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Retail Education: Tried-and-true practices for recruiting, hiring and training

This FCNews Retail Education series, sponsored by 3M, is designed to help specialty retailers build their business through proven merchandising and marketing strategies as well as general best practices.  

December 19/26, 2016: Volume 31, Number 14
By Reginald Tucker

screen-shot-2016-12-21-at-3-10-13-pmFor Majorie Benson, owner of Friendly Floors, the key to hiring the right salesperson lies in finding someone who is sincere. “I believe sincerely wanting to match a product and installation type to a consumer’s wants and needs is the key to a successful, full-service flooring business. I don’t hire ‘salespeople’ types; I don’t want anyone on our team who has the tendency to sell whatever is most advantageous to his or her own pocket rather than what is best for the customer.”

Billy Mahone III, Atlas Floors Carpet One in San Antonio, takes a similar approach. “Over the years we have put more of an emphasis on interpersonal skills and professionalism and less on industry-specific experience. We have found that you can teach new hires the floor covering business, but you can’t teach someone to have a customer-centric attitude.”

On the other hand, at A.J. Rose Carpets & Flooring in Burlington, Mass., experience is a non-negotiable requirement. “We look for solid selling skills and being able to connect with people. People like to buy from someone they trust, so it is essential for our salespeople to be likable and connect with people.”

Experts in the field of hiring, training and recruiting believe the onus lies on the person or people making the hiring decisions—not on the candidate. David Romano, founder of Romano Consulting Group and Benchmarkinc, advises retailers to follow a tried-and-true formula for not only hiring the right candidates but also retaining them if they turn out to be a good fit.

Step 1: Create an interview agenda; Step 2: Zero in on the candidate; and Step 3: Decide what to ask. While Step 1 is rudimentary and self explanatory, Steps 2 & 3 allow the interviewer to really drill down and get inside the interviewee’s head. “Before asking the first interview question, review the job description—especially the hiring criteria as well as everything the interviewee has submitted (i.e., résume, cover letter, online profile). This allows you to hone in on what you’re looking for in a candidate.”

This step, according to Romano, reveals information about the candidate’s background, work experience and skill level. More importantly, it gives the interviewer the chance to clarify what they learned from the résume, profile or even previous interviews. “It provides a general sense of the candidate’s overall intelligence, aptitude and enthusiasm/attitude and whether he/she fits the job. It also provides the capability to evaluate a candidate’s motivation to tackle job responsibilities, desire to join the company and the ability to integrate into the current work team.”

Above all else, Romano strongly recommends owners or hiring managers pay careful attention to the candidate’s responses. “Don’t rehearse your next question in your mind. Although you have your questions written down, don’t hesitate to veer from those if you want to reword or follow up on something, or even eliminate questions that were already covered.”

Broaden your horizons
Some experts recommend retailers take the recruiting/hiring process a step further by taking generational considerations into account. Just ask Lisbeth Calandrino, who for the past 20 years has been consulting retailers on everything from hiring, training and recruiting to marketing and designing showrooms. With respect to hiring and training, she believes it’s important to focus on millennials as potential employees as they represent the future.

“Companies used to rely on hiring salespeople who were well versed in flooring; these days, companies are looking for employees who have the skills that match the new customers, which includes computer knowledge. The problem with hiring older employees is their lack of computer skills and understanding the attitudes of the younger generation.”

Like Romano, Calandrino offers a few proven tips on how retailers can nurture (and even retain) this important demographic:

  • Provide educational opportunities as often as possible. Gen Y is well educated and believes in learning and achieving. Instead of having a boss, they are more likely to want to be part of the process and would appreciate having a coach to help them achieve.
  • Since they are team oriented, getting along with others is a priority. They want to collaborate and learn from others on their teams. They will work hard to make sure the team concept is efficient.
  • They don’t expect to stay with one job until retirement. This group is considered mobile and is willing to move to another job if possible. They aren’t as tied down as their predecessors.
  • Take advantage of their technological talent. Many companies are struggling with their social media presence. Since this is pretty much second nature to millennials, learn as much as you can from them and put the strategies to work.
  • Provide as much flexibility as possible. These employees are talented and capable of working alone. They are clear about their positions. They tend to be very home and family oriented.

Regardless of the strategy or approach, at the end of the day you have to hire based on the needs of the business and the market dynamics in your area. As Romano states: “Always focus on your business needs during your interview process, and you’ll find the best new hire time after time.”