Retail Recruitment Experts

Grocery Retail Recruitment Experts in Dublin City Centre

Excel Recruitment MD, Barry Whelan and Head of Grocery Retail Recruitment Nikki Murran answered some questions for a March feature in Shelflife Magazine. Here they discussed how Recruitment Agencies can help you and absolve all hardship when it come to a new hire. Statistics from the most recent Retail Sector Survey show the sector has the propensity to be worth €46 billion by 2020. Currently, our industry employs 270,000 people nationwide, with the potential to grow to 310,000 by 2020.

Recruitment the right way

Any business, no matter what sector it operates in, is only as good as its people – and retail is absolutely no different in this respect. But what do you do when you need to fill a position fast and already have a million and one back-office tasks to complete on your to-do list? Time to outsource your dilemma to the professionals, writes Orla Keeling

During the recession, Ireland’s retail value dropped dramatically. Even with the recovery and the growth in the economy since the crash, 2015 figures showed that the total value of Irish retail sales remained at 14% below the peak levels. Retail employment is dependent on economic growth and an increase in consumer spending.

Over the years, retail employment figures have declined by over 45,000. Despite this, the downturn didn’t affect the retail sector dramatically as it remained as Ireland’s largest industry and largest employer at that time (Source: Retail Ireland – ‘Retail in depth’).

Unfortunately the cost of doing business has escalated.  Rent, insurance, utilities and local services have increased. This increased costs for retail businesses without the necessary profits and growth in consumer spending. The result was that this added significant pressure to retailers.

But recent figures show the consumer economy is growing again. Ireland’s inflation rate is now steady at 0.1%* (as of January 2016). This is a huge benefit to the industry, and more retail opportunities are expected in the near future. However this adds even more pressure to retailers to compete within the marketplace *(Source: Trading Economics).

With the rise in the consumer economy and spending, retailers are once again recruiting. The recruitment process can be very stressful and take up a huge amount of the retailer’s time. The time they spend on increasing store profit margins and customer service is shortened and their priorities have shifted to recruitment. But there is an easy solution: recruitment agencies.

What do recruitment agencies do and how does it help the retailers?

Recruitment agencies put the retail organisations in control of their recruitment aims and connect them with the right candidates without the hassle and stress of the recruitment process.

A recruitment agency will take care of everything. This includes services such as advertising, checking CVs and conducting the initial interviews.

The agencies research the organisations and find out who and what works best for them. Knowing what works best for the retailers and how their business is run, gives the recruitment agency the knowledge of the necessary personality and skills for the ideal employee. This is also used to maximise the potential of future employees.

Pressure and stress on retailers is reduced, as the best CVs land on their desks without all of the stress, and having to deal with the recruitment process and its tasks. (Source: Excel Recruitment).

Maximising retailers’ energy and time while reducing stress, is of huge benefit to the organisations. But this is just one of the many benefits of the service. Retailers can focus on their stores and improving their profits as the economy improves, instead of slowing productivity and increasing stress levels through recruiting employees.

Only certain recruitment agencies specialise in retail. Many large retailers, as well as smaller independents and symbol group retailers avail of their services.

On average, a retail enterprise in Dublin employs 13 people. This figure is significantly lower in other areas in the country as the midlands employs on average, four to five people, the west employs five and the south-west employs six (Source: Retail Ireland – Strategy for Retail 2014-2016).

Employment potential in Ireland’s retail sector

Retail Ireland’s Strategy for Retail 2014-2016 states: “On the basis of annual growth in retail sales of 3-4% until 2020, the Irish retail sector has the potential to reach €46 billion in value terms. Such growth would lead to total employment in the retail sector of over 310,000 people – an increase of almost 40,000 on the current number.”
This potential growth in both employment and value terms is a huge opportunity for not only the Irish economy but also for recruitment agencies. With the rise in employment numbers in retail, more and more retailers will turn to these companies and avail of their recruitment services.

Q & A with…

Barry Whelan and Nikki Murran, Excel Recruitment

From the employer’s perspective, how do you ensure that you find the best candidate(s) to fulfil a particular role?

