Perfect Phrases Can Help Jewelers Hire Perfect Candidates

From recruiting to interviewing to making an offer, preparing the right phrases and questions during the hiring process is essential to attracting good candidates and gaining the information you need to ensure their success.

Perfect Phrases for Perfect Hiring, the latest in McGraw-Hill’s “Perfect Phrases” series, provides a blueprint to address these issues. Co-written by career coach and columnist Lori Davila and 25-year recruiting veteran, human resources consultant, and nationally syndicated radio host Margot King, Perfect Phrases for Perfect Hiring is ideal for jewelry store owners and managers.

The book offers key recruitment/hiring concepts and strategies. Topics include developing an effective hiring plan, defining your key candidate, developing the right job profile and job description, writing compelling job ad copy, networking for candidates, recruiting from the competition, prescreening candidates, evaluating applications and résumés, negotiating an offer, and more. It also includes practical examples, templates, and sample questions/strategies for each phase of the hiring process.

In an exclusive interview with JCK, King discussed some of the key areas covered in the book.

What are the most common mistakes companies make during the hiring process?

A lot of companies don’t have a clear definition of what they’re looking for. You need a really good blueprint. Also, a lot of companies don’t develop a compelling message about why a candidate should work for them. Jewelry is a very competitive market. Smaller stores must entice candidates if they want to compete with the large chains. You need to communicate the vision of the owner/proprietor in an illustrative manner. Lastly, you must deliver a favorable candidate experience—one where they come away from the interview with a “wow” feeling of why they should work for you, and that you treated them well. A lot of companies don’t realize this is particularly important for candidates they don’t hire. Goodwill goes a long way, and a bad experience can, too. When they leave your store, make sure the message they give to others is a good one. Don’t build up a great reputation and then help to tear it down because you were rude to an applicant.

What is the hardest thing to evaluate about a candidate, and how can you uncover this type of information?

The hardest thing is to determine how they will fit with your existing team, and with your customers. If a person does not smile within 30 seconds of meeting you for an interview, I would be leery of hiring them. Also, ask them about how they’ve dealt with stressful situations such as working in a busy store environment, and how they dealt with an angry customer and were able to turn the situation around. Go beyond their job references. Ask the candidate for names of co-workers, supervisors, or people they managed, and talk to these people yourself. If the candidate wasn’t pulling their weight, you will know. You’ll get a gut instinct just by listening to the way these people describe the candidate and their tone of voice. If the candidate doesn’t even give you any references, that’s a red flag. Pass on them.

For a small or medium-size independent jewelry store, is it better to do hiring in-house or use a recruiter?

If you’re looking for sales/counter help, a smaller company can effectively do this in-house at the grassroots level. Grassroots means getting the word out to your community. Advertise in your market for the position; talk to other noncompeting retailers for referrals. Network in places within your community where people gather. Implement a referral program for your employees, with incentives—it doesn’t have to be a large amount of money. If you need a technical person/specialist, need to hire a lot of people for expansion, or need a higher-level person at the corporate level, then a smaller store owner or manager might not have the time or expertise to find the right people. A recruiting professional can be of great help in these situations. Just make sure you are comfortable and clear on how much dedicated time that the recruiter will be giving you.

What can a jewelry store do to attract, hire, and retain top candidates, particularly a smaller operation that can’t compete with larger stores on salary and benefits?

The most important thing is to create your own culture. Foster team spirit, and convey to candidates why they should be on your team. Because you’re smaller and more flexible, you can customize incentives and employee recognition programs, through things like sales contests, flexible hours, extra personal time off, and store merchandise discounts. Also, go out together and do things as a team, such as dinner, events, etc. Offer training and mentoring to help your people create a specialization in their field. Promote from within. Institute a cross-training program to help pick up the slack if someone leaves. And always have a list of candidates on tap if you need them, such as part-timers or seasonal hires. Look for untapped markets like women returning to work after raising their children or retirees that have exited the workforce and are looking to come back years later. These candidates have a lot of experience, but some of the big companies see the gaps in their résumés and go running. These types of candidates are extremely loyal to companies willing to give them a chance and work around their schedules.

How can a jeweler recruit from a competitor ethically, without causing trouble for the candidate or animosity with competitors?

If you want to remain friendly with your competitors, keep it in the third person. Approach the candidate on a networking basis. Describe the type of person you are looking for: enthusiastic, energetic, someone who can have a significant impact on store revenue/growth, a person who wants to move into a position of increased responsibility. Ask if they know anyone that fits the bill. They may give you some names. But by leaving some bait, they might express an interest themselves.