A buyer’s guide to Retail Store SWOTs

By Billy Maddock, Partner AdMore Buying & Merchandising Who would not want to go shopping as part of their interview process? This enjoyable and proactive aspect of interview preparation is so important. Apart from the obvious reasons of identifying the culture and familiarising yourself with the product range, conducting a SWOT analysis is the most crucial part of the store visit for retail Buyers and Merchandisers. The SWOT analysis is useful for extracting more focused and specific information about the company you are interviewing for, and the market you are entering into. Here are some things for Buyers and Merchandisers to consider when conducting a SWOT analysis:
  • Determine what the ratio is between own brand and branded products. Are the products mainly own brand or branded? Where do the own brand products lie on the shelves in comparison to the branded options?
  • How are the ranges put together? Are they design led or trend led? What are the prices of the products? How competitive are these prices?
  • How broad are the product ranges? How many SKUs are on display? What is the availability? Which options are the slow sellers and are they being promoted accordingly? How is labelling and packaging used to support the promotional activity of heavily promoted products?
  • Does the retailer offer a good/better/best product option (depending on size of the store) to ensure the customer is offered a variety of choices? How are the goods displayed? Are they going to maximise sales?
When compiling the SWOT analysis, it is also important to consider:
  • The image of the store and its footfall. This fundamentally depends on the socio-economic factors of the town/city the store is located in, as different products will be promoted and different price points will be set in accordance to the location of the store.
  • What methods are in place that encourage repeat purchases and the return of consumers to the store? For example, Tesco club card points and the Sainsbury’s Nectar card. If the company you are visiting has a loyalty scheme, try and figure out how this can directly influence consumer behaviour.
  • What is the margin in comparison to competitors? (i.e. price differences on branded products)
  • Are there in-store concessions that could affect sales/ranges? If so, where are these concessions situated within the store? What are the tactics behind this?
  • What are the USPs? How does the retailer try and differentiate themselves from their competitors? (E.G. have they got a CSR policy?)
In order to go that one step further, visit more than 1 store. You could visit a huge flagship store (the M&S Marble Arch store – 170,000 sq ft.) as well as a smaller store (in a small town centre) and try to spot the differences by referring back to the points made above. To stand out further, visit a competitor. This is useful to make comparisons between the two as well as painting a picture of what the market looks like, especially if the market is an unfamiliar one to you. For example, if you are a Furniture buyer interviewing for a stationery buying position then it’s important to look at the products in more detail. It is highly likely that there will be other candidates going for the same vacancy as you for the same retailer, and if they have visited multiple stores and show some of the information discussed above in their interview, and you haven’t, that could be the difference. Don’t take the chance! Click here to follow us on LinkedIn
 

Be a S.T.A.R. at interview – use the C.A.R!

By Sophie Mackenzie, AdMore Recruitment

When attending any interview, there is a significant amount of preparation required if you are going to give yourself the best possible chance of success. Each interview process will have its unique elements and navigating these different styles of interviews can be a challenge in its own right!

Irrespective of which format the interview takes, you need to be prepared to answer the questions in the best possible way. This isn’t just about saying the right thing; it is about structuring your answer in the right way and providing tangible evidence so that the interviewer is absolutely clear about what you are capable of.

One of the biggest mistakes people make in an interview is talking too much. If you have a good interviewer, they should be allowing you to do most of the talking however it is important to strike the balance between verbosity and clarity! There is nothing worse as an interviewer, than meeting a candidate who you know can do the job but who either cannot express their abilities clearly enough or who bores you senseless with overly long-winded responses!

So, what can you do to prepare yourself to answer questions thoroughly and succinctly?

The most accurate predictor of future performance is past performance and this is the reason Competency Based interviews are so widely used. It is worth brushing up on Competency Based Interviews in general and ensuring you have a good idea of which competencies the interviewer will be looking to assess for a particular role. Click here for some general advice

Once you have drawn up a list of the competencies needed to do your target job, you should then create your list of examples of how you have demonstrated each competency. This will give you confidence that, whether the question posed is about Leadership or Problem Solving, you will have a mental list at the ready!

The next stage is to get your structure right and this is where the CAR or STAR formats can help you.

A Competency Based Interview asks you to outline how you have performed in a specific situation in the past. Using the CAR or STAR structure will enable the interviewer to get the detail they need from you in the limited time available.

