Modernizing Your Recruitment Process: Retailer Perspectives

Openly greeting a job recruiter with a firm handshake

Is your company struggling to attract and retain top talent? You’re not alone.  The job market has undergone significant changes in recent years. The Home Furnishings Association (HFA) spoke with Carl Nyberg, Vice President/C.O.O., HOM Furniture, Max Klaben, AVP, Talent Management of Morris Furniture Co, Inc., and Seth Busby, Talent Acquisition Supervisor at Kittles Furniture all who offered practical advice for improving your recruitment process and staying ahead of the competition.

Adapting to the Changing Job Market

One of the key takeaways from these retailers is the need to adapt to the changing job market. With the rise of remote work and more jobs in the marketplace than workers to fill them, traditional hiring practices are no longer effective. As a result, many are turning to new methods and evaluating their compensation structures.

“If applicants are turning down nine out of every 10 employment job offers you make,” Nyberg told HFA, “it’s clear that you aren’t offering the correct wage; that is just the reality in the marketplace right now. HOM Furniture lets applicants know upfront how we pay and are transparent about how raises are determined.  When you tell people you are prepared to increase their salaries in a reasonable time, they’re less likely to jump ship for an additional 50 cents more per hour somewhere else.

“Our call center staff is an entry-level job. These workers primarily handle scheduling remotely from their homes, which has solved some of our staffing problems. We also have level two coordinators with additional problem-solving responsibilities in coordination with HOM’s service department. It’s a hybrid position with some flexibility to work from home, as well. 

“Overall, we’ve had to build in more flexibility and scheduling options. We now offer part-time sales positions, something we would not have previously considered.  Also, we have more weekday-only work schedules. Some of our best producers don’t work weekends. That’s a big change for any furniture retailer from a culture where everyone worked most weekends.”

Speed and Efficiency are Necessary

In today’s job market, speed and efficiency are essential. Candidates have more employment options than ever and are unlikely to be patient during a slow and cumbersome hiring process. Companies must move quickly, respond to candidates’ needs, and work to keep them engaged.  This means streamlining the recruitment process and using technology to automate repetitive tasks wherever possible.” 

Nyberg noted that to address this current reality, “HOM Furniture took a closer look at what it takes to find qualified applicants, get them screened, interviewed, perform background checks as needed, and ultimately fill positions. We set up a system designed to be bottleneck free. It moves the process along and exceeds the expectations of even the most impatient candidates.  

“We took hiring responsibility for all but management-level positions away from our managers. Warehouse and sales managers are on the front lines of our business. They always need to find new people but don’t always have time to focus on the hiring process. Now, one person in Operations and another in Sales oversee hiring. They back each other up when necessary.

“Nowadays,” he added, “people don’t respond to phone calls or emails. We find that the best way to schedule an interview is by text.  Making phone calls and leaving voice messages are just too slow.  We do, however, do phone Zoom and FaceTime interviews. These methods help us get through the processes and extend an offer within 24 or 48 hours for entry-level applicants.”

“If we don’t get back in touch with a job candidate within 24 hours,” added Morris Furniture’s Max Klaban, “we’ve already fallen behind. In our marketplace, good candidates apply for many other jobs and are being pursued aggressively. The speed and competition continue to be a challenge. Amazon can process an application within four hours and make a job offer without talking to an applicant.  It’s incredibly competitive.”

Find Candidates in the Right Places

In addition to adapting to new hiring processes, knowing where to find the best candidates is essential. Our panel of furniture retailers recommended using platforms like Indeed’s enhanced programs, LinkedIn messaging, employee referral programs, recruiting cards, and their own websites to attract top talent. Here are some of their observations:

