impact of national minimum wage increases

Examining the impacts of National Minimum Wage increases

A lot of questions have been coming our way about the knock-on impact of the upcoming National Minimum Wage increase, in particular, how stores will be responding across the various levels of the business in order to remain competitive.

This impending increase of €1.40 reflects a 12.4% increase in just 12 months. The NMW increased, in total, €1.85 across 8 years from 2014 to 2022, with yearly manageable increases. However, we are seeing an increase of €2.20 per hour, equating to 21%, in just the two most recent increases. This increase is more than double the rate of wage increases across the state and understandably is having a significant impact on retailers across the country.

The most common question we are being asked is how retailers are responding across the rest of their store’s teams.

Entry Level Management Roles

Trainee Managers, Duty Managers, Team Leaders, and Store Supervisors were typically earning €26,000 to €28,000 a couple of years ago. This was an entry-level role where they gained experience and was a first step on the retail career ladder. The medium here now equates to the 2023 NMW for a 45 hour week.

There are many instances where the rates of minimum wage store staff have increased but this junior level Manager has not moved and so this level are being paid only slightly more than the teams they are managing. So, the issue here is one that impacts the entire store team. And this is what is causing concern for retailers across the country.

In an effort at fairness, many stores are increasing these junior managers’ salaries by the same percentage as the minimum wage increase. This means by the end of 2022 many, if not most of these junior managers were starting at €28,000 – €30,000 PA. However, a 21% increase from 2022 to 2024 would now bring an entry-level, junior management candidate to €36,000! A salary many experienced managers are on. This in turn causes an increase across the next level of managers – from assistant managers to fresh food and store managers. The question is, where does this become too crippling a cost for store owners to bear?

Natural Market Increase 

That’s not to say that the minimum wage is a bad thing – indeed – it’s important that all are paid fairly, however, it’s this knock-on effect which needs to be taken into account, to ensure stores stay profitable and all those working are being paid fairly. The low unemployment rate has already caused a natural increase in the minimum wage for good staff over the last couple of years. Meaning that any retailers who worked hard could expect an increase from their employer in order to retain them. This market balance means stores are paying those who work hardest more and have the budget to reward those who deserve it.

Retailer’s Response 

Many of the retailers I spoke to are already paying their staff above minimum wage. However, 2024 will force an increase that brings all staff to the same level regardless of their performance.

Other retailers will offset this cost by trimming hours in their stores where possible.

More still will look at their ratio of under 18 staff and seek to balance their wage bill by ensuring they have a mix of under 18 staff and more experienced staff. However, with the current legislation around under 18s selling alcohol and tobacco, this is often not an option!

Wage Wars

This 2024 increase will see the “levelling out” of salaries. This means many competing employers will start increasing again in order to attract top talent in a still overheated employment market.

Some retailers suggested that rather than compete with more “wage wars” against other employers they will look at their contracted hours, shift patterns, benefit packages, and reward schemes. This seems to be the most palatable solution going forward as any additional increases past Januarys increase seem most unpalatable.

What’s next

Considering the substantial increase of 2024, the projected NMW increase of 2025, the additional February Bank Holiday,  the additional sick pay, and the auto enrolment for pensions, many retailers will be looking long and hard at their P&L sheets this year end.

2024 will likely see retailers making sure they get the most value for money in terms of new hires, paying a little more for a lot more talent by moving up the ladder to more experienced hires and adjusting their overall packages to remain an employer of choice and attracting the best talent available to drive their stores forward.

You can check out this feature in the most recent addition of ShelfLife Magazine here. For more information call us on 01 814 8747 or email nikki@excelrecruitment.com

You can view all of our live jobs here

Mastering retail golden quarter

Mastering the Golden Quarter

Our Director of Fashion & Non-Food Retail, Aislinn Lea, featured in the Q3 edition of Retail Excellence Ireland‘s Retail Times. Discussing how retailers can stay one step ahead and master this Golden Quarter, the most crucial period of the year for retailers. Aislinn provides insight on where retailers can best attract their seasonal staff, what to advertise and how to successfully execute and plan ahead.

As the Christmas bells begin to chime, retailers are not just thinking about decorations; they are meticulously planning their financial, operational, and strategic endeavours to make the most of Black Friday and the entire holiday season. One of the cornerstones of this preparation is assembling a dedicated and capable seasonal team who can ensure customer experiences are nothing short of exceptional, irrespective of how they choose to shop – be it through click and collect, online deliveries, or the brick-and-mortar in-store experience.

Attracting your seasonal team:

The Golden quarter is the most lucrative and challenging period for retailers. Attracting the right seasonal team is pivotal in achieving financial expectations and delivering outstanding shopping experiences to customers. Nevertheless, the challenges surrounding recruitment persist, whether it’s for in-store sales, warehousing, or visual merchandising and having the right recruitment partner can help you achieve your financial expectations.

Word of Mouth – Encourage current employees to refer friends and family for seasonal positions. Their first-hand experience working at your store can be a powerful endorsement.

