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Forecasting the future of recruiting operations with Jeremy Lyons

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Gain insight into the intricacies of the retail candidate journey from application to onboarding

Learn how mapping the candidate journey can help you hire the best retail talents.

The job market has never been this dynamic before. And this especially holds for the retail industry.

For those who may not know:

Retail recruitment involves finding and hiring employees for positions within the retail industry, such as sales associates, managers, and customer service representatives. It is one of the most integral parts of the U.S. economy employing 15.4 million or one in every ten workers.”

With such a high volume of workforce, it becomes extremely crucial to be strategic in attracting and retaining top talents. And what’s the key? 

Understanding your retail candidate journey and optimizing each hiring step accordingly! 

Doing so can create a compelling experience for your applicants and ultimately build a stronger workforce. 

So, without further ado, let’s delve into each retail recruitment stage and learn how to maximize ROI by mapping candidate journeys.  

Why should you map your retail candidate journey?

Mapping the retail candidate journey is vital to a successful recruitment strategy. It provides recruiters with a comprehensive understanding of the various touchpoints and interactions that potential employees have with their company throughout the recruitment process. 

Analyzing and optimizing the candidate journey can create a more efficient and engaging experience, leading to higher-quality hires and long-term success

Why do we think so? Because of the following benefits:

1. Enhanced employer branding

A well-mapped candidate journey can strengthen your employer branding in many unexpected ways. 

For example, potential employees might share their positive experiences with friends and family, spreading the word about your company and creating a ripple effect attracting top talent.

And what about the opposite? 92% of applicants reject the job offer if the company has a bad reputation even with an increased salary. 

2. Improved candidate experience

Mapping the candidate journey lets you pinpoint the “wow” moments that can turn an ordinary recruitment process into an extraordinary experience

It could include surprising candidates with personalized messages, hosting unique virtual events, or offering exclusive company swag, making potential employees feel valued and engaged from the very beginning.

3. Better quality hires

By understanding the candidate’s journey, you can uncover hidden talents and traits that may not appear at first glance. 

This involves tapping into unconventional sources of information, such as online forums, blogs, or even creative portfolios, to understand an applicant’s true potential better.

4. Increased efficiency

Mapping the candidate journey allows recruiters to optimize their processes and eliminate unnecessary steps, leading to a more efficient and cost-effective recruitment strategy.

5. Data-driven insights

Analyzing the candidate journey can provide you with valuable data that can be crucial for future recruitment strategies. 

It enables companies to make more informed decisions based on actual candidate behavior and feedback rather than relying on intuition or guesswork.

6. Reduced time to hire

Understanding the candidate lifecycle can help you identify bottlenecks or areas where candidates may drop out of the process. By addressing these issues, you can reduce the time it takes to hire, getting top talent on board faster.

7. Increased candidate retention

A well-mapped candidate journey can help build a more loyal workforce by addressing factors contributing to long-term employee satisfaction. 

However, beware of the “honeymoon effect,” where initial enthusiasm fades over time. To maintain high levels of engagement, invest in ongoing development opportunities and ensure that company values are consistently upheld throughout the employee lifecycle.

Tips to improve retail candidate journey at each stage

The retail candidate journey is a multi-stage process that begins with initial attraction and engagement and continues through application, assessment, selection, and onboarding, ultimately focusing on employee retention. 

To create a successful retail recruitment strategy, you must understand and optimize each stage of this journey. 

retail candidate journeyStage 1: Attraction and engagement

The first stage involves creating awareness about your company and available job opportunities while engaging with potential candidates. 

It encompasses developing a strong employer brand, leveraging various platforms to advertise job openings, and showcasing your company culture and values to attract top talent.

