Retail Advice: How to Hire the Right Person


The number of retailers who require job applicants to have retail experience always amazes me.  I particularly don’t understand why it’s so essential for a part-timer or temporary employee to have retail experience.  In my experience, unless you’re hiring for a management position, it’s often easier to hire and teach people who don’t have retail experience.

A storeowner once told me why she only hired people with retail experience.  “This way people understand they have to work nights and weekends, they have to stand on their feet all day, and they have to learn our way of retailing.”

Wouldn’t it be easier to simply tell people they will have to work nights and weekends, and stand on their feet all day?  This way, new employees won’t have to unlearn all the bad habits they’ve fallen into while working for other retailers who don’t expect as much as we do.

Here’s what I require of someone I’m hiring to work at a specialty store:

1. Be a genuinely nice person. Is anything else more important?

2. Care about people.  You can teach products and processes but you can’t teach someone to care about others.  Don’t confuse this with people who say, “I’m a people person.”  Tell me what you’ve done to show you care.

3. Be happy.  It’s amazing how many unhappy people are hired to work in stores.

4. Smile. Why would you hire someone who doesn’t smile during the interview?  Happy people smile, especially in a job interview.

5. Enjoy making other people happy. People who find joy in other people’s happiness deliver great customer experiences.

6. Be confident but not cocky. The difference is in number five.  Never be afraid to hire confident people.  Confident people sell more.

7. Play well with others. Every time you add an employee you’re changing the team’s dynamics.  Being able to work well with colleagues is a key attribute.

8. Love, or at least be truly interested in, the products you sell. Always ask applicants what they like about your store and products.  If they can’t answer, move on. They at least should have learned about them before the interview.

9. Love to learn. This is often the difference between good and great salespeople.  I want people who want to know more and be better every day.

10. Want to work at my store. There’s a big difference between someone who wants a job and someone who wants to work specifically for you.

11. Sell during the interview. You can call the open position anything you want, but if you work in a specialty store it’s a sales job. Even good cashiers sell. If a candidate can’t make an attempt to selling him/herself in the interview, this may not be the right person for the job.

12. Be available when I need you to be. The job might require nights and weekends, but if an applicant has the first eleven requirements I might just find a way to hire him/her regardless of availability.

As you can see, these are tougher requirements than simply having worked in a store.  That’s why I believe we should never limit ourselves to applicants with retail experience.

So let me ask, what are your hiring requirements?

About The Author

Doug FleenerDoug Fleener is founder of the Dynamic Experiences Group. He is a veteran retailer with more than 25 years of hands-on retail experience with world-class retailers including Bose Corporation and The Sharper Image. He has also owned and operated his own specialty stores. Doug is now president and managing partner of Dynamic Experiences Group LLC, a Lexington based retail consulting firm dedicated to helping retailers create unique customer experiences that results in higher sales and profits. Learn more at or at



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