The Container Store

How To Recruit the Best Talent in Retail

How To Recruit the Best Talent in Retail

Much like other retailers, we at The Container Store are constantly striving to recruit and hire the best talent out there. Despite being rated as one of the Best Companies to Work For, we still face stiff competition in the recruiting game every single day; but it’s been healthy competition that has taught us a great deal about hiring and retaining great people. I’ve been reflecting on this as both a consumer and as The Container Store’s Recruiting Manager, and here are a few of the lessons we’ve learned along the way:

Lesson # 1: Speed to Consumer

When they rolled out their Prime subscriptions, Amazon created the expectation that customers can get almost any retail item delivered to their door within two days.  This incredible speed caused retailers to think hard about how to compete in this new space. Retailers now utilize delivery services, and we have seen the rise of buy-online-and-pickup in store, which enables customers to get products even faster than two days. The lesson here is about speed-to-consumer. In today’s hiring market, recruiters have to reach candidates faster, communicate more quickly, and move candidates through the hiring process swiftly. 

The Container Store doesn’t just hire warm bodies: we like to call our employees “1=3”, which is the business philosophy that one great person is as productive as three good people. We believe that as a business we can do more by hiring talented team-players (no matter what their work background might be) instead of just average salespeople. In fact, many of our employees don’t even come from a retail background! We’ve been known to hire teachers, fire fighters, students, and people from many other industries to work in our stores, warehouse, and home office.

In addition to our high bar of qualifications, our company has a multi-step interview process.  Our retail salespeople go through at least two interviews and a background check before getting an offer. Because this process could stretch out, we enacted a “10 Days to Hire” philosophy which enables us to move through our stringent process at a quicker pace. We didn’t cut out any steps; we just layered activities in the process. By creating guidelines, it increased the speed in which we moved, and has become a more effective way to hire the 1=3 employees we need.

Lesson # 2: Change for good

Due to our growth, over the past year we had what we affectionately called a “hiring frenzy” to fill a massive number of openings within our IT department. To help streamline the process, we tried some new things like adding a programming exercise for developer candidates, and utilizing a project management app to track candidate flow. We also gathered feedback from hiring managers, recruiters, and new employees who went through the process and received some valuable takeaways. (For instance, we learned that our project management app was an incredibly useful tool and we decided to keep using it.) We also discovered the value of creating an interview guide that aligns with our job descriptions.  It takes bravery to evaluate what is working, and stop doing things that are not.  It takes courage to change.  By evaluating what is working as a business, we have been able to adapt to remain relevant and competitive.

Lesson # 3: Selling through positive experiences

Many consumers today want a shopping experience. Rather than just shopping online, they’d rather try out the products in person, whether it’s cosmetics, boots, or a car.  Consumers also prefer retail stores that offer a range of services, such as pet stores that also offer dog grooming. These customer experiences within retail are evolving rapidly in an effort to attract consumers.

We’ve found that the recruiting game is very similar: we have to create positive experiences for our candidates every single time.  One of the most important things we can ask new candidates is: “What are you looking for in your next position that you don’t have right now? What is really important to you?” A career match needs to be mutually beneficial – a great fit for both the candidate and the company, which ensures long-term fit for everyone.  The ultimate positive experience is the one where a candidate walks away knowing they finally found their dream job at their ideal company.

As an employer, I believe it’s our job to swiftly and gracefully usher candidates through the process, as well as share why our opportunities offer a bright future. In this time of rapid change and stiff competition for talent, candidates need the process to move quickly. We have to be brave enough to evolve. Candidates, just like customers, desire (and deserve!) a positive experience with the promise that life will look a little better on the other side.  One of the greatest joys of being an employee-first company lies in the fact that we get to make a positive impact on the lives of those who come through our doors.