7 Eye-Openers For How To Hire Great Retail Employees

By Bob Phibbs

how to hire retail employeePrior to his opening, I was asked to visit a franchise to evaluate his new crew. I discovered the team members were bland, boring and shy.

None of them were customer-focused.

Without that, the store would fail disastrously.

When I asked the small business owner why he hired them, he explained, having had a background hiring for a set of convenience stores, “I just wanted to be sure they wouldn’t steal from me.”

While the chances of a great hire are about 50%, many employers continue to pick the wrong employee over and over. 

How does it happen?

Easy, you only hire someone with previous experience.  The logic goes, they know the business and I won’t have to train them.

That’s terrible thinking no matter what you are selling.

Competitors’ leftovers rarely are superstars, and you’ll be bringing their worst habits into the heart of your operations.

And your belief you won’t have to train them will let them get away with it.

My first tip for you is that you would be much better off to hire someone out of your industry, and teaching them how to sell in your store, the way you want them to, without preconceptions about customers.

Here are six more tips how to hire great retail employees.

Hire to work more hours, more shifts. While the contrary advice is in vogue to hire lots of part-timers to maximize your flexibility, you often have more associates who are disengaged from your brand’s success. That’s because if they are working 2 or 3 jobs, they don’t have the time to settle into your culture.

Look for employees who will play well with others. While it’s great your applicants have outside interests and hobbies, many times they are done online or solo. Retail requires the exact opposite. You want to find evidence they are engaged in the real world with other human beings during your interview so craft your questions accordingly.

Past behavior determines future behavior. I’m all for goals and plans of what someone hopes to do in their future, but interview questions about their future plans are a poor gauge of how an applicant will work in your business today. Form your interview questions around specifics. If they can’t give you such details, it is rare they will do that for your customers. Likewise, when they can tell you specifics based on their past, they know what that desired behavior looks like and how to deliver it.

Sell them on why you’re a great place to work. It’s not enough to grill new applicants – you have to sell them. Talk about your history, how you view the environment you have created for your customers, what remarkable service looks like, how you want customers to feel and your management style. This is one of the most forgotten aspects of hiring but the truly great applicants will see how you are a fit for their personal style of working and be more inclined to take a job, should you decide to offer it to them.

Don’t trust your gut. If an applicant is telling you everything you wanted to hear about their abilities, successes and how they’ll put that to work with you – find something not to like about them.  Gut instincts can trip you up so ask something like, “I’m sure you can agree no one is perfect. Can you give me a time you didn’t give great customer service and how you handled it?” The great employees can pinpoint such a time and tell you what they’d have done differently or how it was resolved. The poor employees will just tell you it never happened.

Hire after a cooling off period.  You’ve had that experience when you meet someone who just clicks.  Don’t hire on the spot! Have them call you back at 4pm the next day. After you’ve called their references. After you’ve seen other people. After they’ve had a chance to sweat a bit whether you will hire them. That keeps you firmly in control as employer.

As to that franchisee, we worked with him to see how he needed more extroverts, helped him craft questions related to something other than theft and as a result he hired a whole new crew before successfully opening his doors.

A bike shop I know takes a potential new hire to the kids' bike area and asks them about the first time they rode a bike. If they can remember, and share the feeling -  the sense of freedom - it's a good final sign this is a potential great fit.

Note that the applicant didn't have to try to sell the interviewer on a bike or be quizzed about product features; the bike shop just wanted to see if the potential new hire could empathize with a new owner.

In Sum

Great retail associates are out there looking for great employers. Craft your questions well, give them more attention and train them to exceed customers' expectations.  That's how you grow your brick and mortar business.

I've added a complete course on How To Hire Smarter on my online sales training program SalesRX.com. You can access a free sample of how engaging and interactive the program is by clicking the button below.

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