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Strategies for hiring front-line workers

Assessing for personality and asking the right questions are the foundation for long-term success and retention.

Maintaining a full complement of highly trained and productive staff members can seem like a daunting task when the turnover rate in the convenience industry is 82% (CICC 2023 State of the Industry report). Store managers know that on-boarding and training new staff requires time and money. In an ideal world it would be wonderful to maintain and develop staff for years, allowing both the employee and the business to grow and evolve together. 

Defining needs

The first step to hiring is determining what role is required and the key operating responsibilities of that role. From this information, a job description must be formulated.  Having a clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities for the position will enable the manager to effectively identify what the key traits are that a potential candidate should display. 

It is important to remember that it is easy to train skills if you have an employee with the correct personality and mindset for the job. Therefore, post a job description that will encourage individuals to apply by advising them that training is provided, and no experience is required.

When assessing the applications, look for candidates who took the time to respond by tailoring their response to the position. Short list interviewees based on their skills, experience, and proximity to work. It must be easy for them to come to work if you want to maintain them.

Tips for interviewing candidates

Interviews are critically important. It may be worthwhile to screen potential candidates over the phone to ensure that there is alignment regarding what details of the position to ensure there is no misunderstanding. 

An in-person interview is critical. There needs to be a sharing of information at this meeting.  The store manager or owner must share their vision for the operation and how this job fits into that vision. 

Assess the candidate’s interest and ability to understand the job by observing their body language. 

  • Do they look interested or disinterested?  

  • Did they ask any questions?  

  • What are their long term goals?

Commence the interview by asking relatively simple questions of the interviewee. If they are nervous, letting them answer straight forward questions will hopefully put them at ease.  It would be ideal to ask them situational questions such as, “How would you handle an irate customer?”

However, be prepared for a blank stare because not all candidates can answer such questions effectively in an interview scenario. It is sometimes best to just engage in a conversation to get to know them and assess how they communicate. Communication is critically important for front-line jobs. If the candidate does not appear to be able to speak confidently, they may not be the correct candidate for a front-line customer service position. It is most important to hire the right personality for the job. Specific job skills can always be trained and developed.

Next steps

Try not to hire the person on the spot. Let them go home and think about the experience. Ask them for a reference and call that reference. If a candidate appears to be a good fit, ask them to do a skills assessment which will give an indication of what their aptitudes are. These tests are available on-line or through a Human Resources Consulting firm. If the test results are positive, call the candidate back for a second interview. The purpose of this step is to offer them the job. If they accept, they can be introduced to other team members and a training schedule can be drafted. 

There are many steps required to hire a new team member who fits with the needs and culture of the organization. Investing time and effort into the hiring process will pay off in terms of stability for the operation. This stability will result in better sales and profitability because hiring the correct individual who will stay and develop within the organization will contribute to the vision of the store management.


Every Monday for the month of June 2024, the Operational Excellence series will focus on helping store management achieve consistent operation excellence in their stores. Topics will include best practices for hiring, training, and managing staff, effective up-selling techniques, and how to drive customer loyalty.

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