Recruiting In Retail: Tips For Managers

Retail recruiting is different than most recruiting because the potential “prospects” have a varied background and can number in the hundreds of thousands. But on the other hand, because prospects are generally very visible (if they are currently working), they are easier to assess and communicate with. Here are some advanced tips for finding retail talent. Golden Tip #1: The secret to success is to turn all of your current (and former) employees, suppliers and customers into passionate recruiters. Reward them well for “identifying top prospects” and for actual referrals. Golden Tip #2: Measure (and distribute) the results to all managers how well each manager does on recruiting and retaining top talent. Next reward your managers handsomely for great recruiting and the retention of top talent.Golden Tip #3: Most retail jobs are dull as toast. Give your employees something exciting to talk about and they will pass the word about your great jobs (through viral marketing) better than any advertising could! Without a passion, you can not get the best. Advanced Tools

  • Do a profile. Because top talent have many things in common do a “profile” of your top employees to identify what media (what they read, go to or “do” in their spare time) you would need to use to get their attention (if they didn’t already work for you). Use this “behavior profile” to fine tune your prospect “finding” tools/ process.
  • Referrals. Develop a world-class employee referral program and get every employee to be a recruiter.
  • Identify people that “don’t know you.” Look to people that don’t know your firm or product because your product is too upscale, expensive, or not used by their community. If you are paying close to the minimum wage, you must become known in the communities or districts (as well as at colleges and high schools) where lower income people live. This means working with and donating to community, school and church groups and attending events in the community. It might also mean making these potential employees aware of your products by giving them samples. Other options include offering pre-training or apprentice programs. In some cases it can mean providing free transportation to your stores
  • Former employees. Re-recruit former top-performing employees (boomerangs) that might have now learned that the grass is not greener at other firms.
  • Hire them both. People in retail frequently know others in retail. Offer to hire two friends/spouses together so that they can work/commute together.
  • Contests. Sponsor a contest for the best cook, salesperson, or whatever position you’d like to recruit in a city and recruit the top ones. Sponsor industry awards/contests and capture the names of the best entries.
  • Scouting mission. Send your employees out on a “scouting mission” to find the best customer service people in your area (either by visiting or calling). Your people invariably meet and talk to dozens of retail people every week in their normal lives. Offer a referral reward both for good names and for those that are hired
  • Small retailers. Look at your smaller competitors as your “farm team.” Identify their top talent on a regular basis. Also encourage any hires you previously got from that firm to recruit them (a bounty can be offered if you are really aggressive).
  • Partnerships. Build a strategic partnership with other “similar” retailers (and schools) to share recruiting costs and applicants. With more resources, the partnership can also help build up the (often negative) “image” of retail in order to increase the total number of people interested in working in retail
  • Strategic partnerships. Develop a strategic partnership (or buy one) with top staffing agencies. Arrange for them to make you their “first choice” referral source.
  • Customers as recruiters. Give customers, suppliers, teachers, guidance counselors and former employees a bonus for referring people that you hire.
  • Poaching. Target your major competitors top performers. You steal continually try to steal their customers, so do the same with their employees. Then treat your own employees so well that any retaliation doesn’t work
  • Target the weak. If you are in a commission-based industry, target stores that you know are doing poorly.
  • Schools. List your jobs/internships at college/high school placement offices.
  • Get advice. Develop a recruiting “advisory board” comprised of your “coolest, well connected and diverse” employees to ensure that your strategy and tools fit your target market.
  • Internships. Offer internship/job combinations where students work part time and serve a learning internship the rest of the time.
  • Mentors. Develop a mentor program where your employees mentor those outside the firm and use it to woo them to your firm.
  • New residents. If there is a local welcome-wagon type service use them (or any service that is used by people new to town) to notify new residents of your opportunities. Consider partnerships with retailers also.
  • Seasonal workers. For seasonal workers start recruiting before the other firms and put them on the payroll early to attract those that need the income and to differentiate yourself from others. Identify the best seasonal workers at competitors (by walking around and asking) and approach them with a “better offer” for next season.
  • Former customers. If you also sell wholesale and are really aggressive consider this. If a major customer drops you, immediately hire away their top staff to send a message that you are a player.
  • Open house. Hold an onsite open house (open to the public or just for invitees) where they can shop, talk to other staff, and look at job opportunities.

