How to Attract and Hire the Right Staff

According to Wasp Barcode's recent annual State of Small Business Report, 50 percent of small businesses say hiring new employees is the top challenge they face. That makes it the No. 1 challenge for businesses with less than 499 employees, followed by increasing profits, employee health care, growing revenue and cash flow.

There is little question that if Wasp’s small business researchers had only surveyed the dog walking and pet sitting industry, any company with at least one employee would agree that hiring is their biggest challenge. Our industry is an intimate service where we access a client’s home and handle their most prized asset; our reputation is directly in the hands of those we hire and vouch for with our clientele. If you’ve ever hired someone and regretted it, you likely know the mantra “Slow to hire; Fast to fire” for good reason. 

So how do you know who to look for? What qualifications, character traits and availability should you expect from your hires?  How will you know who you can trust, especially considering they will be entering your clients’ homes unsupervised and representing your company?

“How do you know who you can trust?”

The truth is, hiring is a delicate combination of looking at someone’s past and current makeup as well as their future goals—and trusting your instincts. Asking for a resume, for example, allows you to see how long this person has stayed at each previous job. If they have changed jobs every four months over the past two years, will they leave after four months with you?

Attracting the Right Kind of Staff

When you’re looking to bring on pet sitters and dog walkers, it’s hard to know where to start. If you’ve budgeted a certain amount for advertising your job post, you may consider job boards such as Craig’s List, Indeed, Zip Recruiter or Glassdoor, just to name a few. If you would prefer not to spend money, you may have free opportunities at a local coffee shop, community center, library or gym to attract a local candidate. It’s important to remember, however, that if you’re serious about finding good help, it may be worth the financial investment.  

In your job description, be as specific as possible about what the job entails and what you expect. Being vague will mean that you’ll need to weed people out by engaging in emailed questions and interviews, which is a waste of your time and theirs. Tell candidates exactly what you’re looking for so they can weed themselves out if this is not the job for them. For instance, if your region experiences severely inclement winters, you’ll need dog walkers who can spend a fair amount of time in frigid temperatures.

“Tell candidates exactly what you're looking for”

You’ll also want to be upfront about how much they can earn working for you. Be realistic and honest—if they will only make $250 per week, job seekers need to know that. You’ll also need to think about the availability your candidates will need to have, while considering other part-time jobs that would work in tandem with yours. If you’re looking for Monday through Friday dog walkers, you’ll likely want them available between 10am and 4pm. That means your staff could be working another job in the early mornings or nights. Or it could also mean they have financial flexibility.

Grad students, for example, may have financial assistance allowing them the flexibility of a smaller work schedule. Classes typically take place at night so their daytime hours are free, and they may be looking for a more relaxing job away from the mental stress of their studies. For that reason, if you’re located near a college, consider posting your ad on the university job board. Actors, restaurant workers, freelance writers or video editors, parents with school-aged children and retirees can all make viable candidates as well because their days are typically open.

In your requirements list, there are a few additional things you may want to include. Depending on your service area, it may be essential that they have a car or a bike to use for work. Where they live can also be important – you don’t want them driving too far to and from the job unless you’re planning to compensate for their excessive commute time. If you are using a scheduling software, they will also need a smart phone so they can access their schedule, check-in/check-out and send feedback reports to your clients after their jobs are complete. If you’re hiring independent contractors (ICs), you’ll likely want them to have previous experience since your training, by law, must be limited; and they’ll need their own legally set-up company from which to invoice you.

Responses to Your Job Listing

Today’s applicants range from those simply using their cellphone to utilize a “one-click” reply with a preloaded resume, to those who actually take the time to go through your ad and thoroughly respond.

Because your staff must have an attention to detail – they will need to read through all of the visit routine notes to ensure they are following the client’s direction – you should expect them to have an eye for detail when it comes to responding to your ad.  If you’ve asked any questions or requested a resume, your applicant should reply accordingly. Additionally, a well-written response with enthusiasm gives you foresight into what their communication style might look like with your clients.

Once you’ve narrowed your search to a few candidates, it’s smart to start with a phone interview. Your time is valuable, so it’s important to get the information you need as quickly as possible. A phone interview will allow you to explain the job in further detail so your candidate knows what would be expected of them. Then, having passed your first two rounds of screening, a face-to-face interview will give you a full sense of your applicant. If you’ve settled on a certain contender, be sure to check their professional references and execute a background check before moving forward – these two steps could prove to be critical in identifying your potential hire.

Once hired, your onboarding systems and thorough training process will set your new additions up for success!