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Seasonal Hiring for Retail: Why Background Screening is Important

By: Celeste Ricco Thursday, 8 October 2015


The most common type of retail theft is, arguably, also the most avoidable – internal. I could rattle off a bunch of statistics, but if you’re like me you don’t need stats to know it’s true.

In my younger, more energetic years, I almost always had a job (or two or three) in retail. Anyone who’s done the same can probably relate…

During the holidays, our drawers were frequently off. We were busy and rushed; people were frustrated and their kiddos were tired and screaming. I’d cringe every time I had to close – especially if that seasonal hire who I didn’t quite trust was at the counter most of the day. Fortunately, we were usually only off by a quarter or two – throw it in and forget about it. But, some of the biggest discrepancies were during the holiday rush… and easily could accumulate to hundreds before the end of the season.

The drawer discrepency was only part of it. Little stocking stuffers seemed to fall off shelves into pockets... And a random stack of hoodies and tees were “accidently” thrown in the trash or “overlooked” inside shipment boxes being loaded into a car, "in route to the dumpster". Between all the shoppers and employees running around like crazy, even the most prudent manager is lucky to notice a thief.


Background Screening for Retail

Around early fall, managers scramble to sort through resumes and get everyone trained in time. Twenty years ago when I was managing, we didn’t background screen. I wish we had…


First, background screening saves time. I would interview someone and have to decide if they were a good fit without any more information. Calling past employers and checking references took so long I risked loosing a good hire. Inevitably, references didn’t call back until I was off or I couldn’t reach them altogether. And, criminal record checks?! Forget about it! At best, I think the jewelry store I worked for one season would run a cheap search that I now know was probably a waste of money. 

If we had run background checks through a company, we could just fill out the applicant’s information, select a package and make a decision when the results came through. It would be the same services we ran for regular hires when we had more time. Better yet, we would have known about how long it usually takes so we’d know when we could make an offer.


Second, background screening could save mid-season hiring. Criminal Records aside, one of the worst things that could happen is figuring out an employee was a bad fit mid-season. I remember one where I happened to bump into another manager the week before Thanksgiving. (I didn’t have time to call all the references.) She told me she noticed I hired her old associate, with a sly little smile after she saw my face at the mention of his name. Apparently he seemed OK at first but was beyond lazy, negative with customers and never really seemed to catch on. Great.

Background screeners are familiar with navigating past employment verifications and have experience knowing what to ask. Not only that, they’ll call everyone you request and can successfully complete the verification nearly every time. Had I used one, I wouldn’t have needed to pull an associate off the floor and convince him how great it would be to only do shipment for two months.


Last, background screening can uncover bad behavior so an informed decision can be made. Not everyone with sticky fingers steals from where they work. A criminal past could suggest someone isn’t cut out for retail. Or, maybe that their personality would make for a great associate… just one that isn’t allowed at the cash wrap. (Do they still call it a cash wrap?)

Unequivocally, what you gain from running a background check is information you wouldn’t have otherwise. A company like Choice Screening can provide reliable and accurate information on your hires, enabling you to make an educated hiring decision.


“Now Hiring Seasonal Associates” signs are out

Accordingly pre-employment background screening budget and strategies should be in place to help you:

  1. Save time
  2. Avoid mid-season rehiring
  3. Make informed seasonal hiring decisions


Are you ready for your seasonal hires? Call Choice Screening so you can implement a reliable background screening program.

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Topics: Background Screening, Criminal Background Checks, Retail, Industry Resources

Celeste Ricco

Background screening enthusiast. Blogger. FCRA Advanced Certified by NAPBS. Dedicated to all things background screening!