Open Days – Hosting recruitment events or open days is a fantastic way to give potential candidates an insight into the job and your company culture. These events can help individuals get a feel for the work environment and understand what makes your brand unique.

Utilise in-store and window signage to promote job openings – these signs should be sharp, eye-catching and should reflect your company’s image and values.

Referral Schemes – Implementing a referral program can be a win-win situation. Offer vouchers or incentives to your existing employees for successfully referring new hires to your team.

Social Media is an indispensable tool for attracting potential employees – Platforms like Instagram, TikTok and Facebook can help you reach a wider audience.

 

What to advertise? It’s vital to provide comprehensive information to potential candidates

Package: Clearly state the hourly rate and any additional benefits, such as lunch allowances, staff discounts, bonuses, or sales incentives. This can be a significant motivator for potential candidates.

Job Specification: Craft a concise yet compelling job specification that sets your opportunity apart from the competition. Highlight what makes your company unique.

When/Where: State the exact dates of the seasonal employment, as well as the location and contract hours. This ensures that candidates know exactly what they are signing up for.

 

Execution/Planning: To make your seasonal recruitment strategy work seamlessly, here are a few key considerations

Plan Ahead: Start your recruitment process well in advance of the Golden Quarter. Ensure that your team is in place before the rush begins to avoid last-minute staffing shortages.

Training: Develop a comprehensive training program to equip your seasonal staff with the skills and knowledge necessary to deliver exceptional customer service.

 

If you need assistance with permanent recruitment solutions, please contact Aislinn Lea at aislinn@excelrecruitment.com & for our temporary staffing solutions, contact Ciara Connolly at ciara@excelrecruitment.com.

Careers in Retail

The advantages of making a career in retail

Our Director of Grocery Retail Recruitment, Nikki Murran, featured in the latest edition of ShelfLife Magazine to discuss the numerous advantages of making a career in retail. Highlighting that with limitless opportunities for progression, and countless new things to learn, a career in retail is much more than just ‘a job in a shop’. 

Retail jobs can get bad press and often do. It is an industry filled with hard-working employees, some on minimum wage, dealing in overwhelmingly busy stores and with an unpredictable public. However, this past month I have been asking retailers, and past retailers who now work on my team – what do you love about the industry? It’s been inspiring hearing about their stories and their passion for the industry. So it prompted me to compile this list for anyone thinking of turning their part-time retail job into a full-scale career. Or indeed any store owners looking to convince their staff to take that leap with them.

Career kickstart

There are few other industries that will allow you to join with no experience, no further education and measure you solely on your ability and work ethic. Nearly every retailer, at every level I speak to, started their retail career during school, they enjoyed it, did well, and progressed. Not through their exam results or who they knew. Rather, based on how well they worked. Just because you are not a straight-A student does not mean you won’t be a straight-A retailer!

Learning life-long skills

Dealing with customer complaints, handling money, learning about food safety or manual handling skills – regardless of your role in retail you will learn so many skills which will stand to you in every aspect of your life!

Teammates

Nothing brings people together more than working alongside each other toward a common goal. In every store in the country, you will find passionate, hard-working, dedicated teams of people. Usually, people who are warm, caring and outgoing, as this goes hand in hand with dealing with customers successfully, day after day and indeed year after year. In every store I have ever worked in, I have been overwhelmed by the talent and dedication of the teams I have worked alongside. I met so many people from outside my usual social circle, people from all walks of life, all nationalities, and all age ranges. It was always one of the best parts about working in retail as I got to understand so many different cultures and meet and build friendships with such a diverse group of fabulous people.

The customers

To be fair, this can sometimes be the biggest challenge, but often, it is one of the biggest rewards. I started my retail career in a local convenience store, in a quiet area, with an aging population. The boss said to me on my first day – “remember, for some of these customers you may be the only person they speak with today.” That stuck with me for the next decade while I worked in retail and I gained so much from spending an extra moment or two with each customer who was looking for a connection. Not only did it help me to develop empathy but It brought me so much joy, laughter, and genuine pleasure.

Building confidence

Retail is the ultimate confidence builder. Working in retail gives you so many opportunities to excel in various tasks. From merchandising a section in the store, to helping a customer, achieving a sales target or just knowing you have done a solid day’s work. People who have spent time in retail build a level of confidence that is difficult to replicate!

Something for everyone

The retail industry really does have something for everyone! Do you like physical work? Why not try out a Pack Out Manager job? Great with numbers? Stock control manager! Do you love people? In store HR Manager might be for you. A true Foodie? Fresh food manager it is! Do you love chatting with new people? Checkout supervisor may be your calling! Or perhaps you love doing a little of everything? Convenience management is for you so! There are endless possibilities, and most retailers will support their staff to find the right fit for them. Most managers work their way through many departments before they progress to store manager. If you are not sure what’s right for you, find a good recruitment agency who will help you pinpoint your retail talents! (ahem)

Community

Many of the stores throughout Ireland are deeply embedded in their community. They often support local charities, sponsor the local GAA team, and provide spot prizes for the local school’s annual raffle. It’s a wonderful feeling being involved in your community and being part of your local retail team is a sure-fire way to make that happen!

