Warning Signs? How to Hire True Team Players

Don’t let your shop be a gateway for people looking to fast-track their way through the industry.

Warning Signs? How to Hire True Team Players

I remember the interview like it was yesterday. My good buddy and fellow fifth-grade teacher had taken a job in Kansas, and our school’s hiring team was on the prowl for his replacement.

He was a silver-tongued talker, and his words impressed. Our hiring committee was young — even our principal had less than 2 years of experience. First, he spun a long yarn about the importance of being a team player. Then he went on with heartwarming story after heartwarming story about the countless troubled youth he’d helped. We bought it hook, line and sinker.

Looking back, I should’ve known. He sidestepped a lot of our questions and replaced them with what I’ll simply dub as “flub stories” of his own. His resume wasn’t ultra-impressive, but man could he talk. Four months later, our school district was working tirelessly to remove him. The list of reasons why was long, but that’s a story for another day.

Yes, I know this is Shooting Sports Retailer and not Education Digest, but bear with me. Sadly, in any industry, there are throngs of people looking to take what you’ve built and fast-track their way to the top. They don’t want to make your brick-and-mortar shop better. They have zero interest in being a “team player” or starting at the bottom and working their way up the ladder. Rather, they want to use your tried-and-true shop to help portal them up the industry ladder.

Your shop is your baby and a staple in the community. Stop these posers in their tracks before they can sink their teeth in and cost you money and customers. Here are the warning signs you need to look for.

Look At Me

I’ve seen it happen: Guys and gals come to a gun shop for their interview while on Facebook Live. They are posting videos and pictures to their Instagram story and will even stop during the interview to snap a selfie. You’ll be annoyed, but then they will show you their 20,000 followers — followers that they will tell you will become your customers.

If they can’t shut down the social media long enough to complete an interview, you don’t want them working for you.

Tell-Tale Signs

It’s important the people you hire know the firearm industry. I know many shop owners who prefer to hire hunters or competitive shooters. That’s great. In fact, I agree. They bring credibility and knowledge with them.

However, if during the interview the person wants to keep showing you pictures of their big deer or them on the podium, you may have a problem. These chest-beaters are self-consumed. They use these tactics to work around a particular question you’ve asked that they don’t have an answer to. This is a tell-tale sign that your interviewee won’t engage well with customers. They will make every conversation all about them, and try to get your customers to follow them and not your shop.

Don’t be afraid to hire a newbie. Often, these folks are trainable and will be a great addition to your shop.


This one isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker. I know lots of sponsored shooters who work at gun stores. The difference is, the ones I know are professional about it. They don’t push their sponsors down the throat of every customer who walks through the door. You’d have to either know they shoot for a certain manufacturer or beat it out of them. Their goal is to assist customers in finding products that are right for them. They have the best interest of the shop in mind, not what’s going to make them look amazing in the eyes of their sponsors. Just like social media, if the person you’re interviewing keeps telling you about all the manufacturers he or she is sponsored by, a warning flag should go up. 

Show Season

I love SHOT Show. It’s massive, and it’s a wonderful event for our industry. As an outdoor writer, I feel privileged to attend each year. SHOT Show is a time for you to catch up with manufacturers — to write orders and handle business. It’s not a time to take a new hire so they can go rogue and work the booths to solicit their own sponsorships.

A good buddy owns an archery pro shop in Oklahoma. He’s told me multiple times that when an interviewee asks right off the bat if they can attend SHOT Show, it’s a red flag.

“We have a small shop, but we do lots of bow setups and repairs,” he said. “We service our small town and the surrounding communities. Aside of my wife and I, we have two full-time employees. Both have been with us for more than five years, and last year was the first time I took them to the Archery Trade Show. This show does for archery what SHOT does for gun shop owners. They had earned it, and I needed the help.

"My buddy has a shop in California, and he took his new hire to this past January’s ATA. The kid went rogue. He was going from booth to booth trying to solicit sponsors. He did none of the work he was supposed to do, and because he put my buddy in a bad way, he had to let him go. Learn your employees and their true motives before you take them to shows.”