Excel Recruitment is ‘the retail recruitment company’. Our team of consultants all come from strong retail careers. We believe that the ability to find great people for our clients comes from our knowledge of the market, the people in it, the businesses we recruit for and fundamentally the ability to understand each role and each client intimately. We are 13 years in business recruiting for retail in Ireland. We’re fortunate enough to recruit for some of the best Irish and International retailers in the world, operating here in Ireland, from large corporations to wonderful independents. We have a database of over 50,000 candidates. This represents a fifth of the entire retail employment market in Ireland. We have built up this database over 13 years and live on it.

Why should a candidate enlist your services to help find a new role?

Recruitment consultancy is a complex process and as past retailers, we realise that both our clients and candidates are our company’s customers. We need to find the best candidates in the market. We need to understand their ‘reason for leaving’ their current employer or find them the right role if they are job seeking, matching them with the best position and company possible. In order to do this firstly we need to be the expert.


Our policy of hiring only retailers and training them rigorously in recruitment means we know retail. We know the businesses our candidates are coming from, the companies they work for, along with the businesses they want to work for.

We offer candidates a broad overview of the industry and a variety of options for their careers. We find candidates come to us daily for guidance with their options.

Placing a candidate is not just a sale to us. We understand that moving jobs and job seeking can be very stressful. A period of unhappiness in work or unemployment can be a very difficult time in a person’s life and we understand that your job is one of the most important things in your life.

What, in your opinion, makes the expertise of your team stand out from rivals?

What sets us apart from other recruitment companies is our in-depth knowledge of the retail industry. Not only does founder and MD, Barry Whelan, have extensive experience in retail management, having started his career with the Shopping Basket convenience store chain and worked for Quinnsworth and Dunnes Stores as a manager, but combined, our team has over 50 years’ experience in retail with each of our consultants having worked for a variety of retailers.

Recruitment, like retail, is a people business. To have the best employees, you need to recruit the best people. We use state of the art behaviour profiling from TTI Success Insights coupled with SHL Aptitude testing for verbal reasoning.

We invest in our people. Our training is unique and represents best practice in the market. It ensures trainees are trained fully and consistently. As trainees qualify from the company training programme, we invest in external training. This investment means staff feel (and are) valued. They are part of the strategic plan for Excel’s future.

All our recruiters are past retailers. (They would never call themselves ex-retailers as they really believe it’s something that’s in your blood). However not all of our recruiters have worked with all of our clients. We regularly send consultants out to our clients for top-up, hands on, retail training. This ensures our team have an in-depth understanding of all of the clients we work with and are up-to-date on all the new changes, policies, and trends in the retail world.

Consistency ensures success and only professional processes ensure consistency. We have invested heavily in processes in our business. This has culminated in our 30-page recruitment consultant’s manual entitled ‘Excel: 40 steps to recruiting’. This manual gives our consultants the knowledge when working, to keep a professional process in place for every step of the recruitment process.



“I have three different Centra stores with many different challenges facing my team. With the help of Barry and his team in Excel, throughout the years I have chosen the right candidates to suit my needs. Excel brings me high calibre candidates capable of doing the job. Barry and his team understand my expectations and they deliver every time. Selecting the right people for the job is crucial in getting your business right. I wouldn’t use anyone else for selecting my team.” Breda Cahill – Owner, Cahill’s Centra

“I have dealt with Excel Recruitment for a number of years and time after time they always come up with the exact person I am looking for. When you speak to Barry and the Excel team, they listen to every word that you say. The overall service I have received from Excel is the best yet.” Edmund Dick – Owner, Dick’s SuperValu


“Barry found me a job with Steven Nally’s SuperValu Group. I’m grateful for the fact that Barry thought of me for the role and put me forward for it. I am really enjoying the job and I am looking forward to the future; I really feel it’s been a great move for me.’’ Michael Hickey – Bakery area manager, Nally’s SuperValu Group

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interview answers

‘Tell me about yourself’: Interview Answers

The question that is guaranteed in every interview, yet one that can perennially ruin them.

See it as an opportunity rather than a question!

It can be the most challenging question throughout an interview. While you can recite roles, responsibilities and past duties, this question isn’t so easy and needs to be adjusted per interview. This is yet another point where the Hiring Manager is looking to ascertain whether or not you are a good fit for the job in question. While it may be seen to be a conversational question and often asked quite informally, it is most definitely another instance to see whether you are a fit for the job in question.

