Skip to main content

The answer to this question is relatively straightforward: retail recruiting is the process of finding and hiring the right job candidates for the retail sector. But the truth of the matter is that recruiting in the retail industry is actually a complex affair that can be a drain on time and resources. Besides having to deal with obstacles like high staff turnover, it must also accommodate the needs of three key stakeholders: candidates, store managers and the corporate office.

Retail recruitment is closely related to the economic situation: if economies are booming and people are spending more, retail recruitment is likely to be booming too. But what happens to the retail industry during an unparalleled crisis like the current one? For starters, social distancing measures have taken a toll on businesses not deemed essential, while retailers with physical stores have clearly been affected much more than online retailers because of lockdowns. Besides the usual challenges associated with retail, a whole new batch of challenges have arisen.

But don’t get too down. However daunting it may seem, a successful retail recruiting strategy is possible, even in today’s world. Making use of the right recruiting solutions that combine mobile, social recruiting and smart automation can not only prove to be a time saver, but also an efficient approach going forward. In this post, we will take a look at some of the traditional challenges in retail recruitment, shine a light on how they’ve morphed in today’s climate and take a look at how the right technology can help industries enrich their retail recruiting strategy in a post-COVID world.

Challenges in Retail Recruiting (And How They Look Today)


Probably the biggest challenge in retail recruiting has to do with high levels of employee turnover derived from the pressures of seasonal hiring, the complexity of shifts and the lack of long-term employee commitment due to social and economic factors. Turnover has all sorts of negative consequences beginning with the cost of replacing employees, which some studies have estimated to be around $3,200 for an individual earning $20,000 per year. Furthermore, turnover also translates into lost employee productivity since it usually takes weeks for someone new to get to know the mechanisms or store organization.
In the current context, turnover is unlikely to be a key issue for a retail company, or any company in general, at least according to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary, a monthly report compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The report tracks a figure called the quits rate which divides the number of jobs quit each month in the US by total employment. Under normal circumstances, this number is viewed by policymakers and economists as a measure of job market confidence and usually sits well above 2%. But in March it dipped below 2 for the first time in five years, reaching an almost all time low of 1.4 in April. That number has improved in the last couple of months, but barely, meaning that employees are very likely to hang on to whatever job they may have in the face of current uncertain circumstances.

High-Volume Recruiting

You’ve probably heard the old saying: for everything there is a season. But for retail recruiters, these words might seem like more of a warning than anything else. Seasonality in the industry brings with it the pressures of high-volume hiring and can overwhelm even the slyest of hiring managers. The typical retail job post in high season can receive hundreds if not thousands of applicants and a lack of tools (and preparation) can translate into wasted hours skimming through unqualified resumes.

There are several ways to tackle high-volume recruiting but it all begins with retailers attracting and engaging candidates year-round and not just when consumer demand hits stores. Developing candidate talent pools is a top talent acquisition performance driver and can prove to be particularly effective once seasonal hiring pressures arrive. Having hot candidates at your fingertips reduces the time to fill open positions, which can have a direct effect on revenue and customer experience.

High-volume hiring has always been a challenge in retail but it has become an even bigger one during the pandemic for some companies. Since March Walmart has made over 500k hires and its next closest competitor recently brought its headcount to 876,800 retail employees, an increase of 34% since 2019. Needless to say both companies have had to find ways to manage their hiring efficiently and at scale and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Retailers need swift and efficient processes that can help them differentiate between unqualified and qualified candidates quickly, painlessly schedule interviews, leverage templates to swiftly extend offers and keep every stakeholder up-to-speed automatically. From screening to sealing the deal, smart automation can revolutionize every step of the process.

Lack of Tech

Recruiting technology has not always been a store manager’s best friend. Historically, store managers were having to rely on stacks of resumes and excels or overly complex systems that came from HQ, making recruiting a headache. Digital solutions designed specifically with store managers in mind, on the other hand, can easily capture candidate information in a centralized talent acquisition system, saving them from repeatedly performing manual processes, such as trawling through spreadsheets.

The right technology should, however, fulfill certain requirements to truly make retailers’ lives easier. First of all, they should be easy to use, require minimal training and adapt with ease to the nature of their job. Managers should be able to access centralized databases intuitively, ensuring that recruiting is a smooth and less time-consuming process. Secondly, it should be accommodating to their on-the-go, busy routines. After all, they have to find ways to field recruiting while splitting their time on the storeroom floor, interacting with customers, reviewing inventory and overseeing current employees, just to mention a few everyday tasks. The right tech should allow managers to review candidates and funnel them through different stages of recruitment, all while being constantly on the move.

The pandemic has only deepened the need for technology in the hands of hiring managers, as social distancing protocols and work-from-home conditions have forced retail companies to alter how they handle their hiring processes, a fact that may fundamentally change recruiting in the industry going forward. Face-to-face interviews, for example, have been hindered, bringing video interview platforms to the forefront like never before, allowing potential candidates to take part in Q&As from the comfort and safety of their own homes.

Digital Transformation

Lockdowns have been accelerating the shift from brick-and-mortar to online retailing, a trend that will undoubtedly continue to deepen in a post COVID reality as retailers diversify their sales channels. A recent report from IBM estimated that the pandemic has accelerated the shift away from physical stores to digital shopping by roughly five years. In fact, department stores are expected to decline by over 60 percent for the full year, while e-commerce is projected to grow by nearly 20 percent.

A more digital workplace, however, requires a more digital workforce. Retailers who didn’t rely on e-commerce before the pandemic have had to completely rethink and reconfigure their staff, shifting their focus towards digital profiles that can enable their move online swiftly and with ease. Leadership has also begun to implement systems to ensure that new skills, practices and behaviors are integrated into their organizations and continue to be integrated in a post-pandemic scenario.

In this context, retailers are now vying for candidates against tech companies who have been the go-to employers for people with such digital skill sets in the past. To even stand a chance against these non-traditional competitors, retailers must now emphasize their employer brand like never before, going all-in on showcasing insights into what it’s really like to work for them, and aiming to build authentic relationships with engaged candidates.

To conclude…

Recruiting at the moment might seem like a daunting task for many retail companies. But implementing the right technology might just be the key to providing store managers and candidates alike with the tools to better navigate the industry’s new reality.


More related content

How to Reduce the Impact of Employee Turnover

Learn five ways in which managers can foster employee engagement, reach hiring objectives and reduce employee turnover in retail.