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The Complete Guide

Brick-and-Mortar Retail Recruitment in 2021

2020, the year of lockdowns and online-only shopping, is finally over — and as brick-and-mortar stores start to reopen, retailers expect a rush of consumers keen to get back to hands-on shopping.

But with these expectations comes a huge demand for workers and a lot of work for retail recruiters.

From running continuous recruitment events to drilling down on competitive job offers, retailers are diving headfirst into hiring — and it’s far from easy.

After huge layoffs and an ongoing debate over minimum wage, attracting great candidates is harder than ever, leaving many retailers struggling to get candidates through the door — some even resorting to self-checkout systems (and battling with the criticism that comes with them) instead of hiring real people.

So, how can brick-and-mortar stores balance customer demand with low candidate numbers, and still hire quality talent?

In this complete retail recruitment guide, we’ll give you the lowdown on the best retail recruitment strategies today, and help you navigate one of the toughest times for retail recruiters.

The 5 best retail recruitment strategies

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  1. Set the right hiring goals
  2. Target high-quality retail candidates
  3. Drill down on company culture
  4. Create an interview process that reflects the role
  5. Hold onto great retail candidates

1. Set the right hiring goals

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First things first, to get your retail recruitment strategy right, you need to define your hiring goals from the get-go.

These goals should focus on the number of new hires you need at different times of year.

For retail hiring teams, there are two main things to keep in mind:

  1. Seasonality: Retail is a seasonal game, and (depending on your product type) you’ll already know your busiest times of year. Always make sure to take both the seasonal highs and lows into account so you don’t end up over or under staffed.
  2. Turnover: High employee turnover is expected in retail, so it’s important to keep your pipeline full at all times (more on this in a minute). Your past turnover rates will give you an idea of how many new hires to aim for at different times of year.

To help define your hiring goals, ask yourself these questions:

  • How many employees do you need?
  • When do you need them?
  • What are your current turnover rates?
  • Does your turnover increase during peak seasons?
  • What type of roles are you looking for?
  • In which seasons will you need more employees?
  • How quickly do you need to be able to hire new candidates?

2. Target high-quality retail candidates

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Now that you know how many new hires you need and when, it’s time to drill down on your target candidates.

Many retailer brands wait until the eleventh hour, rush to post an open role, then sit back and pray to get the right candidates in. But knowing exactly who you need to bring on board will help you get ahead of the game with your recruitment marketing strategy. Think: Where candidates are currently hanging out online, how to approach them and what they will respond to best.

To get started, you’ll need to build a strong candidate persona, so you can market new job roles to the right candidates. Here are a few things to think about:

  • Demographics — Age, location, current job title and desired income
  • Experience and skills — Education, qualifications, certifications, work history and required or preferred skills for the role
  • Personal characteristics — Strengths, weaknesses, interests and pain points
  • Goals — What are their professional goals? Will this role help them get there?
  • Objections — Why would this candidate not apply for or accept the job role? What would make them lose interest?
  • Online habits — Where might you find your ideal candidates hanging out? Where would they look for jobs?
  • Motivations — What motivates them to get out of bed in the morning? What keeps them at a job for a long period? What are they looking for in their work environment?

Top Tip: For many retail roles, experience isn’t everything — so focus on personality, skills and goals over qualifications.

3. Drill down on company culture

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You know your company is awesome. Now it’s time to let potential candidates know it too.

And remember, how you present your employer brand will directly affect the number and quality of candidates, so it’s important to get this one right.

Here’s how to make sure your company culture is worthy of awesome applicants:

  • Candidate experience is everything: Nearly 50% of candidates say they’ve turned down a role after a crappy hiring experience. Needless to say, making sure your candidate journey shines is everything. From the tools you use to how quickly you respond, this one is all about making candidates feel special from the moment they hit ‘submit’.
  • Empower candidates from day one: With an army of millennial and Gen Z candidates longing for autonomy in the workplace, it pays to hand candidates the reigns early-on. Self-scheduling and flexible work shifts are a great way to show the next gen of retail talent you get it.
  • Get your DEI right: If you care about company culture (and trust us, you should), getting your diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) messages right should be at the top of the agenda. Not only do great equality statements mean more retail candidates, inclusivity can also boost productivity, increase retention rates, and lead to a happier workplace.