Work-Life Balance

Retail employment can get a bad name when it comes to work life balance. But, in the past number of years, most retailers have reduced their contracted hours and many others offer much more flexibility. Because stores open longer than the usual 9-5 most retailers are finding that they can navigate their personal life, be it childcare or sports, with just a little flexibility from their employer. Many retailers work morning shifts and are home in time for training, whilst others drop the kids to school in plenty of time to make the start of their shift. Retail can be whatever you make it and with so many retail employers open to flexibility it really is a great fit for many!

Ownership

Regardless of how long you have worked in retail, for those who ask they will nearly always be given the opportunity for growth and ownership. Grocery stores work best when the teams running them each take responsibility for their own section, area, department or just the flower stand! You don’t need to wait – as soon as you feel ready you can be sure any request for more will be met with enthusiasm and support from your manager!

Fabulous Irish product

You only have to look around any of the grocery stores here to see how most embrace beautiful local Irish products and help small businesses bring them to wider markets. For those with a passion for food, working in this space gives a lovely opportunity to work with some amazing brands and fabulous products.

Limitless progression

You can start your retail career as a sales assistant or trainee and steadily climb the ranks to Store Manager, Regional Manager, or Fresh Food Area Manager to name but a few. In fact, most of the senior retailers in the country started as Sales Assistants. Many retailers will help you through college, others offer outstanding training programs, in everything from HR to Food safety, while others still will offer apprenticeships in Butchery and Baking. The sky really is the limit and for those willing to work hard and learn your career path, really is in your hands!

You can check out this feature in the most recent addition of ShelfLife Magazine here. For more information call us on 01 814 8747 or email nikki@excelrecruitment.com

You can view all of our live jobs here

Why use a recruitment agency

Why use a recruitment agency?

Having grown up in the world of independent retail, our Director of Grocery Retail, Nikki Murran, has first-hand knowledge of the difference employing a recruitment agency can make in the quest for good staff. Highlighting the advantages in the article below.

With many retailers still reeling from the cost increases they have shouldered in the last couple of years it’s understandable that they may take pause before committing to paying a recruitment fee for a new hire. Now, I may be biased, (actually I am definitely biased) but, from over a decade of experience and client feedback I absolutely see it as money well spent. Here are the reasons why:

Industry experts and market insights

When you partner with an agency, you should choose one who are specialists in their field. Or, have a specialist department that recruit for your field. My team all come from grocery retail. We all know a good store manager when we see one, we all know the difference between a deli manager and a deli supervisor, a scratch baker, and a confectioner. In the same way that my colleague who runs the fashion department can recognise the difference between a high street retailer and a luxury one! It’s what we do!

Having an industry expert recruiter on your side means they always have a read of the current market. They should keep you updated on salary trends in the market or what candidates are looking for to make a move. They should give you direction, guidance, or feedback when you register a job, making sure you are putting your store in the best position to attract the best candidates. This is surprisingly rarely about money – often it’s some flexibility around shift patterns, contracted hours, job titles, or review periods. But the point is, a good recruitment partner will help you frame your job to make it as attractive as possible, without forcing you outside of your budget!

A good rule of thumb here is if a recruitment agency hasn’t compiled a salary survey specific to your industry each year for the past couple of years, they are unlikely to be a real expert in that field.

Employer branding

With the Irish market hovering around the perfect unemployment mark the last couple of months – now is more important than ever to make sure your brand as an employer is landing well. A good agency will likely have a read of the market perceptions about your brand and will give you some honest feedback when asked. A great agency will help shape your employer brand message and project it out into the market.

We make it a point to find out all the great things about your store and role and use these to help attract the best candidates for you.

Talent pool

If you are advertising for your current open role, chances are you are confined to candidates who are job-seeking this week, candidates who are applying for roles that match their experience, candidates who are applying to the salary range you have on offer, and candidates who managed to find your job ad amongst 100’s of others. It’s a pretty narrow field when you think of it like that.

Excel Recruitment has over 90,000 candidates on our database. The vast majority of placements we make, come, not from candidates who apply at the right time, for the right role. Rather, they are from candidates who applied over the last year or so and spoke at length to a recruiter about their experience and skill set and what they are looking for in their next move. When we get the right role in – we then reach out to the right candidate – it’s like a jigsaw! So, we deal with a much larger pool of candidates for your job than you could likely hope to.

We also love the saying “Great people know great people.” Most of my own placements come through recommendations, clients recommend me to each other, and candidates do the same. In fact, most of my conversations seem to start with “such and such” passed me on your number!

Bang for your buck!

I grew up in the world of independent retail. When our family store was looking to recruit a new store manager, maybe 15 years ago now, I knew the money to cover that was coming, not from some head office fund, but out of the store’s bottom line. With this in mind, I was sure that we should try to find the right candidate ourselves before trying an agency.