Tips and hacks you can use to make this stage more effective are

  • Develop a strong employer value proposition (EVP) that showcases your company’s culture, benefits, and career opportunities.
  • Leverage social media, job boards, and industry forums to reach a wider audience.
  • Create compelling job advertisements with clear, concise descriptions of roles and responsibilities.
  • Utilize storytelling and multimedia content to showcase your company culture and employee experiences.
  • Partner with industry influencers or employees who can act as brand ambassadors, sharing their positive experiences working for your company and promoting job openings to their networks.
  • Organize virtual career fairs or networking events to engage with potential candidates, showcase your company culture, and answer any questions about available job opportunities.
  • Introduce gamification elements in your job advertisements or recruitment campaigns to make them more engaging and interactive, encouraging candidates to explore your company further.
  • Leverage targeted advertising on social media platforms and job boards to reach the specific demographics or skill sets that your company is looking to hire.
  • Implement an employee referral program that rewards existing employees for referring qualified candidates, tapping into their networks, and increasing the likelihood of finding top talent.
  • Highlight your company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives and community involvement to demonstrate your commitment to social and environmental causes.
  • Collaborate with industry associations, educational institutions, or other relevant organizations to increase your company’s visibility within your target candidate pool and promote your job openings.

Stage 2: Application and screening

In the application and screening stage, potential employees submit their applications, and recruiters evaluate candidates for further consideration.

This process involves simplifying the application process, using applicant tracking systems (ATS) to manage candidate data, setting clear and consistent screening criteria, and providing timely communication to candidates regarding their application status.

Some best practices you can follow are:

  • According to a survey, 1 in 5 candidates drop their application in the middle if it is too lengthy. So, simplify the application process by limiting the number of steps and required information.
  • Optimize your application process for mobile devices to ensure that candidates can easily access and apply for job opportunities, even when they’re on the go. Why? Because as per a Glassdoor study, 58% of job seekers use their mobile phones for job hunting. And you won’t like missing out on these candidates, right? 

  • Use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to automate screening and manage candidate data.
  • Develop clear and consistent screening criteria to evaluate candidates fairly and objectively.
  • Provide timely communication and updates to candidates, ensuring they know the status of their applications.
  • Enable candidates to apply using their LinkedIn or other social media profiles, streamlining the application process and reducing the time it takes to complete the application.
  • Implement AI-powered chatbots to assist candidates with questions or concerns during the application process, providing real-time support and guidance.
  • Incorporate skills-based screening methods, such as coding tests, language proficiency tests, or case studies, to identify candidates with the necessary skills for the role, regardless of their formal qualifications or previous experience.
  • Utilize blind screening techniques, removing identifying information from applications to reduce unconscious bias and ensure a fair evaluation process.
  • Send personalized messages to candidates during the screening process, such as addressing them by name or referring to specific details from their application, to create a more positive and engaging experience.
  • Configure auto-responders to send an immediate acknowledgment email to candidates upon receipt of their application, reassuring them that their application has been received and will be reviewed.
  • Utilize collaborative tools within your ATS to facilitate discussions and gather feedback from your team members involved in the hiring process, ensuring a well-rounded evaluation of each candidate.
  • Monitor and analyze key metrics related to the application and screening process, such as time-to-fill, applicant conversion rates, and candidate satisfaction, to identify areas for improvement and make data-driven decisions.

Stage 3: Assessment and interview

During this stage, candidates undergo various evaluations, such as skill tests, psychometric assessments, and interviews, to determine their fit for the position. 

Recruiters should use a combination of assessment tools, prepare structured interview questions, implement video interviewing tools when applicable, and train interviewers on best practices and effective communication techniques.

To make this stage more effective, consider the below pointers:

  • Utilize a combination of assessment tools, such as skill tests, psychometric evaluations, and situational judgment tests, to comprehensively understand a candidate’s potential.
  • Prepare structured interview questions focusing on key competencies and experiences related to the role.
  • Implement video interviewing tools to increase efficiency and accessibility for both candidates and recruiters.
  • Train interviewers on best practices, unconscious bias, and effective communication techniques to ensure a consistent and fair interview process.
  • Incorporate virtual reality (VR) technology to simulate real-life work scenarios, allowing candidates to demonstrate their problem-solving and job-related skills in an immersive environment.
  • Organize group interviews or assessment centers that combine multiple assessment methods, such as group exercises, individual presentations, and panel interviews, to evaluate candidates’ teamwork, communication, and leadership skills.
  • Gather feedback from candidates on their interview experience to identify areas for improvement and enhance the overall candidate experience.
  • Allow candidates to ask questions and interview the recruiter or hiring manager, giving them a deeper understanding of the company culture, expectations, and growth opportunities.
  • Offer flexible interview scheduling options outside of regular business hours or on weekends to accommodate candidates with different availability and time zone constraints.
  • Use digital whiteboards during virtual interviews for candidates to get a deeper insight into their thought processes and problem-solving skills, enabling a more interactive and engaging interview experience.
  • Focus on behavioral-based interviewing techniques, which involve asking candidates about past experiences and challenges to assess their ability to handle similar situations in the future.
  • Ensure that the interview panel includes a diverse representation of gender, ethnicity, and experience, fostering a more inclusive and unbiased evaluation process.
  • Record video interviews (with candidate consent) to review and analyze the interview performance, ensuring a more objective and comprehensive evaluation of the candidate’s skills and potential.

