Recruiting great, new talent into your salon is always a challenge—what’s the best way to find the right person who will believe in your mission, work as part of the team and take good care of your customers? Many salon owners and managers, though, are missing out on a simple but effective relationship that will give them access to a pick of new students—working with their local cosmetology schools. With the boom in the number of schools over the last five to 10 years, most salons are in close proximity to at least one school, if not many more.

Meeting and Greeting

The first step, say owners who have been there, is to simply pick up the phone and start calling. “Let them know you are interested in the school and ask if they have any events or career fairs you could get involved in,” says Tony Paterniti, co-owner of Avanti Salon in Chesterland, Ohio. “The schools generally want the salons there.” Paterniti and his wife, Marisa, got involved in their local cosmetology school more than 10 years ago. The school is the same one she graduated from, and she now serves on the advisory board. The long-term relationship with the school has paid great dividends for both sides. The Paternitis estimate about 95 percent of their staff, from over the last 10 years, has been hired through their involvement with the schools.

Terri Clendennen, co-owner of Dionysus Salon and Spa in The Woodlands, Texas, estimates she has hired about 75 percent of her staff in the last five years due to her ties with schools. “Since we’ve been going into schools, we’ve gotten to pick from the crème de la crème,” she says. “It helps in interviewing prospects, because they understand and know us, and they’re interviewing here because they want to.”

More than just staffing her own salon, Clendennen also finds it important to connect with the students. “By putting our faces out to prospective students, we make them more familiar with us and we get to bring a real-world perspective into the school. Even more than that, we really try to inspire them by showing them what they can do and what they can achieve, and that it won’t be easy, but it’ll be worth it.”

Choosing a Partner

When it comes to targeting which schools you want to work with, Clendennen says, “Work smart: Choose the institutions that are putting out the types of students that you would want to hire.” Paterniti agrees: “I think it would be wise to get feelers out there for all the schools in your area, interview the schools and make decisions on your own about what you like and dislike.”

Clendennen also encourages owners to take the initiative, but advises them to not waste time on schools that are not interested. “In the beginning, it can be a slow process, but don’t get frustrated.” Clendennen also says setting up appointment times throughout the year, so they know you are definitely serious, is helpful.


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