10 Retail Recruitment Strategy Tips For 2020

Posted 4 weeks ago by
Retail Recruitment Strategy 2020

The retail industry is changing. 

In recent years we’ve seen a massive shift towards online shopping, resulting in many brick-and-mortar stores closing or shifting their attention to digital solutions. 

But despite that, physical retail stores still account for almost 90% of total retail sales.

So, what does that tell us? If you want to prevail in the retail industry, you need to match the convenience and the exceptional customer experience provided by many online stores.

As a physical retailer, the best edge you have over the digital landscape is real-life contact. Ergo, the success of your shop hinges on hiring outstanding employees. As such, recruiting the right retail workers has never been so important.

This raises the following questions: what should you be looking for in potential candidates? How do you test for relevant skills? And how do you cast the widest net for the best possible applicants? If these questions intrigue you, continue reading because we’re about to discuss ten ways you can enhance your 2020 retail recruiting strategy.

Let’s dive in!

What’s in?

  1. Make it easy to apply
  2. Look for candidates with cross-functional skills
  3. Promote flexible schedules
  4. Invest in recruitment marketing
  5. Make the roles accessible
  6. Be clear about the realities of the job
  7. Hire your customers
  8. Invest in the right recruitment channels
  9. Perfect the onboarding process
  10. Hire personalities

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1. Make it easy to apply

No matter the year, this tip never goes out of fashion.

Making it easy to apply encourages candidates to complete the application, so you don’t miss out on potential good fits. 

Here are a few ways to make your application process simpler:

Don’t ask candidates to upload their CV and then make them fill in the same info again. One or the other will tell you all you need to know about their basic info and work experience. 

If you get walk-in applicants, don’t just refer them to your website. Take their resumes and have a link or QR code ready so they can get straight onto your preferred method of applying. 

Encourage video or telephone interviews: This makes it easy to assess candidates no matter where they’re located. Once you’ve shortlisted your candidates, have a self-scheduling system up and running where they can book an interview time.

Last but not least, enabling mobile job applications is a must-have if you want to offer candidates a convenient way to apply. 

By making these slight changes to your application process, you’ll be amazed at how many more candidates you’ll attract!

Application Screening Questions Drop OffThink twice about which questions you need to ask your applicants straight away and which can wait until later stages to prevent applicants from dropping off.

2. Look for candidates with cross-functional skills

In this electronic age, your recruits need more than just customer-oriented skills. If you’re hunting for someone to fill a management or marketing position, they’ll also need to have (or be able to learn) digital marketing skills. 

Online ads are the way forward, so this know-how is critical for helping you run online campaigns. As such, IT and digital marketing skills are great transferrable qualities to look for in all your retail candidates.

However, cross-functional skills are also important for your in-store employees. Your workforce will be a lot more flexible if you, for example, train your retail assistants for work in a stockroom.

On the subject of cross-functional skills, if you’re not already, start cross-training your employees to make them more flexible. In the long run, this will improve the overall quality of your customer service.

Tip: Hire outside your industry. If you’re looking for fresh employees experienced in other skills (other than retail), hire from a different sector. By this we mean, look for the right attitude rather than tons of expertise in retail. A good quality candidate can be trained up quickly and will stand out thanks to their previous experience in another useful field. This is an effective way of filling in any skills gaps you have in your team.

3. Promote flexible schedules

It’s not uncommon for retail stores to employ a combination of full-time and part-time workers. Many people choose to work in the retail industry specifically for its flexibility. 

This comes with its benefits but also some concerns – workers want their job to fit around their other commitments while enjoying the security of regular hours. As an employer or manager, that can be quite the balancing act. 

So, to ensure you keep a flexible but efficient schedule, ask for availability in advance of interviewing the candidate. This should highlight whether the applicant can fit with your store’s current rota. For instance, are they available to work during the store’s busiest times? Does their schedule conflict with existing staff?

Hiring staff who want hours on days you aren’t active enough to employ them will quickly lead to discontent for everyone involved.

This is one of the many reasons why you need an excellent scheduling strategy up and running before you even consider hiring anyone else. That way, you can establish your staff schedules early, to give both your current and future employees the chance to request alterations and exchange shifts. It’s a win-win for everyone – your staff gets flexible and regular hours, and you enjoy the security of knowing your store is always fully staffed. 

Involuntary Part Time WorkResearch shows that many people who work part-time would like to work full-time but they can’t seem to get enough hours. Communicate with your employees about their preferences when preparing work schedules.

4. Invest in recruitment marketing

For smaller businesses, investing in recruitment marketing can seem like a big step. But promoting your employer brand can really help your business attract the best kinds of applicants, regardless of the size of your company.

A straightforward way to get started with recruiter marketing is to build a talent pool of applicants that might not have been successful the first time around and keep them engaged with relevant communications. So, keep in contact with applicants who didn’t quite make the grade this time, and then reach out when a new opportunity presents itself – they’ll be happy you kept them in mind!

Keeping in touch with former employees is also a great way to make future recruitment easier. They might be interested in a new opportunity you have open, or can point you in the direction of a suitable candidate. After all, ex-employees are familiar with your store’s requirements, so they’re a valuable asset to nurture!

Here are some ways to enhance your recruitment marketing strategy. These tips work wonders for getting your brand image out there:

  • •  Promote your business on social media (not just your products, but also your company culture, awards, your brand story, and values, etc.)
  • •  Encourage employees and managers to spread positive stories of what it’s like to work in your store (providing they’re true, of course).
  • •  Reward employees who suggested someone who was a successful hire for the company
  • •  Involve your brand in the community. Participate in charity events, create fundraisers, or improve your company’s sustainability policies. Then make all this known on social media.

These are just a few suggestions – but you get the idea.

