October 26, 2010

Retail hiring season gearing up!

On Friday night, I was walking through the Scarborough Town Centre and I happened to walk by a group of students hanging out. Nothing earth shattering about that really - hanging out at the mall on a Friday night is pretty much a mandatory high school ritual.

But I noticed something peculiar - all 5 of them were carrying folders with white pieces of paper that upon closer review, were resumes.

They soon got up and walked en masse to a popular clothing retailer, each with their resume in tow. Five minutes later, I saw some pretty dejected looking faces walking out, texting away, and talking about the next store they wanted to apply for.

I ended up chatting with the group and offered a few retail job search tips and my suggestions on how to find mall jobs in Toronto. I thought I'd share them today since the holiday hiring season is beginning to gear up.

Even with the economy still pretty soft, there were still jobs available this year as stores undoubtedly will have higher traffic - how much higher is really the concern. But even with a tough economy, I still think jobs will be plentiful although I predict that hiring may take place later (e.g. in November or even December) to allow for hiring managers to firm up their budgets.

If you'll be trying to find a retail job this year, remember these five key strategies on how to find a retail job:

1. Do your research

You can't simply wake up one day and decide that today you'd like to find a retail job. You have to plan it out to maximize your success.

Before you even begin to write a resume or cover letter, check out the mall's website to get a sense of the stores in the mall. Some mall websites - like those for Scarborough Town Centre, Fairview Mall, and Sherway Gardens - offer pretty comprehensive lists of stores looking for staff. Keep in mind these listings could be out-of-date, but they can be a great place to start looking for vacancies.

Also, take note that a major trend in retail recruiting has been to centralize hiring through the company's online website/jobs portal. Be sure to check out their website to determine how you should apply - if you should fill out an online application form and upload your resume or if you should walk-in and personally deliver your resume.

2. Prepare yourself

Far too often, I see people searching for a job without having the basics ready.

Take a few days to craft a retail resume and retail cover letter that will help you stand out from the crowd.

If you don't have either a resume or a cover letter, download the free cover letter templates and free resume templates that I've created based on what hiring managers typically look for in a resume.

And remember that many retail stores still require that applicants complete an application form and there's a definite art to that. For anybody looking for a retail job, you've got to know how to complete an application form, especially since many forms have tricky, off-beat questions that can be tough to answer.

3. Plan your strategy

So, you've done your research - you know what stores you want to apply to. And you've created a top-notch retail resume and cover letter and you've learned how to complete a retail job application form.

Now you've got to drop your resume, cover letter, and application form off in person.

When you do, make sure that you go during a slow time so that you can get valuable face time with a manager. In my experience, Tuesday or Wednesday mornings work best - Friday evenings, the time that the students mentioned went, is probably the worst time to go since managers are often dealing with larger crowds.

INSIDER'S TIP: Don't give your application package to a retail sales associate. Make sure you give it the hiring manager, assistant manager, or keyholder. You want to give it to the person who makes the hiring decisions - not someone who might "misplace" your application because they want their friend to get a job instead of you.

4. Keep it cool, calm, and collected

Here's something that some job applicants fail to remember. When you're dropping off your resume, be prepared for an on-the-spot interview - seriously, it'll either be a quick screening interview or a full-fledged one.

Even if the hiring manager is asking when you can work and on what day you can start, that's still a screening interview. S/he is using that to weed out applicants so that only the best are left and you don't want to blow it.

Prepare yourself for this by going over various scenarios. For example, if the hiring manager wants to talk about your availability, mention what days you can work, but that one of your strengths is that you're flexible, reliable, and can work a variety of shifts and if needed, on short notice. Or, if they ask to confirm the position you're applying for, use it as a chance to showcase one or two skills/experiences that relate to the job.

Sometimes, just by giving a tiny bit of information, you pique the interest of the hiring manager and they conduct a more in-depth interview. If they do, just stay cool and calm and read up on how to ace a job interview.

5. Follow up

Once you've dropped off your application form, resume, and cover letter, make sure you follow up. It's amazing how many applicants forget to follow up with a hiring manager.

It's such a simple thing that can spark a hiring manager's interest and that can sometimes be enough to move your application into the 'Yes' pile. And the best part - it's not hard to learn how to follow up on a job application.

Ideally, you should follow up within a week, just to see how things are going. Either call or drop by the store, speak to the same manager you gave your application to, and inquire as to the status of their recruitment process. It's that easy.

If you happen to land an interview, following up becomes even more critical. About a week after a job interview, make sure you follow up because that's how you learn if there are any issues preventing you from getting the job. Take for example a job I had at a large clothing retailer years ago - when I followed up with the hiring manager, I found out that one of my references hadn't panned out. A quick phone call and 15 minutes later, I had a job offer.

Final thought

As I said, even though the economy is still recovering, there will be hiring this year - there has to be because let's face it, the malls get crazy from mid-November onwards. Just be prepared that the hiring may take place later this year to allow for financial budgets to get confirmed and approved.

Good luck!


Unknown said...

1. Do your* research

Wow, this is really such a great blog. It feels like I've stumbled upon a goldmine tonight! Do you happen to know of any seasonal opportunities for the next month? I've been searching online without much luck.

Andrew Hercules said...

Hi Norman!

Thanks for reading my blog - and for finding a typo! :-)

There definitely will be seasonal job opportunities coming up soon. Because the economy is still quite soft, I know a lot of managers have put off hiring to see how their sales are to determine how much hiring they actually need to do. Long gone are the days of hiring 50 or 100 people - now, stores have to really make sure they meet their budget for employee hours.

I'd recommend checking the websites of malls you'd like to work at as they are a great starting point because many stores will advertise their opportunities for free on the mall's website. Also, check the website of companies you want to work for. Many are now recruiting directly online. For example, Future Shop, Gap/Old Navy/Banana Republic, Starbucks, and others have begun to recruit primarily online.

Hope this helps!

- Andrew

Unknown said...

Ohh, I see why now. I'll definitely check out the company websites you mentioned and look into my local GTA malls.

I've also read your post about the gift wrapping company. Several of my friends are interested in a seasonal gift wrapping job and I was wondering if you knew of any other companies such as Toronto Cappriccio.

Andrew Hercules said...

Yeah, definitely start with mall websites. I know most of the major malls have job listings and they are really good places to start looking.

As for gift wrap jobs, I'm actually posting information about that tomorrow!

A few years ago, I worked for a company called Wraps Capriccio (http://www.torontowraps.com/). They offer full- and part-time Gift Wrapper and Customer Service Manager opportunities in and around Toronto.

You can apply online through their site or you can send your completed application form to info@torontowraps.com.

Other than Wraps Capriccio, I've found that most gift wrap jobs are volunteer positions with charitable organizations. These can also be great opportunities to gain valuable work experience while meeting your 40 community service requirement to graduate.