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December 7, 2011


To Hire or Not To Hire?

by dshildebrand

One of the biggest mistakes that retail businesses make when hiring employees is to believe that one size fits all. Businesses are different. Even in the same industry. You need to be clear about who fits within your organization. It is nearly impossible to hire a great retail employee without first understanding what makes a great retail employee.

According to Grant D. Robinson of the firm People Values, “Three of four new employees will disappoint during their first week on the job.” The number one reason is that they don’t fit the culture of the organization.

That means the smart move is to determine the qualities that make your best employees successful and then use those traits as the jumping off point for finding new employees.

Identify Your Best Retail Employees

 Do you know who your best retail employees are? Chances are when you analyze the qualities of your most successful employees you will find some similarities. For retail, that may mean top-notch communication and customer service skills, the ability to self motivate, a strong work ethic as well as flexibility and reliability.

A recent study from the University ofSouth Carolina’s Moore School of Business suggests the importance of identifying the traits of successful retail employees. Specifically, the researchers found that “many retailers maintain a certain amount of skepticism about the value of investing in frontline service employees.” However, “no matter what methods a store employs to hire its employees, it is important to match people to the demands of the job as well as the goals and realities of the organization.”

Therefore, your first move should be to identify the personal qualities that work well in your business. Do this by talking to those in the know: your best employees. Make it a point to seek their input regarding the qualities they feel are necessary to do their job well. In addition, talk to store managers to get their viewpoint. It is always beneficial to compare what management feels are the necessary skill sets with what the actual workers feel are important.

Take your time and develop a good understanding of what differentiates the very successful employees from the average or poor workers. Utilize this benchmark every time you hire a new employee.

Carefully Screen Candidates before Hiring

One of the biggest mistakes that employers make (retail or otherwise) is to have a knee-jerk reaction when it comes to hiring. Generally, this happens when filling a last-minute need. Retailers wind up hiring any old warm body. However, if you want to find and hire the best retail employees, give yourself plenty of time and use these five tips.

Utilize multiple methods of attracting candidates. This might include using local non-profit associations, employee referrals, online job postings and government services. The wider you cast your net, the better chance you have of finding a more diverse talent pool.

Screen candidates thoroughly. According to, people frequently “embellish” their resumes. The most common falsehoods people admitted to using were:

38% embellished their job responsibilities

  • 18% lied about their skill set
  • 12% had been dishonest about their start and end dates of employment
  • 10% falsified an academic degree
  • 7% lied about the companies they had worked for
  • 5% were untruthful about their job title

Use behavioral interviewing techniques. Behavioral interviewing delves deep into each candidate’s background and work experience by asking open-ended questions that require a more analytical and thoughtful response.

Consider pre-employment assessments. Look for valid, reliable assessment tests or as hiring consultant Dr. Pierre Mornell suggests, give an assignment before the interview. Have them visit one of your stores. It helps to assess the candidate’s level of motivation and allows you to ask for their observations during the interview.

Conduct background checks. Hire a service if you must, but make sure to check references, validate social security numbers and use credit (be sure it is legal in your state) and/or criminal background checks. You may also want to visit the National Retail Mutual Association retail theft database.

When it comes to recruiting, it makes no sense to reinvent the wheel or rush the process. Figure out what already works, and you stand a good chance of duplicating your success.

8 Comments Post a comment
  1. sweetness
    Feb 1 2012

    I hire new employees quite often. It is hard to find a good employee that is willing to stay and sell stuff at a cart in the middle of the mall. My turnover rate is high. The only people I don’t hire are the ones WITH sales experience. Usually the ones with sales experience have their own way of selling and I like to teach my employees my way. I will give anyone a chance with a great positive attitude.

  2. Shawn
    Jan 26 2012

    Beware of bad apples, they can rotten the good ones pretty quickly!

  3. Aora C.
    Jan 12 2012

    Hi, is there a chance of having a comparison or making a decision hiring between a new employee or an independent contractor? They do have differences but I am not sure on which is which will be best for small businesses. Many thanks!

    • mer84
      Jan 13 2012

      Hello Aora. Independent contractors doesn’t necessarily pertain to all businesses. If your specialty retail business is only about selling products to customers, then I really see no need for you to hire an independent contractor. However, if your business provides services to customers; say a kiosk nail salon, then you’d need to hire a manicurist, and that can be an independent contractor.

  4. mer84
    Jan 11 2012

    Along with the basic one-on-one interview for the prospective, similar to what Erick said previously, a group interview with current employees would be a good way to see how well a prospective can think on their feet. Role playing different scenarios with “customers” can show their potential. And you’ll be able to see from the start how well they’ll click with your staff.

  5. Safarra Gordon
    Jan 11 2012

    Yes, agreed. From the initial interview to evaluation of performance pertaining the best qualities an employee may have. You could put together the best team that you can with the players you’ve got, and replace those who aren’t good enough.

  6. Jan 3 2012

    The most vital matter as appertains hiring is definitely the interview process. To be on the safe side, it is important to involve a consultant when it comes to interview matters. Such a professional will advise on the most suitable interview techniques and assessments that can be used. In some cases, an IQ test maybe necessary. Actually, in one way or another, it is advisable to establish if an applicant’s intellectual capacity is ideal for the job at hand, especially if the job requires some expertise.

    They is also need to find out if an applicant is a team player and a sociable person. This can be done by using assessment activities that involve a number of applicants.

    • sweetness
      Feb 1 2012

      Good stuff. I think a lot of what you are saying applies to a corporation. I feel that in retail we can take more chances with the people we hire. Ofcourse we don’t want to hire theives, but you never really know now-a-days. I definitely agree with when you said to find out if an applicant is a “team player and a sociable person”, this is definitely a biggie.


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