Jane Harrell, co-owner of Working with Dog and founder of ’cause Digital Marketing, holds Office Hours with Jane twice a month, and members of Working with Dog can ask any burning questions they have about business or marketing.
Hi Jane! I am having the toughest time finding dog walking employees, as there is a labor shortage in my state. I do get applicants, but they fail to jump through the hoops I provide. Maybe I am being too picky, but I want to know they can follow directions and I want to know I can depend on them to show up. And well…I should be picky when I am sending them unaccompanied into clients’ houses!
I need help. Where do I find the gems? The employees I have now are rock stars! Also, do you know what the going hourly rate is for dog walker contractors? It’s a hard thing to research as it’s a newer industry in my state. I am not sure what to compare it to. I am looking to think outside the box and get these positions filled ASAP!
Expert Jane Harrell responds:
First, you’re not alone. There’s a national labor shortage right now and this is one of the biggest problems I’m hearing about from the dog walking/sitting/boarding corner of the industry. Everyone’s having a hard time recruiting, so know it’s not you.
I agree that you need to be careful about screening potential walkers, but there are types of screening that can turn people off. There are also a lot of people who will just put in a feeler for a job listing like dog walker and never be serious about taking the job.
So, here’s what’s worked for me and others we’ve known:
- Find a local job listing group. I’ve used Indeed a lot with good success, but there may be another that’s better for you locally. I usually do a small ad spend to make sure I get a good number of applicants within a 72-hour window.
- Promote the GREAT things about the job in the copy and as headlines. People who may be looking for something part-time might not consider being a dog walker until you point out the pros – Love dogs? Work with them every day! Want to be outside? Work for us on your lunch break! Also, think about how many hours you realistically need. Sometimes two part-time people will be easier to find than one full-time person.
- Send applicants to apply online – not call or email. And, when they do, have them answer a few questions specific to the job. Avoid having them have to re-write their entire resume but make it clear that these are questions you want thoughtfully answered and that are important to be a good cultural fit.
For example: One of my questions for applicants is about how they’d feel working remotely when the rest of the team is across the country. For walkers, I’ve asked how they feel about working holidays or during bad weather. Don’t make it a downside, but just a fact of the job: “Our busiest times are often during holidays or stints of rainy days. Would you be available to work at least some holidays and how would you adjust to working outside during those times?”
- As soon as they’ve filled in the questionnaire, have an autoresponder send them a follow-up question you haven’t asked yet. “Thanks so much for applying! We’re looking over everything and will be in touch, but have one more question…”
- If they fill in the above to a good degree, then and ONLY then schedule the interviews and schedule them to take place in a short period of time. This helps keep the whole process short without you going back and forth between lots of applicants who then find something else in the meantime.
- Finally, for the interview, make sure to spend as much time selling them on YOU as a boss and company as you’re spending on understanding them. You’re looking for a fit that’s going to last years – not weeks and months. Make that clear. Tell them how you’re different and how you work. Yes, there’s some complexity around how you can make THEM work as contractors, but don’t discount the value of showing them that you care about them and their happiness too.
Finding a great dog-walking crew can take some time and it’s not one of those things that’s easy to advertise for – the folks who will be your superstars all have their own personal reasons for why they stick around. But they DO all want to feel like they’re working for someone who will respect them as they help you help dogs.
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