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PETER SMITH, JEWELRY INDUSTRY consultant and author of Hiring Squirrels, says there are plenty of people out there, but they need to be approached in a different way than in the past. “They won’t respond,” he says, “to the same tired messages we were sending 20 years ago. Retailers must do a better job communicating why someone might want to come to work for them, and less time being judgmental about the fact that young people (especially) don’t find them to be an attractive option. It’s not because they ‘don’t want to work’; it’s that they don’t want to work for you.”

Too many retailers tell him what they can’t do, while too few talk about what they’ve changed, how they’ve evolved and why someone ought to consider them instead of other companies, Smith says. “If your idea of appropriate vacation is one week a year, do you seriously expect to attract talent?”

One of the obvious changes is the emergence of work-from-home as an important benefit, even an expectation, Smith says. Young people have options that offer a flexible schedule and a career path, as well as tuition reimbursement and a decent benefits package, including appropriate vacation and personal and holiday time off.

Smith advises employers to undertake an honest self-assessment of what they offer. “Target, Walmart and Starbucks are paying tuition; fast food restaurants are paying $20 an hour or more. How do you stack up against that? What is your total benefits package? Is it good enough?


“While your model may not facilitate remote work, can there be some flexibility? Do you have an active CRM culture? If so, is there a case to be made for some work from home as your salespeople do the necessary work of connecting with your customers? If you can’t offer health care, can you contribute a monthly amount to help offset costs? If you can’t pay for tuition, can you contribute to ongoing learning and development?”

Retailers can benefit from inviting an outside consultant to assess their package in relation to what else is being offered in the market — not just as compared to other jewelry stores or other retailers.

Smith also suggests making a sincere effort to speak to people who might be interested in returning to the workforce after taking a break. Hires don’t have to be full time. “We can do better in that area, starting with flexibility of schedule, hiring (permanent) part-timers, and creating some opportunities to work from home.

We’ve finally seen an increase in wages after years of stagnation. You’re either competitive or you’re not.”

Consultant Andrea Hill says employee expectations extend to a healthy quality of life and a desire for less drama and more function in their work environments.

“The wants are the same,” she says. “People want to work in a job where they’re engaged, it’s interesting, they’re valued, they feel respected.”

When everyone was working from home during pandemic shutdowns, they didn’t have to put up with people (including managers) behaving badly all day. Hill suggests taking a look at your company culture as well as your style of leadership.

“They all want respect; they don’t want drama and politics. They’re opting out of work environments that aren’t looking healthy. People don’t want to do something dysfunctional with their time, and nobody wants to have zero autonomy in their daily work.”

The interview process is a two-way street. Candidates will be checking out the leadership as well as the workplace. Consider how you come across in an interview.

“If you’re doing an interview and you’re a terrible communicator, they may not want to put up with that every day,” Hill says.

In the book Fully Staffed: The Definitive Guide To Finding & Keeping Great Employees In The Worst Labor Market Ever, author Eric Chester says, “Your company will be a great place to work or you won’t find good people. It’s as simple as that.”

Regardless of the size of the business or geographic location, employees need seven things, which Chester describes as cultural pillars, to remain engaged and perform up to their potential. They include compensation (money, perks, benefits and work-life balance), alignment (meaningful work at a company with values that mirror their own), growth (opportunities to learn new skills and advance in their careers), atmosphere (a workplace that provides a safe, upbeat, enjoyable experience), acknowledgment (feeling appreciated, rewarded and sometimes even celebrated), autonomy (encouragement to think and act independently and make decisions), and communication (being informed about relevant company issues and knowing the company is actively listening to their ideas in the pursuit of honest feedback).

The more skilled and talented employees are, the more they will expect from each pillar.

The companies that are thriving and fully staffed, Chester writes, are those that leave no stone unturned in improving on each of these seven pillars.



If you ARE running an effective, functional business that truly is a great place to work, don’t keep that a secret! Shout it, virtually at least, from the rooftops.

First, check out your website to make sure the company can appeal to a wide audience. “What you put out into the world about your business has a lot to do with what you’re going to attract in talent,” Hill says. “If they look at your website and don’t see a single human, or if they look at your website and see seven blond women in their 40s, anyone who’s not a blond woman in her 40s is going to say, ‘That’s not for me!’”

