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Unemployment is steadily declining and the retail sector has seen an increase in jobs. When looking at recruiting trends, it is important to consider some of the differences in hiring for the retail sector. The process of job applications, interviews and references is similar regardless of what type of job you are hiring for, but hiring for retail is much quicker, and candidates are often less patient with online applications.
3 ways to boost your retail recruiting efforts in 2014
Remember the importance of human contact
I love how technology has changed the application process. When I first started out in HR, I worked at a manufacturing and distribution company that used paper applications. I hired hundreds of people each year. As a result my desk was constantly covered in stacks of applications. When I finally started working for a company with an online application system, I could not figure out how I did my job for so long without an applicant tracking system (ATS).
The added layer of technology makes our jobs more efficient as recruiters, but how does that translate to the retail candidate experience? I have heard mixed reviews from candidates. Some like the ease of filling out an online application. Yet some think the whole trend of online applications was much too impersonal, so make sure to give some thought to how you make your online system more personal and less like an application black hole.
As online systems and social media play a bigger role in how we connect with job seekers, it is important to remember that your online strategy should include a personal component. Onsite meet & greet events can be a good way to connect with applicants. When I held an event like this, I not only advertised on job posting sites and local newspapers, but I also used our ATS to search for candidates who met the criteria for our most common openings and sent an email blast out to let them know we were holding an informal event where they could meet HR staff and managers. This way I used the convenience and technological capabilities of the ATS while still going back to the old-fashioned face-to-face contact job seekers still crave.
Be prepared with a pool of pre-screened contacts
When I worked in HR for a Northern California grocery chain, I would need to fill positions quickly. Sometimes a panicked manager would call and say, “I need this position filled yesterday!”
While there is often a sense of urgency when hiring for any position, frontline positions need to be filled quickly in order to take care of holes in schedules. In order to meet this demand, I regularly phone screened and reference checked candidates for store positions. Once screened, applications were available in a shared file, so managers could call and set up an interview and make an offer right away without having to wait for additional approval from HR.
Hiring for customer service skills
Finding people with strong customer service skills is a recruiting trend that will never go away in the retail industry. But what do such skills look like in 2014?
I was recently watching the season premiere of Downton Abbey, a show that explores life in a British estate in the first part of the 20th century. Characters on the show refer to each other by last name or using titles (e.g. Mr., Mrs., Lord or Lady), and there is a high level of formality in communication. Fast forward nearly 100 years, and I am receiving cover letters from candidates that address me by the nickname “Steph” before they have even met me face-to-face and find out whether I like the shortened version of my name.
Retail candidates need to have the right balance of the informal friendliness we are accustomed and a certain level of formality that shows a respect for your customers. Understand what kind of interaction your customers expect, and find candidates that show these skills in the interview. While it may not be necessary for your retail staff to refer to customers using titles, it is important to find people that do not lapse so far into slang that they alienate some of your customers.
Recapping Retail Recruiting
Recruiting for the retail industry is challenging and fast-paced. Technology has certainly made the task of hiring for this industry much more efficient, but it is important to incorporate a personal touch in your online efforts. After all, the retail industry is all about customer service and creating positive personal connections.
How do you approach retail recruiting? What are some ways the technology has changed recruiting in the retail industry for you?