The STAR format tends to lend itself to more complex examples where there is greater detail required and where you need to guard against being too long-winded.

The key to each of these is to break down each example into the relevant section. It encourages you to separate out the Context of the situation from the Action you took. Most importantly, it makes you focus on the end Result. What did you actually achieve? Can you back this up with specific figures or percentage increases?

By working through each of your examples in this way, you will find that you naturally adopt this clarity of style. As ever, you will get better with practice and rest assured that your interviewer will appreciate your efforts!

Doing this well will make you credible and enable the interviewer to visualise you in the role along with providing tangible results to reinforce your examples. Hopefully, it will also mean that, however structured the interview, it will flow well and give the interviewer time at the end for more informal questioning.

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7 Tips for building rapport in an interview

By Jez Styles, AdMore Recruitment- Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

I read an article late last year that has kept coming back to me in recent months. The article (a study by Lauren Rivera) from the December issue of the American Sociological Review suggested that Employers are often more likely to hire a person they would want to socialise with than the ‘best’ individual for the job. The article didn’t suggest that employers were hiring the wrong people, but that they would prefer to hire someone that they have bonded with, would perceive to be a future friend or who made them feel good about themselves.

Given the amount of focus on CVs, interview techniques, innovative job searches (etc, etc) most candidates could be forgiven for focussing on the ‘technical’ side of looking for a job. Getting ‘in front’ of an employer is for most candidates the primary focus and in an increasingly results driven culture it is easy to forget how important it is – to put it simply – that you and the employer like each other. Talk to any recruiter and they will confirm, if there is a shared past or common interest the candidate has a much better chance of getting the job. I believe this is particularly true in Retail where often there are no technical qualifications to differentiate one candidate from another.

So, if you are looking for a job, what can you do? Here are a few tips on how to build rapport and give you the best possible chance of landing a job offer!

  1. First impressions are crucial -  I wrote about how to create a great first impression (read here) in the first ten seconds previously. It is fairly obvious but if you don’t get the first impression right you will face an uphill battle to build rapport. You really want your interviewer to have an immediate gut reaction that they like you.
  2. Positive Body language – Smile, make eye contact, and lean in when you want to really engage. Again, you are appealing to the interviewer on a subconscious level. Where possible you should try to match your interviewer…
  3. Mirroring & Matching – This often seen as a bit of a ‘dark art’ but it is quite simple to do. The best way to learn how to do this is to just focus on one element at a time in every day conversations until you are a little more adept at combining several elements. Where possible you should match voice tone, speed and sound; breathing rates & body posture; speech patterns including specific buzz words and the level of detail. The interviewer will see a similarity in how you come across which was central to Lauren Rivera’s research.
  4. Use the person’s name wherever possible - There is a huge amount of research available but in essence people like to hear their own name. This is linked to how your brain reacts on a subconscious level and is linked to your development as a child. Read here for more information.
  5. Take a genuine interest in the interviewer and focus on them not the organisation - It is worth setting yourself some specific objectives about what you want to find out about the ‘person.’ The simple fact is that people tend to like talking about themselves. Be prepared to ask follow up questions and show genuine interest. Show empathy and indicate wherever there is common ground. Again, any chance you get to indicate commonality will give the interviewer the impression you could be a potential friend in the future.
  6. Similar activities , similarity matters - It is worth doing some research, via contacts and social media, in to what the interviewer does in their spare time and what they are passionate about. Are they a sports fan, do they go to the opera, do they have kids (and therefore do none of the aforementioned activities!)? Where possible you should get this in to the conversation. Once again, if there is a similarity of interests the interviewer will be inclined to move you up the shortlist.
  7. Compliment the person - Everyone likes praise (method of delivery is crucial for some though). If the opportunity arises give some compliments. Keep it relevant to the interviewer and try not to be too sycophantic!

Overall, keep in mind that you want to generate a sense of similarity between you and the interviewer.

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Top ten tips for candidates from Assessment Centre Veterans

By Jez Styles, AdMore Recruitment- Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development. Whenever I brief a candidate that there is an assessment centre in a recruitment process I tend to encounter a range of responses. I use the word ‘range’ pretty loosely as in truth the vast majority of candidates dread an ‘AC’ at worst and are ambivalent at best. Occasionally, when working with sales driven businesses you will encounter candidates that positively live for ‘out of the comfort zone’ experiences. Overall, I think my favourite response is from the AC veterans, the guys who have assessed other candidates, been assessed on multiple occasions and probably helped to write exercises previously. They know how it works, what they need to do and more importantly…how to impress. And yes…sssshhhhhh… some even enjoy the experience!

