Specialty Retail


Finding and assessing “elusive” qualities in candidates…

Recruiting Assignment:  Manager of Category Analysis and Forecasting

Organization:  Specialty Retailer

The Human Resources professional from this established client awarded this assignment to us with the advanced warning that this would not be an easy search. The hiring manager had been attempting to fill this role for over 1 year and had previously used both internal and external resources with no success and was extremely frustrated by the whole process. The hiring manager, while very dynamic and entrepreneurial in style, was also said to be temperamental.

As this was a highly specialized buying group, dealing with very high-end, seasonal and fluctuating products, the ability to analyze, forecast and make educated buying recommendations was critical. This was further challenging as most of the products were unique year-over-year and only available for a “one-time” buy.

The client had provided a comprehensive 12 page job description outlining a number of prerequisites for the role including experience with a number of specialized software tools. Recruiters within our New York and Toronto offices conducted extensive research to identify retail organizations that used the specific software tools required and developed a search and recruitment strategy targeting merchandising groups specializing in fluctuating, seasonal products within retail organizations known for their sophistication in inventory management. A shortlist of 5 candidates was presented to the client within 3 weeks. The client refused to meet all but 2 of the candidates without explanation. The two candidates met with the client and the client reaction was extremely negative – to the point where he wanted to terminate the search.

The Director in charge of the search was stunned at the response and suggested to HR that the candidates had surpassed all of the criteria outlined in the job description. The Director suggested that there had to be some disconnect in what the client was saying he was looking for and what he really wanted in this individual. The Director called the client and suggested that this must have been happening all along as he had tried several avenues to fill this role to no avail. We requested a half hour of the clients’ time to try to get to the root of the problem as we were not prepared to just walk away from the search assignment.
We went to the meeting with a breakdown of the job description listing 12 key skills and experience criteria to meet and the client agreed that this was accurate. In addition, we presented a graph listing each of the candidates presented and comparing their skills/experience to the criteria set out. The client agreed that each of the candidates more than met the criteria and that that was not the issue – there was an elusive ‘something” that was lacking for him. Further discussion revealed that the issue was that the client’s product category would be considered “elite” and the companies best known for their inventory management tended to be in the mass/discount retail sector and would not understand the nuances of elite specialty products.

Taking the time to get to the core of the problem really paid off. It completely re-focused the recruitment engagement and the client hired the very next candidate that he met. The candidate, although not quite having all of the prerequisite skills and experience, had the “elusive” qualities and experience that were much more important to the client and that were not outlined in the original job description. The candidate had years of experience working with high-end, elite products, had a passion for the product category, had worked with most of the software tools and had intuitive skills in determining key products that cannot be learned. She was also an excellent cultural fit for this client group and comfortable in dealing with passionate individuals.

The client subsequently commended us for having the tenacity to get to the root of the problem and not give up on the search. At the 3 month update, the client stated that he was very pleased with his hire and that the candidate was having a positive impact on the role and the buying group. The candidate was promoted within the first year to a more senior management role, built a department and continues to be very happy with her position.

The QualiFind Group’s New York and Toronto offices continue to partner very closely with this client company expanding our relationship as a valued resource from one subsidiary to several divisions throughout North America.