Next, look at your social media from a job seeker’s perspective.

“A lot of people who would consider working for a jewelry store haven’t worked for a jewelry store before,” Hill says. “If you’re on social media, you should be prepared that people are going to stalk the page. What’s the tone of what you’re talking about?” It’s also possible to use Instagram more directly as a recruiting tool, too. “I’ve seen great success with posting an open roll call on Instagram or on social media platforms where a lot of these individuals would be found,” Hill says.

Professional talent recruiter Julie Harvey advises companies to enlist their whole staff to engage about the company on their personal social media accounts, including LinkedIn, and to post employee testimonial videos on the company Instagram page. “Those things are powerful because they tell a story,” says Harvey, who spoke on a Women’s Jewelry Association panel at the Centurion Jewelry Show.

When it comes to job postings, inject your ads with personality, use fun language and focus on the team as well as the job, Hill says. “People should be thinking, ‘I want to be part of a team like that.’ Focus on the kind of person you’re looking for more than the skills, the hours and the tasks.”

Smith suggests communicating the most important traits required rather than experience or the kind of meaningless generalizations too often found in job descriptions. “Clearly establish that you are open to training people from outside the business (and have a plan to do so), and treat hiring as the serious exercise we should, instead of an annoying necessity that interrupts more important work,” he says.

Gabriella Zwirn, career services advisor for the Gemological Institute of America, says job listings should be clear, concise and descriptive. If you’re not sure of the most effective way to describe a job, study LinkedIn to find examples. “I would say to a certain extent, less is more in a listing,” she says. “Outline more of those key core elements you want in an individual and consider what a qualified candidate would be looking for.”

Then, she says, if the candidate seems promising, but not a perfect match on paper, consider setting up an interview anyway to see if there is enough common ground or cultural alignment to make a match. “It’s more important to figure out if you are going to be happy working alongside that person every day and if they have the core points. And I say that to job seekers, too. An employer might not have everything, but if they have the core good stuff and you enjoy the people you met on an interview, go for it.”

Here’s How to Find the Right People and Make Sure They Come Work for You


Retailers often cite the importance of a cultural fit. Smith says questions that speak to the important cultural aspects of a business must be included in a structured interview process, but that he continually meets retailers who cannot readily point to a list of things that define their own culture. “Start with that and then draw your questions from that list. No matter how good the traits, no matter how good the resume, if your culture is set up to do things that are at odds with how a given candidate operates, something will eventually give,” he says.

During an interview, think about the experience you’re creating, Hill says, and focus not on yourself, but on the person you’re interviewing. “Make sure that the vast majority of talking is being done by the candidate. Ask them what their goals are and what they’ve done. Set things up so you can listen, not so you can talk. And open it up for questions toward the end.”

Zwirn counsels both candidates and employers to find common ground in the interview process, to pay attention and to communicate honestly. “One thing that really scares candidates away is when what is being said or what’s written in the listing is not how the employer moves forward,” she says.

For example, if the employer talks about putting the employees first, and then puts an interview on hold to take a call or leaves the room repeatedly, it demonstrates not only a lack of respect for the candidate but also a disconnect between how the company is portraying itself and what the candidate is experiencing firsthand.

Communication and transparency work in your favor, Harvey says. “If an employee applies, and you know right away they’re not going to be a fit, let them know. If the hiring manager is not going to be in town for two weeks, let them know that and let them know you’re very interested in their background and will be in touch.”


Beth Greene, manager of Conti Jewelers in Binghamton, NY, is finding her best employees through a local high school internship program. The Boces New Visions business academy identifies the top-performing business students in their senior year of high school and rotates them throughout area businesses, where they get hands-on experience in human resources, marketing, digital design, accounting and sales.

“We’ve hired two of our previous interns part-time while they attend college, and they are both fantastic,” Greene says. “We plan to hire at least one full-time, and the other works remotely while she is at college, scheduling and designing most of our social media.”

Once you do start building a team you like, train your employees on how to approach job candidates they may know. Make the act of referring a friend, former colleague, or acquaintance worthwhile for your staff by thanking them with money, time off, a gift card, or all three, writes Chester in Fully Staffed. “Acknowledge their effort in a way that turns them into a relentless recruiter of great talent for you.” Consider offering something for any referral, not just for those that result in a hire.

