By Neelie Verlinden

It’s time to hit you with some stats again. In 2016, online sales globally represented 7.4% of total retail spending. By 2018 this is expected to be 8.8%. In the UK – the country with the highest retail E-commerce sales – the online retail business has been showing a double-digit growth rate for the past 8 years. On the British island, E-commerce sales represented 133 billion pounds last year, an increase of almost 16% compared to 2015.

On the one hand these stats are great news for online retailers. For high street retailers on the other hand, these figures represent an extra challenge. It means that when customers make the effort to physically go into a store, they expect something extra. Because online, they already get a great product offer, a smooth customer experience and a quick checkout.

One of the key elements that truly adds value to a high street retail business are your employees. They’re the ones that can make a real difference and the reason your customers prefer coming to your store rather than buying online. That brings us to today’s topic. When it comes to recruiting great retail employees, the list of desired characteristics and skills is long. Here are 7 personality traits of an awesome retail candidate and how to assess them.

1. Confidence

Great retail candidates are confident people. They need to be able to approach customers in a natural manner and without hesitation. Retail staff is also confident about the product or service they’re selling. After all, nobody wants to buy something from a salesperson who isn’t convinced about their own product.

2. Empathy

Empathy and great communication skills go hand in hand, right? They should do anyway. An ideal retail employee knows how to put themselves in the shoes of their customers. They’re excellent listeners, skilled communicators and they master the art of solution based thinking.

3. Desire to make the customer’s day

Working in retail is a demanding job, both physically and mentally. Retail employees stand on their feet for 8 consecutive hours and deal with a lot of different people every day. All of this of course, with a constant smile on their face. This is why the perfect retail applicant needs to have an intrinsic desire to make people happy. Think of it as a calling, something that’s either part of your personality or it isn’t. Without this strong willingness to make someone’s day, applicants will have a hard time to become outstanding retail employees.

4. Friendly & Positive

Both of these personality traits speak for themselves. I imagine every single sales handbook out there lists ‘always be friendly and have a positive attitude towards your customer’ as its number one rule. That doesn’t make them less indispensable for a great retail candidate though.

5. Honest & Reliable

Not entirely the same, but these two components can still be put in the same boat. Honesty is important because retail staff often works with valuable products and money. Opportunities to take either one or the other present themselves several times a day. Therefore you want to make sure you’ve got honest people working for you.

The underlying thought behind the reliability factor is of a more practical nature. Staff not showing up or showing up late – especially on evenings and weekends – is a common issue in the retail industry. And since finding last-minute replacements is a bit of a nightmare, it’s crucial you hire reliable candidates to begin with.

Honesty and reliability are also important traits in the interaction with customers. Retail employees have to be sincere – and tactful when needed – and make sure that people only leave the store with something that actually adds value to their lives. As good salespeople should do, right? An added benefit of honest retail staff with a good reputation is that it reflects positively on the image of your brand as well.

6. Multitasker

Rather than a personality trait it’s a skill we’re talking about here. And an important one, because retail employees must be able to do several things at the same time. Folding a pile of t-shirts while answering a customer’s question for example. In other words: customers need to be looked after, but the usual store duties need to get done as well.

7. A Creative Problem Solver

Awesome problem solving skills inevitably require a considerable dose of creativity. Retail staff needs to improvise on a daily basis. They never know what question or issue a customer – or fellow colleague – will come up with; it may very well be something they haven’t dealt with before.

The creativity part however goes beyond finding great solutions for ad hoc problems. Top quality retail candidates also have the ability to come up with innovative ideas for your shop window and exciting ways to promote a new product range for example.

How to Assess these Retail Specific Personality Traits (and Skills)

So now that we’ve got a good selection of necessary qualities to look for in a retail candidate, it is now time to actually find these qualities. Thanks to recent developments in HR, IT and Statistics, the tools are out there to automatically assess these personality traits. And the funny thing is, candidates tend to like this new form of preselection better too! We’ll give you a quick breakdown of how this works.

In short, a candidate visits the ‘Working At’ section of your website, clicks on the apply button and gets rerouted to your brand new, online, cloud based preselection environment. Here, applicants get to experience a ‘virtual first day’ at your organization that, from a candidate’s perspective, looks a little bit like this:


During this experience, candidates get to decide whether working at your organization really is something for them. An experience like this perfectly shows what the job is like and thus manages expectations in a proper manner. On the other side of the spectrum, your recruitment team gets an elaborate data report showing them how the candidate performed in the experience. This report gives the team the ability to make data driven hiring decisions instead of judging on on a resume alone.

Predictive Analytics in HR

A preselection experience like the one shown above is a perfect example of how ‘Predictive Analytics’ can be used in HR. You take a big chunk of data, make an algorithm find patterns in this data, and let it predict the future based on the past. We wrote an E-book about this subject in which we explain how this works and how it’s applicable to your organization’s preselection funnel. And you know what? You don’t have to be a programmer or analytics expert to understand how it works! Hit the button below to get your copy and get up to date on this innovative technology that’s taking the HR world by storm.