If you’re opening or operating a retail store, finding good employees can be a real challenge. You’ll need to find people who will fit your type of store and who will be able to work the hours you need to fill. Retail positions usually don’t pay terrifically well, so you’ll need to look at a mix of applicants—cream-of-the-crop employees are probably working in fields other than retail.
The two most important characteristics to look for in potential retail employees are attitude and common sense. You can teach the other skills necessary to do the job, but you can’t teach attitude and common sense. Additional characteristics of great employees are the ability to communicate well and an enjoyment in dealing with people. Product knowledge and service ability will come easily to those applicants who have these four key characteristics.
So where do you discover these wonderful people to help you run your store? Placing an ad in the newspaper or online are possibilities, but you’ll be covering areas that are too far for people to travel and wasting some of your advertising dollars. A local or community paper may be a better choice, because everyone who reads your ad likely lives close enough.
If you don’t want to use newspapers, here are a few other ideas:
- Employee referrals. Current associates may know other people looking for jobs, and they know what you expect. Current employees can prequalify applicants and tell you what they’re like before you interview them. As an incentive, you can offer the employee a gift or bonus if you hire a referral and the referral stays for at least three months.
- Online bulletin boards. There are sites where you can list your open positions at little or no cost. Be sure to include specific needs, required qualifications, and a method to contact you.
- High schools. If you’re looking for low-cost help, send a letter to the local high schools with the qualifications, hours, and pay. Most will post your notice on a bulletin board for students to see.
- Internet help-wanted sites. These reach a large audience and are generally less expensive than newspaper ads. I have found that Craigslist often brings a big response for local helpwanted ads.
- Colleges. As you would for high schools, send a letter to colleges. Just be mindful that these students will want a higher hourly wage than high-school students make. College students have classes at all different times of the day, so their working schedules may be more flexible than those of high-school students.
- Customer referrals. Let shoppers know you’re hiring— many may be aware of someone looking for work. You can put a little sign near the cash register or on the front door listing positions available.
- Churches. Some larger churches will have an employment coordinator who you can contact with job information. They may put a notice on their bulletin board or in the church bulletin.
- Store signs. You can put a few signs in your store, but be sure to list specific qualifications. You may get a lot of under-qualified walk-ins, so be prepared for this. Look at a resume or application before you spend a lot of time with someone.
- Local employment office. They know people who are out of work and may have someone for you. When submitting job specifications be explicit, because you’ll probably have to interview everyone who fits them and give a reason for not hiring a specific person.
When you find suitable candidates, you need to interview them and discuss what you’re looking for and what you will expect. Does this sound like the type of position the person would be happy with? If the applicant seems hesitant or doubtful, it may be time to stop there and thank the person for his or her time.
If you continue the interview, ask the applicant what he liked most and least about his previous job. Make a list of questions you will ask each person and take notes. It’s also a good idea to go over your company’s goals and see whether applicants also believe in them.
It’s smart to keep an open mind until you’re finished with all the interviews and can compare notes to make a final decision. You also might have a trusted employee spend five or ten minutes with each applicant and offer her opinion at the end of the interview process.