Modern Retail

10 Key Skills to Look for in New Retail Recruits

Retail Recruits

Tony Gregg, Chief Executive at Anthony Gregg Partnership outlines 10 key skills that you should look for when hiring new retail recruits. These attributes will help you to find staff that will fit successfully into your business, enabling you to build a team of dedicated, professional and hard working individuals.

1. Communication

It might seem from the outside looking in that retail is all about selling as much as possible for the greatest profit. In fact, like any consumer-facing industry, retail is first and foremost about relationships – the relationship between customer and store worker, store worker and manager, all the way up to director and CEO. Whether you’re helping a customer find a suitable product or leading a group strategy meeting, the best retail workers – at any level of the organisation – are expert communicators.

2. Commerciality

Corporate strategies originate at the top but they are only as effective as the staff that deliver them. At all levels of the organisation employees with a commercial mindset will identify potential weaknesses and spot opportunities to improve execution, save money and drive sales. It’s a quality you want running through the spine of your business. Look for candidates who have invested the time in getting to know the business and the industry inside out, including your strategy, key sector trends and the performance of your competitors.

3. Time management

Retail is a fast-paced, 24hr industry with little time to pause and reflect. When you’re on the shop floor it’s critical to be able to balance the needs of the customer with the task of keeping the operation running smoothly. Further up the ladder, effective retail recruits should have an instinctive grasp for activities that should be prioritised and those that can be delayed or delegated.  The retail calendar consists of peaks and troughs; poor time management during the quiet periods of the year will make navigating the busy periods much more challenging than it needs to be.

4. Digitally-minded

The future of retail is not purely in stores or online, it’s in both. Successful, modern retailers understand the dynamics between ‘bricks and clicks’ and are building businesses that allow customers to switch seamlessly between the two channels. At all levels of the organisation retailers should be looking to recruit ‘digital natives’ who are comfortable both using technology and understanding its application in a retail setting. Increasingly, retailers will find themselves competing for digital talent with employers from other sectors.

5. Well-rounded

When we talk of a “well-rounded” individual we usually refer to their personality, but equally important is being well-rounded functionally. At more senior levels in particular, retailers should be looking for candidates with demonstrable experience of success in more than one discipline, be it trading, buying, central operations or logistics. This gives them a fuller understanding of how a retail business works and enables them to work effectively across different functions.

6. Breadth of experience

Gone are the days (with some honourable exceptions) where every retail boss worked their way up from the shop floor to the CEO chair. As retail becomes embedded in the digital economy, businesses should be looking to recruit rounded individuals with experience not just of different job functions but of different industries – from consumer-facing sectors like hospitality and leisure, to finance and banking and information technology. People from a diverse background offer fresh perspectives and transferable skills.

7. Flexibility

A willingness to push beyond their comfort zone in order to develop their skillset is a sure sign that a candidate is committed to making their career a success. This could mean gaining experience in disciplines for which they don’t have a natural affinity, such as selling, or gaining international retail experience. Some of the leading UK retail leaders have cut their teeth in overseas markets such as Australia and the Far East. Those people prepared to do some heavy lifting early in their careers will reap the benefits later on.

8. Self-development

When we enter the world of work we have a tendency to forget about our own development. The majority of us stop learning once we’ve left school or university, despite experts suggesting we should each spend a minimum of three hours a week on our own personal development. People who outside of their day job take it upon themselves to learn a new skill or gain an extra qualification stand out a mile on a list of candidates. A commitment to self-development is a strong indicator of dedication, drive and a desire for professional and personal fulfilment – qualities that should be high on any employer’s wish-list.

9. Networking

We live in the social media age where networking has, paradoxically, become both easier and harder than ever before. Platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook allow us to connect with anyone, anywhere but with so much noise to cut through maintaining a high quality of interactions is a challenge. Recruiters should look at both the depth and quality of a potential new recruit’s network. The best networkers keep their exchanges frequent, relevant and professional, all the while keeping in mind that both parties should gain something from the relationship. They should also check in periodically with recruiters to discuss their own progress and goals and keep abreast of new career opportunities.

10. Presentation

First impressions count – employers often decide on a new recruit within the first minute of the interview process – and while there are many considerations that should go into determining who is right for a role there’s no doubt that how the candidate presents is right up there. Historically, this has meant dressing smartly and appropriately as a basic requirement – clean shoes and smart suit for a head office role – but even now with a shift to digital interviews, candidates can distinguish themselves by appearing alert and engaged, speaking clearly and articulately, and displaying a strong knowledge of the business and the sector along with the specific role they are applying for.  

Retail Recruits Advice

Credit: Tony Gregg, Chief Executive at Anthony Gregg Partnership, executive search firm.

Subscribe to Modern Retail's Weekly Newsletter