Grocery Retail Recruitment Q&A

Grocery Retail Recruitment Q&A

Our Director of Grocery Retail, Nikki Murran, featured in a recent edition of ShelfLife magazine’s Recruitment Q&A to answer some of the most prevalent questions within the grocery retail sector.

Q: In today’s competitive marketplace, retailers are finding it difficult to secure experienced staff. What would you say are the main factors behind this and how significant is this issue currently within Ireland’s grocery industry?

A: There is any number of factors contributing to the staffing crisis, but I feel the most obvious issues are as follows:

Supply has decreased: We started the pandemic from a place of near perfect unemployment but the pandemic unemployment payment (PUP) allowed candidates to opt out of the workforce for an extended period of time. This caused a proportion of the retail sector to return home to other European countries during the pandemic and the last two years has seen a number of candidates leave the retail industry to pursue roles in other sectors.
Demand has increased: 2020 saw an additional €2 billion in grocery sales and still, to date, we are seeing an additional €200 per household per quarter being spent in the grocery sector. The DIY retail trade has also seen a substantial increase in many stores with no slowdown in sight and reports of pent-up demand still in play from 2020/21.

Q: How can your knowledge and experience within the FMCG industry help retailers to circumvent the current recruitment challenges?

A: Excel Recruitment has been recruiting for and supporting the Irish retail sector for the past 20 years. When it comes to retail recruitment, no other company has more experience in the Irish market. We are a team of retailers, recruiting for retailers. With over 85% of our business coming from repeat customers, we know we’re providing an excellent service. We take the time to understand the needs of each store by thoroughly screening the candidates from our extensive database and our team also provides honest feedback to clients and candidates throughout the recruiting process to ensure the perfect match for the role.

Q: What advice would you give retailers to ensure their employment packages stand out from competitors and can attract the best talent available?

A: Some of the key factors to take into account are as follows:
Tailor each package depending on the role / candidate
This is where we’ve seen the best successes in the market. It’s important to understand what each potential candidate is looking for in their next career move. Time and again, clients are tempted to offer more money to candidates. However, by understanding a candidate’s motivations – you may find that additional annual leave, healthcare discounts or reduced hours are more likely to secure your preferred hire.

Think outside the box
Small benefits like discounts on local gyms, canteen discounts, extra days of annual leave for birthdays, free tea, coffee and newspapers go a lot further than you may think! These small inexpensive perks are a great way to attract candidates. Be sure to list all your perks – no matter how small and include them with every job that you are looking to hire for.

Profit share
With basic salaries going up, this can be an ideal option by putting in place bonuses linked to a store’s profitability. You can offer outstanding on-target earnings without impacting your store’s wage budget.

Q: From the job candidate’s perspective, how will you help them to prepare for their best interview performance?

A: We tailor our candidate preparation depending on each individual, and the role that they are going for. By getting to know each candidate and by understanding their past experience/future ambitions, we’re positioning ourselves to support the candidate through each step of the hiring process. This can be anything from helping them to phrase answers, giving them the company background, suggesting the best stores for them to visit beforehand or teaching them how to conduct a virtual interview. And sometimes, we’re just simply a sounding board for a candidate to voice their concerns.

Q: It has become increasingly common for employers to hold multiple interviews. What specific advice would you give candidates when embarking on the second or third round of interviews?

A: I would recommend to clients to get all decision makers to sit in on the first interview so that you can conduct a thorough first round. This allows us to move at a faster pace in this overheated market and leaves no need for subsequent rounds. However, if you are a candidate who is called back for additional rounds:

  • Treat it like the first round! You may be meeting a new interviewer – and it is imperative you come across as well prepared, professional, interested and engaged as you did in the first round.
  • Don’t worry about repeating information from the first round – often the previous interviewer is anxious for the new interviewer to hear what you had to say.
  • Prepare and recap on your preparation for round one. Think about any questions you would like to have asked and prepare answers for any questions you felt you underperformed on during the previous rounds.
  • They liked you in round one, so relax, be yourself and enjoy!

Q: As we tentatively emerge from the Covid-19 crisis, do you believe that staff shortages will significantly lessen in the next 12 months?

A: No, looking forward, I can’t see any factors in play that will dramatically increase supply or decrease demand so it’s hard to see how these shortages will cease in the near future. Having said that, I do believe there are still great people available in the retail industry, if you know where to look. It’s essential to have a strong recruitment partner now more than ever to recruit talent for your business, and we will continue to help our clients and candidates in whatever way we can.

