Professional Jeweler Archive: Hiring Winners

February 2005

The Store / Managing Your Staff


Hiring Winners

Don't take this process lightly. Sales associates can make or break your business

BY SUZANNE DEVRIES


Hiring the right people and building a cohesive team are among the most difficult challenges you face. This is more important than ever because the market is ultracompetitive and crowded.

In reality, you can have the most magnificent store with extraordinary merchandise and it won’t matter if you don’t have people in place who can convey your high service standards. They also must be able to articulately address and overcome objections from educated customers.

Here’s how to manage the interview and hiring process to help you find and hire the best jewelry professionals for your business.

Key Questions

Job history: Design questions that reveal the candidate’s experience, skill base, job and salary history and reasons for leaving his or her previous positions. Other key questions include what the applicant liked most and least about previous positions and mentors, greatest professional successes, greatest professional challenges and how he or she overcame them.

Product knowledge: Jewelry customers are far more educated about the product than ever before. Many use the Internet to preshop and educate themselves before ever walking into your store. Therefore, you have to make sure your employees know more about your products than your customers so they can answer questions. To test a job candidate’s product knowledge, have him or her “sell” you a diamond or a piece of jewelry.

Selling skills: During the selling process, note whether the candidate included a warm greeting, an expert presentation and an introduction to the store. Did she get the jewelry in your hand to create desire? Did he use a jewelry pad and velvet cloth? Could she tell you specifics about the gem or jewelry? Did he preclose the sale, ask for the sale and look for add-on opportunities? Did she add you to her client book?

Service: The objective is to hire sales professionals who have the ability to build relationships with customers, address product questions and follow up with customers to ensure their satisfaction for future business. Your goal is to hire sales professionals who have natural warmth and who care about your customers as much as you do.

Solving problems: Design some problem-solving questions to determine the job candidate’s intelligence and common sense in reacting to challenges. This includes role-play to determine how he or she would handle specific challenging situations in your store. Try role-playing the most knowledgeable web-savvy diamond buyer you’ve encountered and see how the candidate copes.

Motivation: Determine what motivates and drives the candidate and what would make him or her love the job – whether earning commissions or adoring jewelry.

Values: Uncover whether the candidate can embrace your culture and values and mix well with your other team members. Excellent jewelry stores are built on integrity, honesty, a strong work ethic, uncompromising values and dependability. If you compromise in any of these areas when hiring, you set yourself up for disappointment.

Direct questions: Sometimes the simplest and most direct questions yield the most telling information about a candidate. “Why should I hire you?” “Why do you feel you would make a good employee?” The candidate’s answers can be revealing and show his or her priorities.

Sell Your Company

Too often, you forget that just as you are interviewing job candidates, they are interviewing you. A good candidate who understands his or her worth will want to make sure your company is the right “fit.”

Talk to the candidate about your company’s history, your goals for the next three to five years, the successes and challenges you have faced over the years, your business philosophy and your ethical standards. Talk about your expert, experienced staff and how you value your employees. Share some anecdotes about their personal successes. The bottom line: when you sell the candidate on the merits of your company, you create the desire for him or her to be part of your team.

References, Background & Credit Checks

It’s easy for an applicant to pad a résumé or hide unfavorable information, so do your due diligence. Always check three to five professional references, even if you’re sure you’re going to hire the person. Check references the candidate furnishes – which are usually positive – and dig for other references.

Ask references to assess the candidate’s performance in such areas as attendance, dependability, responsibility, ability to get along with other staffers and whether the candidate is a team player. Most importantly, ask former managers whether they would rehire this person.

Hire a professional security company that conducts background/credit checks. Set up credit guidelines for what’s acceptable and not acceptable for a candidate. If you don’t perform these steps, you set yourself up for potential theft.

Second Interview

Always bring a serious candidate back for a second interview and have another member of your staff interview the candidate too. Your colleague may see something you missed. You’ll be surprised at how differently candidates interview the second time around. Now that you’re on somewhat more familiar terms, you also may want to consider taking the candidate to lunch so you can see his or her personal side.

Write a Formal Offer Letter

If all goes well during the previous steps, you should be ready to make the candidate an offer. To avoid possible misunderstandings later, always put the offer in writing. The letter should include starting salary, a description of the benefits program and when the candidate would become eligible, along with his or her starting date. You also might consider hiring a labor attorney to construct a well-written offer letter that will comply with your state’s labor laws.

Suzanne DeVries is president and founder of Diamond Staffing Solutions Inc.,SM a national placement service that focuses exclusively on the jewelry industry. DeVries has 35 years of experience in the retail and wholesale jewelry fields and is affiliated with the American Gem Society. She also is an official sponsor at Couture shows and conferences. Contact her at (877) 396-6377, Suzanne@diamondstaffing.com.

Copyright © 2005 by Bond Communications