Unlike other industries, the skills for retail jobs which are most predictive of success are mostly behavioural. Like other customer-facing jobs, attitude is more important than aptitude and, because of this, assessing candidates against those requirements can be challenging.

Retailers typically have high staff turnover and employee attrition, so as a recruiter operating in this sector, you will want to nail down an efficient hiring process that both delivers results and runs smoothly.

To make things easier, in this post we’re going to highlight 8 key skills that recruiters need to look for when hiring in retail.

  1. Communication
  2. Empathy
  3. Desire to help others
  4. Friendly and Positive
  5. Multi-tasking
  6. Fast learning skills
  7. Problem solving skills
  8. Tech skills


In retail, communication is hugely important.

Retail sales is a customer facing role so candidates have to be able to communicate clearly and effectively with customers. They need to explain products, company policies, or services effectively. 

But this skill isn’t just about how well a candidate is able to relay learnt information. It’s important to test a candidate on their communication manner. Is it friendly and approachable? Does it reflect the company brand?

Communication also involves how you listen, what your body language shows and how you present yourself. A helpful attitude, a smile, and politeness are all facets of good communication.


Customers want to know they’re being listened to and understood. Empathy is the foundation for active listening skills and building rapport.

If a new hire can successfully display empathy, a customer is much more likely to buy from and return to your store. It’s also invaluable when dealing with customer complaints. If a customer recognises the employee as empathetic to their concerns, it’s likely they’ll accept the response despite it being unfavourable.

Desire to help others

Helping others is a vital character trait to assess for retail hiring. Candidates need to have an innate desire to help customers and make them happy.

Working on the shop floor can be demanding and tiring. You’re working on your feet for 8 hours and day and constantly dealing with customer enquiries; some positive, some negative. Without a strong willingness to make each customer happy, people will quickly find it’s not the job for them.

Customers can clock very quickly if a worker isn’t bothered – which can make or break whether they choose to ask questions, stick around and return to the store in future.

Friendly and Positive

It’s not enough to want to help others and make them happy, candidates will need to demonstrate they have the ability to do so. Candidates will need to be kind and welcoming to everyone who walks through the door. Unlike other sales roles there’s no hiding behind a phone or email. 

Customers always recognise a bad attitude so you don’t want to hire a candidate who could potentially come across as rude or impolite so you’ll need to make sure your hiring process is geared towards discovering the presence or absence of friendliness


Candidates need to show they juggle several tasks at once, be it a difficult customer, shelf replenishment or stock-taking. 

An effective multi-tasker can prioritise work according to the business needs and knows which tasks are more important. 

Fast learning skills

If you’re new to working in retail, there can be a lot to learn. Candidates will be inundated with information on sales, returns, stocktaking, cleaning and many other processes. They need to have the ability to comprehend and implement those processes correctly.

It doesn’t end at the induction either. Retailers are constantly updating products, technology, inventories, displays, and layouts.

Flexibility and an ability to learn quickly are prerequisites candidates need to be able to demonstrate or evidence.

Problem solving skills

Retail sales jobs require frequent improvisation. No two days are the same and you never know what issue a customer is going to come up with next. It’s likely going to be something that new hires haven’t ever dealt with before. 

Therefore you should look out for candidates who have a knack for thinking on their feet or coming up with innovative ideas. Role plays or group exercises can be great for identifying this. 

Tech skills

Being able to understand everyday technology like mobile devices and computer systems is an important retail hiring skill to look out for. 

Candidates will have to handle an electronic cash register or point of sale system to process transactions. Inventory control and financial management is likely to be done through a management information system.

Not having a solid grasp of technology could result in mistakes and inefficiencies.

Closing thoughts on hiring for retail

These 8 essential skills to look for when hiring in retail are best assessed using a blend of real-life work simulation assessments and interactive face to face interviews. 

Since many of the skills to assess are about attitude not aptitude, scoring candidates objectively can be difficult. Using volume hiring assessments to screen high numbers of applicants can save your recruiters time. This time can be reinvested in engaging interview experiences that involve role-plays and if possible, group exercises.

When thinking about your recruitment process and how it might be improved, consider how these key skills for retail jobs might fit in and be assessed effectively.