Overcoming retail volume recruitment challenges


As summer arrives, so does the annual rush to hire additional seasonal employees. In an effort to supply demand, however, a ‘vicious circle‘ of volume recruitment is emerging for many retailers, as inadequate processes fail to support operations. In fact, over a third of companies are hiring unsuitable candidates to fill roles quickly and retailers report an average turnover rate of 67% for part-time store workers .

The business implications stemming from these issues are significant. Volume recruitment costs are high; typical volume recruiters spend more than £2.8 million per annum recruiting for frontline roles. Poor service and customer experience naturally stem from having the wrong people in high volume frontline roles which put your employer brand at risk. Bad news travels fast meaning that, if you don‘t have a good recruitment process, you could lose both potential custom and future employees. In fact, one fifth of rejected job applicants shun retail employers and shop elsewhere.

A number of factors are driving the challenges of volume recruitment, starting with the fact that organisations are being swamped with applications. Nearly half of companies regularly receive 51-100 applications per role and 12% are drowning in the 50,000 to 100,000 applications they receive per year. Specifically, the retail sector attracts twice the national average in terms of the number of applications per role.

There‘s also a lack of clarity surrounding the competencies that make someone successful and ideal candidates can be hard to find. When looking at the two key personality traits related to customer service and selling (‘supportive‘ and ‘influencing‘), only 12% of the population are likely to be strong in both areas. Additionally, inefficient processes can hamper recruiting people who match the profile – many companies will use technology to manage the process but too few use it across all aspects of recruitment, for example; the use of applicant tracking, ability and competency/personality testing. So, how can recruiters overcome these challenges to help master hiring en masse?

  1. Know what you‘re recruiting for and why. Many make the mistake of rolling out the same process time and time again, without asking whether the role has changed and whether the type of person needed is different.

  2. Make the process easy. Give managers clear assessment guidance; train them in competency-based interviewing; use online tests to sift out less suitable candidates early on and give additional data upon which to make a decision.

  3. Imprint your company‘s brand on everything. Being transparent about the role, and your Employee Value Proposition, will help reduce the size of the applicant pool whilst luring candidates with the qualities that are most likely to fit requirements.

  4. Measure and make it count. Analyse data gathered during the recruitment process to build a clear picture of how each stage contributes to identifying the best candidates.

  5. Spend, but spend wisely. Technology and online testing, for example, can help you get the best return on investment, through reducing overall recruitment costs by sifting out higher numbers of unsuitable candidates at earlier stages.

It‘s easy to deviate from best practice when application numbers are escalating. The goal should be to spend a greater portion of recruitment time, money and effort on fewer, more suitable candidates, and to invest wisely in the tools that will genuinely streamline operations. Ultimately, volume recruitment is full of challenges, but getting it right will have tremendous benefits for your organisational performance.