We spent a considerable amount of money on advertising; in a newspaper, two online job boards and on a radio station. We spent hours sifting through applications and met every applicant who had ever worked in retail management. It was all a waste of money and time. When we reached out to Excel Recruitment (plug, sorry – but we did!) they had candidates for us within a week. The guy we hired increased the margin within 6 months, and more than covered the fee we had paid.

Really, in a management or specialist role, when you compare the cost of the placement to the value that candidate will bring to your bottom line it’s a no-brainer! Especially considering if you don’t hire someone you don’t pay anything!

Hassle-free

Time is the one thing every retailer I know is short on. Using an agency means that after one detailed phone call, you have a team of recruiters working on your role. They will advertise your job, source candidates, sell them the benefits of your business, set up interviews, follow up on feedback, offer the job at your direction, deal with messy counter offers, and complete verified reference checks. They basically take most of the pain out of the recruitment process for you!

You can check out this feature in the most recent addition of ShelfLife Magazine here. For more information call us on 01 814 8747 or email nikki@excelrecruitment.com

You can view all of our live jobs here

childcare in retail

The realities of juggling childcare while working in retail

With the summer holidays upon us, our Director of Grocery Retail, Nikki Murran, reflects on the realities of juggling childcare while working in retail and looks at what the government could do to help parents and carers in this situation

This summer we planned out our childcare for my 8-year-old – it was like a military operation; involving spreadsheets, booking summer camps (these can be harder to secure than Taylor Swift tickets!), carpool agreements with neighbours, and roping in of grandparents to make up the difference. It was going to be a balancing act, but we were confident we had it covered and my kiddo would likely be a football star by the end of it. (Based on the number of hours he would be playing and the amount of money we were spending anyway!)

The first day of the first camp started with thunderstorms and a cancelled camp. Thankfully Nana was happy to help, and we figured it was a once-off. Day 2 he fractured his wrist. After the doctor explained it was 4-6 weeks of downtime my devastated son asked in the car – what about football camp? GAA camp? Golf camp? Hurling Camp? Athletics Camp?  “What indeed!” I thought!

We went back to the spreadsheets, back to the grandparents, and back to our bosses. We both shifted our summer to add a little working from home and within a few hours – problem solved.

It made me think, though – what if I was still working in retail? Working from home would not have been an option. What if we both were? What about the 300,000 people working in retail in Ireland this summer? How many of them have kids? What do they do on thundery days or when an arm gets fractured, or a chickenpox appears?

In a recent survey conducted by Excel Recruitment, it was found that 6 in 10 workers feel the cost of childcare is unaffordable. The survey also found that 58% of couples with children said their partner had to give up work due to the cost of childcare – and in 62% of these cases, the person that left the workforce was female.

My 3-year-old daughter is in a wonderful creche – they love her, she loves them, they paint, dance, go to the beach, the park, and plenty more. It’s expensive, like a second mortgage expensive, but they have early drop-off and late collection. However, it still means that one of us does a later shift so we can drop – and the other does an earlier shift to be back in time for collection. If one of us worked in retail, I can’t help but wonder how we would manage.

How do single parents, working in retail or hospitality juggle it all? How do they find childcare at the weekend? In evenings? On Christmas Eve? New Years Eve? All these peak trading days?

With a continued staffing crisis, and Ireland reaching its lowest level of unemployment in 20 years it’s imperative that all is done to ensure those willing to work are given the opportunities to. But with the current cost of childcare and the lack of childcare outside office hours, we are blocking a large cohort of available talent from the retail sector.

The government should do more, it should fall to them to make childcare more affordable, give better support to childcare providers, incentivize more flexibility from employers, and look for more novel approaches to combat this issue.

However, the government moves slowly, and the staffing crisis is upon us now, so it falls to retailers to look for workarounds. In recent months, more and more of my clients are adjusting their hiring practice to welcome part-time staff for full-time roles. I have placed a handful of Deli Managers working 4 days, an Assistant Manager who needs Wednesday nights and Thursday mornings off while his partner (a Nurse) does her long shift, and a Store Manager who needs most Saturdays off as he coaches his daughter’s GAA team. These candidates would have been unplaceable a couple of years ago, during a time when retailers were demanding full flexibility from employees. But the time has arrived where it is now employees demanding this flexibility from employers!

The main tool retailers have in their arsenal to tackle this issue is their store rota. What is working for many retailers is doing the rota weeks in advance, rather than just for the following week – often this extra notice is enough for parents to adjust childcare needs. I’ve also heard of successes with partnering, particularly in local stores – where a role is divided between two staff members – both with kids in the same school – here, they split their job, and both worked a 3-day week – covering the store for 6 days rather than 5 and they minded each other’s kids on the respective days off – it was a win-win for all.

