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We've all heard the sage advice, "Hire for personality and train for skill." But how can a salon owner recognize a personality fit for their salon? Any candidate can fake being awesome for an hour interview. So what's a hiring manager to do?
First and foremost: hire slow.
Staring at an empty station and turning clients away because you don't have enough service providers can cause even the most cautious manager to make hasty hiring decisions. But bringing on the wrong person will really just cost you more time, lost clients, and possibly even additional lost employees and a depreciated salon reputation in the long run.
Even if you're "just filling a station" in a booth-rental salon, remember while a new stylist might not have to work with your other renters, they do have to work alongside them.
No one wants to pay rent to work beside someone they don't like. Don't push away your faithful renters for the first new rent check to inquire. To keep all your renters, you must ensure the chemistry is at least kosher. Even when filling salon suites, it will cost more time and money to have a revolving door of unprepared stylists who will never succeed running their own business. The paint, redecorating, move in/move outs, and continuous advertising for new suite renters will cost you far more time than being protective of your space and waiting for the right suite renter.
Filling a hole in your salon often feels like an emergency that needs to be addressed right away, but it's really an opportunity to bring your existing service providers together, create a need for clients to book appointments, and generate a sense of exclusivity for potential clients who want to be on your books. Take your time, make the most of the time by generating a prospective client list for when you do find the right person, and save yourself heartache and future issues by waiting for a good fit.
But really, don't just wait for a stylist to stumble in the door of your salon — recruit.
I don't mean you should poach another salon's stylists. That would be like dating someone who cheated on their ex with you then hoping they'll actually be faithful to you. Recruit by making connections at hairstylist gatherings (shameless plug: check out AHP Root gatherings) and on social media with hair professionals in your area.
Let fellow salon owners know you have an open chair in case they have a previous applicant they just couldn't accommodate. It pays to be a community instead of competition. Encourage your existing stylists (if you like their work ethic) to reach out to their licensed friends and former cosmetology classmates.
Go into local beauty schools and teach a class or give a presentation. Appealing to the next generation of hair professionals before they even graduate is beneficial for so many reasons, even if you aren't currently hiring.
Then when a hairstylist does come into your salon for an interview, throw out your preconceived notions of how an interview should happen.
Do not, I repeat, do not just sit in the back office and ask your standard list of 15 predetermined interview questions from the internet about where this stylist sees their career in five years and if they consider themselves a team player. Spoiler alert: they all consider themselves a team player. Make them prove it.
Get out of that back office and hang out with the team. Let each teammate ask a question they feel would help find the type of stylist they hope to work with. Go on a team outing with the candidate. It could be something no-cost and lowkey like a group walk or picnic, where everyone, not just the interviewee, lets their guard down and just gets to know each other.
Have the hopeful stylist come in and shadow a couple of your senior stylists, maybe even sit at the front desk for half an hour. Even as the interviewer, it's hard to really be your true self in a traditional, formal interview, so why would we think we get a real picture of who a candidate is in one stuffy hour of rehearsed questioning.
Sure, getting out of the back room and involving your team in the interview process takes a little more effort and a lot more time, but finding the right fit for your salon is worth it — and the right candidate who really wants to work at your salon will be happy to oblige whatever interview process you determine. If they aren't ecstatically willing to provide all the interview activities you request, you've saved yourself from a bad hire.
Take your time when hiring. Recruit, don't just settle for whoever stumbles in your salon door.
Then interview like you're looking for a new best friend to add to your team, not just a lip service expert.
A bad hire is more detrimental than an unused station. Likewise, the right fit— a good hire — is worth exponentially more than the additional service dollars or rent they bring in.