During the best of times, hiring is one of the biggest challenges for business owners and managers.
Now, with the U.S. unemployment rate down to a near-record 3.9 percent as of the end of July, small businesses, including independent retailers, are facing an increasing amount competition in the search for great talent.
But finding a star employee is worth the effort, argued Mel Kleiman, president of recruitment consultancy Humetrics, during a seminar today in Las Vegas for the National Shoe Retailers Association.
While quoting retail legend Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, Kleiman said, “The most important decision a retailer makes is who you allow in your door to help take care of your customers.”
He added that by following series of strategic steps, retailers can improve the quality of the candidates they meet and do a better job screening potential new team members.
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Below are seven of those key moves:
1. Don’t Scrape the Bucket
Kleiman noted that great employees, what he refers to as “eagles,” are generally already employed, so they might not respond to a job posting or Help Wanted sign. “If you’re looking for new employees, don’t look for people who are looking for a job — look for people who are looking for better job,” he said.
2. Always Be Recruiting
Smart retailers, even if they are fully staffed, should always be on the lookout for potential employees. Kleiman recommended handing out recruitment cards to people who are particularly impressive. “If you ask them if they’re interested and they say no, what’s the harm? Maybe you even made them feel good about themselves,” he said. The cards should include details about your business, although first stores must…
3. Know Your Selling Points
In order to convince a candidate to join your company, it’s important to first understand your assets, explained Kleiman. He advised retailers to make a list of the 10 reasons to work for your firm: “What is your unique proposition? If you don’t have a list like that, then how will the employee ever know it?” In addition to helping with hiring, the list can improve employee retention by solidifying your culture.
4. Reward Referrals
Kleiman strongly encouraged offering a bonus to current staff — or even outsiders — who send a great candidate your way. He suggested paying $100 to the referrer upon the day of the hire, instead of waiting three or six months to see if a new employee works out. “Behavior you want repeated must be rewarded immediately,” he said of developing of a strong referral program.
5. Get Back With Your Exes
Past workers make the best employees, said Kleiman, noting that not only are they vetted but they know your organization and its needs. He suggested keeping in tough with former employees and making it easy for them to come back. “The best time to contact them is within two weeks of starting their new job,” he said, “because by then they’ll have realized the grass is not that much greener.”
6. Question First Impressions
An employee who looks great at first glance might turn out to be a “turkey,” cautioned Kleiman. “Turkeys are better at interviewing because they get more practice at it,” he said. Instead, managers should challenge their own initial impressions. “If you meet someone you like, look for all the reasons not to hire them. And if you meet someone you don’t like, ask yourself, ‘Is there anything I’m missing?”
7. Don’t Give All the Answers
Kleiman pointed out that during the interview process, the instinct is to first tell the candidate what you’re looking for. That’s wrong, he said. “If you do that, they’ll just tell you what you want to hear.” Instead, he encouraged interviewers to quiz the candidate on their knowledge of your organization and past experiences.