Lauren Priori of L. Priori Jewelers, based in Philadelphia, says hiring felt impossible for a couple of years beginning around 2021. But in the past 10 months or so, it’s become far easier. “We post something and get 10 applicants we want to interview or at least have a screening call with,” she says.

Here’s How to Find the Right People and Make Sure They Come Work for You


Priori, who employs 22 people in three locations, draws on local talent from a metals and CAD program at Temple University, where she’s found interns while they’re still in college and wound up hiring almost all of them. Often, the best employees have restaurant rather than jewelry experience. “Restaurant folks are used to hustling, to people being kind of tough and not taking that personally. If you can survive in that environment, this is a piece of cake.”

Priori posts jobs on ZipRecruiter, the GIA jobs portal, and on Instagram, where she has found the best candidates.

“Retail and jewelry experience is great but not required,” she says. “We have extensive training. It’s more about being organized and being excited and having good follow-up skills. We talk about the company and what kind of manager I am and how the team works together. It is a great group of people, nice, respectful and kind, but committed to not letting the customer down. Of all of our sales team, no one has quit.”

Priori’s business model is built on creating the kinds of jobs she wanted to have when she was starting out in the jewelry industry and could not find, which means there’s a strong emphasis on collaboration, autonomy and flexibility. Her team schedules their own appointments for custom engagement ring consultations and creates their own schedules based on the appointments they make. There’s no formal limit to vacation time, a prized benefit that Priori says hasn’t been abused.

GIA career events are one way to connect with job candidates who have skills and motivation to succeed in the world of jewelry

GIA career events are one way to connect with job candidates who have skills and motivation to succeed in the world of jewelry


Betsy Barron, owner of Love & Luxe in San Francisco, lost her entire staff during the pandemic, leading to what she describes as a business metamorphosis.

“They all moved away,” she says. “It was already so expensive to live in the Bay area, and when people realized they could work anywhere, they all dispersed. People had to make changes. The pandemic made people think, ‘What am I doing and where do I need to go?’”

For a while, she and her husband, Jason, operated the store by appointment only without any staff support. Now, having assembled a new full-time team of four, they’re open only four days a week, which has been a significant selling point for new hires, some of whom have artistic interests they’d like to pursue on their days off.

She set out to find a new team with an entrepreneurial spirit, whom she could trust and wouldn’t have to micromanage. Barron looked to Craigslist and LinkedIn, as well as specialized recruiters, but found the most success with Indeed.

She describes her store culture as cooperative and non-commissioned with a “Go team!” philosophy. So, she looks for problem solvers who like people and who thrive rather than wilt under the pressure of learning new skills. “One of my best hires aced the interview when she said that she became a bartender because she was shy,” Barron says. “It proved to us that she was seeking to empower and improve herself rather than hiding behind her fears.”

Here’s How to Find the Right People and Make Sure They Come Work for You


Barron has had success hiring people who had worked in service and hospitality industries and those with small business experience; they know how to multitask. “My first job was waiting tables,” she says. “I knew how to hustle. Clean that table, sweep the floor, there’s no down time. We want people who know how to keep themselves busy while enjoying themselves, because we want it to be fun.

“People who are more service-oriented understand how to talk to customers, how to loosen them up. They like people and they enjoy being on their feet. Some employees I’ve had don’t enjoy that. And that’s the No. 1 most important thing for the job.”

Being able to pay employees enough is the biggest challenge, Barron concedes. “You have to find the sweet spot where employees are able to grow and move up and not be stuck in a dead-end job. We’re happy to do that.”

On the most fundamental level, it’s about finding people who are “good humans,” she says. “I want to make sure they like children, animals, old people. That they know how to talk to a difficult, demanding person. That they have a very open mind toward people.”

Jason, who has extensive experience managing a creative team, does the first interview, discussing experience and career goals. If an applicant makes it to round 2, Barron will do the second interview at a local café with a team member. Round 3 is a casual Q&A with the whole team to see how they feel about the applicant and ask questions Jason and Betsy hadn’t considered. Upon hiring, they lay out three-month goals, at the end of which they meet with the new hire to make sure everyone feels the position is a good fit.