From the feedback we have gotten from retailers making these adjustments – the best advice on offer seems to be open-mindedness – ruling nothing out and spending just a little longer on the scheduling and giving staff more input into the rota from the outset. These tweaks may cost a little time each week, but ultimately may result in a more dedicated, loyal workforce – seems a worthwhile trade to me!

You can check out this feature in the most recent addition of ShelfLife Magazine here. For more information call us on 01 814 8747 or email nikki@excelrecruitment.com

You can view all of our live jobs here

 

Hybrid shopping

The importance of moving to a hybrid shopping experience in the retail industry

Our Director of Fashion & Non-Food Retail, Aislinn Lea, featured in the Retail Excellence Ireland, Retail Times, to discuss the importance of moving to a hybrid shopping experience in the retail industry. Aislinn highlights why having a bricks-and-mortar business with an online aspect, along with a mix of retail and digital talent, is crucial for retail success.

It’s a different world in retail, post-pandemic, Aislinn Lea agrees. “Retail employee retention has always been challenging, but it has reached new heights since the pandemic. Retail workers are now seeking roles that offer greater work-life balance and more flexibility as well as the company being the right culture fit,” she says. Sourcing, training and onboarding new team members can be expensive, so it is worth investing in retention strategies to prevent high employee turnover. With this in mind, Aislinn says there are a number of key reasons good retail staff will start to think about leaving to be mindful of. And luckily, there are steps you can take to prevent this, as she explains below.

Aislinn believes a hybrid shopping model is essential in today’s retail landscape, but equally important is having the right digital and retail team. “In physical retail stores, employees assist customers, answer their queries, and guide them through the purchasing process. Similarly, in the digital realm, staff interact with customers through various channels like live chat, email, or social media, addressing their concerns and providing support. Exceptional customer service builds customer loyalty and increases sales so selecting the right candidate is essential for business growth,” she says.

Meeting customer preferences:

Customers have varying preferences when it comes to shopping. Some prefer the convenience and accessibility of online shopping; others prefer the tactile experience and personal interaction of physical stores. Having both options allow you to cater to a wider range of customers, whilst enhancing their shopping experiences.

Digital talent for online success:

To succeed in the digital realm, having a team of digital talent is essential. These professionals can handle e-commerce operations, digital marketing, website design and optimisation, social media engagement, and customer relationship management. Their expertise will ensure that your online presence is effective, engaging, and capable of driving traffic and conversions.

Building brand awareness and sales:

Physical stores offer a tangible presence that can help build brand awareness. Customers can interact with products, seek assistance from knowledgeable staff, and establish a personal connection with the brand. By complementing this with an online presence, you can expand your reach, engage with a broader audience, and reinforce your brand identity. Online sales can supplement your in-store revenue and provide opportunities for growth.

Retail talent for personalised experiences:

In-house retail talent is crucial for providing exceptional customer service, creating personalised experiences, and driving sales in physical stores. Retail employees with product knowledge, excellent interpersonal skills, and a passion for customer satisfaction can enhance the overall shopping experience and build lasting customer relationships.

Blending physical and digital strategies:

The key to a successful hybrid shopping model is integrating your physical and digital strategies. Your retail and digital talent need to collaborate closely to align marketing efforts, optimise inventory management, deliver consistent brand messaging, and leverage customer data to provide personalised experiences. This will help make the most of your hybrid approach. Retail teams could also enhance collaboration with the digital team by providing services such as in-store collections and returns.

You can check out this feature in the most recent addition of the Retail Times here. For more information call us on 01 814 8747 or email aislinn@excelrecruitment.com

You can view all of our live jobs here

Online Interview

How to ace an online interview – Nikki Murran, Director | Grocery Retail

Post-Covid, online interviews have become a much more commonplace occurrence. Here, our Director of Grocery Retail Recruitment, Nikki Murran, shares her top tips to ensure you create a positive impression during your online interview

There have been many residual factors left in our post-Covid lives, from the normalisation of working from home to a nostalgic fondness for homemade banana bread. One of the main shifts we saw in the recruitment industry was the acceptance of online interviews.

Pre-Covid I can’t think of one client who would have been satisfied to move to the job-offer stage without looking the candidate in the eye and shaking hands. But now, we still have about 35% of our interviews held online. Of that number, 20% of those are concluding their process, whether it be an offer or rejection, without having ever met the candidate face to face.

In March 2020 I was scrambling to understand the world of Zoom and Teams. I had used them previously but was by no means an expert. One of the first interviews I had set up was for a candidate who was amazing at baking and could run a high-volume, fast-paced bakery with his eyes closed but could absolutely not work email. I had to talk him through every step, and this was his first ever time using a laptop – I promise we laughed more than we cried but I think we have all become so much more proficient around online meetings now! (He got the job by the way!)

So, it would seem that online interviews are here to stay, in some capacity anyway. In many ways, they offer countless benefits to the recruitment procedure. They allow candidates to interview on lunch breaks or shortly before or after their shifts, they speed up the entire recruitment process, and they cut down on travel time and cost. But is there a downside? Do candidates who travel to interviews and attend in person have an upper hand over those who log on? Our figures would show that they do. Often the candidate attending in person has made more of an effort and thereby indicates more of an interest in the role and ultimately, in a potential hire, this is always more attractive.

