Cracking the Code: Overcoming the 3 Biggest Hurdles of Frontline Retail Recruitment

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High-volume hiring

I’ve been fortunate enough to have many conversations with HR and talent acquisition leaders across a wide range of sub-industries within retail. Regardless of the goods or services these businesses provide, many have similar challenges when it comes to hiring and keeping great talent. 

While each organization is certainly unique, the pains that come with high-volume hiring in the retail space are felt amongst talent teams. In hundreds of hours of conversations with frontline employers, I’ve found these to be the most common challenges they face:

Challenge 1: Reducing candidate ghosting

The tale as old as time across recruiting (and sometimes life) is people don’t following through. People struggle to follow through by blowing off an interview, not completing the final step of a background check, or--heck--even not showing up to their first day of work. This, understandably, is a challenge that can be draining for any member of the hiring organization.

The logical next question these strategic leaders ask is, why does this keep happening? And, maybe more importantly, what can I do to address this?

Let's tackle the first question first.

Why candidates ghost employers:

Candidates choose the cold shoulder most often because:

  1. The process took too long. Time from application to paycheck is crucial for jobseekers. The “Amazon Prime” effect applies here just like it does with ordering that fifth coffee tumbler; the longer you have to wait, the more likely you’ll find somewhere else to buy it from.
  2. They got a sweeter offer somewhere else. Pay is often the number one excuse I hear from companies as to why they believe they lose out on talent. Data shows that it is a top factor, with many employees “going down the street for a dollar more.” 
  3. They got an offer that works better for their current situation. First among these is location. As we know, “location, location, location” is a big factor when buying a home and an might be an even bigger factor when selecting a job. Jobseekers tell us that proximity is a huge factor due to travel costs from both a time and financial standpoint. Another element of individuals’ current situation is their schedule. Job seekers may choose a role because it simply works better with their existing availability. 

Addressing candidate ghosting

Diagnosing the reasons why candidates are ghosting you can be tricky. You can’t just ask them because, well, they are ghosting you. So, you need to balance a data-informed approach with some intuition. Diagnosing where candidates fall out of the recruiting funnel is the first crucial step. 

Once you have a diagnosis (or hypothesis), it’s time to act fast. Here are a few different ways you can address these challenges: 

  1. Research your top local competitors via their postings and see what types of rates and perks they offer. Leverage these examples to have conversations with your internal teams on creating more compelling offers for these candidates. 
  2. Be clear on shift needs in the application. It’s better to lose candidates at the start because they can’t work weeknights than further down the process after you’ve invested time and money in them. 
  3. Lean on technology to reduce your time to hire and location matching. Tools like ours can match candidates to your nearest store based on their zip code. AI and automation can also speed up laborious tasks and bottlenecks between candidates and recruiters, as well as recruiters and hiring managers. 

Challenge 2: Overcoming 90-day turnover

Does your turnover rate keep you up at night? You are not alone. I have heard some nightmare-inducing numbers ranging from 50% to 700% turnover. 

Even though my conversations are often with leaders on the pre-hire side, they are acutely aware of and take equal ownership of this metric with the other employment teams. Retaining talent is heavily influenced by the process that goes into getting them to their first day. The reality is that just because candidates accepted the offer, the abovementioned ghosting reasons can seep into the first 90 days of their employment, causing them to leave. 

While pre-90-day turnover is frustrating for recruiters who are constantly trying to fill a leaky bucket of talent and hiring managers who have to work to make up for being inadequately staffed, it also impacts the business’ bottom line. Early turnover costs businesses, on average, $1,500 per lost hourly employee

So, it’s essential that organizations find ways to scalably combat early turnover.

Addressing the first 90-day turnover

Let’s find a way to get you that deep, drool-worthy sleep you deserve. 

First, it’s essential that you and your team prioritize transparency, proactivity, and consistency in the candidate experience. Some may drop off when they hear about tougher parts of the job, but this will save you lots of time and money in the long run. 

Here are some strategies on how to address this costly challenge:

Transparency from the start

It is incredibly important to set expectations throughout the hiring process. Aside from shift availability, time spent standing, lifting heavy objects, difficult customer interactions, no natural sunlight, and dealing with shoplifters are just some of the many challenging parts of various retail jobs. 

Prefacing the potentially less glamorous elements of the role in interviews, inviting candidates to come onsite before their first day, and encouraging questions throughout onboarding are all essential pieces to set realistic expectations with candidates.