Other Tools ? General There are a variety of broad media tools that you can use to attract a large volume of recruits. Although these can be effective they generally do not attract the quality of talent that the more focused approaches (that were cited in the previous section) do:

  1. Place notices/fliers on community bulletin boards.
  2. Use community relations events and programs as an entry point for your recruiting efforts.
  3. Target churches (especially in areas where there is a high sense of community) and make donations to encourage referrals.
  4. Guarantee an interview for all that show up (or for referrals).
  5. Give a gift certificate for applying.
  6. Advertise at high school/college events. Build relationships with college fraternities/sororities and student clubs. Consider a bonus for referrals.
  7. Place ads in movie theaters.
  8. Send recruiters to recreational locations where candidates can be found (sports events, leagues).
  9. Invite selected targets to your onsite product demos, parties, and coffee talks.
  10. Offer public seminars on customer service and retail sales (onsite) and invite passives to attend/speak.
  11. Attend trade fairs (selling and recruiting combined). Use trade shows to recruit, network, to learn who are the best in the industry,and to find out about competitors.
  12. Reward employees who attend conferences for capturing the names of impressive people they meet.
  13. Buy magazine mailing lists of retail publications that fit your demographics and use them for direct mailing. Also purchase mailing lists from general interest magazines that fit your demographics and send them job information.
  14. Call or write previous finalists or “barely” under-qualified candidates and see if they are still interested.
  15. Attend social/volunteer/church/charity events as well as non-job events (beer festivals, runs, school events) where candidates are not expecting recruiters. Use giveaways to get noticed and to get people to come to you. Have subtle recruiters at the booth so that they can answer questions if people happen to inquire about jobs. Firms can also co-sponsor or help manage the event in order to build long term referral relationships
  16. Attend junior military officer and other military related events. Reward those that refer those leaving the service
  17. Use federal, state, local, and web-based job services.
  18. Target the “spouse with at home” with direct mail to get them to encourage their spouses to look at our firm
  19. Pre-qualify the best possible people and give them an “instant hire” coupon which allows them to skip all but the final screening interview and start “anytime they are ready.”
  20. Target the “often underpaid and frustrated” like teachers and public employees.
  21. Send finalists a bottle of Champagne to wow them and to help “close the deal
  22. Recruit the applicant’s references.
  23. Have the CEO or store manager call them.
  24. Consider creating a hiring team of managers that are superior “salespeople” to do all of the hiring.

Other Tools – Media Related

  1. Advertise positions in professional magazines/journals .
  2. Use TV job ads (major channels and cable).
  3. Place radio ads (on stations that meet your targeted demographics) Radio ads during drive time traffic backups.
  4. Put job billboards on the commute route by your site .
  5. Put ads on commuter buses or trains.
  6. Place ads in non-traditional and minority local newspapers and in “alternative” newspapers.
  7. Put newspaper ads in non-traditional sections of the paper that fit out target demographics (sports, entertainment) .
  8. Get mentioned in leading business and technical journals that are read by our target audiences.
  9. Place ads that build the company “brand image” as a great place to work.
  10. Place professional journal ads that target a specific group of readers.
  11. Purchased mailing lists that fit our demographics and send non-job information to build our image.
  12. Target ads for each of the major diverse communities in your area. Use “their” language, spokespeople or messages that fit their culture.
  13. Place ads in the newspaper thanking your employees in order to build our brand image.
  14. Put your employees in your own product ads (those that refer the best prospects).
  15. Place ads with personal testimonials about the firm from current employees.

About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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