You can check out all our live retail jobs here. For more information you can contact Nikki on 01 814 8747 or email


Butcher Jobs Market

Butcher Jobs Market Update: High demand sees employers responding

Claire Byrne is a part of Excel Recruitment’s award-winning grocery retail recruitment team specialising in butcher recruitment. Here, she discusses what the current butcher jobs market looks like….

Like patio furniture during a heatwave, butchers are in high demand.

Consumers increasingly want to eat better meat and know more about the meat they are eating. Not only where it’s from, but how to cook it, how to eat it, what cuts will work best for them or go further for their family. A knowledgeable butcher is key to this education.

Covid has only accelerated this, but few could have predicted just how much. People are having to eat at home at levels never seen before, and are embracing it, investing the time and effort into cooking.

Customers and store managers, from independents to nationwide supermarkets, are more and more recognising the importance of having a great butcher or butchers on their team.

What does this mean for butchers on the jobs market?

Basically, it has never been a better time to be a butcher. As fresh food categories boom, butchers are highly sought after and aware of the salaries they can gain on the job market.

Employers are seeing in real-time how customers respond to having great butchers in-store and what this means for sales. Adding to this is a tighter talent market which employers are working hard to address. Our grocery clients are working to not retain the butcher talent they have but also to attract more to their business.

Salaries and pay rates are more flexible and reflective of the value butchers bring to the business. Outside of salary, the best employers are looking at the whole package and work culture. They are want to invest in their careers of their butcher team, providing more opportunities to learn, gain new skills and move up in the business. Work is also being around work-life balance and creating a great team culture.

Butchery is a skilled job, requiring years of training and a high level of dedication. More and more employers are recognising this and the opportunities for a butcher looking for a new job are endless.

At Excel, it couldn’t be easier to find butcher jobs, simply give me a call on 01-8717613 and I’ll take care of the rest! To view any of our live grocery jobs, click here.



Purchasing, Procurement and Retail Buying Careers

Our Recruitment Consultant Sarah recruits across Retail Head Office and Supply Chain and always gets questions from jobseekers about careers in Buying. In this video, she breaks down the difference between Buying, Purchasing and Procurement and the skills employers look for when recruiting each.



How important retail really is

How COVID-19 has shown how important retail really is

To say it has been a trying few months for retail is probably the understatement of the century. No-one paying even passing attention could argue that the past few months haven’t been some of the most stressful and confusing retailers have ever faced. Most have thankfully re-opened and are now successfully operating in a socially distanced world but there is still a long road to go. Much support will be needed from central government, local councils and consumers over the coming months.

BUT…..there have been rays of light for retailers

One of the most striking things from the staggered re-openings of retailers has been consumers’ reaction. The anticipation and excitement for shops to re-open and then the pure joy when they did were remarkable. The fanfare of Penney’s re-opening was huge and notably driven by the brand’s loyal customers rather than any marketing from the retailer itself, with queues for most of its stores beginning in the early hours and stretching through neighbouring streets.

While Penneys made national headlines, a walk down Dublin’s Henry Street (close to Excel HQ) saw similar queues for retailers of all kinds in the days and weeks since re-opening.

Need and want

While online shopping proved a lifeline for those who were cocooning and a welcome distraction for those simply bored at home, there are customer needs and goals that online shopping can never meet as successfully as bricks and mortar stores. While online shopping soared during lockdown, so did buyer’s remorse and returns. There are many purchases customers far prefer making in-person from cosmetics to a new pair of jeans to investing in an expensive piece of tech. E-commerce sites constantly revise and refine how they present products but there’s little that can replicate seeing, feeling and experience a product in real life before you buy.

The shopping experience

There are also purchases where the experience of buying is almost as important as the actual item itself, such as a luxury handbag or a brand’s latest ‘must-have’ release. Customers value the expertise and input of experienced sales consultants and brand experts when making an important purchase. On a much more fundamental level what has become clear is, people like shopping. Lockdown proved more than anything that we are social creatures and missed the chance to get out and engage with other humans. With more and more people choosing to holiday at home this year, that practise can only continue.

E-commerce and online shopping aren’t going anywhere, but it’s becoming clearer and clearer they won’t not going to be the trigger of the ‘retail apocalypse’ that many predicted. Traditional retailing shouldn’t be trying to compete with online, but instead tapping into what makes it special. This isn’t the time for the retail industry to try to simply ride out the storm, instead redouble efforts into ensuring well-trained, knowledgeable salespeople combined friendly, genuine customer service and a personalised, engaging customer experience should be the focus.


