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5 Strategies for Meeting the Challenges of Retail Recruitment

Retail stores form the backbone of our communities. From getting essential goods to chance encounters with neighbors, retail environments make up a significant portion of our time spent outside the home. Yet staffing these stores presents unique challenges for hiring and retaining talent. Creating a workable retail recruitment strategy is essential to business success.

Unique Challenges of Retail Recruitment

High-Volume, Seasonal Hiring

Retailers are profoundly impacted by seasonal demand, and so is their hiring. To make the most of the peak sales period, stores and supermarkets may double their staff around Black Friday or Christmas. Similarly, retailers that serve the back-to-school market often require extra summer hires.

Attracting the Right Talent at the Right Time

The challenge of high-volume recruitment in retail is to get staffing levels just right. Otherwise, they may find themselves at a business disadvantage, either due to being understaffed or overstaffed. Overstaffed stores drive up operating costs, while understaffed stores can’t meet their sales potential.

It’s no secret that retail is among the sectors with high employee turnover—and it’s only getting higher. A McKinsey study found that the 2022 quit rate in retail is 70% higher than in any other U.S. industry.

In addition to turnover, the drop-off rates and ghosting in retail can be high. “There are a lot of options [for candidates] out there at the moment,” said Adam Reynolds, Head of Talent at Frasers Group, on an episode of the Recruiting Future podcast. Retail workers chase small salary differences and employee discounts, making it difficult for employers to keep talent and help them advance their careers. 

Decentralized, Inconsistent Hiring Process

Staffing multiple locations poses unique challenges for retail chains that require individual store managers to manage recruitment in their respective stores. Store managers often handle hiring independently, without much prior experience in recruitment, all while ensuring they fulfill their managerial duties. This situation often results in unstructured selection processes and hiring decisions based on instinct, which can threaten the candidate experience and quality of hire.

Retail Recruitment Strategies

The following recruitment strategies and tips can help retail organizations address these challenges and hire more efficiently.

1. Realistic Job Descriptions

To ensure an adequate volume of candidates, job descriptions need to strike a balance between being accessible to many and being clear about job requirements. 

A good job description should outline only the essential requirements needed for the role to ensure the hire can thrive. Conversely, a bad job description either reads like a laundry list of requirements, including irrelevant and unnecessary ones, or is so vague that readers can’t help but question the competence of those behind it.

Be realistic about your recruitment needs. What is the persona you’re trying to attract? What are the must-haves? What are the nice-to-haves? Does the offered pay align with the requirements of the role? It’s always wise to finalize the job descriptions with the local store managers. At the end of the day, they are the ones who will make the final calls on who to hire and directly supervise the new staff.

Also, don’t discount the value of targeted recruiting tools. Using the right channels to advertise your jobs will increase the chance of attracting people who are actually interested and qualified for the role. 

When crafting job postings, a compelling job ad will not just cover what you need a candidate to bring to the table but highlight what you can offer them as they become part of your team.

2. A Respectful Process that Communicates Benefits of the Role

Trying to lure people in with lies will bite you back later on. You know what we’re talking about: the negative feedback and poor online ratings from job applicants, the higher candidate drop-offs, the demotivated new hires, and the worse turnover rates.

“If you don’t treat the candidates properly, they will tell everyone, and then it will be harder to hire,” said Camilla Ölander, Employer Branding Manager at JYSK.

For small retailers, the fancy employee perks offered by giant retailers may not be realistic. Instead, flexible scheduling, fast career growth opportunities, and flat organizational structure are benefits your retail job might provide candidates that bigger, more established retail brands might not.

What’s driving retail workers today

Take the time to think through (with stakeholders) all the benefits your company can offer candidates if they join your team. These will be invaluable for your recruitment marketing as well as your employer’s brand-building efforts.

3. A Flexible Applicant Tracking System

Hiring in retail, as we discussed earlier, is decentralized and seasonal-driven. This is why it is so important to use an applicant tracking system that can adapt to each local store’s unique hiring needs and compliance requirements across locations. The system also needs to be user-friendly: Simple enough that busy store managers with different recruiting backgrounds can still perform their tasks with efficiency while ensuring a positive candidate experience.

It was really important that our new [recruitment] system would be easy to use for hiring managers in all our stores across many countries. Karolína Kroužková, HR Digital Manager at JYSK,

4. Streamlined Hiring Processes

As Adam Reynolds, head of talent at multi-national retailer Frasers Group noted, “You will live or die by the speed you can hire.” Thoughtfully designed hiring workflows not only speed up hiring time, but also show that you respect the time of applicants and your team members. Research reveals that employers see an increase in dropoff rates to 50-75% when a job takes longer than 5 minutes to complete.

A streamlined application flow can help you reduce processing time by up to 80% without sacrificing assessment quality. Modern recruitment software often comes with many automation features that enable store managers to move a high volume of candidates through the hiring funnel with minimal training. 

5. Real-Time Reporting 

With up-to-the-minute reporting, teams can understand how they’re performing and make adjustments on the fly. Make sure the reports are digestible enough for store managers to see what’s going on with their retail hiring at a glance, even if they’re new to recruitment and HR. These data points help you constantly improve efficiency and productivity in retail hiring, from sourcing to interviewing and onboarding as well as plan out just the right number of new seasonal retail employees to hire before the next seasonal peak.

Pick The Right Retail Recruitment Software

As you can tell from all of the above strategies, a good recruiting tool can help store operators fill difficult job openings with speed and consistency, whether they’re a TA pro or just getting started. Before contacting vendors, develop a list of features you’ll need from the recruitment software and stick with it when assessing and comparing options. 

Book a demo today to learn more about how SmartRecruiters can streamline retail hiring for your company, just as it did for international retailers like IKEA, Frasers Group, and JYSK.

Anh Nguyen

HR Tech Editor at SelectSoftware Reviews