Recruiters Tell All: How to Attract and Retain Employees in the Retail Sector

Recruiters Tell All: How to Attract and Retain Employees in the Retail Sector

By: Tony Devereaux; Director, Recruitment & Placement Services

COVID continues to be the dominant topic and determinant in retail today. Employers are constantly scrambling to fill positions and retain workers in what is unquestionably a buyer’s market for candidates. With so many openings, they can pick and choose whoever is offering the best pay and incentives, most flexibility, safest environment, and other benefits.

The hiring script has been flipped. Candidates are interviewing employers rather than the other way around. Staffing agencies that funnel talent to employers today have to double down their commitment to really connect with candidates and listen to their priorities.

Nobody has the pulse of retail candidates like the recruiters that spend their days working to match them with opportunities that fit their needs. So we went straight to the source to hear what those critical conversations are revealing at the beginning of 2022. This is what our own recruiters at SASR had to say.


There is universal agreement among SASR recruiters that candidates today are putting pressure on employers. Candidates understand the talent shortage and their control over hiring conversations and negotiations.

Employers that don’t put the appropriate amount of weight on providing work flexibility, PTO, and benefits are going to lose the talent war. Candidates want an understanding employer who will be supportive when their kids have to be home due to COVID, for example. Pay, job location, and benefits also come into play.

Candidates ask recruiters detailed questions – and then compare the answers they get to those of other employers. Without total transparency and clarity, candidates will move on to other opportunities. It’s similar to a home buying process in that employers have to sell themselves. Recruiters are seeing an increasing number of withdrawals when candidates don’t get the answers they want.


COVID is still front and center in candidates’ minds. Our recruiters are seeing a heightened demand for COVID safety overall. They want clarity on COVID policies when working and traveling, and they want those policies to be enforced. Some bring up inconsistent mask usage. Others want to know the vaccination status of coworkers, especially on traveling teams. And some will leave their positions if they don’t feel guidelines are being adhered to.

Some candidates speak of their experience working in a COVID environment as either a new skill or a value they can use to market themselves to employers. Candidates think there should be higher pay for putting themselves in riskier situations and want to know how pay and scheduling will be handled if they test positive for COVID.


Work flexibility has dominated conversation in the job market for the last two years and certainly will continue to for years to come. A new worker mindset has emerged – they don’t just want more flexible schedules, they now expect them. And more critically, with such a big talent shortage, they are in the position to demand it.

It’s common for SASR associates to have other jobs and family responsibilities. They want the ability to come in later or leave early as needed. They often ask if they have to work all the days on an assignment. Some only want night shifts. For those that work on travel teams, location can be important if they want to visit people when they’re there. Others want to take a vacation in the middle of a job. Many don’t want to be away from their families too long.


There’s no denying that pay will sway a candidate’s decision. While that’s always been the case, right now they know they can easily find other work. Our recruiters say an extra three dollars an hour will definitely make up their minds, but even a dollar more can do it. The employers that have a firm grasp on the market and are willing to beat competitors’ rates are winning the talent war today.

Pay is king, but incentives often matter as well. SASR’s travel teams necessarily spend a lot of time on the road and are away from home for weeks or longer at a time. This is especially difficult now because of COVID. Travel incentives are factored into the candidate’s decision. The key for recruiters is to be prepared to answer the candidate questions with clear information.


SASR has four core values: Serve With Love, Do the Right Thing, Create Solutions, and Deliver Exceptional Results. We asked our recruiters if there was one that was resonating most with candidates right now. While there were different answers, Do the Right Thing was the most common. And it’s easy to understand why in a time of such uncertainty and concern.

Whether it’s the big topics like COVID, flexibility, and pay or simply patience, understanding, and transparency, they’re all part of doing the right thing for candidates. Associates know it when they experience it, and it keeps them coming back.