Owner Amy Pal shares her successful strategies for attracting and retaining talent.  

Owner Amy Pal shares her successful strategies for attracting and retaining talent. 

As the owner of Whip Salon, a chain of five hair salons in Connecticut and South Carolina, I'm constantly recruiting new talent. From seasoned stylists with years of industry experience to those fresh out of cosmetology school, my staff and myself have conducted hundreds of interviews. It's an exciting time in our industry because it's never been a more attractive time to become a hairstylist. The job is creative, flexible, recession (and pandemic) proof and of course can be very lucrative. Attracting the right talent to stay and grow with your salon is the foundation of our success as salon owners. Hair stylists have more options than ever these days, so how can you attract the talent that is right for your salon culture?

Hiring seasoned stylists is pure gold. However seasoned stylists tend to get comfortable where they are and there can be reluctance for change and the unknown, not to mention potential noncompete issues. Of course, it can be done, and that's a very valuable hire to make especially when they bring a book of business. Often an easier approach is finding the right talent at the start of their career who will stay with you for the long haul. In that case you have the opportunity to help them learn and grow, and when done right they will often stay with you for many years. This is my primary focus for growth in my salons - keeping my seasoned stylists happy and growing through the ranks while recruiting new stylists right out of school to continue building our future.

Here are five things to keep in mind when recruiting in 2023:

Build Relationships with Cosmetology and Hair Tech Schools Near You

If you're not on a first name basis with every cosmetology school director in your area, you should be. By developing relationships with the local cosmetology schools, you create a pipeline for identifying new talent. Whip Salon gets the opportunity to present to students on a regular basis about what it's like to work in the industry and specifically the benefits of joining our team. It's a terrific way to see which students are passionate about the industry and to identify good cultural fits as well. You can ask the school about the candidate's work ethic and abilities so you have confidence in the caliber of apprentice you're getting. 

Offer a Formal, Fast-Paced Apprentice Program

Today's graduating student wants one thing above everything - to get on the floor as a stylist. That's not usually realistic the day after someone graduates, so you need to figure out what your salon's approach will be for new talent entering your apprentice program. How long will the program last? What technical tests must they pass to get on to the floor and who is going to evaluate their work and decide if they're ready? The old school approach of requiring a certain amount of time in a role doesn't work anymore, so your program should reward ability and let exceptional people advance quickly. If you can lay out a thoughtful program that makes it clear the various milestones and how to achieve them, you'll find it much easier to attract excellent candidates.

Focus on your USP

What is your salon's unique selling proposition (USP)? What does your salon stand for and can you articulate it? Of course you want to offer excellent hair services and for your clients to leave happy, but dig a little deeper. What are the specific reasons clients, and stylists, should choose your salon over every other in a crowded market? If you can find those reasons, differentiate your salon, and focus on your unique strengths when interviewing, you will find the people who will help you build a like-minded and harmonious team.

Education, Education, Education

Graduating cosmetology students want to know that education won't stop once they graduate. Cosmetology school provides an incredible foundation, but there's still a long way to go with most students fresh out of school. Be sure you offer an array of classes or access to online instruction they can tap into that compliments your apprentice program. Education is everywhere these days - ask your retail and color providers for what they can offer you with points but also get creative looking at your existing staff. Someone's a gray blending specialist? Ask them to teach a class and compensate them for it. Got a curly hair specialist on your team? Ask them to help educate your team, some of your best educators may already be working with you.

Deliver The Goods

Setting expectations for new recruits is one thing, but following through and really delivering is another. It sounds easy, but with all the work that goes into the day-to-day of running a salon, your new hires could get lost in the shuffle. Take the time to develop a professional onboarding process so your new stylist feels welcomed and supported from the start. Check in with them regularly and make sure things are going the way they hoped they would. We like to put a 30-day check-in with all of our new hires so that we can evaluate them but reciprocally they can provide feedback to make sure we're delivering too.

Recruiting can be incredibly rewarding with the right approach. Make sure you're going into 2023 with a winning formula.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, Click here.