By Gordon Hecht, Serta Simmons Bedding

It was just ten short years ago when businesses had the upper hand in hiring, and finding good employees was as easy as putting up a “Help Wanted” sign or posting something on social media.

College graduates were taking jobs as cashiers, clerks and restaurant servers. A new store opening was preceded by a line around the block populated not by shoppers, but by people looking for work.

Things have sure turned around. For most of last year unemployment hovered around 3.5 percent; essentially, everyone who wanted a job had a job. And very few of would change to a retail schedule of nights and weekends, even if it meant more income.

The cloud of this crazy COVID thing certainly hasn’t helped. The shutdown led to layoffs that, in theory, should have increased the job-seeking pool. But some people were uncomfortable going back to work and others made more money receiving government assistance than working a job.

With so many retailers shutting down or cutting back, this should be the best time to fill your file cabinet with resumes sent in by great candidates. Here are a few tips for getting your share:

Great Source #1: Your Existing Customer Base.

Some of your greatest raving fans are in your customer base. These are the people who have experienced those great products and services that you love to boast about. Use your e-mail list (You do have an e-mail list, don’t you?) to contact your past customers. Offer them a recruiting bonus of $100 or $200 to spend in your store for every candidate referral that gets hired. They can even refer themselves! If you don’t have an email list, sending a postcard or letter can accomplish the same goal.

Great Source #2: Social Media.

Some social media outlets have become a dark and contentious space. However, with some crossover, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok have 387 million subscribers in the U.S. You gotta believe that at least some of them want to work for you! Compensation (a.k.a. PAY) is a good thing to feature on your posts, but work-life balance, environmental concerns and social consciousness also resonate with today’s job seekers. Add in a video of your current employees along with a dedicated email address and other contact information, and your page can become a recruiting magnet.

Great Source #3: Store Signage.

Dedicate yourself to creating and displaying “Join Our Team” point-of-purchase displays for your windows and customer cash counter. Use images of your products, store front or associates. Bullet-point a few of the benefits of joining your team — something that can be read in 15 seconds or less. At your cash/wrap counter use smaller signs along with a small stack of abbreviated employment applications (name, contact info, position interested, scheduling availability).  If your town allows lawn signs, create a few of them to attract recruits too.

Great Source #4: Your Current Advertising.

2020 is the year to devote at least 50 percent of your advertising budget to digital advertising.  Whether you still use print, direct mail, flyers or mostly digital, be sure to add the “Join our Team” message in all your ads. In most cases it will cost you little or nothing to make this change, and you’ll convey the message that you are growing (not shrinking) and will gather a few more resumes.

One Note: Many people seeking retail positions don’t have a resume, and it should not be a requirement for applying for work in your business. Be prepared to provide an application that requests the basic information you’ll need to schedule an interview. 

Few things in business are more satisfying than having a file drawer with 50 to 500 resumes and applications from people that want to work for you. With a full file drawer, you’ll never be held hostage by underperforming associates who hang on because they think they are irreplaceable. And when you’re ready to grow, you’ll have a wide selection of people to pick from.

Gordon Hecht is Senior Regional Manager/Strategic Retail Group at Serta Simmons Bedding and a regular contributor to YSN. You can reach him at ghecht@sertasimmons.com.