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January 3, 2018

Are You Hiring?

By John Bocker, NSSF Security Consultant Team Member

Keeping your store staffed with the right people means always being on the hunt for new talent.

If you’ve recently posted an internet job opening, you most likely experienced these two common responses: a flurry of unqualified applications and a shortage of candidates who have the basic qualifications for your advertised position. Hiring managers report receiving dozens, even hundreds, of applications for advertised positions, which presents a time-consuming challenge for companies seeking to acquire the right talent.

As an FFL, you face several challenges when seeking new staff. First, you need candidates who qualify as a non-prohibited person and meet the legal qualifications for handling and having access to firearms. Next you must find employees who are “gun people,” those familiar with firearms and who easily retain specifications and other information about the types of firearms and related products you carry. Finally, and maybe the most valuable qualification you should be looking for, is the ability to converse easily and actively with strangers in a retail environment.

“We Are Always Hiring”

Having worked in retail for more than 20 years, I lived by the mantra, “We are always hiring.” Some would question that position, but I learned never to wait for a vacancy to spark my candidate search process, because employees can quit at any time, get injured or do something that’s cause for termination. FFL owners and supervising managers should always have an “active candidates” folder that contains applications or at least résumés from enthusiastic prospects.

Where do such potential applicants come from? Just look around! Every day you have people passionate about firearms entering your store or range. How many of these patrons are you on a first name basis with? Many, I’m sure. And that’s the secret sauce! It’s these everyday loyalists on whom you should focus your recruiting efforts on. Your loyal clients may be considering retirement from the job they currently do or they may be searching for their next great opportunity whether it be part-time or full-time employment. Think, too, about the qualified law enforcement or former military people who regularly stop in who may not only be interested in a position with your store but also may be able to refer the right person. I’ll bet there are plenty.

The next thing to do, once you’ve identified someone you might be interested in hiring is to talk up the job, let them know that you’re looking to bring someone on board—and do this long ahead of when you actually need to hire someone. In my many years of managing turnover, seasonality and the almighty holiday hiring scramble, it was prudent to have on hand a file that contained a list of employment candidates who were previously screened and qualified. The best part of this file is that it costs you little to nothing to put together, beyond a little time sitting and talking with people, so it’s a cost-effective process compared to placing ads in the classifieds, paying overtime to other employees because you’re short-staffed or even hiring a headhunter for more senior positions.

Beyond Walk-Ins and Referrals

While the internet and online job boards make it easier for employers to reach a wider array of candidates, they also make it more convenient for candidates to apply for multiple positions, even if they lack the needed qualifications. If you’ve gone this route, you know job-seekers responding to internet adds may be desperate and apply for any job they may squeeze into, just hoping to land their next paycheck. This might be commendable on the part of the applicant, but it just clogs the pipeline for hiring managers.

Are You Planning to Expand?

Many companies today are focusing on improving the quality of their hires, with “talent acquisition” the trendy phrase behind this effort. Beyond merely reacting to staffing needs, having a plan to attract qualified candidates can save your organization time during the growth process. It can also help improve retention by ensuring that new hires will fit in within your established culture.

A process for attracting and hiring qualified job candidates is an important step in building a productive firearms retail workforce with engaged employees. Creating a job listing that specifically seeks such candidates can help make the process more efficient, while conducting a behavioral interview that details the kinds of work the prospective candidate may encounter can help reinforce the importance of safety prior to employment, as well as identify critical thinking, selling and information-retention skills. Having a detailed job description can also help give prospective employees a realistic picture of the job-related functions of the position, especially as they pertain to the vast ATF- and FFL-specific legalities and responsibilities. Begin by clearly defining the job within your specific business environment, discuss the risks as well as the fun, and leave no questions unanswered.

Integrating Safety into Your Hiring Process

Conducting a functional job analysis (FJA) and a job safety analysis (JSA) of the listed position can help you when explaining the functions of the position to interested prospects. It can also help you as the interviewer develop safety-based questions for the interview process where needed.

An FJA identifies the physical components and environmental conditions of a job’s functions. An FJA should include functions such as:

  • Lifting, carrying and other physical material handling requirements (e.g., the frequency of pushing and pulling).
  • The weight of materials expected to be moved (e.g., candidate should be able to lift and carry parcels up to 50 pounds).
  • Postural demands (e.g., sitting, standing, bending, reaching, twisting or kneeling).
  • Tools and equipment to be used (e.g., forklifts, delivery trucks, hammers, screwdrivers, etc.
  • Environmental conditions (e.g., hot, cold, humid or environments with excessive noise).

A JSA breaks down each job function, describes the hazards associated with it and defines the method of performance that minimizes or eliminates hazards within the function. This should be considered very important in a firearms range environment, for instance, as well as with any job in which firearms and ammunition are handled or may be present together (including customers potentially bringing loaded firearms into your store).


NSSF’s online Career Center job board was created specifically match those knowledgeable about firearms and the firearms industry to employers within the industry, thus doing away with the avalanche of unqualified applicants that occurs with global online job boards. NSSF’s Career Center lets employers enter job descriptions, check the status of your postings, renew or discontinue listings, make payments online and search our resume database. Employers can also post company information and website links. Job-seekers can post their resumes and search employers who may be looking for their unique skills. The Career Center can be used by both NSSF Members and non-members, and it is supported by a dedicated support hotline.

NSSF has numerous business and security resources available to its Members, see more information here. Need to join NSSF and discover the many benefits membership brings with it, including access to industry research, compliance and security consulting experts and vendor discounts? Apply here.

About the Author
John Bocker is an NSSF Security Consultant Team Member and the Managing Director at JB Group, LLC, based in Denver, Colorado. JB Group is a business security and strategy consulting organization specializing in ATF FFL compliance and protecting FFL’s against unexpected losses resulting from burglary, robbery, and internal control failures. Visit or call (720) 514-0609 for more information.


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