Expert Tips to Fast-Track Retail Hiring Before the Holidays

July 06, 2023
user avatar
Checkr Editor

How will retail hiring fare in 2023? Hear thoughts from retail experts at RetailWire and Mike's Bikes.

As the holiday shopping season looms on the horizon, how will retail hiring fare in 2023? Nearly three-fourths (74%) of retailers expect worker shortages in-store this year; 56% foresee shortages in warehouse roles, a Deloitte survey reports. Competition for retail employees is fierce: A recent Checkr survey found 74% of retail employees are open to new jobs. Even among new retail hires, 30% said they’d gladly switch jobs again right away if a better offer came along.

To help retailers prepare for the holiday hiring surge, Bryan Sise, Checkr’s VP of Product & Customer Marketing, hosted a webinar featuring insights from retail experts Patricia Waldron and Ron Margulis (contributing editors for RetailWire) and Julie Todd, VP of HR at Mike’s Bikes, a 300-employee bicycle retailer. The guests shared their thoughts on the hiring challenges retailers face, what retail employees want from their jobs, creative hiring strategies for retailers, and the role technology can play in streamlining retail hiring.

The top issues impacting retail hiring

Retail employers are facing a host of new hiring challenges. Todd notes that traditional sources of candidates for Mike’s Bikes are drying up: “It’s a lot harder to get people in for interviews.” She also thinks remote jobs, with flexible hours and schedules, are more appealing to younger candidates than retail jobs that require long hours on your feet.

Retailers are also competing with gig economy employers, like Uber and DoorDash, says Margulis. He believes the flexibility of gig work appeals to Gen Z and millennial employees who want to control their own schedules. There’s also the continued perception that retail is a great entry-level job, but not a career, he notes.

According to 2022 McKinsey & Co. data, the top five reasons in-store retail employees consider leaving a job are a desire for:

  1. Workplace flexibility: 34%
  2. Career development: 32%
  3. Health and wellbeing: 29%
  4. Compensation: 29%
  5. Meaningful work: 27%

Waldron points out that the responsibilities of in-store associates have changed in the past few years. “They have to fulfill orders or deliver curbside, which means a different candidate profile,” she explains. Peak shopping season has also expanded — “Black Friday is a whole season now.” Finally, Waldron notes, HR and recruiting teams are smaller and often feeling a bit of burnout themselves.

Get creative to find and hire retail employees

In today’s competitive retail market, taking a business-as-usual approach to hiring and retention can put you at risk of a staffing shortage. Getting creative can help you stand out as an employer of choice. What are some creative ideas our panelists have seen or used?

Because 50% of candidate referrals at Mike’s Bikes come from customers or employees, the company tends to hire the same types of people over and over again, Todd explains. To expand their candidate pool, the retailer decided to think outside their customer base of “middle-aged men in Lycra©” and began tapping into the San Francisco bike messenger community. “They wear different clothing, they’re younger, and they’re more diverse,” Todd explains. “We’re featuring them in our videos, and they are referring people to us.”

Don’t forget your customers as a potential candidate pool. “Customers can be your best employees,” says Waldron, noting the example of a big box retailer successfully using tailgate recruiting events. “They hold a raffle and give away gift cards to customers who refer candidates or apply for jobs.”

Meeting people where they are matters, too. Waldron cites a local discount store that caters to customers who may not have the technology to start the application process. The retailer uses in-store audio ads in multiple languages: “The ads say, ‘You love shopping here; wouldn’t you love to work here?’ and there’s a kiosk in the store where people can apply.”

Paying more than minimum wage is table stakes, Margulis says, but retailers should also consider their total compensation package. For example, he notes, Walmart is paying for new drivers to get their commercial licenses. “That’s a huge investment, but Walmart is making it because they know that once drivers go through that process, they’ll be lifetime employees.”

You don’t necessarily need a big investment. Waldron mentions a local garden center that gives candidates onboarding and offboarding bonuses if they commit to working at the most critical times of the year.

Proactive hiring strategies for peak season

To prepare for the holiday surge and hire retail workers faster, our experts advise focusing on 3 key areas.

1. Implement diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) and fair chance hiring

According to Deloitte data, 94% of retail industry leaders say employees prefer workplaces that consider DE&I. Expanding your talent pool to attract nontraditional workers can give you a competitive edge while also diversifying your workforce. Mike’s Bikes is recruiting both high school students and retirees, for example.