🌟 Employer Spotlight 🌟

MOD Pizza: A DEI statement that thinks outside the (pizza) box

EEO statements are a great way to show exactly where your company stands when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion. But there aren’t many companies that get it right.

MOD Pizza is an awesome exception to that rule.

The US-based pizza chain focuses on letting everyone know they’re welcome, no matter what, with thoughtful job postings that include inclusive language, links to company DEI initiatives, and an intro/outro focused entirely on inclusivity.

Their statement’s so strong, we’ve got it here in full:

“MOD welcomes people from all backgrounds and walks of life, and it’s reflected in our largely diverse community of MOD Squaders. MOD is proud to be an equal opportunity employer and is committed to providing equal opportunity for all employees and applicants. MOD recruits, hires, trains, promotes, compensates, and administers all personnel actions without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sex stereotyping, pregnancy (which includes pregnancy, childbirth, and medical conditions related to pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding), gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, age, mental or physical disability, ancestry, medical condition, marital status, military or veteran status, citizenship status, sexual orientation, genetic information, or any other status protected by applicable law.”

4. Create an interview process that reflects the role

a person standing in front of a mirror shaking hands with their reflection

Great news — if you’ve made it this far, you’re sure to have a pipeline full of quality candidates by now. 👏🏼

You know the drill: The next step is all about an awesome interview process.

When it comes to retail recruitment, here’s what an unbeatable interview looks like:  

  • Screening questionnaires: Okay, so this technically comes before the interview, but it’s all part of the quality-control mission. By screening the right candidates in, you can save yourself (and your candidates) a ton of time.
  • Use candidate-first hiring tools: For high turnover retail roles, the interview process needs to be simple and fast. With the right Applicant Tracking System (ATS), you can reduce the time (and cost) of hiring by at least 30%.
  • Keep it simple: These days, candidates expect interviews to be flexible and easy to attend. That means self-scheduling, video interviews and interview guides are top of the list.
  • Ask the right questions: Check out Breezy’s sales and retail interview questions for 400+ pick-and-play questions.

5. Hold onto great retail candidates

person hugging a rainbow disk with the word candidate on it

The fun doesn’t stop once you’ve found a great candidate.

Next, you have to decide whether to offer them the role or not — but either way, it pays to treat them right, especially if you want to hold onto that talent for future hiring needs.

There are two main routes to take to hold onto quality retail candidates:

  1. Offer and retain: It takes time, money, effort and tears to hire quality candidates — so once you’ve found them, you don’t want to lose them. Focus on your retention strategy to make new hires feel welcome and want to stick around for the long haul. Think: A streamlined entry process, first day protocols, integrated ATS + HRIS for seamless onboarding, etc.
  2. Reject and nurture: Every seasoned HR pro has been there: You find an awesome candidate you know would be a great match for the company, but they just don’t fit the role. Luckily, that’s where candidate nurture comes in. By keeping potential candidates ‘on the books’ and engaged with company news, you can get those missed-opportunity candidates back in for the next open role

Lead the way with a resilient retail recruitment strategy

chess piece telling another chess piece "your in"

Retail recruitment is a tough game to play post-pandemic, but with the right strategy and a few smart tools to help, you can find the right people in no time.

But before you dive in, take a little time to uplevel your hiring plan to reflect your ideal candidates so that you can hang onto them once you’ve found them (even if they’re not right for this role). Because the more quality candidates you have in both your pools and pipeline, the more likely you are to keep up with whatever the future may bring.

So, next time you set out to hire awesome retail candidates for your brick-and-mortar store, remember: The more plans you put in place now, the better your chances of hiring quality candidates later.

Are you ready?

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