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Hiring the Right Person for your Pet Brand

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We are at a unique time for expanding our teams. As the Covid-19 pandemic drags on, good help is becoming harder to find.

Fortunately, pet brands have a unique draw when it comes to attracting new employees. The opportunity to work in a pet-related field can be a massive motivator for pet lovers. Most pet brands will have a flurry of applications when they post a new role. How can you weed through these to find the right person?

Remember, ultimately, your business is only as good as each of your employees!  Managing people always takes time, but managing an employee with poor performance takes 70% more time than managing solid performers! Hiring the right people will strengthen your team, expand your future opportunities, and allow you to focus on running your business, not cajoling or micro-managing poor performers.

What is at stake?
Hiring the wrong person can be a catastrophe. The hiring process takes time and focus away from the business. Training a new team member takes time from multiple different employees. Choosing the wrong person will cost the company real money in addition to the opportunity cost.

Finding the right person can enhance your work culture, strengthen your team, and create new opportunities. The right addition can help your team accomplish challenging goals. When you find the right person, the energy and time your other team members invest in a relationship with the new hire are worthwhile.

First: Write the right description
Be clear about who would be the perfect fit. If you’re hiring for a role with direct contact with animals and need someone with experience, be clear about that. If this is a front-line role primarily customer service oriented, make sure that’s crystal clear. Not all pet lovers are comfortable with the owners (some would rather just focus on the pets!).

Spend some time brainstorming who would be the perfect fit for this role. Is it someone with direct experience? Someone with a dedication to customer service? Someone with the savvy to write social media posts? Someone with the ability to handle complaints? Putting some time into imagining the ideal employee will help you write a clear description for the job posting.

Additionally, be clear about your expectations for commitment and timing. If you need someone 9-5 pm every weekday, you can rule out potential applicants who are only available during the evenings.

Consider asking a few key questions for applicants so you can screen out those who don’t fit without delving further. Ask a specific question about whether someone has the degree or certification you are seeking. Ask for availability during the times you’re hoping to be filled.

To accurately define the role, begin with a job analysis . (Collect information about the day-to-day duties, the responsibilities, the necessary skills, and the work environment. Creating a detailed overview will help you identify the right candidate and ensure your posting stands out to the people you are trying to attract.

Second: Review the applicants
Take the time to at least skim each application. It won’t take long before you can determine which ones stand out and which aren’t the right fit. Stick to what you know you need, but also be open to candidates who might meet your requirements in slightly different ways. If you wanted someone with a communications degree and have an applicant with significant experience in communications – this may still be a good fit!

Whittle your pile of applicants down to a shortlist with whom to have a video interview. Spending some time on video will give you a feel for whether this person could be a good fit with your work community. If someone checks all your boxes for experience or education, but you can’t establish a rapport with them on a video call, they’re probably not the right fit.

Remember, you and your team can teach most of the necessary skills, but the right attitude, philosophy, and cultural fit can not be taught. Choosing a better organizational fit over someone with more experience will almost always work out for you.

Third: Actively select for diversity
Your team will be so much stronger if they are diverse. Choose for philosophical alignment but differing backgrounds and experiences. If everyone brings a unique perspective to the table, you will have an outstanding team. Again, the key is to find the right fit for your work culture. Different opinions can strengthen a team and improve overall results as long as people work collectively and collaboratively.

Fourth: Face to Face interviews
Between reviewing applicants and doing video calls, you should have narrowed your pool down to a couple of potential candidates. Now you can meet them in person. Whenever possible, involve several team members in the face-to-face interview. Draw from your management team, but also consider including a team member who would be working directly with the new hire.

Involving your team in the recruitment process will ensure you find the right fit (after all, they are the ones who will be working the most with this person!). This also shows your team how valuable they are to you and how much you respect their input and perspective.

Involving your team is particularly important if the new hire is going to take on some duties that other team members are currently doing. This helps alleviate any reticence to “give up” something that your team has been doing. When your team feels valued, they are prepared to embrace the new hire instead of jealously guarding their company knowledge.

Fifth: Decision Time!
By now, you may have narrowed down your options to a clear winner. Or you may find that you have two people between whom you need to choose. A follow-up video call might give you the information you need. Spend some time with your team, drafting a couple of questions. Maybe it is a challenging scenario that your team has faced or a possible dilemma in your field.

Let each applicant answer these questions; it will likely be clear by the end of the conversation which is the best fit for your organization.

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Tips for Making the Right Hire
Be Creative
If you’ve been to a few interviews, you’re likely used to answering questions about how you work as part of a team or where you see yourself in 5 years. Brainstorm with your team and develop something different that will make your candidates think before they respond. This can give you a true insight into how someone thinks.

Be Challenging
Don’t be afraid to challenge your candidates and push them out of their comfort zone. Always be kind and fair, but seeing how someone responds under pressure can give you a real insight into their character.

Get out from behind the desk
If possible, set up a working interview where you can see your candidate perform in your work environment. You will get a much better sense of who someone is when they’re active than when they’re sitting across from you.

Take a tour
If you can’t set up a working portion of the interview, definitely still make time for a tour. Watch your candidate’s responses. Do they greet people you pass? Are they interested in everyone? Or just in the c-suite team? Are they asking questions that demonstrate a genuine interest in your business?

Check out their social profiles
Don’t forget to peruse your candidate’s social media presence. What they post can give you insight into their character and personality.

Beware! Don’t make these common hiring mistakes

Be careful not to gravitate towards the candidate with whom you are most comfortable
Too often, we hire people who remind us of ourselves. Adding a team member similar to yourself won’t always be the right move for the business. They already have you! Adding someone with a different perspective can enhance the team. There will be times where a similar person is the right fit; perhaps they have a complementary skill set to yours. Beware of choosing someone who reminds you of you just because they’re comfortable, though.

Don’t ignore your team’s feedback
Not only is it demotivating to have a manager ask your opinion only to have it ignored, but your team can also pick up on signs you might miss. A candidate may have the perfect rapport with you, but if they are dismissive of your team, they won’t be a good fit.

Your team has seen people come and go; they are finely attuned to subtle signs that a candidate may be putting on a great front but not have the substance to enhance your organization.

Don’t skip the reference checks!
Although often a formality, don’t skip this step. You might think references hold limited value because they’re inevitably going to be skewed; after all, who would list a reference who won’t be positive? You would be surprised! Call those references and spend some time asking questions. You could learn something that will prevent you from making a serious mistake!

Not sure where to start?
The team at StreetDog can help. We have deep expertise in pet brands and lots of experience hiring team members. We can help you wade through an influx of resumes, detail the ideal candidate, and brainstorm some creative questions.

If you’ve found the perfect fit but they’re missing one skill, we can help there, too! We can support our organization with our content creation and social media savvy, taking the pressure off your team.

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