Despite the rapid growth of Trader Joe’s to over 450 U.S. stores, getting to know what happens behind the scenes of this grocery chain is notoriously tricky. Trader Joe’s doesn’t talk to the media, and employees aren’t supposed to publicly share what their jobs are like—or how they got them.
If you’ve only driven past a Trader Joe’s (or illicitly parked in their parking lots), then you need to know—it’s not just another grocery store.
Trader Joe’s is widely believed to be one of the best retailers to work for, and some people even leave behind careers earn more money—and have less stress—in their local foodie heaven.
Stores are hubs for the community, too. Staff noticed that some customers drive from hundreds of miles away to stock up on a thousand dollars worth of product once a month. There’s also the issue of Pirate Joe’s—the fake Trader Joe’s that sells legitimate products to Canadians who can’t otherwise get to a store.
Although Trader Joe’s lips may be sealed, we do know somethings about submitting Trader Joe’s application, careers, and jobs. So put on some stripes and a jaunty hat, and keep reading if you’ve ever thought about working at Trader Joe’s.
Where to Find Jobs at Trader Joe’s
Your best bet is to visit your local store even if it’s 50 miles away. Although the company posts some jobs online, you get directed to your store to apply anyway.
How to Apply for Trader Joe’s Jobs
Unlike the average retailer, Trader Joe’s never went entirely digital.
The company isn’t made up of a bunch of techno-skeptics. Instead, they want to see your smiling face in their stores rather than sift through faceless online applications.
Stop by your nearest Trader Joe’s with a resume in hand to fill out and hand in an application.
Don’t be shy. Trader Joe’s don’t keep a complete list of available store positions online. Instead, they accept applications all day, every day, at every store. They’ll give you a call when a post comes up, and they think you’re a good fit.
Trader Joe’s does accept online resume submissions for Mate (supervisor) opportunities. HR says they get around to reviewing a new batch of resumes within two months. Not sure where you stand? Log-in to check your status, and keep popping into your local store.
What Happens Next?
If you’re a potential candidate for a vacancy, the store you applied at will get in touch to set up an interview.
Be sure to visit wearing your best smile and a favorite outfit. You might enjoy a mini-interview on the spot.
When attending your interview, be prepared to show your personality.
Hiring managers look for friendly people who live and breathe the Trader Joe’s mission. If you always look on the bright side, are always happy to help no matter what, and a generally fun to be around, then you’re a good fit for Trader Joe’s culture.
You may get bonus points if you rock up already matching the store’s nautical theme.
Remember: any spark of negativity could cut you from the list. Trader Joe’s employees are allegedly as happy as they appear to be. Stores won’t take on a Negative Nancy even if you’re the fastest cashier in all the land.
If you’ve worked retail before and dealt with corporate overlords, poor management, and an inflexible working environment, pick yourself up because the bad attitudes that accompany that environment aren’t welcome in a Trader Joe’s.
In addition to your sparkling personality, you’ll need experience. Trader Joe’s looks for people who take the initiative and who want to participate. Part of that motivation comes from the confidence gained from experience in other retail environments. Hiring managers look for retail expertise and ideally grocery store experience.
Being a Trader Joe’s customer helps. They’ll want to know what products you love and why. A job here isn’t about stacking shelves; it’s about creating an experience, and your product knowledge plays a vital role. While you’re at it, take time to gush about the store’s sampling and returns policy.
What Kind of Jobs Are Available
Trader Joe’s is crewed by three levels of hourly employees: Crew Members, Merchants, and Mates.
Crew members are the heart and soul of the store. When you’re on the crew, you’ll spend time ringing up customers, stocking shelves, dealing with merchandising, working in shipping and receiving and any other duties your Mate assigns.
You’ll do all this while providing sparkling customer service and ensuring they’re grocery shopping experience is fun and informative.
Crew Members receive promotions to the role of Merchant. A Merchant performs many of the same tasks as a Crew Member but with better benefits.
Mates are store leaders or supervisors who work between 40 to 47.5 hours per week. Most Mates are promoted up from Crew Members and Merchants, but they may be hired in as well.
Trader Joe’s keeps all hands on deck, so you’ll find Mates on the floor with the Crew as well as providing leadership, direction, and training for Crew Members.
Mates can be promoted to Captains or store managers, but Trader Joe’s only hires a Captain from within. If you’ve got your eyes set on store management, you’ll need to work your way up.
What Much Does Trader Joe’s Pay?
Trader Joe’s is famous for its compensation and benefits scheme, which surpasses many other prominent retailers.
Crew Members earn between $10 and $24 per hour depending on their experience and the store, but Captains may make more than $100,000 a year.
Crew Members receive a semi-annual performance review and a subsequent 7-10% annual salary increase upon great results.
In addition to take-home pay, Crew Members earn retirement contributions. Ten percent of your annual salary is contributed to a pre-tax retirement plan.
You’ll even qualify for the company’s medical, dental, and vision care plans for $75 per month (at present).
Trader Joe’s also get a 10 percent store discount and paid time-off. You accrue paid time off with your tenure, but you do need to take time off to get the money. You can take it out of your PTO account as soon as you’ve earned it. Some Trader Joe’s employees claim they get too much vacation time.
Career Mobility at Trader Joe’s
Trader Joe’s is one of those companies that focuses on promoting from within rather than hiring leadership. Store employees start as Crew Members. Mates, or supervisors, tend to start out as Crew Members with 78% of Mates having progressed from a lower role. Captains are only promoted from within: 100% of Trader Joe’s store managers previously worked as a mate.
How does a grocery store prepare the guy working the cash desk for store management?
Because Crew Members don’t just participate in basic store operations like stock and running the register. As a Crew Member, you’ll join in all kinds of activities during a shift including merchandising, display creating, customer service, and product demos.
Trader Joe’s also facilitates learning experiences. All Crew Members are invited to product tastings and demos to learn more about what’s on the shelves.
What You Need to Know About Working at Trader Joe’s
Trader Joe’s is a progressive company: the corporate vision believes in flexibility, diversity, and integrity. It also hands out health insurance like candy (after three months of employment), which is rare in the retail and service industry.
One of the most exciting aspects of working in a Trader Joe’s store is the opportunity to watch change happen. A typical retailer receives its marching orders from a corporate office one thousand miles away. Decision-making takes place at the corporate level, but stores get the autonomy needed to do what’s best for the store, the Crew, and the neighborhood it serves.
Local decision making is aided by a substantial amount of middle management. While middle managers at other retailers may send you running in the opposite direction, Trader Joe’s managers pitch in at every available opportunity.
It means tasks and oversight are both distributed evenly, which prevents anyone from spending four hours in the freezer or coming into work at 4:30 AM every day.
Store employees are friendly, and they expect you to be nice, too. In fact, if you don’t fit the bill, you won’t be allowed in the door. While it may sound saccharine sweet, it creates a culture that many former employees love and miss when they leave.
Management is reportedly just as supportive as the Crew team. Employees say that while culture varies depending on the store, management does its best to listen and encourage conversations to create an open environment. Trader Joe’s trusts all its staff, but it asks for your best effort in return.
Fortunately, your best doesn’t need to follow a rigid path. Trader Joe’s believes “there are 1,000 right ways to do something”, which leaves you free to make suggestions based on your experience, store needs, and frequent customer requests.
Will You Apply to Trader Joe’s?
Ultimately, Trader Joe’s wants the best, and they want you to want to give it to them. Does this sound like you? Visit your Local Trader Joe’s today to ask about job opportunities in store.