Fall 2011
Just the F.A.C.T.S. About Seasonal Hiring

If you’re looking to hire seasonal employees, here’s a quick checklist to run down, to make sure you’re only hiring the very best.

When faced with the prospect of hiring seasonal employees, many business owners do not know where to begin. Without proper training in interview skills or human resource management, managers and business owners often make hasty seasonal staffing decisions under the pressure and time crunch of the holiday season. The F.A.C.T.S. method provides you with a fool-proof filtering tool based on the key components of customer service: First Impressions; Asking the Right Questions; Closing the Interaction; Taking It Up A Notch; and Smiling. The F.A.C.T.S. of seasonal hiring can help you make better and faster hiring decisions so you can look forward to a successful and profitable holiday season.

First impressions

When making staffing decisions, first impressions mean everything. Your first impression of any candidate will be the same impression that potential customers will have about your store should the candidate become an employee.

First impressions begin when the candidate inquires about the position. Your hiring filter should activate at the first interaction whether the candidate is inquiring in person, over the phone, or online. If the candidate fills out an application at your store or kiosk, what is his or her attitude when asking for the application? What is he or she wearing? Is she enthusiastic about your establishment? If inquiring over the phone, does the candidate speak politely and with correct grammar? Or over the Internet, is the candidate’s email or online inquiry written in a professional tone? Are there spelling mistakes? If the candidate does not present herself in a professional manner from the beginning, you cannot expect her to act professional while working, especially unsupervised, at your store or kiosk. Do not waste your time deliberating over applicants who do not fit your store’s professional image. If an applicant’s energy fits your store, set up an interview.

Keep your first impression filter on throughout the application process. Always interview candidates at a separate time than when the candidate applies for the position even if the candidate applies on site. The interview is an excellent opportunity to gauge a candidate’s time management abilities. If the candidate is even one minute late, do not waste your time with the interview. If the candidate cannot make it to the interview on time, if employed, the candidate cannot be expected to make it to work on time. If the candidate calls to tell you that she will be tardy, unless there are extenuating circumstances (medical emergency, car accident, etc.), she is still late and should not be interviewed.

Asking the right questions

If the candidate makes a good first impression by being professional, on time, and presenting a good attitude, the next two minutes of the interview will offer you insight on what your customers will experience during their interaction with this potential employee. Does the candidate answer your questions with thoughtful answers? Does the candidate ask intelligent questions about the job? A candidate’s ability to ask and answer questions provides clues to her preparedness and ability 
to engage.

During the interview, the candidate should be well prepared. Candidates without resumes need to come equipped to fill out extensive applications regarding education and previous employment. Candidates should readily be able to provide professional references. Do not waste your time asking for personal references, as often the personal reference is just a friend who will say whatever is necessary to help the friend get a job.

While you are expected to have questions to ask applicants regarding experiences and current working situations, applicants should also be expected to ask questions. For retail interviews, the candidate should be speaking more than the interviewer. If the candidate does not ask you questions about your store, your products, or the job itself, the candidate, if hired, cannot be expected to engage your customers in a dialogue during the sale. If you can’t talk to the candidate during the interview, your retail job is not a proper fit for this candidate.

Closing the interaction

After a candidate has proven that she can engage you by asking the right questions, she must be expected to properly close the interaction. How a candidate closes the interview is often a good indicator for how she will close a sale. Does the candidate thank you for your time or consideration? Does she shake your hand? Does she ask if she has the job? Retail sales are made by closing sales. If the candidate cannot close your interaction, the candidate will not be able to close a sale and generate income for your establishment.

Closing the interaction also includes post interview follow-up. During the interview, you should provide the candidate with your business card including an email address. While a hand-written thank you note was de rigueur in past decades, in today’s etiquette a thank you email is sufficient. If a candidate wants a job and is enthusiastic about your establishment, you should expect a follow-up email thanking you for the interview. The email should be written in a professional tone and should include any additional information that you would need for the application. A follow-up thank you phone call is also acceptable.

Take it up a notch

In today’s hectic retail market, making sure your store stands out is imperative to success during the holiday season. Your retail staff is a key component to your store’s ability to shine.

“Going the extra mile” in an interview is unrealistic, but a candidate can easily take it up a notch. Taking it up a notch refers to that little something that a person can do that sets her candidacy apart from the rest. Just as in customer service, little things can take a candidate from ordinary to special. Does the candidate display great knowledge about your products? Did the candidate address you by name? Was the candidate passionate about past job experiences? Did the candidate send you a hand-written thank you note after the interview? If you cannot name one aspect that makes a candidate special, then this candidate will not be able to help your store stand out in the mall.

Smile

Throughout the entire application and interview process, the most important question consistently applies: Was the candidate smiling? When the candidate approached you for an application was she smiling? During the interview, did the candidate smile? While a smile is a seemingly simple expectation, it is also the strongest customer service tool. Anyone in retail must have a quick and sincere smile in his or her arsenal. If a candidate does not smile, they should not be working in retail. If a candidate does not smile while asking for an application, do not waste your time with an interview. If a candidate does not smile during the interview, do not offer them a position. A smile is an attitude and shows energy—unfortunately it cannot be taught or forced. A smile can turn a bad experience into a positive one and turn an inquiry into a sale.

Due to the volume of candidates and the quick turn-around required for holiday hires, interviewing candidates for seasonal help can be overwhelming. By using the F.A.C.T.S. method to filter candidates, you can quickly and effectively gauge a candidate based on the core strategies of customer service—First Impressions, Asking the Right Questions, Closing the Interaction, Taking It Up A Notch and Smiling. This simple tool can provide a methodology to your hiring decisions, ensuring that you find the best staff without wasting your time on bad candidates. Once you have good staff and fun products in place for the holidays, your cash
register is sure to ring!

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