So, the question remains – Do candidates really get a full chance to get their skills, experience, and personality across through a screen? I think this really depends, so, over the last couple of years we have been compiling the following tips for online interviews to help candidates bridge that gap between the real world and the digital one!

Suited and booted: When it comes to what you wear, the same rules apply as an in-person interview – well at least for your top half!

Profile picture: This is your new handshake! Make sure it is appropriate as this will be your first impression while they wait for you to log on!

Accept invitations: If the interviewer sends you an invitation on MSTeams – click to accept in a timely manner – not mere moments ahead of the interview. It confirms your attendance and interest. You can also add a note when replying saying thank you for the invitation and that you are looking forward to meeting them.

Can you hear me? This is frustrating for everyone – test out your platform (Teams/Zoom etc) with a pal and make sure you are up and running on audio and video beforehand. Technical issues nearly always cause candidates to fluster and throw them off before interviewing.

Technical issues: If you do have technical issues – don’t get flustered. If they can see you are trying to log on most interviewers are happy to bear with you while you get sorted or re-arrange if you can’t. Just be sure to contact them in real-time to let them know you are trying to log on.

Eye contact: It is very tempting to watch yourself or your interviewer during an online interview, but looking directly into the camera is the only way to appear as though you are keeping eye contact.

Backdrops: Ideally choose a neutral backdrop, a plain wall without lots of pictures, try not to sit in your childhood bedroom with your boy band posters surrounding you, or opt for the space backdrop with shooting stars behind you! If you have no blank wall – just opt for the blurred background setting.

Close all other apps on your computer: Getting email notifications during your interview is distracting and can make noise causing you to lose sound. Close everything!

Prepare, prepare, prepare: The level of preparation that is done for an in-person interview is the same level that should be completed for an online interview. Investigate who you will be interviewing with, research the company via their website and be aware of the latest news about them. Visit their stores and their competition. Have a copy of your CV, the job description, and questions you would like to ask. Be prepared for questions about your salary expectations, reasons why you are leaving your current role, length of your notice period, your motivation to move on (if employed), your career ambitions, etc. (Know your CV!)

Bad habits: Don’t eat, chew gum, smoke, or vape – this is still an interview!

Avoid interruptions: Be sure all pets and small children are locked up. Well, no, but perhaps ensure you have a quiet space where you will not be disturbed or distracted by snack requests.

Body language: Don’t slouch or squirm too much (it comes across as disinterested) even if your chair is uncomfortable.

Pick a comfortable chair.

Before you say goodbye: Ensure you’ve expressed your interest in the role and thank them for their time – oh and keep your fingers crossed!

You can check out this feature in the most recent addition of ShelfLife magazine here. You can view all our live jobs here. For more information call us on 01 814 8747 or email info@excelrecruitment.com

killer interview questions

The best ways to tackle those dreaded ‘killer questions’ in an interview

Despite today’s candidate driven market, thorough interview preparation remains vital for prospective employees. Our Director of Grocery Retail Recruitment, Nikki Murran, advises how to answer classic ‘killer questions’ with ease  

Last week I got a call rejecting my candidate from a role he had interviewed for, and I was perplexed. He had done a similar role, was in the right location, right salary range, and was actually a great guy and perfect culture fit! What could have gone wrong?

Then I got the feedback from the interviewer and immediately understood. When the candidate was asked what he liked about the brand, he admitted he hadn’t visited any stores or done much research. The candidate really wanted this job. I had recommended to him that he visit a couple of stores beforehand and I had sent him plenty of information, but he was busy in his current role and never found the time. So, he never got the job!

In this candidate-driven market, one could be forgiven for thinking the same level of preparation as in previous years is no longer required in interviews. But as I witnessed last week, this is absolutely not the case. With higher salaries on offer and more benefits available than ever before, employers want to see candidates present themselves in the best light possible to warrant these ever-improving packages!

With that in mind, below are some questions, which, when prepared well, can make all the difference in landing that dream job:

Why us?

One of the most common questions in an interview – and one of the easiest to answer – is “why do you want this job”. This is an opportunity for you to be honest with what motivates you and to make sure this is what is in line with what your potential new employer is offering. It is also a great opportunity for the interviewer to determine how well you have researched and understood their vacancy and their business. I always recommend visiting the store and its competition in the local area beforehand, speaking to people who work within the brand and can tell you more about the culture, and to have a good trawl through Google to see what you can find out. Not only will you come across as more engaged, but you will have a much better idea if this is the right role for you!

Talk me through your experience or tell me about yourself

This is my favourite interview question. This is not the moment for you to tell the interviewer how you enjoy long walks, and once won a chicken wing eating contest, but rather an opportunity for you to highlight your successes in your career to date. Do this by chatting through each role you have held, and more importantly, about the achievements you have had in each of these roles, include stats and figures to back it up where you can. Think of it as a highlight reel rather than a CV summary! This question often comes up early in an interview and if you have prepared a couple of points of your career successes it can be a great way to settle into your interview, while also using the time to tell the interviewer how great a candidate you are!

