It goes without saying having a great team is key to success in retail, but for independent retailers facing a hiring crunch brought about by a strong economy and low unemployment, finding the right team member can seem like more of challenge than an opportunity.
Pick the wrong person, and you risk upsetting the balance and productivity of your entire team, which can increase the turnover rate for both new and existing employees—an all too common problem when you consider the average turnover rate for independent grocers in 2017 was 53.5 percent for full-time employees, and 18.3 for part-time (2018 Independent Grocers Financial Survey).
So how do you ensure a potential hire is not just good on paper but also a good fit for your team and your overall company culture?
There is an old saying, “We hire people for what they know, and we fire them for who they are.” They key to hiring right the first time lies in the hiring process. The correct balance of preparation, execution, and follow-through will help you get to know candidates’ skills, experience, and personality in a deeper way.
Here are some best practices to keep in mind to as you hone your hiring process.
Before you Begin
Establish your needs. If you have multiple roles to fill, determine which are the most critical to your operational success. The roles that can make a big difference will likely require a seasoned candidate with a wealth of experience. Part-time positions could be an opportunity to help a person new to the industry develop the skills to succeed.
Start with the right job description. A well-constructed job description plays a crucial role not just in attracting the right talent, but also in helping retailers “prove” their hiring, promotion, and termination decisions were based on articulated job requirements—not personal characteristics.
Getting the Word Out
Cast a wide net. Do you remember where/how you found your best employees? Use your personal and professional networks and variety of recruiting resources to let people know the types of candidates you are looking to hire.
Get down to the details. Ask candidates to fill out a job application. A resume could spin a candidate’s background and skill level, making the candidate seem more or less qualified than they really are.
Don’t be afraid to test. Using a pre-employment test to screen applicants ensures candidates have the necessary knowledge, skills, abilities, and personal traits required to do the job successfully.
Avoid the wrong questions. You probably know you’re not supposed to ask a candidate’s age or religious affiliation, but did you know these are off limits too?
Where were you born?
What does your spouse do for a living?
How long do you plan to work before you retire?
Understand the importance of background screening. Depending on a prospective employee’s position, you may want to conduct a criminal and/or credit check. Using a third-party company specializing in background checks will ensure you are in compliance with all federal, state, and local restrictions.
Involve the team. A solid peer interviewing process is the hallmark of a strong culture. Multiple interviewers help reduce individual biases.
Ask the right questions. Remember the 80-20 rule: candidates should speak 80 percent of the time. Use open-ended questions focused on behavior to get candidates talking. Here are some good examples:
Share a circumstance when you made a decision that was unpopular. How did you handle implementing your decision?
Tell me about a time when you had to work closely with someone whose personality was very different from your own. How did you overcome challenges?
Describe a time when you made sure a customer was pleased with your store’s service. How did you go above and beyond?
Why are you interested in this position/company?
How do you go about prioritizing shoppers’ needs?
Share a circumstance when you failed. How did you deal with the outcome?
Give an example of a time when you were able to successfully persuade someone at work to see things your way. How did you change their opinion?
Recognize the red flags. A gap in employment or a missing reference is an obvious issue, but often the greatest indicator of whether a candidate will fit into your employee culture comes down to shared values. For example, negativity toward criticism or a bossy attitude could mean the candidate is prioritizing their own values over those of others, while a candidate who is unable to support the claim that they are a good team player with a specific example may simply be using buzzwords to impress you.