Stage 4: Selection and offer

The selection and offer stage involves hiring decisions based on objective criteria and extending offers to successful candidates. 

Recruiters should use data-driven decision-making processes, communicate offer details clearly, provide a reasonable time frame for candidates to evaluate the offer, and be prepared to negotiate salary and benefits if necessary.

Follow the below-mentioned hacks to increase your hiring success:

  • Use data-driven decision-making processes to select the best candidates based on objective criteria.
  • Communicate the offer details clearly and concisely, highlighting the key benefits and aspects of the role.
  • Allow candidates a reasonable time frame to evaluate the offer and ask questions.
  • If necessary, be prepared to negotiate salary and benefits while maintaining transparency and fairness.
  • Encourage collaboration and feedback from team members who have interacted with the candidate during the interview process, ensuring a well-rounded evaluation.
  • Conduct post-offer assessments, such as reference checks or background screenings, to validate the candidate’s qualifications and ensure a good fit within the organization.
  • Personalize benefit packages based on individual candidates’ unique needs and preferences, demonstrating your company’s flexibility and commitment to employee well-being.
  • Monitor and analyze offer acceptance rates and trends to identify patterns and adjust your offer strategies accordingly, increasing the likelihood of candidate acceptance.
  • Clearly articulate the career progression and development opportunities available within the organization, showcasing your company’s commitment to employee growth and satisfaction.
  • Consider offering candidates a trial period or temporary assignment to evaluate their fit within the company and role, allowing both parties to make a more informed decision.
  • Develop an offer comparison tool that allows candidates to compare your compensation offer with others they may have received, highlighting the unique benefits and advantages of working with your company.
  • Set a reasonable deadline for offer acceptance to create a sense of urgency, encouraging candidates to decide promptly.
  • Once an offer is accepted, celebrate the new hire’s decision to join the company and make them feel welcome by sending a personalized email, sharing the news with the team, or providing a welcome package with company merchandise.

Stage 5: Onboarding and retention

This stage focuses on integrating new hires into the company and retaining them long-term. 

It includes developing a comprehensive onboarding program with orientation, training, and socialization opportunities, utilizing digital tools to enhance the onboarding experience, establishing mentorship programs for guidance and support, and encouraging ongoing professional development through training programs and career growth opportunities.

Did you know 28% of new hires leave their company within 90 days of accepting a job offer? Ensure you are extra careful at this stage or you’ll have to start again from scratch. 

Here are some hacks you should follow:

  • Develop a comprehensive onboarding program that includes orientation, training, and opportunities for socialization with team members.
  • Utilize digital tools, such as e-learning platforms and virtual reality, to enhance the onboarding experience.
  • Establish mentorship programs to provide new hires with guidance and support from experienced colleagues.
  • Encourage professional development through training programs, workshops, and career growth opportunities.
  • Integrate gamification elements into the onboarding and training process, making it more engaging and enjoyable for new hires while enhancing knowledge retention.
  • Encourage cross-functional exposure by providing new hires opportunities to collaborate on projects or meet with different teams, fostering a broader understanding of the company and its operations.
  • Conduct regular check-ins with new hires during their first few months to address any concerns, gather feedback, and offer support, ensuring a smooth transition into the company.
  • Pair new hires with a “buddy” from their team or department who can assist with onboarding, answer questions, and help them get used to the company culture.
  • Recognize and celebrate new hire milestones, such as completing their first project or reaching a work anniversary, to reinforce a sense of accomplishment and belonging.
  • Provide flexible work options, such as remote work or flexible schedules, to accommodate different work styles and preferences, increasing job satisfaction and retention.
  • Invite new hires to participate in company events, volunteer programs, or social initiatives, fostering a sense of community and engagement within the organization.
  • Implement a continuous feedback and performance management system for regular goal-setting, progress tracking, and performance reviews, promoting ongoing professional growth and development.

