Six Things to Look for When Hiring for Retail

Upset customers, lost orders, messy merchandise, dirty floors, not enough staff — these are some of the consequences of bad hiring decisions in retail. The ultimate effect is lost sales. When your store’s performance is based on the sale of goods, it pays to hire staff who get it right most, if not all, of the time. Here are six things to look for:

1. Understanding products

Every retail store has a different set of products, and new products are constantly being introduced. Retail staff must be able to learn about these products, how they might be used or worn, how they work together, how much they cost and where they are in the store. If a candidate for a retail job already has retail experience, ask how they learned about the products in their last job. If they’re new to retail, ask how they plan to learn about the products in your store.

2. Attention to detail

When handling credit cards and money, details are paramount. Pricing, sizing, measurements, country of origin and materials used are some of the other details that retail associates need to know. If special orders are placed on a regular basis, they need to be able to get those details right. Ask about a past experience where details mattered and how the situation was handled.

3. Understanding of people

Products don’t automatically sell themselves. People sell products to people. Even online retailers such as are successful because it values customer reviews. A retail associate who observes customers’ behavior in the store, listens to what they say, makes small talk, asks relevant questions and offers suggestions has the ability to sell more products than someone who just stands behind a cash register. Ask candidates to tell you about a situation in which careful listening got them great results.

4. Proactively do mundane tasks

Retail work isn’t all about the immediate interaction between customers and products. Folding, organizing, cleaning display cabinets and sweeping floors are some of the mundane tasks that need to be done every day in a retail environment. A good retail associate will use his or her downtime to keep the environment neat and clean. Ask candidates what they would do when the store is quiet after a two-hour rush of customers.

5. Punctuality

Showing up on time should be simple, but it doesn’t come naturally to some people. The simple question, “Are you punctual?” will reveal candidates’ ability to get to the store on time. Also probe for what they would do in the case of a traffic jam or weather delay.

6. Flexibility

Working on nights and weekends, particularly during the holidays, is a given for many retail and seasonal jobs. Because a certain number of people are needed to staff a store, schedules can change quickly if someone calls in sick or needs time off. Make sure the candidate can work the hours they are being asked to cover, and probe for issues that might limit availability, such as another job or school.

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