3 Ways to Improve Your Holiday Retail Hiring

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Dec 14, 2018

The retail industry is a textbook study of how recruiting impacts a business’s bottom line because retailers earn up to 30 percent of their annual revenue in the holiday season. When retailers can’t fill all their open jobs, it leads to frustrating in-store experiences for customers — and a big dent in those all-important year-end figures.

We recently looked at our own recruiting data — more than 75 million applications and three million jobs posted per year, from more than 4,000 clients including some of the world’s largest retailers — and found that the challenge is only getting more daunting. Over the January-to-September 2018 period, the number of applications per position were down 31 percent, from 19 individuals two years earlier to just 13. Clearly, low unemployment is limiting the pool of applicants for retail jobs.

With trend lines like that, every retail recruiter needs to consider changes to their strategy. Including:

Starting earlier: In years past, retail job postings would typically spike in early September. This year, however, with forecasts calling for a robust holiday spending season, retailers have been aggressively hiring even earlier than that.

Our data showed a big spike in retail job openings in June 2018, whereas the two years prior retail hiring spiked a month later, in July. Additionally, the number of new job openings in August and September 2018 was lower than last year, suggesting retailers had already posted their job openings earlier in the summer.

Posting jobs earlier in the year ahead of the holiday season could give employers an edge in bringing in the candidates they need, but the broader point is to keep up with the times.

Upgrading the offer, not just with wages: The demand for holiday help is not only driving retailers to recruit earlier, but also to increase wages and perks. Additional incentives such as overtime pay, more flexible or more predictable scheduling, and merchandise discounts can also help retailers keep up with job seekers’ evolving expectations.

Retail wages have come under pressure, with announcements of company-wide minimum wage hikes at Target, Walmart, and Amazon all making headlines this year. Yet many other companies are standing out with non-wage benefits. For example, this year Gap Inc. offered employees a 50 percent discount at all the company’s brands (Gap, Banana Republic, and Old Navy) in addition to competitive salaries, free flu shots and more. Get creative and don’t forget to think through what your target workers really value.

Investing in your pipeline: Today’s hottest jobs in retail are, not surprising, in e-commerce. While sales and front-line supervisors continue to be among the most in-demand positions, merchandise-moving and warehouse-related positions (drivers, conveyor and tractor operators) have also risen to the top. As with filling any hot job, the key is to plan ahead by building a strong pipeline of qualified candidates. The holidays come once a year, but nurturing relationships is always in season.