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Staffing up


Recruit with care and you could find yourself with new team members who really make it happen says Bridal Buyer’s back-page favourite, Abi Neill

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Staff recruitment is, amongst a tonne of other stuff, an occasionally frustrating business topic. But anyone can open a bridal shop and sell wedding dresses - it’s how you approach and handle the challenges (staff or otherwise) that set the seriously good businesses from the mediocre. And, whilst inconvenient, I choose to view this change in our personnel as a chance to breathe new and exciting energy into our shop.
The mission was to attract bright sparky and professional sales staff to our business and fortunately that’s what we’ve done. So how to start? Well, Business Link and ACAS online are crammed with detailed employment guides including advice about the legalities and pages of ‘need to knows’. There you’ll also find useful templates (including contracts and application forms). So if staff recruitment’s on your agenda check those pages out and if it’s all a bit new to you here’s an overview to get you started;

First off PMA all the way! If you find for whatever reason you need staff, (because you’re expanding or otherwise) try to see it as an opportunity. Focus on the task at hand and don’t get too bogged down with the ‘what if’s’ and the insecurity or inconvenience of the situation. Approach it positively and you’ll attract fabulous new staff that could mean great news for you and your business!

Advertise Professionally
You’ve got to speculate to accumulate. A ‘staff wanted’ ad stuck in your window and a casual mention to your friends just isn’t enough. A professionally-designed display advert in the recruitment section of the local paper may not be cheap (a whopping £750 in our case) but it’s more likely to entice high-calibre candidates to your business. We also popped details in our window, on facebook and website and t’daaaa… two weeks later the closing date arrived as did an impressive pile of 125 CVs! Fantastic or what?

First Stage Selection
I’m fairly brutal when it comes to sifting through CVs especially if faced with high volume. I’m afraid any applicants who’ve ignored my request for a covering letter and CV go straight in the bin as are ex-brides keen to continue their own wedding planning in this, their ‘dream job’. Unemployed school leavers who think it would be (and I quote from one covering letter) ‘just really lovely and glamorous’ may also be a no no.
Once the duff CVs are weeded out, we carry out basic telephone interview with the remaining candidates to assess manner and personality. Bearing in mind I was looking for several staff and had received 125 CVs, it became a bit brain- numbing but we were determined to find the best; and in hindsight it was well worth it.
For speed we script the conversation and ask with quick-and-easy questions which take 5-10 minutes. At this stage we reiterate the working hours and establish their expected salary. It may sound obvious, but getting excited about a shining star that commands a £25k basic, can’t work Saturdays and is allergic to satin is pointless.

One to One Interviews
This time, I carried out 18 one-to-one interviews and did these back-to-back over a three-day period. We allowed an hour for each and issued an application form before interviewing. It’s the professional way of doing things, and gives me the chance to check for a criminal record, confirm holiday plans and any health/disability issues and (more basically) to inspect their handwriting. Oh and it’s a bit X-Factor but I take a quick photo of each of them.
Sometimes, with the strongest and most confident candidates, we might role play a wedding dress sales situation and if we were struggling between two applicants we would invite both in for a trial day to see who is the most natural. In addition to the obvious here are a few of our favourite interview questions.
* What did you like the most and the least about our website? (Exit anyone at this stage who has not looked).
* Describe best and worst mManagers you’ve worked for and why? (Spot potential tricky-to-manage bunnies here).
* Here’s three wedding dresses; Describe what kind of bride might buy them. Which is your favourite and why? (Are they enthusiastic about this and do they show a flair for talking about the different styles etc?).
* What makes you moody? (Exit anyone that takes a while on this question and definitely consider those that say not a lot).
Depending on the size and layout of your shop you could also consider holding an open afternoon or group interview. Whilst it may sound OTT for some business owners, they can work really well and in a competitive group setting you can quickly spot the likeable, friendly and confident personalities. In the case of multiple vacancies, this recruitment approach can also save time. As a basic programme of events you could do a group welcome, issue your application forms, briefly tour the shop, tell them about your business and then meet each individually for a quick-fire round of questions before deciding on a final shortlist.

You’re Hired
However you decide to interview, trust your instincts in terms of who to select. When you’ve made your decision and verbally offered a job, take up references and issue a contract. This is the exciting bit for you and for your new staff member! Pop open a bottle of bubbly (any excuse) and make a toast to hard work and your new addition! New staff joining should surely be a cue for a mini celebration?
Ever the organiser, I also ensure name badges and training manuals are ready for a new member’s first day. Preparation for new staff is
key, they need your attention just as your customers do. Talking of which, I have a customer service training day to design, our Christmas bash to plan, two brides to see and then, hopefully, a big bag of donuts to consume.


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Read the full story in the new issue of Bridal Buyer, out this week.


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