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11 Tips For A Smooth Retail Hiring Process

Retail Hiring Process

Retail hiring is challenging.

The industry is known for struggling with talent shortage, seasonal hiring resulting in an uneven demand for staff (particularly during peak seasonal shopping periods), high staff turnover, low employee retention and above average application numbers per opening, with many of them of low quality.

Retail recruiters are also faced with an additional challenge of finding employees who are not just great at sales, but who have the personality to match your brand; because let’s face it, your employees are the sole interaction your customers have with your business. Plus, recruiters have to make these hiring strategies in a short space of time and involving a large number of candidates, so you need to have a winning retail hiring strategy in place if you want to hire the best employees and ensure a smooth retail hiring process.

Retailers also have to take into consideration that their applicants are likely to be their customers too, which is why retailers can’t afford any mishaps in their hiring process – it has to be efficient, fast and user-friendly.

How do you achieve that? By making the retail hiring process smooth from the start.

What’s in?

  1. Make it possible to apply on the spot
  2. Ensure the application process is straightforward
  3. Adapt the job advert so it’s mobile responsive
  4. Give store managers training on recruitment
  5. Identify the right people quickly
  6. Communicate fast
  7. Automate interview scheduling
  8. Ask the right interview questions
  9. Look for soft skills
  10. Make a quick hiring decision
  11. Schedule check-in sessions with new employees

Before you continue

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1. Make it possible to apply on the spot.

Retail sales associate is one of the few jobs that people still apply for in person, by walking into the store. Why? Because most associates are customers of the store themselves and might just want to apply right away. If you turn them away and tell them to apply online instead, you might have just lost yourself a great candidate. But what to do?

How about making the retail hiring process smoother by allowing candidates to apply on the spot?

  • Think of hanging a QR code in the store leading the candidates to a simple application, or offering candidates a phone number where they can send a Whatsapp message.
  • Consider same-day hiring. Take a leaf out of Amazon’s book: a candidate can apply for a job, schedule an interview the same day and be told there and then if they made the grade and even start working that very same day.

Walmart QR Code Recruitment

Walmart Sacramento enabled its applicants to apply on the spot with a QR code and a dedicated short URL.

2. Ensure the application process is straightforward.

Ask applicants to fill in basic information and their availability to find out straight away if they fulfil your primary requirements. Ditch the lengthy paper applications, not only are you creating more work for yourself, but they’re outdated and off-putting to younger applicants.

If you want to get candidates in, interview and onboard them as soon as possible, plus stay in touch with those who didn’t make the cut this time around (you want your talent pipeline full for future recruitment drives), none of that is going to be easy with paper applications, so look to implement a fully digital hiring process to aid in your retail hiring.

3. Adapt the job advert so it’s mobile responsive.

Not only do you want to make the retail hiring process smooth for you but you also want to make it as easy for potential applicants as possible. Enable your advert so it’s mobile responsive for job hunters to view it on on their smartphone (over 50% of job seekers use their mobile phone to job hunt). Go one step further and make the application process as simple as possible by allowing candidates to apply directly from their phones.

Locations of mobile job searching activities

Mobile Job Search Stats

Mobile job seekers use their devices in various places. Making your application process mobile, you’re getting closer to your potential candidates.

4. Give store managers training on recruitment.

The best people to hire retail associates, are the store managers themselves. The guys and gals who are on the ground and know what is best for their individual store. But bear in mind they are not recruiters, so they might feel overwhelmed with the retail hiring task on top of their regular duties.

Help them out and provide them with all the support they need to ensure a smooth retail hiring process:

  • Train managers on how your company recruits.
  • Teach managers to use your recruitment technology.
  • Show managers how to spot the right candidates.
  • Give managers advice on what questions to ask candidates.

The state of retail recruitment

It is becoming increasingly difficult to hire – let alone retain – retail workers. Technological advancements have created an opportunity to overcome the biggest challenges in retail recruitment. 

5. Identify the right people quickly.

Merely having warm bodies on your staff won’t help you sell more merchandise. There are numerous ways retail recruiters can screen out unsuitable candidates during the retail hiring process, for instance:

  • Use existing high-performing staff to provide a benchmark for what characteristics and qualities the ‘right employee’ has.
  • Consider implementing a more data-driven retail hiring process to screen unsuitable candidates out early.
  • Include a short situational judgement test as part of the application process – watch the candidate do the job for real and see how suitable they are.
  • Implement automated video interviewing and ‘meet’ hundreds of applicants at the same time. Pre-record a select number of questions and have all applicants record their answers at home, at a time that works for them, and send the resulting interview responses back. You could even give the candidates a set time frame in which they have to respond, just like in a one-to-one interview, and only allow candidates a certain number of retakes answering the questions. This not only reduces the duration of the interview, but it standardizes the process across all candidate interviews.

Video Screenings

If done right, video interviewing can be a way of saving both your and candidates’ time.

