Retail hiring poses its own unique challenges, particularly in today’s competitive job market. If the three challenges below sound familiar, read on – we’ll explore how to deal with each:

  1. Applicants have many options. Lower barriers to entry combined with the number of available retail roles make it easy for retail candidates to apply with many organizations.
  2. Low barriers to exit. Since the skills necessary to succeed in a retail environment are highly transferable (and due to the relative abundance of openings), current employees have no trouble finding new work.
  3. The candidate market is highly localized. The average retail candidate is only applying to jobs in their immediate vicinity. While the battle for job seeker’s attention moved online with the internet job board, you’re still competing with the store down the road.

To be clear: we’re tackling each issue from the hiring side of things. For example: while there are many recognition and fair pay programs you can (and should) implement to improve the retention of your existing employees, here we’re going to focus on hiring the employees least likely to turnover.

The Challenge: Applicants Have Many Options

When recruiting for retail, you’re competing with every other retail store in the general vicinity. The solution to this challenge involves positioning yourself as an employer of choice and getting offers out faster than the competition.

The Solution: Employer Branding + Hiring Speed

For top retail talent, the decision to accept an offer boils down to two things:

  1. Do I want to work here?
  2. Do I have any other offers?

In the absence of a distinction between brands, candidates will usually choose the offer that comes first.

Part 1: Distinguish Your Employer Brand

If you are an employer, you already have an employer brand. Candidates want to work for an organization they feel proud telling their friends and family about. A recent IBM Worktrends study found that 55% of job applicants had a positive impression of the hiring organization before they applied.

Employer brand is by no means set in stone. You can start building a brand your employees brag about by:

  1. Championing internal mobility. Top talent wants to grow, develop, and advance. By championing (and publicizing) your internal mobility initiatives, you position your brand as an employer of choice.
  2. Building a referral & sign-on bonus program. While referral programs and sign-on bonuses are common in other industries, they are harder to come by in retail. They shouldn’t be: work is always better with friends, and a solid incentive program piques applicants’ interest.
  3. Stepping up your game on social. As a quintessentially B2C enterprise, retail is in a prime position to have a valid opinion on any number of products and topics, while assisting customers in a helpful, low-pressure way. Since social media is customer and candidate-facing, it’s a great place to build (or renovate) your employer brand.
  4. Giving candidates a great experience. Candidates who are satisfied with their hiring experience aren’t just twice as likely to become customers, they are also 38% more likely to accept a job offer. 
See How Urban Outfitters Gives Candidates a Great Experience
Part 2: Hiring Speed

The #1 reason job offers get rejected? The candidate already accepted a job somewhere else. In a high volume, fast-paced hiring environment like retail, it is critical to get offers out before the competition.

Of course, you still need to screen every applicant to ensure the best talent is getting into your store. But to hire quality talent quickly, you might need to reevaluate the way you’re evaluating candidates.

  • Make applying easy. Many retail applications are still lengthy forms that take over 20 minutes to complete. Get top candidates into your pipeline with a minimalistic application that requires only the most necessary information.
  • Automate parts of the workflow. If you’re not already, you should automate the manual “transactional” tasks in the recruiter’s workflow. For example: qualified candidates should not need to undergo a manual resume screen – if they meet certain qualifications, autotrigger the next step of the hiring process for them. This could be setting up a time to phone screen, directing them to a chatbot that can evaluate their qualifications, or inviting them to take a video interview. 
  • Reimagine hiring process steps. Phone screen and interview scheduling frequently causes hiring bottlenecks. Consider using video interviewing to let candidates answer your interview questions on demand – so recruiters and hiring managers can get the insight they need when they need it. This is the strategy Under Armour uses to hire at their stores, and they can fully staff a retail location in 2 days.

The Challenge: Low Barriers to Leaving

For similar reasons to the first retail hiring challenge, it is very easy for your best employees to leave. The solution involves identifying the candidates least likely to turn over before they are hired.

The Solution: Employer Branding + Candidate-Friendly Pre-Hire Assessment

A great employer brand doesn’t just attract top talent – it influences how long stay. Since we’ve already covered employer branding in the previous section, let’s jump into what a pre-hire assessment entails.

What is a Candidate-Friendly Pre-Hire Assessment?

Traditional pre-hire assessments evaluate candidates on a number of relevant job metrics, usually along the lines of:

  • Turnover
  • Quality (ie, upselling ability)
  • Safety & Security (ie, likelihood to commit theft)

Unfortunately, while a traditional assessment does a good job of identifying candidates most likely to turnover, upsell, or commit a safety violation, it is an experience they dread. Since most assessments are a lengthy series of multiple choice or closed-ended questions (and usually take over 45 minutes to complete), most candidates try to avoid them.

Fortunately, new technologies are revolutionizing how candidates are assessed. These new methods give the candidate a much less stressful experience and give hiring organizations the same (or better) proven insight into each candidate.

HireVue, for example, can use artificial intelligence (AI) to evaluate candidate’s video interviews with the same (or better) predictive validity as a traditional pre-hire assessment. Instead of taking a lengthy test, candidates simply complete an OnDemand video interview that respects their time and gives them a chance to show their talent. 

There are other innovations happening in the assessment space as well. Some organizations are “gamifying” their assessment – evaluating personality traits and job skills with online games, instead of lengthy multiple choice tests.

Since candidates have many options when applying, it’s important your assessment is as candidate-friendly as possible. For retail applicants, a different job is just a click away.

The Challenge: The Candidate Market is Highly Localized

Localized talent pools mean qualified job seekers are most likely to only apply to locations in their immediate vicinity. The solution involves making your presence known in each store’s local community.

The Solution: Get Involved

There are hundreds of strategies you can use to give your store “top of mind” status when locals are searching for nearby retail jobs. Non-profits and charities are phenomenal at mobilizing communities, so encourage store managers to take a page from their book:

  1. Organize for charity. This could be an auction, a 5k, or any other money-raising endeavor. 
  2. Sponsor a local event. Most event sponsors are content to plaster their brand around an event center and sit on their laurels. Take a step further and involve your current employees (your best ambassadors) in front-facing roles.
  3. Get involved with marginalized groups. Groups with cognitive or physical disabilities are a potentially huge talent pool that remain largely untapped. A disability usually does not make an individual incapable of performing a job, and in many cases they become phenomenal employees with the proper mentorship.
See how artificial intelligence can help identify the best retail talent in our free infographic:

How AI Helps Humans Find the Best Talent

You’ll learn how AI-powered assessments can decrease turnover and increase performance while giving candidates a great experience.