  • “We use Indeed Sponsored, which helps us boost our posts, as well as Indeed Proactive, which gives us access to a resume database that enables us to hunt for talent vs. just posting and hoping people apply.” – Max Klaben, Morris Furniture.
  • “One thing Indeed allows us to do is see how we rank in the post listings. It’s important to read other posts in our market area to see what other businesses are offering.  I can’t stress enough that it’s important to be relevant with wages and benefits.” -Carl Nyberg, HOM Furniture.
  • “Kittles Furniture uses Indeed, Zip Recruiter, and Glass Door. Plus, we make sure that our review ratings on these platforms are high and focus on bringing in candidates who are attracted to Kittles Furniture’s company culture.  That’s why we encourage new hires to review us, let others know about our training process, and share all the other ways we support new hires to ensure that they are prepared to succeed.  We keep the career page on our website up to date with information and photos about what we are doing in our community. For example, we had an ugly Christmas sweater contest and posted pictures to let people know that our stores are a fun environment and culture to work in.” – Seth Busby, Kittles Furniture.
  • “HOM Furniture finds those applicants who apply through the careers page on our website have higher rates of being hired. These tend to be more genuinely interested in working for us. We also have an employee referral program that provides recruiting bonuses because birds of a feather flock together.”  – Carl Nyberg, HOM Furniture.

All three HFA-member retailers said they encourage their teams to carry and give out recruiting cards with QR codes that go straight to the careers pages on their websites. They hand them out anytime they receive excellent service or see a potentially great employee.  

Refine the Interview Process

To ensure that the best candidates for a job are recruited within a given timeline, it’s become more important to refine and optimize the interview process. This includes crafting an engaging approach that keeps applicants motivated while their credentials are thoroughly evaluated. Ensure that your job descriptions are up to date and that interviewers are fully prepared so that no stone remains unturned when making final selections! Here’s what the retailers had to say about their interviewing practices.

  • “Kittles has a two-part interview process. First, the applicant meets with a manager, then immediately gets passed on to the HR team. This makes it convenient for candidates who do not need to show up for two separate interview sessions. It also solves the problem of applicants who don’t show up for a second interview because they forget or take another job.”  – Seth Busby.
  • “It is imperative that all our team members’ calendars are kept up to date. When I’m excited to move a candidate along following a favorable phone screening interview, I want to be able to schedule the next steps immediately. And, if possible, grab a manager to keep the process moving along.” -Max Klaben, Morris Furniture. 
  • “We try to keep in constant contact with candidates throughout the evaluation process to keep them engaged, let them know we care and want them to join us.” – Seth Busby, Kittles Furniture.
  • At HOM Furniture, we’ve refined our background check process to ensure that the checks we perform support what we need to confirm about applicants for each position.  For example, we used to do education background checks for all entry-level positions. During COVID, the schools didn’t respond. That prompted us to ask if these education checks were necessary for sales associate positions. We decided they weren’t, and now just do relevant skills testing for sales associates.” – Carl Nyberg, HOM Furniture. 
  • “Taking the time to define job descriptions for every position carefully is a first step for any retailer. It ensures they know what qualifications are needed before they start looking for people to fill a position.  Regarding background checks, based on an audit we performed about a year ago, Morris Furniture identified specific background packages required for each job description. This has reduced the time necessary to get backgrounds back, and substantially decreased costs.” – Max Klaben, Morris Furniture.

Create an Effective Onboarding Process

The panel emphasized the importance of having an effective onboarding process. Once you’ve hired the right candidate, ensuring that they have a positive experience from day one is essential. Comprehensive onboarding plans include training and development opportunities, one-on-one time with department managers and regular check-ins to ensure new hires are settling in well. Every new hire you can hold onto is one less you have to hire.

 “The way we Onboard new people,” explained Carl Nyberg, “has changed significantly in recent years. We created a Job Matrix for every front-line job that includes about eight pages of data with everything we want a new hire to do. Management responsibilities for onboarding are laid out as well. This includes scripting how department managers spend time with new employees face-to-face every week to ensure there’s a good fit. Employee surveys are performed after 30 days to collect their thoughts about our onboarding process. The result has been a considerable drop in turnover.

If you haven’t reviewed your recruitment process recently, consider following the practical advice and insights from this panel of HFA-member furniture retailers. It will help you to modernize your recruitment process, attract top talent and stay ahead of the competition. Remember to keep up with the latest trends and techniques, focus on speed and efficiency, refine your interview process, and provide a positive onboarding experience to retain new talent. Good luck!

View the full conversation video.

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