How to stay healthy when you can’t work from home

As all of us across the country continue to work against the spread of COVID-19, government instructions continue to be to stay home, stay healthy, and work from home if you can. At Excel Recruitment, we work directly with clients and candidates on the frontlines of this crisis dealing directly with the needs of the public. For all these fantastic workers (including our own temp team) in healthcare, retail, warehouses, supply chain and more, working from home isn’t an option. So for those on the frontlines right now: what can be done to mind both your physical health, mental health, and to stay healthy overall?

Green Friday

Green is the new Black (Friday)

A national campaign hopes to encourage consumers to buy Irish this Black Friday.

The “Green Friday” campaign aims to encourage people to shop locally and support Irish brands and businesses this Christmas shopping period. Beginning in America, the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales events have been enthusiastically embraced by consumers here and last year saw more than €50m spent over the course of the weekend.

But there has been growing concern in recent years that the majority of this spending is going to overseas retailers online. The Green Friday campaign is asking people to support jobs and their local economies and contribute to Ireland’s creative community, manufacturers and service providers by buying Irish this November 25th.

The new initiative is led by Marian O’Gorman, CEO of Kilkenny retail group and supported trade associations including the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland, Retail Excellence, Chambers Ireland, the Small Firms Association and Irish brands and retail businesses countrywide.

Up to €4.65 billion will be spent by Irish consumers during the Christmas period, based on research by Retail Ireland. Brands and businesses are being encouraged to get involved and market their products under the Green Friday banner this Christmas to highlighting the value of shopping locally.

“With Brexit uncertainty and trade tariffs lingering, now, more than ever, we need to reawaken people to the significance of buying Irish and shopping local” says Marian O’Gorman “Irish brands and designers are second to none, with many that are leaders on a world stage. We, as consumers, need to appreciate the fundamental fact that by keeping money in circulation in our own communities, we are protecting jobs and public services.”

SFA Director Sven Spollen-Behrens said that Christmas can add a major economic impetus when shoppers back small businesses and help maintain jobs.

“If each adult spent just €20 extra in small local businesses this Christmas, this would amount to an injection of over €73m for small firms and would have a huge, positive impact on local jobs and the vibrancy of town and village centres.”

Nikki Murran, Excel Recruitment's Director of Grocery Retail Recruitment

The Premium Problem


Excel’s Director of Grocery Retail Nikki Murran reflects on one of our clients’ biggest headaches, spiralling insurance costs and asks what can be done about them?

One of my favourite parts of my jobs is catching up with our retailers. The last 9 months have been particularly enjoyable as there seems to be so much optimism across the grocery retail sector at the moment. A lot of clients are investing in their stores while others are opening brand new sites. I was invited out to the new store opening of Dunnes Stores and James Whelan’s Butchers in Naas a while back and it was such a treat to see grocery retailing at it’s best and the excitement that comes with new store openings!

However, despite the overall pattern of optimism, there is one issue looming heavy on the minds of retailers: rising insurance costs. It is not only smaller independent retailers being crippled, spiralling insurance rates are also having a heavy impact on all retailers across the country.

The Response from Retailers

Retailers are reacting; many have invested in staff training, improved store layouts and incident reporting policies, which have led to a decrease in the number of claims made in stores. Despite this work, the average insurance premium has seen a rise of between 5% and 10% a year! This is a substantial cost to any retailer – especially when they are actively doing everything in their power to reduce the risk.

These increases are the burden of the retailers, not because they are at fault or have failed to act, but because of a wider culture of claims which despite media coverage and public outcry, is growing. Compounding this culture of blaming and claiming, there exist no clear judicial guidelines for compensation and worst of all – a lack of resources to follow up an insurance fraud. Since the legislation around this was enacted in 2004 to tackle the issue there has been ONE – yes only one – prosecution for insurance fraud! How is that possible?

The Numbers

Ireland’s average whiplash injury compensation in €17,338, vs the UK’s average of €3,798 or Canada’s of €2,215. Australia and Sweden are unlikely to offer any compensation at all for the same soft tissue injury. Such dramatic differences surely raise serious questions about how we are coming up with these monetary values for awards? It is the premiums of ordinary people and the premiums of retailers up and down the country that are paying for these bloated, inconsistent pay-outs!

In an article by Charlie Weston earlier this year he states that “Retailers estimate that on average, for every €1 allocated to an insurance claim, a business must make €100 in sales to recoup this outlay.” (The Irish Independent, May 2019) That is an incredible burden to put on any retailer!

So, what can we do?

The Alliance for Insurance reform have some excellent resources available to tackle this epidemic on their website –

They are striving for:

Prevention of exaggerated claims

Consistency in the calculation of awards

Transparency in how premiums are calculated

And really, the most shocking part of this mandate is that these measures are not in place already.

