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How to Hire Retail Workers who Lack Retail Experience

How to Hire Retail Workers who Lack Retail Experience

By: Catherine Conlan

It can be a challenge to recruit retail workers -- particularly young employees with little workplace experience and none in the retail industry. But there’s advantage in identifying inexperienced workers who have the potential to become great employees.

The expert tips below will help you spot the characteristics of young workers who can help your company grow and succeed.

Tap Recruits with Integrity
When looking to recruit novice hires, it’s important to hire for attitude and aptitude.

“For us, it’s all about how they connect and show their personality,” says Roberta Perry, president of Scrubz Body Scrub. One college student that Perry hired for production was asked to work the front of the store a few times, even though sales made her nervous.

“We said that she just needs to listen to the needs of the customer and answer with the best solution,” Perry said. “She started relating her own experience with a particular product, and a sale was made. Her confidence soared.”

While anyone can be trained, says Perry, finding people with integrity allows you to cultivate inexperienced new hires and help them bloom.

Look for a Desire to Learn
Markitors founder Brett Farmiloe had zero retail experience when he was hired as the first on-campus sales rep for a sorority sportswear company. “Not only did I not have retail experience, but I was also a freshman when I started the job.”

That experience showed him that dedication and a deep desire to learn can lead to success in retail. Now as an employer, he looks for candidates “who want to stretch.”

“These are the people who apply for jobs they're not qualified for, but apply themselves beyond the people who ‘know better.’ In retail especially, you have to be willing to take chances to be successful, just like you would in a job search.”

Farmiloe says he now makes a point to hire freshmen and sophomores who express a deep desire to learn.

Look for Signs of Dedication
A lot of time and attention goes into finding and training new employees, says David Harouche, founder and CEO of Multimedia Plus, which works with retailers on talent development.

Harouche recommends finding candidates who are goal-oriented and understand what they want after graduation.

While these workers may lack a work history that proves their commitment to a job or an employer, they may instead show a commitment to a rigorous academic program or long-term studies out of the country.

“If the student can show me a project they worked on from start to finish, especially something that engaged others as volunteers or participants, I would look at that favorably,” says retail management consultant Judy Crockett.

Retail employees often have a variety of responsibilities, including greeting and assisting customers, stocking and straightening shelves, managing the cash register, making sales and keeping the store tidy, Crockett says.

“If a person can demonstrate initiative, I know I will not always have to tell them what to do in the store; they will see it and do it on their own.”

Seek Out Soft Skills
You can educate almost anyone about the products you carry, and you can teach new hires to sell, Crockett says. Because those skills are teachable, experience isn’t always necessary.

Instead, look for soft skills, she says. “I look for individuals who have a happy, positive outlook, who are clean, neat, and show up dressed appropriately for the job. I look for a person who easily looks me in the eye and can make conversation.”

To help Millennials fill a soft skills gap, consider onboarding your new hire in the first few months. Schedule a biweekly meeting to check in about where they might need help.

In fact, mentoring may be more important to Millennials than it was to any 20th century generation of white-collar workers.

“Pair new hires up with a good mentor, someone who has communications skills you want the Millennial to embody,” recommends Matthew Randall, executive director of the Center for Professional Excellence at York College of Pennsylvania.