Hiring convenience store employees isn’t easy. The working hours often involve shifts in the evening, plus nights and weekends, competition is fierce and the pay isn’t always great for hourly workers. In addition, candidates might have safety concerns about increased risk of exposure to COVID-19.
With these factors in mind, it’s easy to see why turnover rates are so high for convenience stores. In fact, c-store industry turnover rates were as high as 88% for full-time employees and 125% for part-time employees in 2019, and have been even higher in years past.
On top of that, c-store managers are almost always solely responsible for hiring employees, along with having a ton of other responsibilities ranging from making schedules to keeping the store well-stocked. That said, high turnover rates don’t have to prevent your business from growing and thriving.
With the right strategy in place, you can attract, hire and retain great employees for your c-store. What are the best tips for attracting and hiring convenience store employees? Let’s find out!
1. Hire local employees
Local employees tend to stay on the job longer, so hiring locally is always a smart idea. To find employees in your area, you can partner with local workforce programs, use local Facebook groups and post on job boards. You may wish to target people who have recently lost their jobs due to COVID-19 (or otherwise) by checking local restaurants, hotels and others hit hard during the pandemic to see if they have a furloughed staff directory.
For example, although COVID-19 forced them to postpone their chain-wide, onsite interview day, Kwik Trip reached out to express interest in hiring c-store employees who were displaced due to the pandemic:
“In addition to year-round and seasonal positions, we understand that individuals may have been displaced due to COVID-19 and are looking for work temporarily until they are able to return to their current employment. The increased volume we are experiencing right now provides an opportunity for those individuals to earn income during this time,” said recruiting manager Stephanie Cormincan.
Also, consider taking a more creative approach by posting recruitment flyers in local apartment complexes nearby, or on cars parked at third-shift workplaces. Make sure to provide clear information about how people can apply and collect all of your applications in one place.
2. Improve employee referrals
One of the biggest mistakes people make when hiring c-store employees is forgetting about referrals. By making it easy for your employees to refer people, you can increase interest in open roles without wasting any additional resources. Plus, candidates who are referred by their like-minded peers are much more likely to be a good fit and stay with your business.
You can ease the process for both yourself and your employees by using a digital referral system. A great way to actively encourage your employees to refer people for open roles is to provide incentives for the referees. Keep in mind that the incentive doesn’t have to be thousands (or even hundreds) of dollars to effectively encourage employees to refer their friends. Whether it’s a Starbucks gift card, cash, or an extra paid day off, your employees will appreciate the opportunity.
3. Welcome boomerang employees
A great way to go about hiring convenience store employees is to welcome back “boomerang” candidates, or people who have worked for you in the past. For example, seasonal talent, college students and employees who have left for another opportunity should all be considered when hiring for your c-store.
If you want to hire boomerang employees, you’ll need to build a database of passive and former candidates to reach out to when need be. Make sure to keep their contact information and let boomerang employees know if you have any openings available. While boomerang employees may be those who have left to work somewhere else, you should still make sure you only reach out to people who have left your store on good terms.
4. Reach out to schools in the area
Make it a point to reach out to schools in your area to recruit potential employees. Younger workers are likely more flexible and willing to accept less desirable shifts during evenings and holidays. Plus, less experienced candidates are also more likely to accept less-than-stellar pay in exchange for a reference and work experience.
To find qualified student candidates, visit high schools, certificate programs and colleges to inquire about those who may be looking for a job. Don’t rule out internship opportunities either, as students may be willing to take a retail role to grow their network and gain experience before entering the workforce full-time.
5. Utilize recruiting technology
The right recruiting software will make your job much easier. If your application process is mobile-friendly, it will be more appealing to candidates and will automatically help you pre-select the best candidates for your convenience store. In the application, ask candidates for their availability, pay expectations and other necessary information.
