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Retail Recruitment Best Practices

February 29th, 2024 10 minute read
Marissa Wilson
Talent Acquisition Consultant
Each day a role goes unfilled, it’s that much harder to meet sales goals.

Especially in retail, it’s essential to hire in weeks not months. Employers need to be able to quickly get the right candidates’ attention and successfully sell them on the opportunity to join.

We’ve seen awesome retail recruiters like L’Occitane, River Island, Lush, and more shorten time to fill by 50% and improve candidate Net Promoter Scores by 60%. These are their best practices to speed up the hiring process—without sacrificing candidate experience.

1. Prioritize your employer brand

To attract the talent retailers need, recruiters need to start with a strong employer brand. This is an opportunity to educate more people about your organization and what makes you special—even if the candidate does not get the job, you want to ensure every candidate becomes a customer if they aren’t already.

The company careers pages and online profiles should highlight a compelling EVP that appeals directly to retail candidates and shows the strengths of your offering. Some examples include:

  • Competitive pay
  • Resources for professional development
  • Opportunities for career growth and progression
  • Team-oriented culture
  • Attractive shifts

At the same time, it’s important to be transparent in job descriptions about what life is really like in the role. When you set clear expectations early on, you waste less time on poor-fit candidates and reduce the risk of them leaving soon after they start. In applications, you can use knock out questions to filter out applicants that don’t meet the most important criteria.

For example, when River Island implemented Pinpoint, a new careers site was their first priority. River Island’s branded careers page demonstrates how they provide clear paths to meaningful careers, particularly for those who thrive in a fast-paced environment.

Optimizing online content for search can also help to reach more qualified candidates who love your brand. For retail companies, applicants from organic traffic via search engines (like Google) are 5x more likely to be hired than those from job boards.

2. Meet candidates where they are

Many candidates will already be customers or know your brand from the high street, so getting a high volume of applications may not be a challenge. But how can you attract the best talent in specific locations, and ensure that you stand out amongst the competition?

Lush Cosmetics’ Head of Talent Karen Blackburn recommends working with local communities. Attend university recruitment fairs to meet young talent, and work with organizations like Women in Tech or Silicon Milkroundabout to reach tech professionals for head office roles. When these candidates decide to apply, they will remember the time you spent with them in-person.

During the hiring process, L’Occitane’s Talent Acquisition Lead Sam Lucking recommends hosting “hiring days.” Candidates can drop in during designated hours to talk to your team, creating a less formal environment to get a sense of candidates’ personalities on the floor.

At these events or when potential candidates come into your stores, use QR codes so they can apply immediately from their phones. We’ve found that candidates who apply via QR codes are 8 times more likely to be hired than candidates from job boards.

3. Get hiring managers engaged from the start

It’s hard to get hiring managers to think strategically when they are rushing to meet hiring quotas. But without a structured and consistent process, managers are likely to go rogue—meaning talent teams lose control and lack oversight into recruitment.

One solution is to involve hiring managers from the start: draft the requisition, advertise the job, and develop tailored scorecards with their input. When managers feel ownership over hiring, it will increase buy-in and engagement throughout the process.

When recruitment begins, it should be easy for managers to move candidates to the proper stage and share feedback. Recruiters can help managers by choosing an ATS with user-friendly workflows and mobile-optimized interview toolkits.

When hiring managers can easily follow hiring processes, talent teams gain greater visibility into the process to understand what’s working—and where there are bottlenecks.

4. Provide a timely and responsive candidate experience

To attract more applicants, and make a lasting impression that inspires them to return, retail recruiters need to provide a candidate experience as inviting as the customer experience.

Your ATS should make it easy for you to keep the process moving forward efficiently so you can spend less time on admin and more time with candidates. For Pinpoint customers, reducing time in the interview stage by just 5 days can improve candidate Net Promoter Scores by 20%.

When we ask our retail customers how they speed up hiring and improve candidate experience, they mention these features:

  • Mobile-friendly applications so candidates to apply from anywhere. For roles where no experience is required, they also choose to make CVs optional and ask for a personal summary instead.
  • Email templates to update candidates quickly on the status of their application. Even a simple, automated acknowledgment that their application was received can make a world of difference.
  • Automated interview scheduling to eliminate back-and-forth emails and confusion. Interview scheduling software makes it easy for candidates to choose a time that works for them, and gives your team more control over their calendars.

If your recruitment system makes candidates feel disengaged, uninformed, or uncared for, they’ll go elsewhere.

Sam Lucking
Senior Recruiting Manager, L'Occitane

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5. Make onboarding seamless

When candidates have to jump from an ATS to a separate onboarding solution, it can cause confusion and a myriad of questions—not an ideal start for a new hire.

With onboarding connected to your ATS, you can turn a disjointed or manual process into a seamless experience.

For example, at L’Occitane, candidates are already accustomed to Pinpoint from the hiring process, so they are able to submit forms, sign documents, and complete background checks autonomously.

By centralizing hiring and onboarding information, the L’Occitane talent team can keep all stakeholders in-the-loop and ensure onboarding tasks are completed on time.

Since launching onboarding, we have fewer questions coming in about how basic things work.

Sam Webster
Recruitment Specialist, L’Occitane

6. Focus on the metrics that matter

As a north star metric, Hannah Clarke, Talent Acquisition Manager at River Island, recommends offer acceptance rate. This one metric will reveal the impact of your recruitment strategy. Based on the result, you can drill down further to understand where you can improve to build the most effective hiring process for your organization.

For example:

  • If you are not reaching enough qualified applicants, consider building your employer brand or advertising in more effective channels.
  • If candidates are dropping out during the process or early into the role because it does not align with their expectations, consider revisiting your employer value proposition and candidate experience.
  • If you are losing out on candidates because the process is too slow, consider new ways to use technology or improve systems to speed up the process.

Likewise, we hear from recruiters in retail that meeting DEI goals without data is an additional challenge. Without DEI reporting, recruiters can’t tell if they are reaching certain communities. Use EEOO questionnaires and choose a tool with DEI reporting to ensure your team can effectively track progress and share results with key stakeholders.

7. Act on feedback

After the hiring process, send candidates surveys to monitor the quality of their experiences and work towards improving over time. Consider sending surveys only to candidates who interviewed at least once, and asking questions about parts of the process that you can realistically change so you can take action quickly.

Key takeaways

In 2023, the median time to fill for Pinpoint’s retail clients was 24 days.

These are their best practices to keep the hiring process short and sweet for candidates. In summary, focus on:

  • Employer brand: Audit and improve your careers site to align with your corporate brand.
  • Applicant volume: Access new networks with diversity job boards. Make it easy for more candidates to apply with QR codes and simple, mobile-friendly applications.
  • Employer value proposition: Identify what makes your organization special, and weave your EVP into all employer marketing.
  • Hiring efficiency: Find bottlenecks in the hiring process and use technology to accelerate the process. Work with hiring managers to increase engagement and understand how you can make recruitment easier for them.
  • Candidate experience: Design a candidate experience that is as inviting as your customer experience. Get candidate feedback to understand what applicants need from the process and how you can improve.

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About the author
Marissa Wilson
Marissa Wilson is a Talent Acquisition Consultant with 10 years of experience recruiting for management consulting, ecommerce, and tech companies. With a passion for knowledge sharing, she has built out resources and delivered trainings on talent acquisition to hundreds of recruiters over her career.

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