Here are some tips from AC veterans I have worked with:

  1. Prepare. Ask your recruiter for a copy of the competencies/qualities that are being assessed on the day. There is a good chance that the day will include an interview so you will have a great opportunity to really impress. If you are unable to clarify the competencies then ask for a job description or research the business. For further tips for an interview click here; Top tips for a competency based interview
  2. Get your mind-set right. Sales based candidates can skip to point three…this is not a competition. Most companies use assessment centres because they are looking for multiple candidates and/or because it gives a different insight in to candidate behaviour. If you enter an AC with the belief that you need ‘to win’ there is a good chance this will influence your behaviour in the inevitable group exercise and also social situations. It is better to think about being the best you can be. Also, avoid comparing your performance to your peers on the day. Most AC’s have a benchmark score for passing the day so if you beat everyone else but still do not benchmark you will fail.
  3. You are always being assessed. I have attended numerous ACs where candidates have hit the benchmark score, but in the ‘wash-up’ an assessor has recounted a conversation or observation that has created a negative impression. Avoid taking a cigarette break if you can. If you do take a break be aware any conversation you have is still being assessed. Similarly, if lunch is included be sure to maintain good manners and dare I say it sensible food choices. If an overnight stay is involved – stay clear of the alcohol! Finally, be aware of your body language, do not lean, slouch or invade people’s space. Think about your facial expressions when part of any group conversations or exercises – be positive and smile…a lot!
  4. Network. At the start of the day you should make a note of all the assessors, ideally name and job function. Over the course of the day you should spend time with each individual. It is crucial that you prepare a bank of insightful questions prior to the day. They might be geared towards an HR or Operations Director or other relevant function. Assessors will tend to remember the people that have asked intelligent questions and truly engaged them. It is also worth spending time getting to know the other candidates; there are networking opportunities for the future.
  5. Plan each task. In the heat of the moment it is easy to just launch in to a task. However, it is crucial that you take the time to read all relevant instructions. I assessed an AC last year where 5 individuals in a Group task all failed to read one crucial piece of information which led to them all failing the task. You should plan your time and allow for unexpected changes to the structure of the exercise (normally about ten minutes before you are due to finish!). All exercises are generally designed to put you under pressure to complete within a tight time-frame. Do not panic and importantly, ensure you complete the exercise. Finally, if you are offered various materials you would be wise to use them. An obvious one would be the provision of a flipchart for a presentation. Use it!
  6. Nail the Group exercise. Most candidates hate Group Exercises, often describing them as fake or ‘not a reflection of real life.’ While this may be true they are also remarkably affective at putting candidates under pressure which results in a multitude of interesting behaviours that you would not see in an interview or other exercise. There are a few things you can do to ensure you are perceived positively. Most importantly do not ‘over dominate’ the exercise. Avoid (contrary to popular belief) being the person that writes notes or prepares the flipchart presentation, you will quickly end up being side-lined from the conversation. Use your peers name when addressing them and invite the quieter participants to voice their opinion. Express your own ideas and ask for feedback. Ensure the group is on target to complete the task on time and if required steer the group to complete tasks as required. Finally, stand by the group’s ultimate decision/conclusion. Do not fall in to the trap of criticising other group members if faced with ‘apprentice’ style questions from the assessors.
  7. Do not let one bad exercise ruin your day. Confidence is crucial on an AC day and a single exercise will not usually determine your success or failure. If you perform badly on one exercise you must pick yourself back up and move forward.
  8. Take Psychometric exercises seriously. Psychometrics are being increasingly used in advance of AC days to either highlight areas to explore over the course of the day or to provide additional evidence of capability.
  9. Be positive. Over the course of the day you will have numerous conversations and will experience a range of emotions.  It is important that you remain positive and that you express this. Do not fall in to the trap of making any negative comments about the assessors, the AC, other delegates, current employer, ex-boss or your consultant. I have witnessed numerous candidates ‘de-selecting’ themselves through a flippant remark to the wrong person.

I hope this helps and please share your tenth tip in the comments below or via our Blog page on LinkedIn:

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