7 Eye-Openers for How To Hire Good Employees In Retail

Excellant optical employee

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Before its opening, I was asked to visit a franchise to evaluate the new crew. I discovered the team members were bland, boring, and reticent.

None of them were customer-focused.

Without that focus, in particular, the store would fail disastrously.

When I asked the small business owner why he hired them, he explained that with a background in 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 repeatedly. 

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 are not what to look for when hiring an employee. They rarely are superstars, and you’ll bring 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 is that you would be much better off hiring someone out of your industry and teaching them how to sell in your store how you want them to, without preconceptions about customers.

Retail store hiring is tougher than it appears, and a bad hire's results can be disastrous for your store.

How to hire great employees for your store

These tips will help you spot toxic behavior, resistance to training and self-improvement, and weed out bad applicants. Use these strategies to double-check your gut feeling and verify that the people you’re talking to are genuinely passionate about your work. 

1. Hire to work more hours, more shifts

While the contrary advice is in vogue to hire many part-timers to maximize your flexibility, you often have more associates disengaged from your brand’s success.

That’s because if they work two or three jobs, they don’t have time to settle into your culture.

2. Look for employees who will play well with others

While it’s great your applicants have outside interests and hobbies, they are often 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.

3. Past behavior determines future behavior

I’m all for goals and plans of what someone hopes to do in the future, but interview questions about their 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, they will rarely 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.

4. Sell them on why you’re a great place to work

It’s not enough to grill new applicants – you must 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 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 offer it to them.

5. Don’t trust your gut

How to hire good employees starts with picking out the posers. Throwing curveballs will force them to give an honest, unrehearsed reply.

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 when you didn’t give great customer service and how you handled it?”

Great employees can pinpoint the 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.

6. 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 4 pm the next day.

  • After you’ve called references.
  • After you’ve seen other people.
  • After they’ve had a chance to sweat a bit about whether you will hire them.

That keeps you firmly in control as an employer.

As to that franchisee, we worked with him to see how he needed more extroverts, and 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.

Retail recruitment strategies

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.

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.

Potential and passion. This is what to look for when hiring an employee.

Where to hire employees for your store

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.