You can help attract a wider range of job candidates by promoting your workplace’s commitment to diversity. Waldron says Bloomingdale’s does this well: the retailer’s website features a range of diverse employees talking about their positive experience working at Bloomingdale’s.

Partnering with organizations that serve populations you haven’t explored before is a great way to widen your talent pool, says Waldron, citing retiree organizations and the collegiate platform Handshake as good sources of candidates. “The Nationalities Service Center is a place where immigrants who may be new to the country are looking for work,” she adds. Use fair chance hiring policies to actively seek justice-impacted candidates. “There are many organizations helping to give justice-impacted people a second chance,” Waldron says.

2. Create a great candidate experience

The amount of time required to complete the hiring process is the number-one job search turn-off for candidates, Checkr’s survey found. To create a positive candidate experience from first touch to onboarding, consider how you can remove friction points in the hiring process and create moments of delight for candidates.

Respecting a candidate’s time is important, Todd says. You can build trust with your candidates early on by providing transparency into where they are in the hiring process. For example, updating candidates on the ETA for completing their background checks can help keep them engaged so you don’t lose a qualified worker to the competition.

Mike’s Bikes shows candidates they’re valued by having managers conduct job interviews. “It’s important for our managers to be enthusiastic about meeting candidates, whether it’s the first few phone calls or the first onsite visit.”

Margulis advises management to get involved with new employees from the first day, providing training in what’s expected of them, the nuances of the store, and how to interact with customers. “Spend a good part of the day with them, maybe even buying their first meal of the day,” he says. “A lot of retailers put employees in front of screens for training, but nothing can outdo the one-on-one experience.”

3. Focus on employee development

Investing in programs that help employees with career development can help you retain existing employees and attract new ones. Consider offering skills training programs for employees who are interested in growing their technical, managerial, or soft skills. Be sure your job postings include information about these opportunities, too.

During job interviews, share potential clear career paths for employees. Once new employees are on board, providing transparent career options and new development opportunities benefits not only your team, but your organization.

At Mike’s Bikes, Todd uses a mentoring program to create a “bench” to fill management jobs. “For each level of management, we have a number of people preparing in the background to move into that role,” Todd says. “When a higher-level manager transfers or gets promoted, we have a group of enthusiastic candidates who've already shown excellent performance.”

Tap into technology to accelerate hiring

The technology you employ plays a big role in accelerating retail hiring. Because top candidates don’t stay on the market long, your hiring process needs to be efficient. To speed things up, Waldron advises auditing your processes to determine where automation can help. “Are there places where proven technologies can be plugged into your process that will help you be more efficient?”

Conducting background checks, as 92% of employers do, can help prevent costly mis-hires. (On average, a mis-hire costs employers four times the role’s annual pay.) But outdated background check solutions can delay hiring and cost you candidates. In fact, 20% of candidates have abandoned a job opportunity because the background check took too long, according to data from Everee and Checkr.

Streamline your hiring process with Checkr

The right background check provider can eliminate bottlenecks so you can hire faster. For example, Checkr offers 100+ integrations with leading HR, ATS, and onboarding systems to streamline hiring. At Mike’s Bikes, background checks are now an automated step in the recruitment process by using Checkr’s integration with Paylocity. Making a job offer automatically notifies Checkr and launches the background check process. “It usually takes 24 hours or less to receive a clear notification so we can move forward with onboarding,” Todd explains.

Checkr’s fast, accurate background screenings with built-in workflows help you hire more efficiently. Start with our affordable background check packages, and easily customize them with add-ons to meet your unique needs.

Checkr helps improve your candidate experience, too. Our easy-to-use, mobile-first candidate portal keeps candidates updated during every stage of the background check process, enhancing engagement and creating trust. With Checkr as your background screening partner, you’ll be ready to handle the holiday hiring rush with ease.


Nothing in Checkr’s Blog should be construed as legal advice, guidance, or counsel. Companies should consult their own legal counsel about their compliance responsibilities under the FCRA and applicable state and local laws. Checkr expressly disclaims any warranties or responsibility or damages associated with or arising out of information provided.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Ready to give us a try?