In the fast-paced world of retail, consumer loyalty is a holy grail. But retailers can often forget that consumers are also potential job applicants.

“Burning” candidates, or providing them with a negative experience during the application and interview process, can have far-reaching consequences for a brand, including negative consumer sentiment, poor online reviews, and loss of business. 

As GlobalData finds that retail hiring activity has dropped worldwide, retailers should be more strategic about their hiring processes and how this reflects on their brand.

Retail Insight Network gets the perspective of Laura Coccaro, chief people officer at iCIMS, on why retailers should prioritise candidate-centric hiring practices.

Why do you think retailers have lost sight of the connection between job candidates also being consumers?  

Laura: The retail industry is known to fluctuate in demand and hiring needs depending on the season and evolving consumer trends. But each year without fault, the holiday hiring season is consistently the busiest period — employers juggle the mass number of shoppers online and in-store with the usual influx of job seekers looking for a temporary gig.

This year, however, the struggle retailers face has multiplied with more applicants than they normally anticipate, which may be causing their plans to provide an exceptional candidate experience to land on the cutting room floor.

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The sheer volume of applications is drowning talent leaders. With limited resources, budgets and recruiters, it’s increasingly difficult to provide every candidate with a white glove, consumer-grade experience at scale. On the flip side, retail job openings and hires have dropped from last year.

Despite the stress of an expanding applicant pool, less open roles means the retail industry can afford to be more strategic in their hiring practices. As retailers adjust to a new landscape this year, it’s important to pay attention to the experience — from initial interaction through the interview process to the onboarding (or rejection letter). A bad application experience can impact more than just a potential hire – it can impact the company’s bottom line.  

It is remarkable to see what happens when retailers do make the connection between customers and employees. Caleres, a global footwear company that owns more than 900 Famous Footwear stores and employs more than 10,000 people, invites customers to apply on every receipt. Offering a speedy, mobile-friendly way to apply can save recruiters time and converts consumers to employees. 

What are the consequences of bad job application processes for retailers?  

Laura: We recently surveyed job seekers and found that 56% would be less likely to be a consumer of a brand if they had a bad experience applying or interviewing for a job. Keep in mind, this isn’t just the loss of one customer. These are likely loyal customers who like the brand so much that they are an advocate and want to be a part of the team.  

This can ripple beyond those who have directly applied. Airing grievances and sharing experiences—both positive and negative—has never been easier with the help of the internet. According to our report, 18% of respondents said they would post a review on Glassdoor if they had a bad experience interviewing for a job. 14% said the same about having a bad experience applying for a job.  

The experiences provided to job candidates are a reflection of the brand and culture and can have lasting effects on the bottom line.  

How should retailers approach talent acquisition?  

Laura: The best approach to talent acquisition, regardless of how many or how few open roles retailers are looking to fill, is always going to be putting the candidate’s experience first and ensuring they are having a seamless journey that meets them where they are. Shorter, more personalised, mobile-friendly application hiring practices are what retail job candidates are looking for.  

To keep retail job seekers interested and engaged, communicate with them more frequently and personalise what you say. Even including their name in your messages can make a huge difference for candidates. Also, move them through the application process faster by communicating with them via their preferred channel, which almost half of survey respondents (47%) said was texting.

Retailers can also use employee videos to attract job seekers and give them a better sense of what it’s like working for the organization and get a feel for employee satisfaction.