My son is a long-distance runner. He runs about 5 miles a day, 5 days a week, and goes through 4-5 pairs of running shoes a year. He loves to run and understands the importance of finding just the right footwear.

He knows running shoes.

He recently applied for an entry-level sales position at a big name athletics shoe store. The application noted immediate availability. After waiting 48 hours with no response, he took the initiative to reach out to the store manager.

Did he get the job?

No. The manager informed him that he would not be considered due to lack of related retail experience. The position remained unfilled.

Help Wanted and Staff Shortages

After the first wave of the pandemic began to subside and the U.S. economy began to reopen, reports of an absent workforce were loud and frequent. “Help Wanted” signs appeared next to adjusted hours of operation “due to staff shortages.” Two industries hit the hardest were retail and hospitality.

As I combine my son’s experience with what I’ve learned during my 30-year career in talent assessment design, I’m rethinking the causes and solutions related to the lingering shortages, especially for entry-level positions.

Top Two Recruiting Mistakes

1. Requiring Industry-Specific Experience

For an entry-level sales position, why is prior experience elevated above other considerations – especially during a season with extreme worker shortages?  What about product knowledge and interpersonal skills?  If given the opportunity, can a runner sell running shoes? Can a computer programmer sell computers?

Job search expert Alison Doyle does a great job highlighting transferable skills for a variety of retail jobs in her article, “Top Skills for Retail Jobs.”

2. Taking Too Long to Respond

There’s a business adage, time kills all deals. The same can be said for recruiting. Job seekers have lots of options, so if you’re not maintaining a clear line of communication and providing timely responses to applicants, your best candidates will likely find other jobs.

For entry-level positions, if it’s taking longer than 48 hours to connect with applicants, you may be missing out on the best talent.

What to Do Instead

Back to the shoe store example – and the ongoing concerns from employers about not being able to fill positions – here are two suggested strategies.

Revisit Your Selection Criteria

Are you using “job requirements” to engage – or dismiss – talent? Consider translating “prior retail experience” to “enthusiastic about engaging customers” and “excitement to learn new skills.” Especially during a labor shortage, look for what an applicant is offering, not what is missing.

What if there are people willing to work, but hiring systems and processes need to be updated or altered to accommodate available candidates? Re-evaluate the basic skills and attributes needed to succeed in the job. Focus on these to build a winning team.

Take a Candidate-Centric Approach

Timely communication benefits everyone. When candidates invest their time in completing the application process, it’s common courtesy to respond to them in a clear and timely way. Maintaining good communication with applicants demonstrates respect and helps enhance your brand image. Plus, stats on your employment pipeline are kept current!

Companies snagging the best talent are putting candidates first, streamlining processes and looking for opportunities to engage new talent.


One of the benefits of a major disruption like the pandemic is having an opportunity to ask critical yet basic questions about processes and procedures. Here’s the key question, “Why do we do it that way?” If there’s no clear answer or if the we’ve always done it that way trap is activated, why not take a courageous step outside of the proverbial box and try something new and different?

We’d love to share how we’re helping other clients increase applicant flow, reduce time-to-hire, and improve hiring outcomes. Click here to schedule a free consultation.



Surviving the Talent War