Branding Importance in Retail RecruitingRecruitment marketing can help you position your brand as a desirable place to work and set yourself apart from the competition.

5. Make the roles accessible

All too often, employers discourage potentially great candidates by asking for too much experience or a too specific skill set from the get-go. As we’ve already hinted at, the right candidate can learn on the job, adapt quickly, and fit in naturally.

When you’re hiring for entry-level roles, make sure you don’t ask for too much. You might even consider open hiring. This recruiting strategy was first introduced by Greyston Bakery which now trains other companies on how to implement it.

It works as follows:

The first candidate that fulfills the criteria of the job gets the job. You don’t check the candidate’s background, and there are no interviews. The requirements they have to fulfill are pretty basic – can they stand up for eight hours? Can they lift the required minimum weight they’re likely to handle during the job? Are they eligible to work in the country? 

The Body Shop tested this hiring strategy and found this worked well for them. Their turnover rate dropped from 43% to 16%, and consequently, worked with far fewer temp agencies. The Body Shop believes that when candidates are struggling to find a job, they’re more committed to keeping it. So, by giving these applicants an unexpected chance, they work hard to prove themselves and impress their employer.

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. 

6. Be clear about the realities of the job

One challenge that can lead to high attrition is unrealistic expectations. So, nip this in the bud by providing a realistic portrayal of what it’s like to work with you. Honesty about the ups and downs of the job can brace your hire for the inevitable stressful situations. From there, you can weed out candidates who aren’t ready to face customers in high-pressure scenarios.

To see whether potential candidates can handle the daily trials of the job include a situational judgment test in your recruiting process. This is a multiple-choice test that is based on a real-life situation(s) the candidate will likely face when they work with you.

Let your retail candidates experience the job in an interactive application experience and find out if there’s a mutual fit.

7. Hire your customers

For a cohesive, positive, and convincing brand identity, you need your employees to share your excitement for working at your store. What better way to ensure this enthusiasm than by hiring your loyalist customers? 

Your regular customers are already convinced by your products and always keen to hear about new offers. Making them part of the teams enables them to share their passion for your brand professionally.

Like we always say, customers make the perfect brand ambassadors.

8. Invest in the right recruitment channels

Recruitment and talent analytics can help you track and evaluate which of your recruitment channels brings in the highest numbers of qualified candidates. Once you know what works, you can invest more time and money into it. For example, if you’re getting great hires through employee referrals, it’s wise to develop your referral recruiting scheme,

For this to work, you need to consistently collect data on all your candidates and employees. This includes evaluating the performance of new employees, especially during the first three months, to see whether the recruitment channel produced a good fit.

Employee Referrals In RetailIt is also a recruitment channel that typically brings in high quality retail candidates.

9. Perfect the onboarding process

There’s often a gap between when your candidate accepts the offer and when they start working. But, this doesn’t have to be wasted time. In fact, it’s an excellent opportunity to engage them with your pre-boarding process.

This means furnishing new hires with an employee handbook, familiarizing them with everyday tasks and responsibilities, informing them about safeguarding, holiday and sickness terms, complaint structures, etc. Pretty much, all the basics and workplace frameworks they should be aware of before they arrive for their first day.

Once they start working, you transition from the pre-boarding to the retail onboarding phase. If you’re not doing it already, this should involve checking in with new employees and pairing them with an experienced team member to mentor and support them. Starting a new job is exciting and always a little frightening, so being supportive during this stage and nudging them in the right direction does wonders for overall job satisfaction. 

10. Hire personalities

Recruiters may get so weighed down by focusing on their previous retail experience and relevant qualifications that they forget to focus on what really matters. Personality. This is imperative for providing an excellent customer service experience.


Well, if you’re hiring for a customer-facing position, it’s vital your ideal candidate is personable, friendly, fun, and leaves a positive impression on the customer. An enthusiastic employee will stay in your client’s memories much longer (and for the right reasons) than someone who simply knows how to efficiently pluck away at a til.

Keep in mind, it’s not just your customers that benefit from a great personality in your retail staff. Your new hires will have to work in a team, and it’s up to you and your recruiters to decide whether they’re a good fit for your current work environment. 

Whereas, employees that don’t fit together may drag workplace morale down, which could lead to other employees leaving or caring less for their position. Needless to say, you want to dodge this happening at all costs.

Here’s a quick recap the traits and skills commonly associated with top-notch retail workers

  • •  Comfortable around people
  • •  Emotionally intelligent
  • •  Eager to learn 
  • •  Passionate about your brand
  • •  An excellent team player
  • •  Empathetic
  • •  Patient
  • •  Possesses a ‘can-do’ attitude

Of course, your business might have different requirements. Still, even so, it’s vital to list the qualities, traits, and skills you want to prioritize before you start recruiting. That way, you can refer back to it and stay on track of your hiring objectives as you shortlist candidates.

Skills In Retail Job Postings

Besides the necessary retail skills, candidates also need to have specific soft skills and personality traits. Look into the traits and skills of your top performers and you will get a clearer picture of what you should be looking for in your applicants.

Is your retail recruitment strategy ready for 2020?

Physical retail stores aren’t going anywhere just yet. Instead, they need to focus on what they do best – providing a seamless shopping experience for their customers. Your retail workforce is the lifeblood that makes this happen. So, heed the above advice to stay competitive in an increasingly crowded marketplace.

Trust us; by knowing your priorities and streamlining your retail recruiting strategy, you can hire the people of tomorrow today!

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. 


Rosie Greaves is a professional content strategist who specializes in all things digital marketing, HR, and B2B. In addition to Harver, you can also find her published on Reader's Digest, E-commerce Platforms, and Judicious Inc. Check out her website https://blogwithrosie.com/ for more information.