“It all boils down to the relationships in the store,” Barron says. “You can have a great employee or one that’s not fun to work with and that can change the whole vibe of the store. When we were hiring, some people would come through and were perfectly nice, creative, checked those boxes, but after a couple weeks realized they weren’t going to be happy there. So, I talked to them and gave them a way out, and they took it. It’s better to find out early.

“The key is not finding one right employee; it’s making sure the team fits together and they support you.”

The most important job requirement at Love & Luxe is to be a good human who likes to talk to people.

The most important job requirement at Love & Luxe is to be a good human who likes to talk to people.


William Jones, COO of Arkansas-based Sissy’s Log Cabin, says changes made during the pandemic led to a more streamlined hiring process. For one thing, they developed a careers page that continually advertises opportunities and openings on their website. If a member of Sissy’s management team interacts with someone in the community who has provided them with good service, part of the recruitment process is handing them a business card with a QR code that links to the careers page. “That sells the business for you,” Jones says.

Sissy’s, founded in 1970 in Pine Bluff, AR, has had issues with hiring for decades. “There is a very, very small pool of jewelry industry people to pull from in Arkansas,” Jones says. “As we grew and grew and grew, we had to come up with a different way of hiring and recruiting.”

The family business employs 145 people in six locations now, including their newest store in Memphis.

Here’s How to Find the Right People and Make Sure They Come Work for You


Because Sissy’s has developed an in-depth training program, both on-site and online, they have the luxury of hiring for personality and culture alone. “The only variable that we have to hire for is someone who is very enthusiastic and wants to be on the floor,” Jones says. “Everything else is built out for them.”

New hires have six months to complete basic training through Sissy’s Jewelry Sales Academy and demonstrate what they learned, after which they receive a 50% bump in commission, meaning they are highly incentivized to complete training as quickly and as well as they can. Jones is also building an online resource for bench jewelers to round out the training. “The idea is that it be a follow along for new jewelers who can go to a bootcamp and then use it as a resource, or to add a resource to polishers and apprentices,” he says.

The onboarding platform and access to information instills confidence in job candidates who may be making a big jump from another industry. “Every question they would ever possibly have in two years, they have access to at the very beginning,” Jones says.

New hires also participate in improv acting training in which they’re asked to perform skits and even sing and dance. Or the trainer will act like a disgruntled customer. Generally, the people who are good at that tend to be their best hires on the sales floor.

“If you strip away product knowledge, what hiring good associates really comes down to is how comfortable they are being themselves in front of other people,” Jones says. “That’s how we structure a lot of our onboarding. Is this person comfortable going out and talking to people, do they show signs of integrity, and what is their personality like? We have the structure to build all the training they need.”

Michael Fleck, owner of Occasions Fine Jewelry in Midland, TX, cross-trains every new hire for every job over a five-week period. It lends perspective while also helping new employees find their niche. Everyone has access to an on-staff and third-party mentor to help develop their skills. “This environment has created a team of professionals, including many multimillion-dollar sellers, some that now even teach their craft themselves,” Fleck says. “And, they get to work in the departments that they enjoy the most and thrive in.”

William Jones leads a training session at Sissy’s Log Cabin.

William Jones leads a training session at Sissy’s Log Cabin.