Aislinn Lea, Head of Fashion & Non-Food, Excel Recruitment

Retail University

Excel’s Fashion and Non-Food Director Aislinn Lea on why a retail career is the one for anyone looking to learn and the world of opportunities retail jobs offer

The term university I believe comes from the Latin universitas magistrorum et scholarium which roughly means “an association of teachers and scholars” which to me, is exactly what the retailing world is. A retail career is a world of opportunity. It is an ever changing world of diversity, excitement, pace, people, leadership and growth. I struggle to think of another industry or career path that can offer you the diversity of skills and experiences that retail can. Depending on your skills and interests, retail offers you the opportunity to:

  • Be a decision maker: insight of managing and leading a business like it is your own
  • Be a teacher: instrumental in training, motivating and encouragement
  • Be a financial wizard: managing controllable costs, analysing your trading reports improve sales growth and create a profitable store / business
  • Be a magician and juggler- learn the art of multi-tasking and managing the needs of the business, of your customers and your team without breaking a sweat
  • Be creative – to allow for change by understanding your people, your customer, company culture
  • Be everything to everyone – a leader, a manager, a friend, a personal shopper, a coach, an inspiration and ultimately to be part of the art in delivering the ultimate shopping experience

I recently received an email from a candidate that I placed in a new management role letting me know how he was finding his new job. In it, he described his new company as a “University of Retail” which struck me firstly, as a fantastic compliment for our client. Secondly, it highlighted just how unique retail is as an industry for precisely this reason: in retail, every day’s a school day.

Retail management is one of the most progressive careers in the market, an industry where the opportunities and careers available are as ever-changing as the products we sell and customers we serve. To a hardworking and passionate individual pursuing a retail career the doors that open are endless and a result, exciting, challenging and rewarding. From Management, Head Office or Buying to HR, Marketing, E-Tailing and Visual Merchandising there are exciting career opportunities and career paths across Grocery, Fashion and Non-Food retailing along with countless chances to learn, meet new people, try new things, and see new places. On top of this, it’s an extremely fast-paced industry, constantly innovating and evolving, which provides anybody who wants to embrace new ideas and technologies the opportunity to really make their mark.

Retail is Ireland’s largest indigenous industry employing over 280,000 people and accounting for a large contribution to the Irish economy. Its also one of the fastest evolving industries there is. As retail continues to grow, we need to continue to attract new talent and new leaders into the world of retail. Equally we need to hold on to our current talent, our scholars in retail who can mentor, train and develop the new recruits, the new team, the new leaders.

Why Retail Needs Great HR Managers

Excel Recruitment has established a dedicated HR recruitment department to further support our client’s needs. Head of HR Recruitment Sean Thomas breaks down just some of the reasons why great HR talent is a necessity not a bonus for retail businesses.

only 4 months left in 2019, we’re continuing to see excellent growth in the
economy and the market shift towards full-employment. We are seeing people
prosper, building sites all over with new homes being built, banks’ lending again
and young couples finally becoming homeowners. Excellent right? While retailers
across the country have reaped the benefits from all of this positive growth,
such a buoyant employment market is causing headaches for retailers of all
sizes when it comes to recruitment.  An
experienced HR Manager can support owners and organisations in all industries
but below are just a few reasons why retail in particular should make HR a priority.

The customer is key

state the obvious, exceptional customer service is at the centre of any
successful retail business. The key to this is the front-line employees, the
people who are in direct contact with customers both instore and online. They
are the public face of the company and often, what customers remember most
about their experience of a brand. They are essentially ambassadors of the
brand and key to achieving customer service goals. This means making sure that
the workforce is properly trained in the appropriate skills and happy and
motivated to deliver exemplary service. This is where a solid HR team can
shine, not only in devising, co-ordinating and implementing complete 360
training for in-store teams but also in terms of ensuring employee engagement
and motivation, devising incentives for rewarding and recognising key staff or
planning team bonding exercises.


can have a high rate of employee turnover due to seasonal demand, employing
high numbers of students who work part-time and then move on or people working
their way up the business quickly. High staff turnover can be time consuming
and expensive for businesses and can impact customer loyalty if customers keep
seeing a new face every time they enter your store. A solid HR management team
can keep turnover to a minimum by managing the interviewing process, asking the
right questions to ascertain how a potential hire will fit in with the existing
team and communicating the role and its responsibilities and requirements fully
to candidates being interviewed.  This way, there’s no surprises when the
candidate starts a job, for either them or the employer.

