5 ways to improve your hiring

| by Doug Fleener
5 ways to improve your hiring

I firmly believe that we should always be on the lookout for our next great hire. I also know that we will attract talented people when we deliver the best possible customer and employee experience.

All the same, there are times when we need to aggressively recruit. I know some of you are opening new stores, and others are staffing up for the spring and summer season.

Here are five ways you can improve your hiring of frontline employees.

1. Stop requiring applicants to have retail experience. 

I want three things in a new hire:

  • Someone who is passionate about working with people.
  • Someone that I find interesting.
  • Someone that I will enjoy working with. 

None of those qualities are exclusive to retail. Some of the best retail associates and managers I've worked with are former military people, an opera singer, a waitress, a bank teller, a nanny, a teacher and more.

I can teach someone everything they need to know to be successful in the store, but I can't teach them to care about others. I can't teach someone to be engaging and able to hold my interest. That last, to me, is key. I'm going to spend a lot more time with someone in an interview than any customer is going to spend with him/her. If I don't really like a person after that period of time, I doubt the customer will either.

I know there may be some retail segments that require some industry or product knowledge, but I still encourage even those owners/managers to hire the person first and then the experience level.

2. Interview as many people as possible. I think most of us end up mistakenly rejecting some amazing people. For example, I recently interviewed a candidate whose resume was not well written. The email exchange I had with him wasn't much better. But the interview was terrific. He is passionate about helping people. He sets high standards for himself. You know he has a great work ethic. His drive to succeed came through loud and clear in the interview.

I also learned that English is his second language. He went through more to get the opportunity to interview for this job than any of us could imagine. I wouldn't have known that if I hadn't interviewed him.

3. Use group interviews. After reading the above, you may have wondered how you could make the time to interview everyone. Well first, I hope you're lucky enough to get enough applicants to worry about that. If you are, then group interviews are a great way find the best person in the pool of applicants. (This works especially well for seasonal hires.)

Instead of trying to schedule a bunch of one-on-one interviews, do a phone interview with the applicants and if you like them, invite them to a group interview. I know it sounds strange, but it really works. It not only saves you time, you can easily see who stands out among the group.

Make the interview a fun experience. Have people team up. Do some roleplaying and sales/service scenarios. Have the applicants interview each other. Involve your permanent employees. The best part is that people who really don't want to work retail will be unable to hide that fact, aiding you (and them, too) in making your hiring decisions.

4. Substantially increase the amount of your referral bonus. Make the payout such a WOW that most of your employees are always recruiting. Forget $100 or $250 payouts....go BIG!

Here's an idea. What if you paid a $500, $750, or even higher, referral bonus for every new sales associate? Before you hit send on the email telling me I'm crazy, think about the cost of an open position or high turnover. And how much more does a really good employee sell versus an average one? This program will easily pay for itself.

5. Find people before you need them. Keep your eyes open for high-quality candidates. Most of the best candidates aren't even in the job market. If they are, they may not have considered working retail in general or your store in particular. Take notice when someone gives you amazing service, or you meet someone who has that positive energy about him or her.

Of course, recruiting someone at his/her workplace is not just tricky; it's not really the right thing to do. What you can do instead is reward someone who gives you great service with a gift card from your store. Thank him for the great service, and tell him you'd like to show your appreciation by inviting him into your store to pick up a gift. Then recruit them!

So let me ask, which of these ideas can you apply to make your hiring approach that much better?

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Topics: Customer Experience, Customer Service, Hiring and Retention

Doug Fleener
Doug Fleener, the former director of retail for Bose Corporation, is president and managing partner of Dynamic Experiences Group LLC, a proven retail and customer experience firm that works with progressive retailers and other customer-focused companies. wwwView Doug Fleener's profile on LinkedIn

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