It also helps to leverage pre-hire assessment software to match candidates to your open roles based on their scores. For example, you can use a short Situational Judgement Test (SJT) during which your candidates are presented with a few typical c-store situations they might encounter. The SJT will reveal how well candidates would handle these hypothetical scenarios should you move forward with hiring them, helping you weed out the poor candidates from those who are a perfect fit.
Organizing or joining (virtual) hiring events is another effective way to approach attracting and hiring c-store employees. This can be a great strategy, especially if you’re looking to fill multiple open roles at once. Because of COVID-19, you’ll likely need to focus on virtual hiring events for now. The good news is, attending virtual events requires no travel—only time and a willingness to engage!
If you decide to have your own virtual hiring event, you will need a platform where you can host it. Additionally, it’s also essential to plan in advance in order to leave enough time to promote the event to potential attendees. This kind of hiring event is accessible for candidates and can help you hire faster. You can also join virtual hiring events organized by others, but make sure they’re specific to your area.
Utilizing SJTs is a great way to assess
7. Advertise inside of the store
It may go without saying, but don’t forget to advertise for open roles inside of your store! Whether it’s flyers near the register, signs in the window or both. Not only will you attract potential candidates shopping in your convenience store, but also help to spread the word and increase awareness in your community.
To make sure this is effective, have calling cards ready to go for interested parties or those who know someone who’s out of work and looking for a new job. Your calling card should include all relevant details, including your store name, phone number, address, and information on how to apply. This way, you can ensure candidates are well-equipped with what they need to explore open roles.
8. Offer employees perks and flexibility
In order to maintain a competitive edge and differentiate yourself from other employers in your area, you need to find ways to stand out. The best way to do so is to offer paid leave, flexibility, and any other incentives that will help you appeal to potential employees.
For example, many parents are afraid to rejoin the workforce at the moment because of the looming uncertainty on school closures. Or people are scared that they will have to quarantine when exposed to COVID-19 and lose their income as a result. If you show your candidates what kinds of policies you have in place for these kinds of situations, it will help you attract and ultimately hire them.
9. Show employees that you care
It’s always wise to show how your company is involved in the community. For example, a convenience store in the Midwest and Southern U.S. named Casey’s posted about their participation in Hunger Action Month on social media. Getting involved and sharing your efforts on social channels will show employees that you care about your community and are committed to making change.
Also, it’s beneficial to point out how you’re supporting your employees during uncertain times like these. Many companies, convenience stores included, have created a COVID-19 page on their website (or at the very least a post on social media) that demonstrates the actions you’re taking to keep both your employees and your customers safe amid the pandemic.
Take GPM Investments for example: In addition to hiring for 5,000+ roles and speaking out to show their support, GPM Investments, who owns and operates c-stores in 23 states, is also offering incentives to team members that can be used to obtain food, fuel and other essential items. Here’s how GPM spoke about their approach during the COVID-19 pandemic:
“We realize this is a difficult time, but want to assure people who live in the communities where we operate that we intend to continue operations and can provide employment opportunities for those who have lost their income as a result of the pandemic. We are here to serve our customers, and together, we are working hard to ensure that our friends and families in the communities we serve have the essential items they need to care for their families,” said Arie Kotler, CEO of GPM.
10. Build out your employer brand
Building on showing employees that you care, you can take it one step further by developing, refining, and investing in your employer brand. In other words, you can use social media, your website and other digital channels to showcase what your workplace culture is like.
Casey’s wins here again; they use their social media platforms to shout-out team members and post day-in-the-life videos of their employees hard at work. Best of all, it’s all accomplished using smartphones—meaning you don’t need to hire a professional photographer or videographer to create valuable, enticing content.
Casey’s Instagram Page does a great job showcasing employees
doing meaningful work, building the employer brand.
A closing thought
If you want to provide first-class customer service, you also need to have first-class employees. Improving your candidate sourcing strategy, utilizing recruiting technology and promoting your employer brand will all go a long way in hiring great employees for your convenience store. And while it’s difficult to reinvent your recruiting strategy on the go, we promise you it’ll all be worth it in the end!