Natural Foods Merchandiser
Become a hiring expert

Become a hiring expert

How do you know who would be a good addition to your retail business? This list of hiring cues can help guide employers through tough hiring decisions.

What is it about an applicant that acts as a red flag, or stoplight, giving you pause to pursue him or her? What acts as a green light, indicating that an applicant deserves further consideration?

In the Rising Stars natural foods leadership development seminars that I lead with Allen Seidner, prepared foods expert, and Mark Mulcahy, produce consultant, we instruct participants to weigh applicants by specific criteria. To the right are some of the most frequently cited green lights and stoplights from our seminars.

To make use of these hiring cues, plan your interviews so that you have the opportunity to observe applicants’ behavior and hear their responses.

  • Prepare your questions in advance, including questions about apparent gaps in employment and reasons for leaving jobs.
  • Ask open-ended questions that can’t be answered with just a yes or no.
  • Listen more than you talk. As a rule of thumb, do 80 percent of the listening and 20 percent of the talking.
  • Allow silences. When the applicant finishes answering a question, wait five to 10 seconds before asking the next one. A silence will frequently lead the applicant to say more—often, something revealing.
  • Be diligent about checking references. At the very least, verify that the facts stated in the application or résumé are true.


Green lights


Application form is fully filled out.

Application form is illegible or incomplete.

Has worked for several years at a time for each employer.

Has a history of frequent job hopping, with less than a year at any job.

Gives several verifiable references with complete contact information.

References are not verifiable or impossible to reach by phone or email.

Arrives on time for the interview.

Arrives late for the interview.

Comes appropriately dressed and groomed for the interview.

Comes to the interview in overly casual dress or has poor hygiene.

Has erect posture and makes eye contact.

Has slumped posture and lack of eye contact.

Radiates enthusiasm through body language and tone of voice.

Speaks in a monotone, with little or no facial expression.

Answers questions comprehensively and to the point.

Gives long, rambling answers or short, vague answers lacking detail.

Has researched your store and asks relevant questions.

Has no questions; shows little curiosity.

Wants to work at your store because she’s interested in natural foods and enjoys serving people.

Wants to work at your store because she thinks it’s “laid back.“

Asks questions about the company’s and the supervisor’s expectations.

Asks only about the pay.

Takes personal responsibility for relationships with former employers.

Talks in an angry, victimized way about former employers.

Can admit mistakes and what he has learned from them.

Won’t admit to any mistakes.

Has a history of scheduling flexibility in previous jobs.

Indicates extremely limited availability or unbending rigidity in her scheduling needs.

Is confident without overselling herself; appears to reflect on whether the job would be a good fit for her.

Relentlessly oversells herself without seeming to care whether the job would be a good fit for her.

Asks “what can I do for your company?”

Asks “what can your company do for me?”

Insists on giving adequate notice to his current employer.

Is willing to quit his present job without notice.

Follows up after the interview with a thank you note or email.

Makes no further contact with you following the interview.

Accepts the job with a clear understanding of the pay rate and opportunity for future increases.

Accepts the job and then tries to get you to increase the pay rate.


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