Seasonal Demand

often experience fluctuations in staff numbers, such as needing to add
temporary staff in the run up to Christmas or summer to cope with increased
footfall. This can be stressful for businesses without sufficient HR support
trying to recruit large volumes of people quickly and for full-time workers who
may have to assist new colleagues thrown into the thick of it. Again, a
specialist and dedicated HR manager is the best person to manage this process,
highlighting to permanent staff what’s expected of them and onboarding
temporary workers successfully.

both head office roles and on the floor in the stores, we are seeing exactly
how important it is having a strong HR manager with expertise in reward,
L&D and recruitment.

A strong
L&D leader can develop talented members of the team, giving them the
confidence to take the reins in the business or take up specific support roles
in other areas of the business. They can also assist a business in motivating
and retaining their top performers, leading to internal promotions and
increasing harmony within the store.

If you have any HR recruitment requirements or are an HR
professional on the lookout for a new move, get in touch with Sean today
at or call 01-8148747


Barry Whelan, CEO Excel Recruitment

New Year, New Career? 10 tips on how to reach your career goals in 2019

Here at Excel Recruitment we always see a sharp spike of people ‘looking at their options’ in January and this year is no different. New Year is always a great time to take stock and reflect on your goals for the year ahead, particularly your career goals . Whether you’re actively looking for a move or just want to reach your full potenial in your current job, CEO of Excel Recruitment Barry Whelan serves up 10 tips to help you make the most of your career in 2019.

January is a great time to assess your career and take steps to accentuate it. With an economy full of opportunity, why not focus the next few months on making 2019 your most successful career year ever?

Boost your essential job skills
There is probably a reason you were recruited to your current position; perhaps it is your management skills or selling ability. No matter what is the case, make an effort to ramp up the skills that make you good at what you do. You can take courses, attend seminars, or pursue a professional qualification to advance your existing talents.

Volunteer more often
Stepping up in your job really does set you apart from the pack. If you have shied away from volunteering in the past, make the coming year one in which you offer to take on more responsibility. It’s a great way to expand your horizons and send management the message that you are not afraid to offer to help and try new things.

Develop a skill that no one else at your company has
Why not make yourself a key player within your company? This will set the stage for a promotion – or at least give you job security. You may not be the only person at your company who is a good merchandiser or strong negotiator. However, if you work on developing a skill that no one else at your company seems to have, you will make yourself indispensable.

Get more feedback
Feedback can be tough; you don’t only get to hear the positive, but obviously also the negative. Nevertheless, it is hard to assess your own performance when you are deep in deadlines and tasks. If you want to take your career to an exciting new level in the coming year, you need to make a point of pursuing ongoing feedback from both your manager and peers. Figure out where you are excelling and where there is clear room for improvement. The more insight you get from those around you, the better positioned you will be to take action.

Take criticism graciously
While on the note of feedback, it is also not easy to be on the receiving end of criticism, even if it is constructive and helpful. Accepting that criticism courteously is a good way to set yourself apart from colleagues who are known to get defensive or ignore the feedback. Most of us are not perfect employees, but if you learn from your shortcomings and improve upon them tremendously, you’ll get close.

Work on your soft skills
Boosting your job-specific skills is important, but don’t forget about those general skills that apply to any given role, such as time management and organistion. The more you improve your soft skills, the more valuable an employee you will be, so think about the areas you are lacking in and try to do better.

Be a team player
Don’t underestimate the importance of being a strong team player. If you jump in when your colleagues need help or agree to collaborate on a project you would rather be running solo, you will show your manager that you’re agreeable and adaptable. These are qualities that could land you a step up the ladder.

Embrace risks
If you don’t take some risks, you’ll miss out on key opportunities to wow your boss and add real value to your company. Don’t stay quiet when a great idea comes to mind, and don’t hesitate to dive into a new project or initiative you feel will be a game-changer. Even if you don’t end up succeeding, there is a good chance your company will acknowledge your effort and courage.


The people you know can be just as helpful, if not more so, than the things you know, when it comes to furthering your career. That is why it is always a good idea to expand your network. You can do so by attending conferences and industry events or asking your existing contacts for introductions. But don’t just network outside your company; get to know people from different departments and teams internally as well.

And…Don’t forget the mistakes of the past
Maybe you messed up a major project last year or tanked in a presentation you worked hard on. Rather than carry the burden of those mistakes with you into the new year, take some time to assess what went wrong and map out a plan to avoid a repeat during your next opportunity. Learning from previous mistakes without letting them hold you back not only shows tremendous growth, but courage as well.