate associates – and that makes it harder to find good new ones.

Stores make it blatantly obvious to associates that they’re shaving benefits. Like scheduling 5:45 shifts so they don’t have to give lunches (required in a 6 hour shift). Or slotting in schedules at 39.5 hours to avoid hitting full time.

People detect these games. And while they might have other benefits from the work and the pay, policies can hurt employee loyalty.

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust

Cathy, you are spot on! This approach to treating your store associates as nothing more than labor costs rather than as a brand asset can only demotivate your employees to the point that they no longer deliver amazing customer experiences. It’s a downhill slope that doesn’t lead to any sort of success.

Max Goldberg
BrainTrust

All of the above suggestions focus on the needs of the store. What about the needs of the applicant, like wages, benefits and hours? Employers need to speak to the desires of potential applicants (and applicants of different age groups will have different needs). With unemployment being so low, it’s important to put the applicant first and sell by servicing his/her needs.

Art Suriano
BrainTrust
I agree with all the points in the article, but I would like to add the need to reduce turnover. Turnover is an enormous cost — not just the cost of replacing someone but also of retraining and the difficulty caused until the new person gets hired. Why do people leave? Yes the jobs pay low, and often those working the jobs seek something better, perhaps they go off to school or once graduated find a full-time position in their field. Those reasons we are not going to change. But many retail associates also leave because of a poor work environment, a challenging manager or some other reason. Let’s start with training. Too many retailers today don’t provide training that motivates and inspires their employees. Most of it is dos and do nots, not offering any explanation of “why” they are supposed to do something or not. Retailers do very little to excite the employee about the company they’re working for and show them that by partnering with their employer, they’ll have an opportunity to… Read more »
Ian Percy
BrainTrust
These are practical suggestions and if retail staffing was a purely mechanistic process this would help considerably. Unfortunately it’s not. During the sad process of trying to revert the country to the age of coal, miners were paraded before the media as though becoming a coal miner were the ultimate in human aspiration. I guarantee not a one of them dreams about their son or daughter becoming a coal miner! Unfortunately, working in retail faces much the same dynamic. Applicants who just need a job until something better comes along aren’t going to help you very much. You hope they’ll at least do no harm over the six weeks they’ll work for you. If that person has a good work ethic, you’ve lucked out. We need a follow-up article about finding the “WHY” of working in retail. For 12 bucks an hour, there’d better be an energizing higher purpose that makes the pay almost incidental. Does the applicant get a palpable sense of that energy within the organization? Are they introduced to a world of… Read more »
Steve Montgomery
BrainTrust

Agree with Mel’s statements about taking applications and interviewing potential employees. It’s much easier to find a needed hire when you have their information and have predetermined that this is a person you would hire. We used to go a step further and actually hire a limited number of people in a market that we didn’t have an immediate need for. We referred to the strategy as building a “people bank.”

One of the points not discussed is retention. If you have a high retention rate, it lets applicants know you’re a place that people want to work.

Sky Rota
Guest
2 months 4 days ago

You have to make sure your managers are capable of finding the right talent. Most times the management are the ones bringing everyone down because they aren’t happy but just stick around to collect a paycheck and they could care less about your company and who they hire. They don’t have your stores’ best interest at hand.

Hire the ADHD people, they are the ones with the most energy and are the most happy and usually love to talk to people. Ask them what their needs are and be interested in their feedback. You can learn a lot. Maybe they just need bus money added on to their pay in order for them to get to work easier. Ask the applicants, they will give you most of the answers.

Lee Kent
BrainTrust

This article is about making it easier for the prospect to apply and yes, there is a side benefit that the retailer will be able to respond more quickly when they lose an employee. Maybe. Many, if not most, of these prospects are submitting applications at multiple stores. They likely will not be available if you call them in a few weeks. But I concede that it is not about making the application process easier. We all know it is a much bigger issue than that and Cathy brings up one aspect in her remarks. How do we stop the vicious cycle of prospects who are just looking for a job to pay for something new and then they are gone? Retail has a long way to go before they sleep on this one. For my 2 cents.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

Not to play Devil’s Advocate here – well, I guess maybe a little – and I certainly don’t advocate making the application process difficult, but it seems beyond a certain basic level all of these “doors” might actually be counterproductive: presumably companies look for motivated and talented people, and I wouldn’t expect that kind of applicant to, say, have trouble navigating a web site or requiring a text option…only the least qualified would.

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust

This comes down to corporate culture. The real issue here is employee retention and how the company culture treats its employees, whether in the store, distribution center, or corporate office.

Applicants can see how retail employees are treated just by watching their behavior in the store. If you want the best applicants, they need to see the best employees in the store — if all they see are demotivated employees, then they won’t want to work there. The happiest and most engaged employees are like magnets — they attract equally great candidates because people want to work with people who share the same work ethics and attitudes.

If your store environment isn’t conducive to this, then you won’t attract those highly qualified candidates.

HY Louis
Guest
2 months 3 days ago

Many American companies seem to have no problem finding good retail employees. Wegmans and Publix come to mind. Others not so much. If you want good employees follow the practices of these kinds of companies. Many are employee-owned. There are those that are not like Trader Joe’s. Copy their hiring and work culture.

Mel Kleiman
BrainTrust

As the author of this article I appreciate all of the comments and suggestions. Everyone who wrote about what we need to do to recruit, hire,and retain employees were right on. But that is a whole different discussion. This was just about do you make it easy for them to get into your system assuming they have some interest in applying. It is not even about giving them a reason to apply.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"If you have a high retention rate, it lets applicants know you’re a place that people want to work."
"Employers need to speak to the desires of potential applicants (and applicants of different age groups will have different needs)."
"We need a follow-up article about finding the “WHY” of working in retail."

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