Career Tips

On A Job Hunt? Go Grocery Shopping!

You’d be surprised what you can learn from a grocery store when it comes to job search strategy. Grocery stores are in the business of selling their environments and individual product offerings . Take a moment to visit your local store and pay close attention to what the store is doing to sell inventory and keep you coming back for more. You might find some ideas that could help you get the attention of your potential buyers…also known as employers.

Here are some general observations I made on a recent shopping trip. As you read through these, think of how they might apply to all aspects of your search. Some speak more to resume strategy, while others may align more with networking, sourcing, interviewing and your overall sales approach.

  • The brand names are typically priced higher than lesser known options. Even if the ingredients are the same, retailers know people are willing to pay more for something they feel familiar with.
  • All expired offerings are pulled from display shelves immediately. It’s a big turn off for buyers to have to dig through outdated merchandise in order to find fresh and usable options.
  • The store is arranged in a way shoppers can intuitively navigate the inventory, whether it’s a quick trip or a longer excursion. Items are grouped together in a logical way so the shopper can make easy decisions of where to look for what he needs.
  • The environment is clean, bright and visually appealing.
  • The basic floor plan for the store is consistent, yet subtle changes are made to featured displays to keep the return shopper from getting bored and to help him notice what is most relevant at the given moment.
  • There is a plan to capture intentional and impulse purchases. Complimentary products are placed near one another. For example, you may find basting brushes on a hook by BBQ sauce or small plastic snack containers hanging by the Cheerios.
  • Pricing is clear. There may be room for negotiation on some items, but there is a reasonable understanding of what the buyer will need to pay to make the purchase.
  • The most in demand items are prominent.
  • Samples of items shoppers may feel more comfortable buying after trying are often available.
  • Products are positioned with the intended audience in mind. For example, cereals for kids are on lower shelves and cereals for adults are up higher.
  • Stores consciously capture as much information from buyers as possible. Many have shopper cards that help identify who customers are and reveal buying habits; information crucial in planning strategy.

Pay close attention to how those in the business of selling go about promoting their products and services. There is depth to the process. Almost every aspect is intentional and built around the customer’s experience, needs and interests versus around what might be convenient or easy for the seller.


Lisa joined the Michigan State University Alumni Association as Director of Alumni Career & Business Services on May 1, 2012. Her primary focus is to develop effective networking and resource channels for experienced alumni interested in professional development and job search strategy assistance. Additionally, Lisa works directly with corporate, education, foundation and government partners seeking to attract qualified talent, retain and develop good employees, and establish collaborative relationships in line with their established goals and objectives.


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