  • Provide a realistic job preview. One of the biggest reasons for high staff turnover in the retail industry is a bad cultural fit. Mitigate against this by giving potential employees a realistic job preview and provide a sneak peek into life at your company. This could be anything from creating videos about ‘a day in the life of’ so candidates can get a glimpse of what the job entails, to ‘interviews’ with current employees, where they talk about the pros and cons of working for your company. Unsuitable candidates will self-deselect, those who are keen will continue with the application process, which helps you select qualified candidates right from the start.

6. Communicate fast.

The retail hiring process today is all about improving the candidate experience. Make sure your applicants are having a great experience, because don’t forget, your most likely applicants are your own customers, people who already love and support your brand. Don’t turn them off you by being a rubbish company to work for with a poor recruitment process.

Job seekers say their number one bugbear in job hunting is poor communications – so let the applicants know where they stand as soon as you can.

7. Automate interview scheduling.

There is no need to employ someone just to arrange interviews. Utilize AI and automate scheduling interviews with qualified applicants automatically, to save time for both parties and ensure a smooth retail hiring process. If you don’t have the time to communicate with each applicant, install chatbots to keep the conversation flowing.

8. Ask the right interview questions.

Don’t interview ad hoc; do have some standard questions that will determine if the candidate will be a good fit for your company, thus saving you both time during the retail hiring process. You can’t rely on a candidate’s written resume, their past experience, education and qualifications to determine if they will be a good salesperson for you, you have to rely on their ability to instantly interact with you.

Basic questions include:

  1. Getting to know the applicant. What you ask isn’t relevant, what you are trying to ascertain at this stage is if the applicant is capable of making small talk and seeing how they interact with strangers. If they can’t chit chat with you, they won’t chit chat with your customers.
  2. Their toughest sale. You want to see that they can handle difficult customers and win them over to make the sale. Having them describe this tough sale gives you a great insight into their sales process and how they will likely deal with your customers.
  3. An easy sale they lost. You want someone who is self-aware enough to realise that they made a mistake, and that they learned from the experience and won’t repeat it at your store.
  4. Have them upsell to you. You not only want to see your candidate’s sales skills, but you want to ascertain if they can upsell too. Upselling is a big part of working in retail, you want your hire to be able to do this skillfully, smoothly and successfully.
  5. Ask them to tell you why you should hire them. Make the candidates sell themselves. If they can’t sell the one thing they know the most intimately in this world, they don’t stand a hope of selling your merchandise.

Interview Process Opinion

It is extremely important to give your candidates a positive experience during the interview process, as it influences their opinion on your brand.

9. Look for soft skills.

Young candidates and candidates with little or no retail experience shouldn’t be written off just because they have limited ‘hard skills’. Don’t place all the emphasis on a candidate’s past experience or your retail hiring will prove tricky; candidates’ transferable soft skills are just as important too.

Ideal candidates should:

  • Be able to demonstrate an understanding of good service.
  • Have a great attitude and aptitude (and desire) for learning.
  • Have active listening skills.
  • Be able to deploy persuasion tactics.
  • Demonstrate they’re goal-oriented (and capable of sticking a project out). People with drive and a determination to succeed, who are able to see a project from start to finish, will have tenacity and have the integrity to be a self-starter and not need constant direction.
  • Have good time management skills.

Your candidates don’t have to know the store inside out (especially if they are applying for non-managerial roles), your company and brand history, but they do need to be able to have the requisite soft skills that will enable a sale.

10. Make a quick hiring decision.

Don’t leave candidates hanging in limbo. Not only are you operating in an incredibly competitive labor market, but it’s really off-putting for applicants to not hear from you.

In retail hiring, candidates expect to hear from you quickly, make a decision – yes or no. You will most likely be hiring during periods of peak seasonal shopping, so don’t let candidates wait too long, otherwise you will easily lose them to your competitor.

Getting a Decision

…however, with retail, this is much faster. If you don’t let your retail candidates know asap, your competitor will.

11. Schedule check-in sessions with new employees.

Don’t simply onboard employees at the end of the retail hiring process and leave them to get on with it. If you want employees to stick around, make them feel valued. Arrange bi-weekly check-in meetings with new staff to see how they’re doing, what areas they could do with more training on, where they see their weaknesses, what they are enjoying, and seek to redress their issues (if there are any).

Once an employee is comfortable, consider dropping the frequency of the check-in sessions, just don’t drop them altogether. We all want to feel valued, so make sure to spend time with your employees and listen to them.

Final word

You want to hire people in an efficient way but you also want them to have a good experience since they are probably also your customers. That’s why you need a smooth retail hiring process. Find a balance between speed, hire the right employees and do justice to your employer brand.

The state of retail recruitment

It is becoming increasingly difficult to hire – let alone retain – retail workers. Technological advancements have created an opportunity to overcome the biggest challenges in retail recruitment. 



Alexandra Johnson is a seasoned writer specializing in HR, recruitment and tech topics. When she isn’t at her desk writing, she’s researching tech developments.

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