Even though a lot of owners tell him that there’s a shortage of good hairstylists, Neil Ducoff, founder of business consultation company Strategies Publishing Group, won’t have any of it. “I don’t think there is a labour shortage,” he states. “If there is a turnover problem in the business, then there is a leadership problem. People quit leaders, not salons.”
Liz Cabral-Hinks, senior business consultant for Venus Beauty Supplies, agrees. “Hairstyling schools are still fairly busy, so I believe that salon owners must be having a hard time finding qualified stylists, as opposed to finding a stylist.”
Here’s a few tips for finding the best new salon team member possible.
1. Don’t hire based off of clientele.
According to Ducoff and Cabral-Hinks, the biggest mistake salon owners make when hiring is putting too much weight on whether a candidate has a clientele. “A salon should only hire when the salon is busy,” says Ducoff, asserting that owners should never bring in extra staff with the objective of getting busier. “If you are hiring because of how much business a stylist can bring to you, then you can actually become a hostage to that stylist. They can come in with a following and leave with a following.”
Cabral-Hinks adds that “salon owners should look at other attributes that will be much more important—things like technical ability, personality, passion, creativity and ambition. You can grow a client base very quickly with these attributes.”
2. Consider the pros and cons of hiring a recent grad.
Another important thing to consider when looking for salon staff is whether you want to hire a recent graduate or a stylist with experience. “If you hire motivated kids out of school, you need to give them enough time and experience to be able to perform at a higher level. So the pay may not be as high, but the cost of training them is,” explains Ducoff. “Hiring someone with a lot of experience saves you money in development, but you may be bringing in some bad habits, and it will be your responsibility to teach and coach the right behaviour that fits your business.”
3. Don’t call beauty schools at the last minute.
Salon business coaches Terri and Steve Cowan of Professional Salon Concepts believe that hiring go-getter school grads is the better option. “If you hire people from another salon, they may leave you for another salon,” says Terri Cowan. “Also, you need to make a 365-day-a-year recruiting campaign. Owners always say they don’t have time to recruit, so they only call the schools when they are in crisis.” At this point, owners are being reactive and not putting enough thought into the process.
The Cowans suggest creating a solid career path to motivate potential candidates, then putting together a press kit and going to schools to look for target applicants. Once you’ve got your eye on a keener, ask him or her to come in to the salon for a quick look-see or interview.
4. Don’t just ask about salon experience in an interview.
“We like doing a clinical interview,” says Terri Cowan. “I ask them to take me through high school and bring me to the present. I ask whether they had any responsibilities during school, like a part-time job, to see if training or coaching is foreign to them, for example. I also see if we have fun during the interview, because if we have fun with them, then we know our guests will have fun with them too.”
For a senior stylist, Ducoff suggests asking questions like: Do you know what your first time-client retention rate is? How are you at working in a business that has a lot of systems and standards you need to meet? Do you enjoy working in a team? Are you comfortable around constant change?
5. Don’t forget to sell your salon’s culture.
So how do you hang on to good staff once you’ve got them? “At the end of the day, stylists want a good working environment that is structured, fair and acknowledges them for their efforts,” says Cabral-Hinks. “Implementing a good structure is an important start, and making the salon an enjoyable place to work is key.”
This article was originally published in the May/June 2009 issue of Salon Magazine.