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Winter 2011 What qualities should one look for when making a new hire?

Coleen McNelis, Vice President of Specialty Leasing at Macerich

Coleen McNelis, Vice President of Specialty Leasing at Macerich

Qualities that I place in the “must-have” category are confidence, leadership skills, and the ability to deliver information promptly. The candidate should be articulate and able to think logically but also be flexible in decision-making.

I also admire a person who can be compassionate and understanding yet able to give clear direction to reports as
necessary. Lastly, in our crazy business, a candidate should have a good sense of humor otherwise it could be hard to get through holiday season.

Mike Habib, Director of Leasing at NYS Collection

Mike Habib, Director of Leasing at NYS Collection

Finding the right owner-operator is the key ingredient to the success of our brand. Through our extensive screening and interview process, we look for enthusiastic, hands-on operators who are willing to embrace our company’s retail system and brand values.

To find good matches, we incorporate questions that identify why an operator wants to invest in our business. We look for a candidate who doesn’t treat this as merely another financial investment, but who wants to be involved in a challenging retail business. If a candidate wants to work for himself or herself, that is a great find.

We also look at the history and experience of a potential operator. What types of business or jobs have they been involved with in the past? How have they handled adversity in these positions? Once we determine that the operator is the right fit and is committed to our program, training, mentoring and building trust with the operator will then be our job to ensure that both parties are successful.

Hannah Rodewald, The Pleasure of Your Company

Hannah Rodewald, The Pleasure of Your Company
Green Spring Station in Lutherville, MD

We have two separate sets of staff in the store and hire somewhat differently for each.

For the gifts, greeting cards, stationery section of the store, our first impression of an applicant at the interview counts a lot. If someone strikes us instantly as open, friendly, pleasant, sincere, quick to smile, and energetic, that will be the first impression our customers will have of that person. We can teach someone the register, how we manage inventory, and the rest, but we can’t teach them to be kind and patient, and like people—they have to bring those qualities.

In the custom invitations and personalized merchandise section of the store too, we look for someone who enjoys working closely with people. Other qualities such as attention to detail, good English and organization skills are equally important here. Responsibility and the ability to meet schedules and deadlines are also important.

We test applicants and I am often disappointed that someone who seems perfect for the job does poorly at proofreading, grammar and spelling, and basic math, so we can’t hire him or her.

Joseph M. Purifico, CEO

Joseph M. Purifico, CEO
Masquerade, LLC / Halloween Adventure / Smart Toys / Bliss Avenue

A retailer can have the greatest location in the world and the most unique and exciting products, but without the right personnel, the best-laid plans will not be successful.

Hiring the right staff is not an exact science but there are several key factors to consider: honesty, courteousness, enthusiasm and flexibility. The ideal candidate will be a team player and an asset to the staff. Good candidates will be willing and able to execute your business plan and creative enough to offer suggestions on how to improve it. They will maintain an ownership mentality and treat the store as if it were their own.

Pat Fleser, Director of Specialty Leasing

Pat Fleser, Director of Specialty Leasing
Glimcher Realty Trust

While the basics of specialty leasing are quite easily taught, the drive it takes to sell is instinctive. Therefore, when I’m considering potential staff, there are several significant instinctive qualities I look for: passion, persistence and flexibility.

A passionate associate has the desire to learn and understands how important it is to ask questions. I want
someone who will approach tasks with eagerness and who knows that a job worth doing is worth doing well. The
persistence to pursue that passion and focus on a goal is paramount to being successful. Another age-old motto: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” will never be out-of-date in specialty leasing.

Equally important is the flexibility to switch gears when necessary. Whether it’s multi-tasking or outside-the-box thinking, this is a key trait in laying the groundwork for a well-rounded employee.

Jaime Brown, Vice President

Loyalty is important—to both team members and the company as a whole. Honesty is prized, as are problem-solving skills. I want someone who can think on his feet and deal with issues in a creative manner. As business gets more complicated I sometimes need to figure out a way to get a square peg in a round hole and I want people who take on such a challenge with little external direction. I also want someone is proactive when it comes to solving problems.

These days, communication and technical skills are also very important. As with any business, flexibility—a willingness to adapt when plans change, is critical. An ideal candidate has the drive needed to get the job done and is able to execute it in a professional and ethical manner. A determination to complete a job no matter what the obstacles, is important too.

A good candidate should have an ability to work with others. This sounds like a concept from kindergarten but it is relevant in the workforce. People often spend more waking hours with their co-workers than with anyone else, so it is important for everyone to get along.

Finally an ideal candidate shows a willingness to learn. Life is full of learning opportunities and the workplace is no different. The ability to learn new skills or new ways of doing something, is important. 

Duffy C. Weir

Duffy Weir is the former vice president and director of specialty retail and marketing at The Rouse Company of Columbia, MD. Now an independent retail marketing and sponsorship consultant and writer, Weir travels the world searching for what she says "makes marketplaces tick." She can be reached at or 410.252.8885.

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