Simplified Retail Hiring … Giving hiring managers their time back

Apr 13, 2021Employers & Hiring Managers0 comments

By Mathieu Weber.

As summer approaches, teens and college students – many of whom were sidelined last summer because of Covid-19, will be hitting keyboards looking for jobs. That creates an untold burden on hiring managers – who will need to pick through dozens of resumes – to find those few good candidates. That is notwithstanding the thousands of retail employees returning to work in today’s new normal. Is there a simpler way? 

Retail recruitment is a taxing chore just by virtue of the fact that it takes time – which most managers don’t have. “If I’m hiring, it usually means I’m short-handed,” one store manager of a national US chain told me. “And if we’re short-handed I am spinning like a top trying to manage the store, the deliveries, and customers.”

 The sheer number of job applicants for sales and customer facing positions in the retail field is overwhelming. For a typical retail opening, “as many as 40 or 50 people will apply, lengthening the recruitment process”.

 Seasonal peaks in hiring needs make the number of job applicants and interviews even more overwhelming in retail. Hundreds if not thousands of applications will flood into retail locations over the next couple months.


Resumes, a Curse for Retail Hiring

In many other industries, hiring managers can selectively interview candidates based on strong resumes that depict specialized skills. And often, those resumes have been culled automatically. In retail, resumes aren’t really much help, as they leave the pending manager blind as to whether a candidate has the people skills and personality to handle the job.

“I need to know if a person has the ability to be trained, the right communication skills, and the persistence to actually sell,” the manager said. With 30 years of retail under his belt, including owning his outlet for 20 years, he has developed his own means of managing the hiring process – which is far different than most of his peers.

His approach to recruiting involves remaining constantly vigilant for new applications. As soon as an alert comes in saying there is a new applicant, he is on it.

 “I could have the best candidate in the world apply – and if I wait so much as a few days – I’ve already lost the person. I view hiring like selling,” he explained. “If a buyer sends me an email I have a 50:50 chance of closing that person if I contact them the same day. The odds decrease with each passing day.”

I asked him if he actually reads the resumes. “Not really,” he admitted. “I scan them. You can’t tell if a person has people skills from a resume. I just look to see if they have jumped around a lot.”

Also, in other industries, or even other positions within the company, HR helps sort through the resumes to find a short list of candidates. For retail managers, the process is completely decentralized. And now, more than ever, applications are taken in electronically.

It used to be that candidates would walk in the door and fill out an application. If the stars aligned, the manager might meet the candidate at that time and would be able to tell if the person would be a good fit.

But candidates don’t bother going into locations anymore. Instead, they look for jobs online. This has proven to be particularly taxing for both the candidate and the manager.

The manager has to comb through the resumes and figure out which should come in for an interview. The candidate in turn, is stuck filling out onerous applications and cover letters.


Automation to the rescue

One of the greatest benefits of digital transformation is the ability to apply technology to a business process to streamline and optimize it. High volume retailer recruiting is one such area ripe for automation. The benefits at scale are material. Think about the productivity savings from: 

  • Simplifying the posting of jobs across multiple digital channels
  • Using geolocalization to match local candidates to openings
  • Centralizing all applications, hiring funnel, and communications in a single repository
  • Removing paper-based applications entirely from the process
  • Providing Hiring Managers with filtering tools so they can bring the top 3 candidates to the top of the pile from  50+ applications based, say, on schedule availability, specific skills or previous retail experience 

Video Submissions Eases the Pain

Our furniture manager friend says he spends about a half-hour each week just combing through resumes. Then he does a phone interview – before he schedules a face-to-face. “It’s relentless,” he laughs. “But it’s the only way.”

I asked him if he thought  video could help? “yeah absolutely! If I could have them answer 3-4 questions in a video clip – it would be great.”

As I said, video is going to be a game changer. Video submissions can ease the pain for both managers and candidates. Applicants  just record a short clip that answers the key questions a manager has.It’s simple for the applicant. Why in the world should they have to submit a cover letter? They hate writing them — and you really don’t want to read them. 

So on the manager side, these uploaded video clips can be viewed and sorted. Candidates whom you have selected  can be sorted by times available. Applicants that will not move forward will receive an automatic “no thank-you” reply.

[This seemingly small gesture can actually be quite a big deal – that is not just a productivity issue – but a long-term customer relationship oneAccording to a CareerBuilder study of more than 5,000 workers, 58 percent of candidates are less likely to buy from a company they applied to if they didn’t get a response to their application; 69 percent are less likely if they had a bad experience during the interview, as are 65 percent if they didn’t hear back after an interview. Follow-ups, even if it’s not what the candidate wants to hear, matter.

Look, recruiting is never going to be pain free. But looking at smiling faces instead of drab resumes is a step in the right direction.