retail hiring

3 Associate Hiring Questions to Prepare for Busy Retail Seasons

Whether it’s preparing for the holiday ramp-up or gearing up for peak demand seasons that affect your niche — like the busy spring season for home improvement stores — at various points in the year, retail managers will turn their attention to recruiting and interviewing to staff up. When there’s a tight labor market, this task can become particularly challenging, as the pool of qualified, motivated candidates may be limited.

You can entice people with benefits and bonuses and come up with innovative ways to make it easier for people to apply for open positions. But finding the right candidates for these important roles is about more than just finding someone who is willing to work for you and has the right hours available. There’s too much at stake at these crucial times of the year to fill in with a poor fit.

So, how do you find the associates who will ensure you get the most out of the peak seasons? For starters, store managers need to be focused on more than just the number of slots to fill. They need to know how to select, recruit, and interview effectively and strategically in order to bring the right people on board.

Here are a few of the questions you should consider when evaluating candidates:

  • Are they coachable? When we’ve talked to retail store managers about what they’re looking for, this comes up again and again. Bringing someone on board who’s a bad fit is usually a waste of time and effort for all involved. But when you have a candidate who’s a good fit for the culture and is coachable — meaning, they can take feedback well and internalize it — it’s good for everyone. Particularly in the fast-paced peak demand seasons when you need people to ramp up quickly, coachability is key.
  • What do they consider “fast-paced”? When the store floor is packed and customers are more demanding than ever, it can stretch even the most experienced retail associates to the limits. Take the time upfront to get an understanding of what the candidate’s perception of fast-paced really is. Ask questions about their specific experience working in rush times and serving multiple customers.
  • Do they love to work with all people? Many applicants for retail jobs talk about how they “love to work with people,” but a lot of the people retailers get through their doors, especially during the frenzied holiday season, are grumpy, tired, and frustrated. How would they work with those people?

And here’s one more question you need to ask yourself: Do you really know what you’re looking for?

In retail, fit really matters. And that means you need to know exactly what makes an associate successful in your store, especially when the heat is on. Define the profile of what you’re looking for — consider specific interpersonal skills, industry knowledge, and innate talent — before you start bringing people in. It’s the best way to set your stores up for a thriving busy season and beyond.

PS. To find the best fit, you need to have good selection, recruiting, and interviewing skills and strategies in place. Contact us to learn about training options and assessment tools to help you make sure you’re hiring the people you really need.

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Michael Patrick
mpatrick@mohrretail.com

Michael held positions in retail management, merchandising, and human resources before joining MOHR Retail’s predecessor in 1986. In 1990 he purchased the retail division of that firm to form today’s MOHR Retail. Michael holds true to his retail roots by delivering learning that changes behavior—providing both immediate and lasting business impact. In addition to facilitating MOHR Retail training programs, he offers executive-level coaching in one-on-one sessions dealing with critical strategic issues such as succession strategies and executive team development. The author of “The New Negotiation Mindset: Guarantee A Bigger Slice,” Michael is a longstanding member of NRF as well as ISA: The Association of Learning Providers. He has a B.A. from San Diego State University, completed Master’s level work at Arizona State University, and lives with his family in New Jersey.