Think about what you want the interviewer to know about you. Don’t go in and try wing it. Prepare and have a natural flow to the question. This isn’t a filler for the actual interview. There is a purpose behind the question. Reveal the information which highlights you as a suitable candidate.

As Ireland’s Retail Recruitment specialists, our consultants prepare candidates for interview every day. Here is one such example we think would suit the jobs we recruit for:

Good Example

‘‘I’ve worked in Retail all my life and have ascended into management in the last five years. I first started as a Sales Assistant in _________ where I worked to supplement my income as I studied _________ throughout College, graduating in _______. I grew to love the retail environment and the industry and have held ____________, ____________, and ___________ titles across the years. While at times very challenging it has been incredible rewarding. My highlight was opening the first Flag Ship/ A New Store Opening/ Being promoted etc. as it proved that the company valued and trusted me and the contribution I’d made to date’’.

This is a fool proof answer, which highlights your expertise, beginnings and career trajectory, showing you as a dependable and experienced professional. This is far more beneficial to you as a prospective candidate rather than the answer below:

Bad Example

‘I’m originally from Limerick but live in Dublin. I love animals, good food, fashion and friends. My favourite book is ________________ and I’d love to travel to ___________ someday. In the past I’ve lived in ______________, _______________ and _______________.

Personalise this towards the job in question, preparing a short script in advance. Think about what you want to convey and how best you can construe this. Career experience is always pertinent to this question and you should build the answer around this.  Physically write out your answer, as this will also help you visual and remember it.

Temporary and Seasonal Job Interview Questions

A job is a job, whether it’s temporary or permanent. Employers who hire seasonal workers look for the same qualities they seek when hiring long-term employees. Attitude, professionalism, and a good work ethic are all crucial in landing a job. Hiring seasonal employees is fairly similar to hiring anyone else, and you can normally expect the usual set of interview questions. However, at the same time, there are a few key differences that separate seasonal and permanent positions and the same inevitable questions for temporary jobs will always creep up.

Why are you in the market for temporary employment?

This question will almost definitely come up in every interview you undertake for temporary work and you shouldn’t be put off by the employer’s frankness at asking it. Make sure you develop a convincing answer avoiding any responses that may tend to make you sound less than reliable.

Are there any gaps in your résumé?

Gaps are a standard thing in even the most experienced CV’s and they arise for numerous reasons which employers understand. However, a lot of seasonal workers look for jobs cyclically with the idea to try and make extra money around the holidays and if they are previously familiar with temporary employment. The point to stress is that seasonal employees need to be reliable. No-one wants to be stuck with inadequate staffing. You will be asked to explain any CV gaps. Be honest, as a recruiter or employer will immediately see through you if you aren’t. They will notice the gaps and chase you on the dates from the offset so be honest from the beginning, highlighting why and how the gaps arose and emphasising your ability and reliability towards the job.

Choose responses that pinpoint your professionalism.

Employers are looking for the candidates most likely to get up to speed quickly with little or no difficulty. Act as professionally as you would if applying for a permanent, career-enhancing position, and don’t be shy about highlighting your experience. Some people have a tendency to overlook and under prepare for temporary or seasonal jobs.

Clearly outline your level of schedule flexibility.

Hospitality and Retail are the main sources of seasonal employment and are often the most demanding, customer focused and fast paced jobs possible. They require constant customer communication, thus flexibility is imperative considering the influx of customers throughout the extended busy period and how all types of consumers need to be catered too. Often when hiring, the employer will give a guideline of the rough hours of work, most commonly being evening and weekends. If you cannot adhere to these, or have very little flexibility it is not worth your time. What employers want is someone who is either fully flexible or able to abide by the agreed hours. Not being honest will only lead to contention down the line and a bad rapport between you and employer.

Use examples that demonstrate your ability to learn quickly.

Job seekers who can easily adjust to new work environments and swiftly get up to speed in an unfamiliar setting are exactly what employers are looking for. In your interview answers, choose past experiences and scenarios that illustrate this and your instant adaptability and ability to the job.

