10 Ways to Find the Right Staffer

Every retailer wants to know how to hire good people. But not just good people, good people who can also do high-quality work. Too often we hire candidates only to find they have one of these traits or the other, rather than the ideal combination of both.

Often they are great people with ho-hum selling skills, or they are somewhat impersonal but can sell the heck out of even the dustiest inventory. It seems rare to find that human who can knock it out of the park both interpersonally and with units per transaction. But when we do find them, we feel like we lucked out. And maybe that’s true—but it doesn’t have to be dependent on luck.

When it comes to hiring, I think we spend too much time looking for ways to conduct a better interview. We look at our hiring process and expect that a tweak here and there will magically locate our next game-changing employee. If we genuinely want to attract quality staffers, we need to look deeper. We need to scrutinize what makes us attractive to high-performing people in the first place.

Which is to say, we need to look closer at our culture.

If you’ve been hiring duds, I’d first ask you two simple questions:
1. Are you one staffing problem away from a disaster?
2. What’s your consistent level of energy and enthusiasm look like?

If you’re running so lean that one employee’s departure creates a frenzy, then I’d argue you are hiring out of desperation. And desperation hires desperation, not quality.

If you are stressed out or less-focused on what makes your store an amazing place to work and shop, or if you bring a distracted you to the hiring process, you are probably missing the nitty-gritty that matters the most.

Our energy, beliefs, and vibe is what draws people in. And I don’t know about you, but if I sense desperation or stress or distractedness (or no love) in a company, I don’t want to work there. But sure, I might take the job for a paycheck. But that’s about it.

It’s like that line from Field of Dreams – “If you build it, they will come.” This works both ways. Crap begets crap. Amazing begets amazing. So maybe it’s time for you to look inward and stop blaming the hiring process for your weak sauce staff?

Because I was once a retailer, I know damn good and well that philosophical truths only go so far. Retailers constantly tell me they are too busy to “figure things out” on their own (cough…job security for me…cough). But I get it – most of them are spinning a dozen plates behind the scenes while trying to manage a staff soap opera, too. It ain’t easy.

So, for this reason alone, I’ll leave you all with my top 10 ways to find the right staffer. But just as a side note, retailers are all better off if they chose to reinvent the entire experience rather than depend on lists like this for guidance. But I digress…

Here’s that list of 10 Ways to Find the Right Staffer:

  1. MORE STORY THEN PRODUCT: You need a well-defined and widely communicated story. Call this your why, your vision, your mission, whatever. But it needs to become so closely associated with you that when folks think of your store, they automatically think of your story. A good example is Patagonia. They are more story than product. That’s your goal. Why do this? Because that story will attract people with resonating values.
  2. CLEARLY DEFINE THE JOB DESCRIPTION: Sales associates often see their job as entry level. Why? Mostly because the job description is lame. But also because when we promote folks, they move from the floor to the back room. A floor position needs to be lauded as the place to be. And when you describe it as such, the right candidate will rally behind it.
  3. POACH QUALITY: Notice greatness in the community. Was that restaurant server facilitating an unforgettable experience? Or did your car mechanic hustle more than necessary to get a job done? Pass them your business card and invite them for a store visit. Also, empower current employees to locate quality candidates. And bonus with green paper them if they find a rockstar.
  4. ALWAYS INTERVIEW: You are always interviewing even if you aren’t always hiring. There’s nothing wrong with opening the interview with something like, “We are always on the lookout for amazing. And though we don’t have any openings right now, if the right person comes along we’ll make room for them.
  5. DEFINE AND DIVERSIFY YOUR PROCESS. Chuck the old school one-and-done deal and diversify the way you vet folks. Fact is, the best employees interview poorly (and the worst often interview well). So add a second meeting, and possibly even a third, so you might extract better answers and more genuine postures. Connect them with multiple staffers. And remember, just like with your customers, they need to be doing 90% of the talking during the interview.
  6. GET COFFEE: Before you offer them a job, take them out for coffee (or lunch). This adds a different dimension to the hiring process. It alters the energetic exchange and also implies a fresh level of importance to their role. Yes, I know, you have neither the time nor money to take a bunch of candidates out to lunch. But changes the candidate’s perspective. And it’s worth the extra few bucks.
  7. SHOW THEM THE TRENCHES: Most likely the job they are hiring for is not a sit-down job. Interview on the move, on the sales floor, on a walk around the block, on a super-busy Saturday where distraction and bustle is the norm. Why set a tone of silent reverence when a typical retail day is chaotic and thrilling? Let them see what they are getting themselves into and then (this is very important) watch how they respond to it.
  8. THEIR VIEW ON EDUCATION: Your environment is a full-time learning environment (right?). If this isn’t exciting to them, and I mean genuinely exciting, they are probably a bad fit. Get them talking about this.
  9. THEIR VIEW ON SHARED VALUES: Your story has values and ethics attached (or, it ought to). If the candidate doesn’t vibe with them, they will compromise the most important aspect of your business. Get them talking about this too.
  10. TRUST YOUR GUT: Employees interact with strangers all day. They try to make lifelong connections with customers over a very short amount of time. If candidates don’t impress you with their ability to communicate or if they aren’t outwardly interested in the position’s details (ie. no questions, no comments, etc.), then do not move forward with them. And don’t be fooled by chatty extroverts. Introverts make for amazing store employees, too. But in both personality types, balance is necessary.

My final thought is a random quote from Dean Atchison (Spectrum Aeromed). He said, “Hire people who walk fast. They tend to have a sense of urgency about life and a predisposition for taking action.”

Would be fun to incorporate a walking test, of sorts, as part of the interview. Now THAT’s innovative.



Tom Griffen is a highly sought after trainer and presenter whose message transcends industries. He’ll help you raise the bar as you take your business to the next level.

Contact him: make the change you’ve been talking about!

Also check out Tom’s January 2018 Walk Across America!

Book your dates for Q3/4 2018 today. They are going FAST!


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