Messages Applicants Want to Hear

Attracting potential employees begins with the right messages.

NACS tested 20 messages among customers and potential applicants that describe the benefits of working at a convenience store company, and which types of messages can help convenience retailers best tell their stories and attract top talent.

The messages examined both favorability ("Do you like this message?”) and credibility (“How believable is it related to convenience store job?”). Results provide some guidance to three broad questions:

  1. Messages: What are the most important takeaways from the findings that inform strategy related to telling a company’s story? 
  2. Audiences: How do people generally respond to messaging and how should retailers tailor their messaging to specific audiences? 
  3. Strategy: How could these findings be used at the store/company level in reshaping a jobs recruitment/retention strategy, and how might the findings affect decision-making? 

Focus on the Positive
Three messages tested high in terms of credibility and favorability, meaning all audiences liked what they heard and believed it:

  • Convenience store jobs are great summer jobs for high school and college students. Working during the summer at a convenience store is a classic first job and a great experience for young people who can easily adjust their hours or leave when the school year resumes. 
  • Convenience store jobs teach people how to interact with others–a valuable skill in any job. Working at a convenience store teaches people how even a simple smile or a short conversation can change someone's day for the better. 
  • Convenience store jobs offer students the flexibility to earn an income while studying for their degree. The 24/7 nature of convenience stores allows students to work hours and shifts that fit their classes and study schedule. 


There are opportunities to build a narrative on hiring and training young people and building their skillset. Promoting and telling a story about how you mentor and grow younger employees can bolster your brand, image and standing in the community, especially if you are active in civic engagement.

Don’t Focus on Entrepreneurship and the American Dream
People are less interested in messages related to entrepreneurship or the “American Dream,” and that transcends age, geography and political affiliation.

While messages about training and opportunities for young people test well, bigger messages that claim convenience store jobs set workers up for entrepreneurship and owning a small business are overreaching and test poorly. For example: 

  • Convenience stores are the classic path to achieving the American Dream. Millions of immigrants and first-generation Americans have found success for themselves and their families thanks to jobs in the convenience store industry. 
  • Convenience stores provide opportunities for a lot of workers who can't or don't want to earn a traditional two-year or four-year college education. In fact, there are countless successful American entrepreneurs who run and own their very own convenience stores but started off with only their high school diploma or a GED. 
  • Few jobs offer the room to grow and succeed like a convenience store job. In fact, most convenience store owners started their career as an entry-level employee and worked their way up through management and into ownership 

Tell Your Best Stories
Aspirational messages are effective if a company can demonstrate how they are more than just talk. For messages to be credible, customers need to believe them.

Here’s an example of an industry message on combatting human trafficking:

  • “With more than 150,000 stores serving 165 million customers every day, convenience stores play a lifesaving role in stopping human trafficking. Groups like the National Safe Place Network and Convenience Stores Against Trafficking along with vigilant convenience store workers can help save people in danger.”

While accurate, customers and prospective employees need more context and supporting information to better connect the dots on the good work this message conveys. NACS resources and partnerships can help retailers boost the message’s favorability and credibility and link it to the “Work with a Purpose” industry attribute. For example:

  • Convenience stores can be a safe haven for at-risk individuals and those seeking assistance from troubling situations, especially during overnight hours when most retail locations are closed. NACS and convenience retailers partner with nationally-recognized organizations to help store employees identify the signs of human trafficking and support youth in peril: 
  • Programs like In Our Backyard’s Convenience Stores Against Trafficking (CSAT) program teaches retailers and their employees how to recognize and report human trafficking. CSAT also offers free Freedom Stickers that retailers can post in restroom stalls, which are now in more than 20,000 convenience stores across the country. 
  • Free resources through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign help employees identify instances of human trafficking. These resources can help employees and customers help people in need.   
  • Convenience stores have unique and extended hours of service—often 24/7—that makes them well-positioned in the community to provide a safe place for youth in peril. National Safe Place is  great example of a community outreach program where youth in crisis can get immediate help.

The goal of your messages is to increase favorability in the community. As you expand your outreach and community involvement (i.e., more solicitations for sponsorships of community initiatives, more top of mind consideration among the media and local community leaders), your positive messages will begin to spread on their own.

Another factor to consider is the impact of your positive messages on employee development and retention. While some turnover is unavoidable, you can expect to see modest improvements in turnover and employee promotion as your messaging reaches the right candidates for convenience store jobs.

If you can amplify and demonstrate messages that you are delivering civic engagement, there is huge potential to boost your favorability not just to customers but to job applicants. The key is to communicate them consistently over time to build repetition and awareness among your audience.