How to attract the right staff to your business

Finding good salon staff is notoriously tough. We uncover 10 tips to help you attract the best in the business and, more importantly, to keep them. 

1. Be honest in your advert
Your job description is everything. Oversell the role and you’ll be bombarded with applications from the wrong candidates, undersell it and you could be deterring the really good ones from applying. “Think about who this person will be replacing. For example, was the person who left your top waxer? Recruiting is about figuring out how to fill the gaps in your business,” says Miranda Allard, chief executive of recruitment specialist

Think carefully about what it is you’re looking for, then tailor the ad before posting it on a reputable job site. However, depending on your situation, the right person may already be under you nose. “If it’s a senior person leaving why not promote from within and make someone in the business feel good?” adds Allard.

2. Link with local colleges
Stefania Rossi, director of Utopia Beauty & Advanced Skincare in Essex and winner of the Professional Beauty Employer of the Year 2016 award, advises reaching out to your local community in search of new talent. She says: “I’ve developed really good relationship with the colleges near my salon. They monitor who’s coming out and graduating, and suggest the best candidates for me because they know my business and understand what I’m looking for. Approaching colleges is a great way to find future talent who already have good references.”

3. Look for more in applications
When sifting through CVs it’s important to focus on the candidate’s career history to see if they meet the requirements of your business but it’s also worth taking the time to search for that extra spark in the application, usually found in the personal statement or personal interests. “It’s all about personality and finding something a bit different. I believe you can train anyone to your way of doing things but what you can’t really train someone in is passion,” says Rossi. “In any CV I’m keen to see the usual stuff, such as background experience and qualifications, but I also want to know where they see themselves in the future and what they are hoping to achieve – it shows they have passion and want to progress.”

4. Try new interviewing methods
“Even good salons in the city with cracking reputations are finding it hard to get quality people. I’ve been suggesting to my clients that they write ‘call for a friendly, confidential chat’ on their job adverts as a first stage point of contact rather than setting up a formal interview,” says Alice Kirby, director of salon marketing and business specialist Lockhart Meyer. “In a 15-minute call you can tell whether somebody is worth inviting in for an interview and you can assess their people skills a lot better than via a CV, which can perhaps be a little bit economical with the truth.” She suggests trying to whittle your applications down to a small number of candidates that you can interview over the course of a few days.

5. Ask thought-provoking questions
Beauty is a demanding career, so candidates need to be aware of what they will be expected to do and what day-to-day life in your salon or spa will be like; make sure you cover this thoroughly in the interview. You also need to find out what makes them tick. “Ask more open-ended questions than stodgy interview ones as it encourages candidates to reveal themselves,” says Kirby. “For example, questions such as ‘Describe your ideal colleague’ sound easy but they actually give a lot away because the interviewee will likely describe someone quite similar to him or herself without realising it.” And don’t forget to ask what motivated them to join the industry. “Everyone is different and this will enable you to understand what drives your potential employee so you can determine whether they will fit in your business and how best to manage them,” says Katharine Evans, head of HR and recruitment at the International Institute for Anti- Ageing (iiaa).

6. Don't be afraid to make judgements
First impressions count. Someone who looks the part and has the “likeability factor” will build your business’s reputation and clientele base. “Personal appearance is the first thing I look for when a candidate walks in. If you’re going for a job in the beauty industry then you should look pristine for an interview,” says Lesley Caster, owner of City Retreat Salon and Spa in Newcastle, a finalist in this year’s Professional Beauty Awards 2016 in the Beauty Salon of the Year: Four Rooms or More category. “I also get interviewees to carry out trade tests of the three most popular treatments we do to see what their technique is like and how they work – whether they are a messy or clean worker and what their rapport with the model is like,” she adds. After the interview, try walking candidates around the salon to let them interact with staff, as this will also give you an indicator of how this person will fit into your team.

7. Reward those who deserve it
Allard suggests that low staff morale is contributing towards the “retention issue” that is affecting the industry. “There are more workers leaving the industry than there are being trained to join it, but why are people leaving? Well, money has a lot to do with it. Workers will jump ship for another £1,000 a year because it makes a difference to their lives. Beauty is a low-paid industry and therapists will move for money no matter how much they like you.” Although money isn’t everything, it can be a powerful motivator in retaining staff. A salary increase, no matter how small, can make all the difference or if you’re short on cash reward staff with a gift card or a team outing.

8. Be flexible with working hours
Offering flexible working will help you bag that ideal candidate as well as keep your current employees happy and motivated, especially those who are restricted by childcare. “Our industry predominately employs females and quite often candidates will have young children, so offer flexibility where necessary,” says Caster. “At City Retreat we work a lot of late nights, so I try to be flexible with shifts so staff can meet the demands of their home life – offering them later starts or earlier finishes. Even giving employees who normally work Saturdays every third Saturday off can be seen as a bonus – it’s about fitting in with their needs as well as yours.”

9. Create a career path
Angela Stott, managing director at spa and beauty recruitment agency La Source International, believes the key to keeping your team happy is development. “You must communicate with staff at all times and involve them in the business by offering them ongoing training. Otherwise they may get bored and look elsewhere,” she says. “Empower them to want to learn more and teach them as much as you can within your salon or spa. Establish clear key performance indicators (KPIs) so everyone can measure success and demand good work, but at the same time give praise where praise is due. This goes such a long way with employees.”

10. Don't recuit for the sake of recruiting
Even if your salon is busier than usual, only take on extra employees when you truly need them. “When recruiting, it’s key you are aware of the trends in your business so as not to be over or understaffed,” says Adele McMillan, group customer experience manager at Pure Spa & Beauty, winner of Professional Beauty’s Employer of the Year 2015 Award. “My tip would be to work out how utilised you would like your staff to be and wait until you trigger that figure before recruiting more employees. It’s important that staff are busy in their role in order to maintain morale and momentum,” adds McMillan. And don’t take someone on if you don’t feel they are right – it’s better to do another round of interviews instead. The right person will come along eventually.