What would you say is your weakness?

Everyone hates this question. To be fair, it is an awful question, and for that reason, I never really recommend answering it. Rather, when asked about what your weakness is, I would suggest sharing a weakness you used to have, and an example of how it is now one of your strongest points! For example, “I used to be somewhat disorganised, however, a couple of years ago I started a system where I prioritize my tasks each evening for the next day and now, I would say organisation is one of my top strengths!” I know it’s a bit of a politician’s answer – but as I said – it’s an awful question!

Teamwork

Most roles involve either managing teams or working within a team. So, it’s realistic to expect a question on this in any interview. Whilst you can’t prepare an answer for every potential question, I would always recommend having a couple of examples of your management skills, leadership style and team development at the front of your mind before the interview. This means you are ready to discuss them when the topic arises.  Developing the team around you so that they are empowered, motivated, and progressing is no easy feat – so if you have been doing this successfully be ready with stories to share about how you are achieving it.

Listen and stop talking!

Whilst this is not technically a question – it is good advice nonetheless, so I have included it! Many candidates rush to answer questions in interviews. In doing so they end up not understanding the question or worse, jumping into an ill-thought-out answer that runs off on a tangent that they can’t claw back from. Take a couple of seconds after the question is asked to make sure you heard it correctly and, to decide on your answer before launching into it. No one ever lost a job because they took a couple of seconds to put their answer together! If anything, it shows that you are thoughtful and deliberate.

Next – stop talking! The aim of the interview is absolutely not to fill all the silence, or have the interviewer need to interrupt you to ask their next question. Once you have answered the question – stop talking! Be quiet and wait for the next question. Often, interviewers need to cover certain topics in order to assess your suitability. If you don’t give them the opportunity to control the interview you are taking the risk that you won’t cover what is needed to decide if you are the right fit for them.

Other than that – be yourself and good luck!

You can check out all our live jobs here. For more information call us on 01 814 8747 or email info@excelrecruitment.com

Staff Retention

Ensuring Staff Retention – Nikki Murran, Director | Grocery Retail

At a time when staff retention is firmly under the spotlight in Ireland’s retail industry, our Director of Grocery Retail Recruitment, Nikki Murran, analyses candidate feedback to give her thoughts on how to cultivate long-term employee loyalty. 

I recently marked 10 years with Excel Recruitment, and I was amazed by how many people were surprised by this. The recruitment industry can be notorious for high staff turnover, but I always thought we were lucky as we have great staff retention.

But is it luck? Or is there a roadmap, a set of instructions other companies can mirror, which leads to the holy grail of staff longevity?

A hot topic amongst retailers in recent months has been staff retention. One of the most frustrating parts of being an employer or indeed manager is when you invest months in onboarding and training new people, only for them to move on within their first year. It often feels like time entirely wasted – you are only starting to get a return on your investment on the hours of training and they are gone! But why are they going?

Looking at feedback from candidates who have declared themselves “ready to move on” there are some interesting observations that might answer this:

Whilst most retailers indicate the one thing they are doing to retain their people is to increase their salary, it’s very often the last motivation cited by candidates looking for a move. Now don’t get me wrong – if someone feels they are undervalued or underpaid – it’s a top priority! But for the most part, retailers are paying their teams fairly to attract them in the first place. So, whilst salary increases may keep them from leaving – it won’t actually get them to stay if the other factors aren’t right.

Work-life balance is the number one reason candidates go to the trouble of typing out a CV. Since the pandemic there has been a huge shift toward finding a better work-life balance. I don’t think that’s news to anyone. Most of the larger retailers have reduced their management’s contracted hours and many candidates are actively seeking out roles with these businesses. But it’s not all about the contracted hours. Something as simple as a fair distribution of evening and weekend shifts can be one of the best tools to retain staff.

Flexibility is probably the perk we hear most from candidates who decline a job move. In fact, I’m sure it’s part of what got me to the 10-year mark with Excel! With small kids, mornings can be hectic – actually, anytime is hectic – but a little flexibility in my working week means I can balance interviews, meetings, bedtime stories, and school drop-offs. In a store setting, it definitely takes a bit more rota planning and tweaking – but I’m sure many would opt for this rather than doing yet another interview or induction!

The little things go a long way also. While candidates don’t explicitly say it – it’s the small things that add up and ultimately form the culture of the company. They say things like – “I like it here”, “I’m happy where I am”, or “It would take a lot to make me move”. These things don’t cost retailers a lot – it’s showing kindness and gratitude for work done. Small tokens for staff on certain days and staff lunches or parties don’t often seem like a big deal but for such small gestures, these things come up more often than you might think when we ask candidates to tell us about their current jobs.

