In some ways, the retail industry is unlike many others. There’s a tremendous diversity of size, scope, and cultures among the many businesses that need retail help—and there’s just as much diversity among the job candidates themselves: you’ll find everyone from students seeking short-term or part-time employment to career veterans with a penchant for salesmanship. There is, however, one way in which hiring for retail positions is very similar to hiring in most other industries: finding the right people can be extremely difficult.
Of course, this difficulty is compounded by the extremely high turnover rates that are common to the industry. This is, in part, a function of seasonal employment opportunities (around the holidays, big department stores often have to take on a lot of temporary staff), but it’s also due to employees leaving for more lucrative opportunities, or even other retail opportunities that are perceived as offering more benefits. This means that whatever tactics you’re using to attract job candidates often have to be optimized for high volumes; thus many traditional methods like posting on Craigslist simply aren’t going to cut it. Even in retail, recruiters need to expend a significant portion of their resources on passive job candidates.
How and where should you do this? I’m glad you asked...
Because retail tends to attract younger and less skilled workers, recruiters in this field are going to live and die by two factors: reach and employer brand. Facebook, it turns out, can be an extremely useful tool for both.
As the world’s largest social network, it offers you the ability to get your brand in front of a ridiculous percentage of the world’s population—meaning that you’ll be able to match the volume of your efforts to the volume of retail help you actually need. If you’re a big department store trying to keep a large number of high-turnover position filled, what could be more important than your ability to reach as many potential job candidates as possible?
In terms of your employer brand, Facebook gives you the ability to post recruitment-focused content that your target audience will find relatable, helping establish you in their minds as a potential employment destination. A good example of this is the Facebook career page from The Home Depot:
In most industries (tech, for example), your next hire is usually already working somewhere else. That hyper-qualified backend developer your team needs? She’s probably got a job doing similar kinds of dev work for another company, and in order to win the war for talent you need to convince her and others like her that it’s worth taking a chance on your company. By and large, these people really can be convinced that your company is worth looking into, but only if you reach them where they already spend their time. Most likely, they’re not typing “backend developer jobs” into Google just to see what comes up.
With retail, the field is a little different. You might be courting a number of job seekers who are only active in a limited way. Maybe they’re students on break who are only mulling over the idea of getting a job to earn some spending money, or maybe they have other retail jobs that aren’t working for them. For targeting these kinds of candidates, sponsored Google searches can be a tremendous asset. Contrary to what it sometimes feels like, studies show that people do click on those ads, and they can help to immediately solidify you as an employment option. This doesn’t mean that users will always click to apply right away, but it does put you in a position to stay top-of-mind when they do make the choice to fill out applications.
Interestingly, Google can also be used as a tool for converting your customers into potential retail hires. If you bid on search terms related not to hiring but to your products or industry, you might surprise some passive job seekers who never would have thought to take a job with a company that they’re already interested in as a consumer. In many cases, these hires can be some of the most valuable. Why? Because they already have an appreciation for your company culture and brand.
Like Google, YouTube can be a powerful venue for turning customers into potential retail hires. The world’s premiere video sharing platform has huge caches of content devoted to unboxing new products, learning how to shop for particular clothing items, determining the right cosmetics to buy, etc.
For virtually any product you might be selling in a brick and mortar store, there’s likely a wealth of content that YouTubers are already interested in. As such, by promoting your employer brand through advertisements on YouTube, you can begin to attract users who are already interested in your industry or possibly even your traditional brand.
If you highlight your team and express your EVP in a compelling way, many of them will happily enter your applicant funnel and continue to engage with your company. One example of this comes from Walmart, one of the best known retail brands in the world:
When we spoke about Facebook above, we highlighted its impressive reach and its employer branding potential. Instagram, though it reaches a slightly smaller audience, actually gives you even more freedom from an employer branding perspective. Yes, it’s primarily focused on visual content, which means that you’ll have to translate your employer brand into those terms, but that can make it even more powerful and immediate.
The retailer's H-E-B Careers page does a great job introducing its team to potential candidates:
Crucially, Instagram caters to a younger crowd than most other social networks—and it’s also a platform that people use specifically to follow companies and brands. This means that if you can target your ideal demographics, there’s a good chance they’ll be especially receptive to your messaging. Again, retail is a high-turnover industry, so the combined power of Instagram’s reach (it boasts some 1 billion monthly active users) and its brand-friendly format help put you in a position to grow your pipeline on an ongoing basis.
Make sure that you have not just a corporate Instagram account, but a separate account that’s specifically intended for employer branding purposes. The site doesn’t give you as many conversion opportunities as, say, Facebook, but if you can build a strong following and then leverage ads strategically to move consideration stage candidates onto your job-specific landing pages, you can generate a steady stream of potential retail talent. As a bonus, because these candidates will already be engaged with your company culture by way of your employer brand, it might prove easier to retain them in the long run.