4 common challenges while mapping retail candidate journey + Solutions to mitigate them

Mapping the retail candidate journey offers a valuable opportunity for companies to optimize their recruitment processes and attract top talent in the competitive retail landscape

However, it’s not without its challenges. That’s what this section is about!

Challenge 1: Managing high application volumes

Retail recruitment often involves dealing with large volumes of applications, making it difficult to provide a personalized candidate experience

Implementing applicant tracking systems (ATS) and automation tools can help streamline the process while maintaining a human touch.

Here are a few other solutions: 

Solution 1: Implement applicant tracking systems (ATS) to streamline the screening process and manage candidate data efficiently.

Solution 2: Utilize automation tools, such as AI-powered chatbots, to handle initial candidate interactions and provide a personalized experience.

Solution 3: Implement a candidate ranking system based on machine learning algorithms, which can prioritize applications based on role suitability and cultural fit.

Solution 4: Use voice-assistant technology to assist candidates in completing their applications, improving efficiency and providing a positive experience.

Challenge 2: Balancing speed and quality

“Did you know it takes 42 days to fill a vacant position while the top talents remain in the market for a maximum of 10 days? “

The fast-paced nature of the retail industry requires quick hiring decisions. 

Striking a balance between speed and quality can be challenging, but leveraging technology and data-driven decision-making processes can help ensure that the right candidates are selected efficiently.

What else can you do?

Solution 1: Implement video interviewing tools to increase the speed of the interviewing process while maintaining a personal connection with candidates.

Solution 2: Use a combination of assessment methods, such as skill tests, psychometric evaluations, and situational judgment tests, to quickly and effectively evaluate candidates’ potential.

Solution 3: Employ a talent pool strategy to create a pre-screened group of potential candidates, reducing the time needed for future recruitment efforts.

Solution 4: Read this guide for strategies to hire within 24 hours.

Challenge 3: Adapting to changing consumer and workforce expectations

As consumer preferences and workforce expectations evolve, companies must adapt their recruitment strategies accordingly. 

It requires ongoing research, analysis, and adjustment to keep up with industry trends and attract the best talent.

Here are how you can mitigate this challenge:

Solution 1: Stay informed about industry trends and workforce expectations through ongoing research and analysis, adjusting recruitment strategies accordingly.

Solution 2: Offer flexible work arrangements and remote work opportunities to cater to changing workforce preferences and attract a diverse pool of candidates.

Solution 3: Offer candidates opportunities to engage in “micro-internships” or short-term projects, allowing them to experience the company culture and work expectations firsthand.

Solution 4: Use social listening tools to monitor online conversations and sentiment about your company, identifying potential areas for improvement in your candidate experience.

Challenge 4: Competing for top talent

Often the #1 challenge the retail industry faces is fierce competition for top talent

You must develop compelling employer brands, utilize creative recruitment strategies, and offer competitive compensation and benefits packages to stand out.

Here are a few solutions for you:

Solution 1: Develop an employer brand ambassador program, empowering current employees to share their experiences and advocate for your company on social media and other platforms.

Solution 2: Offer unique perks such as mental health days, pet-friendly offices, or volunteer time off to differentiate your company and appeal to a diverse range of candidates.

Solution 3: Create a “reverse mentorship” program where new hires have the opportunity to teach experienced team members about emerging technologies or trends, showcasing your company’s commitment to innovation and continuous learning.

Solution 4: Utilize creative recruitment strategies, such as social media campaigns, employee referral programs, and targeted job advertisements, to reach a wider audience and capture the attention of potential candidates.

