Why do so many retail and hospitality candidates drop out of the hiring process?

Employer reputation, pay disparity among top concerns: Survey
By Melissa Campeau
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 07/23/2018
Concerns about management behaviour, pay disparities, harassment and treatment of customers were some of the reasons why retail recruits decided not to pursue certain job opportunities, according to a survey. Credit: Bubbers BB (Shutterstock)

(Note: This article originally appeared in Canadian HR Reporter Weekly, our new digital edition for subscribers. Sign up today to make sure you don't miss future issues: www.hrreporter.com/subscribe.)

Many hospitality and retail businesses are struggling to bring new employees on board — and it’s not necessarily because of a lack of supply.

“Unlike most industries, employers within hospitality and retail have no trouble finding talent,” said Ray Gibson, CEO and co-founder of StartMonday in Amsterdam, a recruiting platform for hospitality and retail. “They do, however, have trouble getting job candidates to complete the hiring process… Between finding a job opening and accepting the position, something is disengaging candidates.”

To find out why, StartMonday surveyed 750 retail and hospitality employees and found out close to half (45 per cent) would drop out of the hiring process if they found out current employees were unhappy.

Concerns about management behaviour, pay disparities, harassment and treatment of customers were some of the reasons why people decided not to pursue job opportunities with employers.

More than one-third (35 per cent) said they would turn a job down if they found out previous employees left because of issues with management. And three-quarters (74 per cent) would avoid a job if there was evidence of racist management.

“A company’s reputation and culture means a great deal to candidates,” said Gibson. “Knowing this, hospitality and retail companies can take steps to better position themselves as places where candidates will want to work.”

Today’s candidates have more opportunities, so they can pick and choose, according to Leslie Ng, partner and senior recruiter at recruitment firm Lecours Wolfson in Toronto.

“If you want them to choose the job at your organization, you need to make sure you stand out from your competitors,” he said. “This means it’s critically important to have a strong employer brand.”

Posting job ads is an ideal chance to promote your employer brand, said Gibson.

“Include a description of company culture and give potential employees a sense of what everyday life is like with your organization.” 

Once candidates target a job, most do a little research on their potential employer — 66 per cent visit the organization’s website and 44 per cent check out the organization’s career website.

With that in mind, employers should view their sites through the eyes of a candidate. “Ask yourself: ‘Are the company values clear? Does the site reflect the organizational culture? Is it easy to navigate to the careers section?’” said Gibson.

Candidates want to know they’ll be supported by their employers, said Ng, “so they’ll look for any information they can find about leadership’s behaviour, company culture and reputation in the marketplace.”


Two-thirds (65 per cent) of survey respondents said they would drop out of the hiring process if there was gender-based pay disparity, while 62 per cent would leave if there were allegations of sexual harassment.

Thirty-four per cent of potential candidates would turn down a job if they heard previous employees had issues with management.

“If your organization is experiencing any of these issues, they need to be dealt with right away,” said Gibson. “You can mitigate damages by sharing details of any inclusion or diversity efforts within the company. Let candidates and the public know you’re working to create change.”

If you’re not experiencing these challenges and the organization is doing well in terms of diversity and equality, then celebrate it, he said.

Current employees can share testimonials of what they enjoy about their jobs on the company website, for example.

“Don’t try to influence what they say,” said Gibson. “If every testimonial sounds the same, candidates will become suspicious and assume the testimonials are fabricated.”

Focus on customer relations

In addition, 77 per cent of candidates said they wouldn’t accept a job offer if they found out an organization had lied to its customers — and 24 per cent said they check online customer reviews when researching a company.

“Even the best organizations get bad customer reviews,” he said. “What really matters is how you react to them.”

Feedback is a free gift, and it means you’re in a position to make things better, according to Sonny Brar, vice-president of member programs and services at the Retail Council of Canada in Toronto.

“First, own up to it and take responsibility. Acknowledge you made a mistake, ask how it happened, and determine what you can do better,” he said. “Do it all publicly, since the complaint was made publicly. It’s not just to let the customer and the public know, but also to let candidates know.”

Candidates value transparency, said Ng.

“Addressing issues quickly and in a public forum will support that, and also help address any problems within the business.”

Improving the interview

Those challenges — and the organization’s solutions — along with messages about company culture and values, can be shared during the first interview, said Brar.

“HR professionals and the person doing the interviewing can be so focused on what the candidate can do for the company, they forget to talk about their own organization,” he said. “That’s a missed opportunity because that interview is when you can explain what the company is all about, share any great initiatives, whether they’re through education, sponsorship, donating to charities or community involvement.”

“Get your laptop out and show your social media presence. Take a minute to explain why you’ve been with the company for a decade, that kind of thing.”

Everyone wants to feel empowered and engaged, and that starts from day one of the interview, said Brar.

“Some employers feel they don’t want to give 100 per cent of themselves or the business until someone is employed. That’s wrong because from the candidate’s perspective, it says they’re not important until they get the job… You want to let the candidate know that you respect their time and their energy, whether or not they’re an employee.”

After the interview, the next step — getting back to candidates quickly — is imperative, said Ng.

“The days of waiting a week to respond to candidates — or not responding at all — are gone. Now, if you don’t get back to somebody in 48 hours, their interest is waning at best, or they’ve just disappeared,” he said. “They could be interviewing with three other organizations at the same time, so responding quickly is a must.”

Failing to do so can have a ripple effect that goes beyond the candidate, said Ng.

“With social media and networking, clients need to understand that HR is in tandem with marketing, and marketing is in tandem with HR,” he said. “If a candidate goes into an interview at restaurant X and they never hear back from restaurant X, they’ll say to their friends ‘I’ll never go back there. I hate them, and they’re irresponsible…’ That’s a marketing problem.”

Instead, there’s an opportunity for positive PR, even with the candidates who aren’t chosen.

“I know of some companies who, when they know after a first interview that they won’t be hiring someone, are quick to inform the person and also offer them a $10 gift card,” said Ng.

“Then that person might go to social media and say good things about what the company is doing. They may start talking amongst their friends and they begin to create something of a mythology.”

Whether it’s the company job board, Yelp reviews, or feedback after an interview, each touchpoint can influence a candidate’s decision.

“This is why employer branding is so important,” said Gibson. “Today’s jobseekers expect more from employers. They want to work for companies that not only align with their career goals, but also align with their values.”

Melissa Campeau is a freelance writer based in Toronto.

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