Another subject that comes up time and again is the annual leave quota. I was surprised initially by the strength of this one, but I have had ever-increasing numbers of candidates turning down job offers as they didn’t want to lose their extra annual leave days. Often these extra days come with length of service. So many retailers don’t offer any additional days past statutory but take my word, the ones that do – have a better grip on their staff. When you think about it, it’s the ideal benefit, as you are giving those days to your most experienced people, the ones you really don’t want to lose. The more experienced and valuable they are – the more days they accrue – the harder it is to walk away from them! (and you!)

I was probably only with Excel for six months when I knew that this was somewhere I could stay long-term. I had gone to my CEO with an idea about a flyer and his nearly immediate response, was “if you think it’s a good idea, do it!” That sort of empowerment may seem unimportant, but to me it was pivotal. I felt valued. As the years have gone on and I’ve brought plenty more ideas his way (some better than others and some truly awful) I’ve always felt heard, I’ve always felt valued, and I’ve always felt like my opinion mattered. It’s hard to walk away from that.

For more information or expert advice please email info@excelrecruitment.com or call 01 814 8747. To view our available roles click here

Quiet Thriving Nikki Murran

Quiet Thriving- Nikki Murran, Director | Grocery Retail

For the last two years, we have heard across many media platforms, stories of “quiet quitting.” This idea that you coast along, doing the bare minimum, never going above and beyond, well it never sat well with me.

Quiet quitting suggests that you are not emotionally or intellectually involved in your job, but rather you are just doing as little as possible to receive a paycheck so you can go and live your real life outside of work.

What I never understood – is whom is this benefiting? Are people happy just waiting to pass time and clock out? That seems so sad to me. Say you spend on average 40 hours a week at work, say that’s the number of hours you need to clock up to afford your life. That’s basically one-third of your waking hours. Look at that across your life.. who is happy to be unhappy for a third of their waking life? Wishing the hours, and their life away?

With two small kids, an “iron-man wannabe” husband, and a pretty busy career, I absolutely am not one to advocate for doing more hours – but surely, making the best of the hours you are in work is a better option?

Making those 40 hours the happiest they can be makes so much more sense to me.

I have been lucky to have experienced two industries in my career – with the first 10 or so years in retail and the last 10 in recruitment. Neither of these environments lent to “quiet quitting.” If for no other reason than it would have meant letting people down – my co-workers, my team, my customers, my clients, my candidates (oh, and my boss). Leaving them aside for a minute, that feeling of letting others down, it would have made ME miserable.

But perhaps these “quiet quitters” don’t feel the same? I’m not sure. But what I am sure about, positive in fact, is that when you find the right job, the right culture fit, the right balance, you can make those 40 hours a week, much more enjoyable.

I speak to countless candidates each week. Many reach out to me because they are unhappy with their job. What’s interesting to me is how often retailers, with many years of experience suggest that this is no longer the industry for them. For my side, I hate seeing good people leave this industry and so I often encourage them to list what it is they dislike, what is making them unhappy, and what they would like from a new role. 99% of the time we can find all or most of these things in the same industry, just with a different employer. The amazing part? Once I hear back from these once disgruntled retailers, their joy is back. It wasn’t the industry that was bringing them down, just that job.

Seeing this change time and time again makes me think, these quiet quitters? Have they just not found the right role for them yet? The one where they can find joy for themselves in these 40 working hours – where they get to feel challenged, and appreciated, enjoy the comradery of their co-workers, and a belly laugh with a client or customer. Me, I love seeing some candidates progress and come back to me as a client. I love seeing my team advance and grow and be promoted. I don’t think this makes me a sucker. I think it means I am finding as much joy as I can in every hour that I live, including those spent at my desk. And I don’t know about everyone else, but for me, that seems the best way to spend my days!

Which brings me on to this. I read something by Lesley Alderman in the Washington post recently – about “Quiet thriving” and it spoke to me! But it’s not as catchy a phrase as “quiet quitting” – so perhaps it won’t become the new buzzword or phrase. But for me, I definitely think it’s worth a look.

Quiet thriving is taking actions and making a mental shift to help you feel more engaged. Her ideas range from looking for the positive to finding a work buddy, setting goals for yourself to setting boundaries with your boss.

I like all these ideas and love the concept, but ultimately what I took from it is this – It’s up to you – and that’s what appealed to me most. I am a firm believer, that, for the most part – your happiness is in your hands, no one else’s.

In this overheated, employee-led market so many employers come to me asking about how they can retain their staff. Now is the time to speak up – if you have an idea or suggestion that will improve your workplace and bring more joy. Most employers will welcome anything that leads to a happy workforce! (within reason – although I was able to bring my dog into our office which led to more joy than you can shake a stick at!)

And, at the end of all this, if your employer is shutting you down, if you can’t find your work tribe to connect with, then maybe, it’s just the wrong job. Maybe it’s time to call me (unapologetic plug here, lol), maybe a move to a shiny new job will be the thing that brings you your work joy this year??

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Source: Lesley Alderman Article