The COVID-19 pandemic hit the hospitality and retail industries particularly hard, with many restaurants and retailers shutting their doors or closing franchise locations throughout 2020. After the initial shutdown orders, many companies filed for bankruptcy, including Arclight Cinemas and Pacific Theatres, Lord & Taylor, California Pizza Kitchen, New York & Company, Brooks Brothers and more. Hotel workers experienced a devastating 38 percent unemployment rate in the early days of the pandemic, and nearly two-thirds of U.S. hotels had occupancy rates of 50 percent or less throughout the summer of 2020 – not enough to pay the bills, according to the American Hotel & Lodging Association.
However, as the COVID-19 vaccine rolls out, states reopen, safety precautions are normalized, and customers begin to return to travel and shop at pre-pandemic levels, hospitality and retail recruiters are faced with the challenge of finding candidates. Despite reductions in force across these industries, employers are struggling to fill open positions. Front-line industries like these ones lost large numbers of employees and need to fill the gaps, but interest in those service jobs has dropped due to the risks involved. When the pandemic is finally over, this may change, but for the moment, there’s a huge employment gap.
According to the Harri COVID-19 Employee Impact Survey, which gathered the sentiments of more than 8,000 hospitality workers, 75% of workers were found to be permanently displaced. That displacement has translated into a negative perception of job security, apprehension around health and safety practices, and finding permanent opportunity at organizations that experienced surging demand.
Additionally, employers outside of hospitality and retail have raised entry-level starting wages, which means that a significant percentage of candidates have moved on to companies that have higher pay and benefits. This leaves recruiters working around the clock to find new and better ways to reach candidates.
Keys to Recruiting Hospitality and Retail Workers
Retailers and hospitality recruiters can find top talent by focusing on transferable skills – for example, a candidate might not have retail experience, but have other skills like customer service and support. Across both industries, candidates with experience in safety protocols for customers and employees are in demand and this skill set is also transferable. At the heart of it, however, it’s important to understand that we’re looking for entry-level candidates in historically low-paying industries. “Must have” skills might look more like “nice to have” skills in today’s talent marketplace. We’re not facing a skills shortage; we’re facing a candidate shortage.
With summer right around the corner, recruiters are looking for seasonal talent, which puts even more pressure on recruiting teams. It’s important to focus on candidate experience, a faster time to hire, and making safety protocols central to your recruitment marketing. Geographically speaking, recruiters in cities with colleges or universities can develop a smart strategy to reach student workers that are ideal for part-time and seasonal positions.
Job Postings That Sell Your Hospitality & Retail Roles
Relying on best practices in recruiting, or going back to the basics, could be helpful, but the pandemic has given us some new points to focus on as well. Here, we’ll go over some solid best practices for creating and promoting job postings in retail and hospitality.
Start with your headline.
You’re looking for part-time, entry-level candidates, who typically do not search job boards by title – they search by geographic area and industry. Your headline should include important keywords, and for these candidates those words are city, state, and company name, followed by job title if there is room.
Localize your job postings.
Personalize your job postings by localizing them. If you’re hiring for a national franchise and your recruitment marketing is full of how great the culture is at your HQ, but you’re hiring for a local store, you need to make sure to communicate the culture at local stores – the ones where your hires will be working.
Host a hiring event.
Speaking of localization, consider hosting an in-store or virtual hiring event. They’re easy, low budget, and can bring in hundreds of candidates in a single day. In addition to that, they’re a great high-volume sourcing tactic. If you need a large number of events across multiple locations nationwide, you could even consider hosting a national hiring day event.
Differentiate yourself from the competition.
Look at what your competitors are posting. How are they differentiating themselves from your company? And how can you do the same? If every company in your sector is following the same format for job postings, change yours. It could be small wording changes or something more specific that your company is doing; you want your job postings to stand out.
Showcase your brand on social.
Share real photos and videos on social media along with your job postings to help give candidates a snapshot of what working for a specific location looks like. Develop a strong employer brand by promoting what it’s like to work for you across all of your channels.
Refine your wording.
It might sound counterintuitive, since your primary goal is to “sell” your job openings, but get rid of any language that sounds like an opinion. You have to be able to describe the role in your job posting, but using language like “amazing opportunity” or “exciting new technology.” Amazing and exciting are subjective; stick to the objective.
Show off your safety measures.
Every retailer and hospitality organization is familiar with safety protocols after the past year (and are continuing to follow them). If your company has stringent safety measures, include it in your posting. Given that so many candidates left these industries because of safety concerns, safety-focused recruitment marketing can go a long way.
Give candidates what they want.
You don’t have to guess what candidates want. They want the same thing we all do: competitive pay and benefits, a safe workplace, work-life balance, career development opportunities, appreciation for hard work… it sounds simple because it is (at least relatively so compared to the rest of the work we do in recruiting!).
As companies struggle with hiring in retail and hospitality, we need to focus on our job postings to ensure they are optimized for the best possible reach. Remember the goal is to increase candidate flow into hiring funnels, so understanding exactly how the demographic you want to reach searches for jobs is crucial. Localization is important for filling entry-level positions in hospitality and retail, from customer service to custodians to housekeeping to front desk. These positions tend to be high turnover, so embracing the cycle of outreach, funnel, and outreach as a year-round strategy can help you and your team recruit at their best.