What to look for in an employee
Different managers have different opinions about how to hire an employee. You could open a mall kiosk selling nothing but books on this subject, and H&R departments the world over devote themselves to mastering the skill of the perfect hire.
This article focuses on just 3 rules of thumb that we – as a comic book shop – try to follow when hiring our unique type of employee. Obvious rules? Maybe. But having shopped in many a comic book store in my day, I’m pretty sure they’re not as obvious as you’d think.
No free labor. Comic book stores have a distinctive advantage as employers. People want to work for us. We’re not a dry cleaner or a convenience store (nothing against either business, of course). But people want to work in a comic book shop, and I can’t blame them. Some want it so much that they’re willing to work for free comics, or even to work for nothing more than the opportunity to sit and read comic books all day. As a local shop that doesn’t have tons of money in the bank it’s tempting to “hire” someone for nothing. Why not, right?
Habitat for the Multiverse
The issue is, you get what you pay for. When you have an amateur working for you, with no vested interest in keeping their job, they’re not really working for you. They’re doing you a favor. And it’s hard to enforce rules over a person who’s doing you a favor. So while it’s tempting, it’s ill advised. If you want good employees, pay for them.
Know your employee. We get several unsolicited resumes per month. Some are good, some are bad. Some are good enough that we’ve hired them, and they’ve worked out well. But the ideal candidate is a long-time customer; someone who knows you and your shop, and you know them.
We always prefer to hire customers. Yes, you risk losing money as they can now buy their comics with an employee discount, or even stop buying all together as they can read for free. But it’s equally likely that the employee will simply give a sizable chunk of their paycheck back to the store. And even if they don’t? So what? You’ve gained a great employee, which is much more valuable than the money you make from a few comics each week.
Knowledge vs personality. This is a touchy one. Having an employee that knows their stuff is vital. The retail store has several advantages over the internet (I’ll write more about that in a future article), but top of the list is probably the expert personal advice available to customers. There are a lot of comics out there, on a lot of topics, and having someone behind the counter who knows what they’re talking about could be the difference between a successful shop and a closed shop. So we always make a point of hiring comic book readers.
But it’s easy to exaggerate the value of knowledge. Yes, there’s a level that’s necessary. But what good is knowledge if you can’t sell it?
Yeah, perfect example of why too much knowledge can be a bad thing.
Don’t worry. I’m not going to go into a diatribe about the Comic Book Guy stereotype. Mostly because I don’t believe it applies anymore. Yes, the Comic Book Guy is out there, but the days in which he dominated the scene are long over. If you don’t believe me, check out the Vertigo section of your local comic book shop next time you’re there and tell me who you see browsing the shelves.
But I’m getting off point (though this is certainly a topic that will be explored in later articles). My point is that once an employee attains a certain level of expertise, personality means more than knowledge. It is far, far easier to educate a friendly and open employee on additional comic book knowledge than it is to teach an awkward, introverted comic book encyclopedia how to interact with customers.
So the rule of thumb is: have a good base of understanding, but wow us with your personality. Then look forward to a couple months of training that involves cramming in extra nerd-knowledge.
Those are some of our basic rules when hiring employees for our comic book shop. What do you think? Comment below and I’ll be happy to respond.