Long term availability

Temporary work, for the most part is for a fixed term and like name suggests, is just temporary. However, there is often a possibility that particularly promising temp staff may be offered permanent positions after the busier period cools down. Most temps would be enthused at the possibility of a long term and permanent job. Subtly skew your answers to this in the interview if you feel that the interviewer would be receptive towards these. However, remember that for the majority of the time, temporary work will only be for the agreed period.


Dealing With Interview Nerves

Going for a job interview is always an anxiety provoking event. The best way to control your job interview nerves is to thoroughly prepare in advance. It is important to get advice and tools on how to ease the tension and make the job hunting process easier and the interview more enjoyable. Here are some tips and advice on how to calm those nerves and be composed and confident on the day.

The 5 minute surf

Understanding the organization’s business and the issues it faces will instantly impress the interviewer. A quick 5 minutes web search can throw up a wealth of insight and knowledge. Do the same across their social media channels, most companies at the very minimum are on Facebook and Twitter and allows you to quickly learn about the company and culture. Knowing about the latest company news, award nomination etc. that is readily available through Social Media will impress from the outset.

Put yourself on the spot

Focus on those elements of the interview which are in your control – i.e. you and what you already know. Spend 5 minutes writing down the most challenging questions you could be asked, then focus on answering one each day in the countdown to interview.

Adapting your language

Most organizations have a definite corporate language used to depict the company’s structure and processes. Spend 5 minutes studying the job spec to get a feel for how they describe your role and what you will be doing. If you can adapt your own language to that of the company and include some key phrases in your interview you are instantly going to make the interviewer feel comfortable and illustrate that you clearly understand what it is they are looking for.

Why should I work for you?

An interview is not a one-way affair; it is also your way of finding out more about the company and your employer so it’s important you ask questions too. Spend some time thinking about what drives you ethically, motivationally and idealistically. Developing questions which allow you to test your motivations will very quickly help you work out what sort of organization or department they are and whether they will suit you.

Excel Recruitment and Feeding Ireland’s Future 2016

Between February 29th and March 2nd 2016, Excel Recruitment welcomed 15 young unemployed jobseekers into our offices in Dublin City Centre. Now in its third year, Feeding Ireland’s Future is an initiative by the Department of Social Protection and the Grocery Retail Industry in Ireland. Participants are aged between 18-24 years of age and facilitated by ECR Ireland. Excel Recruitment serve the Grocery Retail Industry recruiting Sales Assistants to CEO. We command a team of expert consultants and dedicated time to each participant working through CV’s, Interviews, Assessment Centres, and Social Media Profiling. We also outlined to participants the daily routine we do as Recruiters, Trainers and Digital Marketers.

Two Examples 

Building from last years success, participants have grown in number. Our consultants sat individually with participants and were paired through interests. Those interested in working in Fashion and Retail learned the tips from Aislinn Lea, talking in detail about previous experience, how the industry works and what employers demand. Sometimes it’s the case of rephrasing certain aspects of a CV. Participants were prompted to expand on their skill sets, skills that they already had, as well as experience, but had omitted or was not highlighted in their CV’s.

Our Digital Marketing Manager Clare chatting about the importance of Social Media and finding a job online. While most peruse Social Media for fun, participants were thought how to exploit Twitter, LinkedIn and even Instagram in a matter of seconds to find jobs. She also elaborated on the importance of privacy settings, how you can adjust these and how to present (and restrict) your Social Media profiles. With a plethora of Job Boards, we also emphasised the importance of Keywords to participants and used some fun examples to put these into action. Generic searching doesn’t benefit anyone and using tighter search terms to pinpoint exact jobs and have tighter search limits saves everyone time.

Every member of the Excel Team took part, giving workshops and CV advice, guidance and leads to all participants, committing time to the group and also individually. Excel Recruitment were delighted to assist in Feeding Ireland’s Future 2016. We are a proponent of Irish Retail and it was refreshing to have new faces, who are encouraged by the industry in our offices for the few days. We wish all participants the very best in their applications and encourage them to keep in contact with each other and Excel Recruitment.

I went through the importance of CV’s and Cover Letters and how they should be presented. Regarding Cover Letters, like your CV this should be specialised to the role in which you are applying for. A cover letter should not be a description of what they will already see in the CV. Try your best to bring in further points about yourself and why you would like to be a part of the company.