The future of retail recruitment and candidate journey

The global retail market is expected to reach $29,446.2 billion at a CAGR of 7.7% in 2025. 

There is no doubt that the retail industry is fast-evolving, which calls for you to keep up with the new trends and advancements constantly. 

A critical aspect of this process is understanding and improving the candidate journey, which encompasses the seamless and connected experience of potential employees from their first interaction with your company to their onboarding.

If we try not to think about the FAR future, here is what the process of candidate journey mapping in retail recruitment will look like: 

  • Exploration: More and more retail recruiters will leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to identify top-tier candidates, tapping into various sourcing channels like social media, job boards, and industry forums. The goal will be to be omnipresent. They will have to ensure a strong presence on each platform to attract the right talents. 
  • Attraction: Companies will prioritize creating engaging, immersive experiences using virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) tools. Maybe each candidate will be allowed to enter the virtual store, interacting with customers and colleagues in a lifelike simulation that showcases their company culture and values, along with the regular job description.
  • Engagement: We bet that AI-driven chatbots will become candidates’ primary point of contact, providing personalized updates, answering questions, and even conducting preliminary interviews in real time.
  • Selection: The future of retail recruitment will hinge on the ability to make informed decisions backed by data and insights. (You can fight us on this!)
  • Skill assessment: Most recruiters will implement advanced assessment tools, such as AI-driven skill tests, psychometric evaluations, and game-based assessments, to evaluate a candidate’s potential and find the perfect match for the job.
  • Interview: In-person interviews may become a relic of the past, replaced by virtual meetings and holographic interactions. Candidates may be able to “beam in” from anywhere in the world, making the process more efficient and inclusive. There may be a time-barrier entry for any job seeker who feels competent enough to enter the hologram and compete in real-time contests. No other restrictions at all! Only skills would matter. 
  • Onboarding: The candidate’s onboarding experience will be transformed for the better, with retail companies investing in innovative ways to welcome new employees and set them up for success. The more creative you will be in welcoming your new hires, the better the ROI. 
  • Training: The use of VR and AR in training will become commonplace, enabling new hires to immerse themselves in their roles and learn the ropes in a safe, simulated environment.
  • Mentorship: Leaders will establish mentorship programs that pair new hires with experienced colleagues, creating a supportive network and fostering a sense of belonging within the company.

How many of the above methods are you already employing in your recruitment process? Let us know! Your reaction keeps us motivated to make more helpful content. 

Frequently asked questions

Q1- How can retail organizations measure the success of their candidate journey mapping efforts?

Measuring success in candidate journey mapping can be done through various key performance indicators (KPIs), such as time-to-fill, quality of hire, candidate satisfaction scores, offer acceptance rates, and employee retention rates. Regularly analyzing these metrics helps identify areas for improvement and track progress.

Q2- How has the role of technology evolved in shaping retail candidate journeys, and what are the latest innovations?

The role of technology in shaping retail candidate journeys has evolved significantly, with innovations such as AI-powered chatbots, video interviewing tools, virtual reality assessments, and mobile-optimized application processes. These technologies enhance the candidate experience, streamline recruitment processes, and enable more informed decision-making.

Q3- What are the best ways for retail recruiters to gather feedback from candidates to improve the candidate journey?

Retail recruiters can gather candidate feedback through post-application or post-interview surveys, focus groups, or informal conversations. Encouraging honest feedback and using the insights to continuously improve the candidate journey is crucial.

Q4- How can retail organizations tailor their candidate journey to accommodate different types of retail roles, such as seasonal or part-time positions?

To tailor the candidate journey for different retail roles, recruiters should adjust the application process, screening criteria, and onboarding programs to suit each role’s unique requirements. For example, seasonal positions may benefit from a streamlined application process and targeted onboarding, while part-time roles may require more flexible scheduling options.

Q5- How can retail recruiters collaborate with other departments, such as marketing and HR, to create a seamless and integrated candidate journey?

You can collaborate with marketing and HR departments to create a seamless candidate journey by aligning their messaging, promoting a consistent employer brand, and ensuring a smooth transition from the recruitment phase to onboarding and beyond. Open communication and shared goals across departments are essential for a well-integrated candidate experience.

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