Sift Them Out

It can be difficult to spot a weed among the flowers, but if you look closely you can often pluck them before you offer an interview. Start by having every prospective new hire fill out an application. In addition to reading that application and contacting their references, find them on social media

 Spend time looking at and reading their social media posts. You often can tell if they will fit in your shop by looking at their pictures and lingo. Are they a chest-thumper? Do they use language online that you know your customers will detest? Do their posts seem to teach or educate, or is each one all about them?

Also look at their following. These days, it’s not uncommon for someone to have thousands of Instagram and Facebook followers. Some are legit. Some aren’t. Scroll through their following and see how many seem to be outdoorsmen, competition shooters or likely gun owners. Here’s a hint: If half their following have a little gray icon with a white face and not a real picture, those aren’t what I’d call “real” followers. More on this later.

Yes, sifting through applications and social media accounts takes time, but it will be time well spent.

Have A Plan

When a prospective new hire comes into the shop for an interview, be on your toes. Are you looking to spot every small fault? Absolutely not. Look hard enough and that’s all you’ll be able to focus on. Rather, pay attention to detail and have a plan that will keep the interview timely and on track. Here are some tips:

  1. Have your set of questions out and ready. You can print a copy for your interviewee. That way if they get off topic, you can keep the mood light and simply point to the paper and say something like, “OK, let’s get back on track here.”
  2. If you plan to have the new hire work on guns — anything from attaching scopes and optics to actual gunsmith work — have them complete a task or three with you watching. You also can walk them around the store and quiz them on various products.
  3. When you ask a question, spend time listening to the person. Don’t get distracted. This is easy to do if you have the interview on the shop floor during business hours. You will get sidetracked by customers walking around and the like. Have your interview off the shop floor or during non-business hours.

Deep Dive

I took a deep dive into social media recently. My main focus was Instagram, as it seems to be the red-hot platform right now. I discovered there are plenty of people out there with legit followings. However, I also discovered how easy it is to falsify and grow your account.

In addition to the piles of YouTube videos out there all about growing your Instagram account, there are actual Instagram growers such as Pimp My Gram, Kicksta and Social Upgrade. To be clear, these powerful Instagram influencers aren’t doing anything wrong. They are running a business, and their business is to help people grow their online following. They are providing a service. Most offer free trial memberships, have customer reviews posted on their site and the list goes on.

The sites work like a fitness or cell plan. You log on, sign up, pick a pricing plan (often after a free trial) and voila, you’re on your way to growing your following. Pricing is based on how involved you want your chosen Instagram growers to be. I dug a little deeper and reached out to a college friend. He is a fitness freak and is all the rage in the world of CrossFit. Currently, he has 40,000-plus followers on Instagram.

“I have a site manage my Instagram account now,” he told me. “That didn’t happen, though, until I grew my account organically to more than 25,000 followers. With my plan, I can still follow who I want and post my own content, but someone helps me manage it. The sad thing is how easy it is now for someone to inflate their following. I see this a lot in the fitness world. When people, the younger crowd especially, come into my gym, they spend more time taking selfies and posting videos than they do working out.

“When I look to hire a personal trainer or just someone to help work the gym, I flat out ask them what Instagram grower they’re using. I don’t hold it against them, but I want to know. A lot of these fitness posers have a following that just isn’t real. They are paying for numbers, but their audience isn’t real fitness freaks. That doesn’t do my business any good. It’s just like a magazine paying a company to get a magazine in a doctor’s office and dentist’s office. It’s not the same as having a real paid subscriber.

“I always take a minute and scroll through a person’s Instagram followers when I see what I feel like is an inflated number. Typically, this will be a person with thousands and thousands of followers, but is only following a limited number of people. It doesn’t take me long to scroll through their list of followers and see that most aren’t fitness people. When I go down a so-called fitness-guru’s list and it takes me a while to find 25 hardcore fitness goers, there’s a problem.”

Why You?

Social media posers need more than Instagram and the like to complete their mission. They need a gateway — an instant “in” to the industry — a place where they can push their own agenda and work with industry manufacturers. It’s sad, I know, but that’s their goal.

Don’t get me wrong, your shop should be using social media. It’s a big influencer. When it comes to hiring, however, don’t let the shades get pulled over your eyes by someone else’s smooth talk or social media following. Have them fill out an application, bring them in for an interview, have them do a little gun work and take it from there.


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.