Proactivity before day one

Creating a welcoming day one goes a long, long, way. It’s not uncommon for organizations to use newly hired employees’ first days to fill out forms and watch multiple hours of training videos. When organizations utilize automation in their onboarding, new employees can come to their first day ready to start work immediately. 

Consistency once onboarded

Lastly, consistent check-ins through surveying and manager touchpoints are a must. These don’t need to be 30-minute weekly one-on-ones with a manager. Check-ins should be painless and scalable for the employee and the manager. This can mean instead that automated touches are sent out to the individual at key intervals. These surveys can help teams identify challenges an employee is facing before it evolves into something bigger. 

Challenge 3: Friction between hiring managers and recruiters

How many times have your recruiters expressed frustration when trying to work with hiring managers? On the other side of the coin, how often have your hiring managers expressed frustration with the hiring process? 

This is something I hear constantly from both sides of the interaction. What I’ve found is that it often stems from two primary issues: 

Bottlenecks from poor processes

The more manual steps required in a hiring process, the more bottlenecks can exist. I still see many businesses relying on inefficient processes for interview coordination, feedback gathering, start date requests, and other steps when moving a candidate through the process. 

Hiring managers are trying to spend as much time as they can on the floor but get pulled away frequently for hiring needs. Meanwhile, recruiters feel like they are getting ghosted by these busy hiring managers and thus need to send repeated follow-up communications. 

Technology not developed for high-volume needs

The tech that TA leaders adopt may not be user-friendly for hiring managers, which requires the hiring manager to spend more time learning the tool than they have. For example, ATSs are confusing and oftentimes require them to learn how to use a new app or sit at a desktop, taking them away from revenue-generating activities. 

At the end of the day, I’ve seen more times than I can count that inefficient processes and cumbersome technological “solutions” can lead to much of the friction within the team. Ultimately, recruiters and hiring managers have the same goal but get frustrated when they are stopped by forces outside of their control. If these underlying issues are left unaddressed, it can lead to more conflict, slower processes, and fewer employees actually hired. 

Addressing friction between hiring managers and recruiters

To ease this friction, you must be intentional about the manual intervention by recruiters throughout the process and the user-friendliness of the technology you select.


No hiring team should be bogged down by interview coordinating, feedback gathering, start date requesting, or any other typical recruiter-to-hiring manager interaction. But when Recruiters are faced with mountains of manual tasks, it’s no wonder that they are butting heads with Hiring Managers. When you fix the process, you fix the problem. By utilizing automated, intelligent processes to replace manual, antiquated ones, recruiters and hiring managers are free to focus on their broader, more important role in the hiring process. 


Meet the hiring managers where they are and set them up for success with intuitive tools. Leveraging a recruitment automation platform built for frontline recruiting, like Emi, simplifies the process for these hiring managers. Most supposed solutions for frontline recruiting fail to consider the unique needs of individuals who are downstream of the purchasing decision like GMs and floor managers. By integrating into calendar apps and text communication for candidate management, hiring managers don’t need to go to a desktop or learn a new system/app when it comes to efficiently scheduling, interviewing, and progressing candidates forward in the hiring process.

Automation to the rescue

The truth is, I talk to leaders who have tried the band-aid fixes by bolting on a chatbot or adding a link-to-schedule calendar tool. And they eventually find what’s been true all along: adopting a holistic recruitment automation platform is the best way for teams to address these pains all at once instead of piece by piece. 

The holistic hiring solution

Holistic hiring platforms like Emi help address frontline retail recruiters’ challenges by:

  • Reducing candidate ghosting: Through consistent and authentic automated communication, Emi elevates employer brands and progresses candidates through the hiring process. This dramatically reduces ghosting to interviews and start dates.
  • Building relationships with new employees: Emi is a fully texting-based application (with a 73% completion rate) that guides candidates through onboarding and into the first 90 days. This frontline recruitment automation system can track interaction with materials and forms and collects sentiment data so your team has the data it needs to prevent turnover.
  • Reducing friction within hiring teams: Our intuitive SMS-based hiring manager experience allows hiring managers to easily communicate availability, interview feedback, and start date requests with Emi, not your recruiters. Automated reminders ensure all of this is being done in a timely manner, unblocking bottlenecks.

Closing thoughts

If I can leave you with one headline, it is this. You are not alone in the challenges you are facing.

Whether Emi is a fit for your team or not, I love to hear from talent acquisition pros on the various multi-faceted problems they are facing. Please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or fill out this form to continue the conversation.

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