The Brain Squad weighs in on what they’ve learned about hiring

  • “In hiring, when you get down to the nitty gritty, always, hire a competent agency that can do deep criminal background and social media checks. With today’s technology it’s amazing what skeletons can be found in the closets. I once hired an assistant bookkeeper ( she was amazing) who had embezzled over $80,000 from the YMCA. The hire and background check from a national recruiting agency was somehow flawed as she had lied on her criminal background information by altering a middle initial. Fortunately two weeks in and with no incidents of theft a local banker “commended” us on having given a “ young mother” a second chance. What a shock. She was terminated and we learned she ultimately got into trouble again within two years.” — J. Dennis Petimezas, Watchmakers Diamonds & Jewelry, Johnstown, PA
  • “The best employees were people I hired who graduated from GIA. Check references and tried them out. Hired part timers from the university down the street. Keep raising salaries, offered health insurance, IRA, going to gem shows. Offered to pay for continuing education.” — Atalie Finer, Finer Jewelry Co., Chicago
  • “With a good, thought-out hiring process you can weed through a lot of applications that don’t fit. The key is to remove your bias and be objective about the outcomes you are looking for with new hires. Equally important is training. You can’t expect them to perform well without intentional training and coaching, focused on improving outcomes while helping them feel accomplished and a part of a bigger mission.” — Kyle Bullock, Bullock’s Jewelry, Roswell, NM
  • “The biggest issue facing many places right now, particularly resort communities is that housing shortages and home prices have pushed out so much of the population that there aren’t people to hire. There are no such things as “starter homes” here, nor are there apartment buildings. A large portion of houses sit empty 60% or more of the year. Nearly every business in my area is operating on limited staff, shortened business hours, or just plain going out of business.” — Casey Gallant, Stephen Gallant Jewelers, Orleans, MA.
  • “Fox Fine Jewelry in Ventura, CA, has a very in-depth interview process. Here are the steps for a jewelry consultant, in order. If they fail at any stage, we let them know and move on. 1. Applications require a cover letter. This allows us to determine if they can write. If the cover letter is generic, we write to them and ask follow-up questions to determine their writing capabilities. 2. We Google them to gather information. This removes a lot of candidates. If they pass, we make an online folder for them with all of the data we’ll be collecting on them. 2. Our phone call is made with two staff members, looking carefully at employment gaps. Your best salespeople are masters at hiding gaps or dodging questions about them. We want good salespeople, but not liars. We’ve discovered a fair share of the latter by drilling down when they evade our questions. 3. Our in-person interviews are done with two staff members. There is a standard list of questions, including “what if” and “scenario” questions. We add in questions specifically for that candidate. 4. Testing: we have developed basic math, writing, drawing, and computer skills testing. 5. The candidate meets the staff, so the staff can weigh in. 6. A second interview is sometimes given, if we’re still uncertain. 7. We’ve done personality profiling for years, but after using a number of different companies, we’ve found they are not a good predictor of a successful employee. 8. We run a background check. Even with all of the above steps, it is extremely hard to find people who can handle the fast pace, multitasking, and steep learning curve that this job requires. We still only bat 50%!” — Debbie Fox, Fox Fine Jewelers, Ventura, CA
  • “We have posted in Indeed and that has been helpful. We also find creative people who are in love with our store and have hired them. It’s always tricky when bringing new employees so we do our best to buddy them up with each staff member to have them share their area that they are best in.” — Karen Hollis, K. Hollis Jewelers, Batavia, IL
  • “I have a list of interview questions I have acquired from various industry articles that I use on the second go round. I also have created a common sense test I give everyone to see how their minds work when they are challenged. And finally, I do some elementary testing like spelling, math, writing etc. It is amazing how often I find out that I can’t read someone’s writing!” — Susan Eisen, Susan Eisen Fine Jewelry & Watches, El Paso, TX
  • “To acquire the best staff, I find praying works best! Once you find someone, treat them with dignity and respect and pay them well. Most of my staff and jewelers have been with me for an average of 20 years.” — Joe Thacker, Thacker Jewelry, Lubbock, TX
  • “Hiring is my kryptonite. I am so scared to hire people because this is my reputation on the line. Any time that I’m not in the store and somebody is representing our company it’s like handing somebody my baby. And if and when they misrepresent, or if the customer doesn’t like them or doesn’t bond with them, it is a direct reflection on me. I have poached people from other stores and they’ve been abysmal. People aren’t getting the education anymore that we strived to obtain. My challenge has been that I’ve hired people and they don’t learn. They don’t embrace learning the GIA and the DCA and the Jewelers of America curriculum. I don’t see people yearning to learn in this industry.” — Andrea Riso, Talisman Collection, El Dorado Hills, CA
  • “I like to hire college students. They’re hungry, they have fresh ideas, a new perspective and technology moves so fast they can help get you up to speed in minutes,” he says. “If you provide education and opportunity they will thrive. Create an environment for them to grow, create and be successful, encourage them to be the best in whatever they’re doing and it will come to benefit your company.” — Jeremy Auslander, Roxbury Jewelers, Los Angeles.
  • “Hiring is always a challenge. I have hired many friends and family over the years and although they usually worked out fine it never produced the very best employee, due to the social relationship. I once used a jewelry staffing company that cost a lot of money and in the end provided me with one of my worst employees I ever had. It’s difficult because a resume and interviews do not show you the real personality of the hire. That takes time.” — Eric Stevens, Stevens Diamond Jewelers, West Springfield, MA

