As Australia’s economy continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, retailers are finding themselves ready to make new hires.

While hiring and employee retention have never been considered easy tasks for any business owner, the added complexity of changing consumer preferences and talent shortages post-COVID has made it increasingly daunting for smaller businesses, especially those that don’t have a HR function.

Often when faced with the need to hire, SMB retail owners and managers take on the burden of recruitment and selection alone. Losing weekends with hours spent reviewing resumes and shortlisting candidates – believing this is the only way to employ the right staff.

Online fashion retailer and Shortlyster client, Esther & Co is a real-life example of how growing SMB retailers can streamline their hiring process, increase their headcount affordably and retain the company culture that has made them a success to-date. 

Tackling expansion cost-effectively and sustainably

Over the last 12 months, Esther & Co’s small team has tripled in size, despite the global pandemic through using Shortlyster, a scientifically proven and people-data based hiring solution. When COVID-19 forced Australians into lockdown in March last year, the fashion and accessory retailer had only a handful of staff, including General Manager, Travis Wright.

Travis and the team saw Australians turn to online shopping which led to Esther & Co acquiring new customers at a much faster rate than ever before. This amazing growth meant that the team quickly found themselves needing to hire new talent to help support this demand.

Like many small businesses, it was Travis’s responsibility to make the right hires quickly, all while managing the scaling and profitability of the business, implementing new logistical infrastructure, and keeping up with the wave of new orders coming in.

Travis was time poor and her previous method of recruiting, which included reviewing hundreds of resumes on her weekend, wasn’t sustainable. She also couldn’t justify the costs of an external recruiter during this critical time for the business.

It’s a familiar dilemma for many SMB leaders in retail – there are only so many hours in the day, and only so much budget. There was also the question of culture. Esther & Co was small but the current team gelled well and Travis needed to find people who would fit their unique culture and be qualified for the respective roles, not just an easy hire.

Travis’ challenges and concerns were completely alleviated with using Shortlyster, a hiring software tool that drastically reduced the recruitment time and process, and matched the right candidates to Esther & Co’s unique culture and job requirements.

While there are many screening tools in the market, Shortlyster is unique as it can rank candidates from the beginning as they apply for the role based on skills, experience, preferred work styles and organisation fit considerations. Providing a guided scientific process to help Travis work out what her company culture is, and helping identify the skills and experience required in a standardised way.

An added benefit Travis also discovered when using Shortlyster was the ability to eliminate any unconscious bias from her hiring process. With her usual recruiting method of reading each resume, Travis gave more weight to candidates that had worked for big label brands.

Preferencing people for the companies they had worked at and making the assumption they had the capabilities to do the role. With Shortlyster, the bias was removed and surfaced the people that best matched Esther & Co’s criteria.

Trusting a scientific, people data-driven technology tool to help shortlist and rank candidates was a departure from the traditional hiring processes for Travis. She was pleased to discover that the top Shortlyster recommended matches were exactly who she was looking for when interviewing. After the first successful hire, she had the confidence to continue using the Shortlyster and the organisation fit benchmarks to expand her growing team.

A year later, Esther & Co has tripled its employees across four departments (product, marketing and e-commerce, customer care experience, and operations & logistics) and is hiring for more positions with department leads managing the recruitment of their own teams. As its team and capabilities have grown, so has revenue – 5x YoY growth over the last 12 months. Change of hiring strategy and bringing the right people to drive their business and culture has made this business more successful than ever before.

Learnings for SMB retailers

So what can other retailers take from Esther & Co’s success? The first piece is to recognise that common hiring challenges can be overcome with the use of smart technology. For SMB retailers, the hiring software tool should be more than a screening device, it should help you undertake the following;

1. Define clearly who you are seeking

Before retailers can make a successful hire, they need to understand the criteria that define a good hire for their business. What skills and attributes do you need? What is the work culture?  Defining the selection criteria is crucial and should cover not just the technical skills and experience wanted, but also the soft skills, work ethic, and work culture fit. A successful hire will always have all of these elements considered as part of the selection process. With Shortlyster, setting up the job description and selection criteria is guided and can be done with objectivity. It reduces the time and pressure on people in your business to allow time to be working on other tasks.

2. Guide on culture and organisation fit

It’s important for retailers to define their company culture and understand what type of worker fits into that culture – think work behaviours, motivations and values. These are all qualities that should be built into the selection criteria at the very beginning of the recruitment process, in the same way, Travis built hers for Esther & Co. Company culture can be difficult to define and screen against consistently if you don’t have a scientific and standardised approach – this is where technology can be particularly useful. Shortlyster allows businesses to build cultural considerations into the criteria at the very beginning of the process so that all matches are recommended cultural fits. It does so consistently and through science-backed models.

3. Remove unconscious bias

It’s almost impossible for humans to remove bias from their lives. Unconscious bias, the social stereotypes about certain groups of people that we form outside of our own conscious awareness, prevents us from making completely impartial decisions. In Travis’ case, it was where the candidates had worked previously. For others, it can be what school your candidate attended, where they live, or even their name. Shortlyster’s technology looks beyond the resume, matching at scale against broader selection metrics which allowed Travis to be sure she had an unbiased shortlist of the right candidates at the end of the day.

4. Save time on admin processes

Technology can do the grunt work at speed and ensure the selection criteria is applied objectively to all candidates. Particularly in small businesses, a lot of time and energy is spent in the recruiting process, and the cost to business is very high when a candidate isn’t the right fit. Relying on technology makes the process quicker, but also more efficient, reducing mistakes and streamlining the process.

While hiring will never be an exact science, by understanding the downfalls of traditional hiring methods and recognising how technology can help, SMB retailers can raise the odds of making the ‘right’ hires for their business faster and more accurately, leading to a higher chance of business success.

Rudy Crous, corporate psychologist and co-founder of Compono.