BrainTrust Query: Can recently laid-off retail associates still work in the industry effectively?
By Doron Levy, President, Captus Business
As retailers look to cut overhead and maintain
profitability during recessionary times, underperforming stores and divisions
are being shuttered without hesitation. The recent closure of Sam’s Club
in Canada has put 1200 associates out of work and conditions for retailers
in Canada and the U.S. are only expected to worsen.
HR people must be asking themselves, "What
can we do with this huge pool of workers and how many will actually be
able to keep working effectively in retail?" Retailers that hire recently
laid off employees need to be careful not to bring on ‘unsalvageable cargo’.
Clearly, as the retail worker pool grows, HR recruiters will need to sharpen
their skills to find the best talent.
Layoffs in retail seem to hit workers harder
as they are not as frequent as in other industries. A simple way to find
out a job candidate’s true feelings is to talk about past experiences.
Bob Phibbs, The Retail Doctor, says "…the most important
thing is to ask something like, ‘How did you feel about your last employer
going out of business?’ If they say something general, I still want to
know more." Opening up about the past is a good way to gauge feelings
of distrust and pessimism that could reduce morale.
Drilling them as to why the doors of their
previous employer were shut may not be productive but open-ended questions
that force them to examine their own performance may yield insights.
"I think we can all agree being let
go under any circumstances is rough. Do you think there was anything you
could have done better while you were there?"
…is a question Mr. Phibbs would pose to a potential candidate. "The
ones I would consider hiring will come up with something; anything that they
think could have been better," he added. "I’m looking for personal
responsibility in the question. If it’s all ‘I didn’t do anything – it was
them,’ avoid them like the un-ironed shirt they probably showed up in."
You can effectively gauge a candidate’s
enthusiasm level and thought processing ability by how well they deliver
Discussion Questions: How should hiring managers
and recruiters deal with the onslaught of unemployed retail workers?
Is it possible to still find enthusiastic associates that will represent
the brand positively? How should HR modify its interviewing tactics to
be sensitive to the recently laid off?