The Brain Squad shares their stories about best and worst hires

  • “Chemistry is most important. Best hire was Alan. He’s 84, owned twelve stores, I didn’t have to train him. Perfect employee and excellent resource.” — J. Mason Cutchin, Jason Custom Jeweler, Chapel Hill, NC
  • “My best hire is a woman who came to us asking if we had advice for her in the industry as she had recently enrolled in the GIA at home course. I handed her a copy of INSTORE Magazine and asked if she was looking for a job to let us know. She’s been with us 20 years.” — Casey Gallant, Stephen Gallant Jewelers, Orleans, MA
  • “Our best hire was actually our best customer! She is such a lover of jewelry who started working with us as a part-timer, really to get a discount! Since then she’s left her other job to work for us full time and has just been promoted to manager! I think it’s really important to hire someone who loves what they sell. Not only is she a walking advertisement for us but customers genuinely trust her input because her taste is so good. I think that’s more important than hiring someone with actual experience. I do find that sometimes employees who start to work with us, and who have experience in the industry, can come with habits and hang ups that can be really challenging to break them off.” — Becky Bettencourt, Blue River Diamonds, Peabody, MA.
  • “Best hire was a tattooed, dreaded up, pierced young man with killer talent. Declined by three other jewelers because of how he looked, we saw his skill set. After a decade of working with my husband, he could work anywhere in the world and make a great living. Worst hire was a young woman bench person who had a 100 reasons why she couldn’t get to work on multiple occasions. When I sat her down to discuss the issue she suggested she could improve by wearing shoes. Such an unexpected answer threw me off. When I asked her to explain she said she always wore sandals, and that if she wore shoes maybe she could concentrate better. Deep sigh. We let her go.” — Jo Goralski, the Jewelry Mechanic, Oconomowoc, WI
  • “My worst hire was the girl who did such a great job on her first day that she celebrated too much after work. I had to fire her on the second day because she came to work with a terrible hangover and spent the morning in the bathroom and asleep at her desk.” — Dianna Rae High, Dianna Rae Jewelry, Lafayette, LA
  • “I have had many horrific hires: a white witch, a Betty Boop that could never arrive on time or our shush girl, that quit when another staff ‘shushed’ her for talking about her date while clients were in the store. And more!” — David Blitt, Troy Shoppe Jewelers, Calgary, AB.
  • “The best hire I have ever had was a saleswoman who had worked at another fine jewelry store in my area. She had worked there for over 25 years and when the store owners decided to close the store she walked into my store with her resume. I don’t believe that there is any one hiring option that works best.” — Eric Stevens, Stevens Diamond Jewelers, West Springfield, MA
  • “One of the worst (she just stood around) texted that she wasn’t coming back. Another, hired at the same time, vaped while working. Another had a part-time job waitressing at the local bar and apparently was selling chains at the bar.” — Stacey Gelmici Jewellers, Edson, AB
  • “Best hire: Former Tiffany &Co., sales associate. Came from a world of clients who were not price sensitive, no negotiations, excellent customer service. Had very little diamond and jewelry knowledge, was taught to sell the brand. Her strength was in her lack of knowledge. She didn’t realize the mark-ups T&Co., had were so large. She was able to get customers to buy more than they originally planned on spending using the rationale that the value they were getting by buying from us was so much greater than buying at a brand name retailer. WORST HIRE: I hired a girl part time who worked while she was in college. Her major was fashion design. She was way too focused on what she thought was cool vs. providing the customer what they were asking for. Nice girl, hard worker and she did have good designs. I’m sure she will make her own designs and sell them and plenty of people will love them. But our business was to provide the customer what they were looking for. We are more of a concierge service vs. a boutique with designer items.” — Jeremy Auslander, Roxbury Jewelry, Los Angeles



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