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The new guide to retail recruiting success

Christine Rochelle
December 14, 2020

Retail is rapidly evolving. Whether you’re brick and mortar, fully digital, or somewhere in between, customer preferences and new ways of doing business are changing your workforce and how to reach them.

The challenges in retail recruiting:

Only 54% of retail applications are completed.

[iCIMS Insights, 2019]

Retailers represent some of the hardest-hit businesses during the onset of the pandemic.

[Medium, 2020]

Only 20% of retail job seekers are very satisfied when they receive a job offer.

[Alexander Mann Solutions and Aptitude Research, 2020]


Retailers need the flexibility to engage, attract, hire, and retain employees to best adapt to an unpredictable market. Here’s a new hiring guide for retailers to thrive in that new reality.

The new guide to retail recruiting:

  • Adopt a consumer’s mindset. Retailers now cater to a largely digital world, and we’ve seen companies like Amazon, Target, and large supermarket chains set the new rules for prioritizing consumer preferences. However, only 34% of retailers communicate the consumer-facing brand and employer brand consistently, according to Alexander Mann Solutions and Aptitude Research. The first step to adopt this consumer’s mindset: Consider how you communicate with job seekers. Southeastern Grocers uses texting to engage and communicate with their candidates and 45,000+ employees. It also saves them $1M per year in recruitment costs.
  • Embrace flexible, virtual hiring. The now of work has shown us that there is a greater interest in flexible work arrangements. To maximize flexibility in staffing models, retailers are open to sourcing part-time or contract workers to meet evolving needs. Gordan Food Service’s recruiting team had to stay flexible to design and implement quick, impactful changes at the pandemic’s start when they needed more help, even though it was uncertain for how long. The team made hiring completely virtual with a content-rich career site an AI-powered recruiter chatbot.
  • Access a borderless talent marketplace. The interest in flexible work arrangements has also led to an uptick in the proportion of out-of-state job applicants. Retailers can cast a wider net when filling specialized roles that are notoriously hard to fill, such as marketing or accounting. To open up your recruiting across the globe, focus on building an accessible career site optimized for search with inclusive language within job descriptions, and clearly outlines remote work opportunities. Additionally, virtual events allow recruiters to interact with talent regardless of location and in the absence of in-person events.
  • Keep an active pipeline. Employee churn impacts any industry, but retailers often feel it the hardest to manage a large workforce of hourly workers. But the talent you need is already within your hiring system. Use recruitment marketing software to encourage past workers to apply to new positions when they become available. Room & Board uses candidate relationship management tools to update their seasonal alums with company news, helping to maintain a pipeline of qualified talent. Their results are definitive: A 15% turnover rate, well below the retail industry average of 59%.
  • Accelerate your digital revolution. The retail industry knew that a digital evolution was coming — you can see that reflected in the increase of technical roles over the last few years. Employers across all industries are quickly hiring talent with STEM (science, technology, engineering, or math) degrees for tech-related careers. However, employers are more and more open to changing up the requirements for tech roles. They focus on bringing in candidates outside of STEM or even upskilling their current workforce to help their digital transformation initiatives. Tractor Supply Co. boasts over 38,000 team members nationwide, so partnerships with internal stakeholders is key. To sustain their digital transformation strategy, recruiters, hiring managers, executives, and technology partners all work closely together to keep a pulse on any needs to challenges.

What’s next for retail recruiting

With an emphasis on filling roles quickly, having the flexibility to make quick pivots, and advance the current workforce with digital skills, HR faces a completely new retail hiring world. But as we’ve seen time and time again, it is talent that powers an organization’s transformation, and that is what will keep retail ahead.

Rethink the talent journey

Are you a retailer that needs to meet new staffing demands and adapt to changing candidate expectations? iCIMS’ Talent Cloud gives you everything you need to find talent and keep your business running. Learn more about our retail recruiting solutions.

Additional retail recruiting resources

Fill Your Specialized Retail Roles, Fast

5 Lessons COVID-19 Us on the Power of the Gig Economy

Southeastern Grocers Consolidates Candidate and Employee Communications on One Platform

Power Your Business with Virtual Hiring

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