Sunday, November 18, 2018

5 Thoughts on Hiring

I'm pretty sure I've written an article similar to this before, but with the holidays coming, I've been involved in the hiring process of late. For the first time, I've used professional tools to seek candidates outside of our network of customers and fans, notably Zip Recruiter, which I recommend.

In plain talk, it means rather than trying to recruit gamers to be game store employees, I've sought out expertise with hopes of finding some hobby gaming experience. With hobby gaming permeating society as never before, some say at exponential rates, it doesn't take long before you find a regular joe or jane who doesn't consider themselves a gamer, but nevertheless knows a dozen different games.

This is one of those cases where store owners disagree, often strongly. Do you hire the gamer to retail or the retailer to sell games? You can't train for passion, but you can train a muggle to play games and talk competently about them. Some will argue that they still won't have authenticity, but I've given up on that concept, as a good number of men, sadly, will never accept that authenticity in half the population. You'll have to be content with stellar customer service and reasonable product knowledge.

On the other hand, there are many gamers who will never master the social skills and customer service necessary for zero tolerance retail, which is what we have nowadays, with toxic review culture. When stores get one star reviews over the type of greeting a customer gets when they enter the store, it changes my focus. You can't lose with either recruiting method, but at a certain point you tire of trying to turn partisans into ambassadors. A retail centric employee may not know how many spells a first level Wizard gets, but they sure as hell say "Hello" every time you walk in.

So that's my strategy for hiring right now. What I really wanted to write about is advice on how to interact with a potential employer as a candidate. Candidates in our scenario are often inexperienced in the hiring process, because of our bottom of the market pay rate (someone has to be at the bottom of the range, and that would be a game store). Either they're young or perhaps have moved up in the same company over the years. The job interview can seem confrontational, which is somewhat true, since both parties want to see if they can make a strange shaped piece fit a strange shaped hole.

Here's my advice for candidates. For the most part, consider an interview exploration. Do you really want to work for these people? Do they offer a work environment that will let you thrive? With unemployment at a historic low, there should be more give and take than desperation. So here's my list:
  1. Follow the Process. There are those who would tell you to skip to the head of the line by directly contacting the company, tracking down the hiring manager or otherwise not following directions. Or in one case, coming in with your parent. Although having an inside source is a great way to get a job, going around the process is a great way to irritate potential employers and possibly give away what might be a confidential process. Go through the process, be courteous, follow up, and go through the usual ritual. If you're interviewed, I think you're owed a follow up. Applying? Not so much.
  2. It's a Conversation. There's a lot of information exchange, but what we're really trying to do is determine if you can handle a customer facing position and express yourself coherently and succinctly. Even more important, we want to determine if you're the kind of person we want to spend a lot of time with. For some, this might seem like a trap, and the less said the better. Some people talk way too much. There is a middle ground.
  3. Trajectory. We're looking for a job trajectory that leads you to this point. Retail is one of those things a lot of people circle back to when they're unhappy in a new field. What we would rather see is an associate bottle washer promoted to an assistant manager of bottle washing to manager of sanitary containers. In the case of line employees, a job or two in retail directly leading to this point in time is ideal. If we're digging into a resume to find relevant experience, because you've moved on from retail, it's not a deal breaker, but it's not a good sign. It looks like a fall back plan. With wages rising, and college level positions at half the number of college graduates, retail is becoming a place where many people will spend a good part of their lives. I mean that's what we're signaling when we raise minimum wage 10% a year, right?
  4. Research the position. A notable candidate will demonstrate they've learned a little about the industry, how it functions and the role of the store within it. It's a good idea to do some company research that shows you're interested. This will not go unnoticed. Every company has a website or Facebook page nowadays, so spend some time learning about a future employer and their trade. Tradecraft is one of those things some employees will never get and is often not trained. Showing an interest in how the sausage is made, not just where you'll be standing when you turn the handle, impresses business owners.
  5. Be Honest. Be honest about the compensation, scheduling, or other areas that may not work for you. Sometimes there's wiggle room for the right candidate. I'm likewise up front about potential advancement, or lack thereof, and our ability to pay competitive wages and what skills I envision a candidate picking up in the future. Often the opportunity to learn new skills and build a resume is more valuable than the compensation. Often when people want more money in a job, they really just want more challenges and a chance to succeed at something new. Training and learning new skills that help the business are great ways to get past the fact that retail compensation, although rising quickly, will likely lag other opportunities. 
Thanks! And please share if you thought this was helpful or have someone in mind this might benefit.

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