Finding a qualified skin care specialist is not unlike finding a good nail technician. Look for technical skills, sales ability, personality, and professionalism.
Hiring an esthetician for your salon isn’t very diffirent from hiring a nail technician. “Both positions require someone whose attire is professional, who is eager to learn, who practices safe, sanitary disinfection procedures and is willing to be a team member,” says Joanna Nykiel, a nail technician and esthetician who helps hire other employees for Syd Simons Cosmetics in Chicago.
People skills and a pleasant personality are other important traits good nail and skin technicians share. “I look for someone with strong hands who isn’t intimidating,” says Kathy Haller, owner of Elegante Nails in Arlington, Texas. “Facials, like manicures, should be a very calming experience.”
Still other qualities that all salon workers should share include a thirst for education that doesn’t stop when they receive their license. “We look for technicians who are willing to learn,” says Abbie Langlois, a cosmetologist at Perfect Ten Head to Toe Salon in Winchita, Kan. “We’ve hired people who were stuck in a rut and only wanted to do one particular service,” she says. “But these technicians never last too long because the rest of us are constantly ordering new samples, looking and trying new things, and attending educational programs. Now we only hire technicians who are enthusiastic and love their work.”
STARTING POINT: THE APPLICATION
While hiring an esthetician may be similar to hiring a nail technician, many salon owners feel insecure when looking for an expert in a field they’re unfamiliar with. That’s why skin care experts like Martha Wenstein, an esthetician with more than thirty years’ experience, suggest that salon owners weed out the best candidates by using an extensive application form. “It’s important to have a detailed form so each candidate can convey all their previous professional experience,” Wenstein says.
Besides obvious information like the esthetician’s name, address, and social security number, other important questions include the applicant’s esthetic or cosmetology license number and original issuance date. You should ask to see the actual license. Ask for the names and addresses of beauty schools attended, the year of graduation, college education, and any advanced training courses or significant seminars the applicant has attended.
The form should ask for the applicant’s last three places of employment, including the former salon’s name, address, and phone number, her job title and supervisor’s name, duties performed, reasons for leaving, employment dates, and her salary history. You should also ask if you can contact the applicant’s current or former employers.
You can get a sense of a prospective employee’s professionalism by finding out about any professional organizations to which she belongs and her career goals, both short and long term.
“After applicants complete our application form,” Haller says, “I tell them we’ll call if we’re interested. If I’m impressed, I do an extensive background search. I check out their credentials and verify that they received their license. I also check their experience and previous employment before I proceed to interview them. Hiring someone is a three to four-step process.”
STEP 2: THE INTERVIEW
Use the application form to create questions for the interview. “If you have any doubts about a person’s qualifications or abilities to perform a job,” Wenstein says, “question them further during the interview.”
Nykiel adds, “The specific questions you ask depend on the person, just like the products you use depend on a person’s skin type. Generally, I ask ‘situation’ questions such as, ‘If your day ends at six or seven, would you be willing to continue working if you are needed?’ I also ask what trade magazines they read and when they last attended a tradeshow. I’ll throw out some product names to see if they’re familiar with them, and find out how much they know about the products they’re using.”
Harrold Laxman, owner of Harrold Salon in New York, asks applicants how long they’ve been in the industry and where they went to school: “Then I ask them about their experience, who they worked for and how long, and what they did for the last salon owner.” he says. “I also ask them, what their specialty is and if they have any proof of their work.”
Determining whether an applicant is sales-oriented also can be important. “When you hire new estheticians, a lot of their early success will depend on their ability to promote themselves,” Wenstein says. “Ask them what their attitude is concerning sales and promotion. Or take the question a step further and ask, ‘How will you get new clients? How will you promote your services?”
If you’re interviewing applicants just out of school, with little or no job experience, Nykiel suggests asking about their goals. “I like ask what goals they initially set for themselves when they entered school,” she says, “and if they met those goals. Then I ask if they’ve set new goals and what those goals are. I follow that up with, ‘Where would you like to be in a year? How do you see your future in the industry? As a distributor? An educator?’ I ask a lot of questions to try and determine where their focus is.”
STEP 3: SKILLS DEMONSTRATION
An applicant who responds well in the interview and shows that she shares your visions for your skin care business should next be asked to demonstrate her skills. “I interview, screen, do a background search, and then ask a handful of clients that I trust, and who trust me, to be involved in hiring a new person,” Laxman says. “I have the applicant do a facial or other service on a client, then I ask the client: ‘If I hired this woman, would you go back to her?’
“I have four electrologists here and each of them was hired by my clients,” he continues. “The same with my facialists. These are very personal services, and only my clients can judge whether a technician has the touch, sensitivity, and personality they like.”
Wenstein has another approach to this part of the hiring process. She tells applicants: “I’m a new client who wants a facial. How are you going to service me?’ This way, I can see whether an applicant first gives a skin analysis,” she says. “I can see whether she explains all the steps, if she can answer my questions, and if she knows what she’s talking about. I can also determine the type of conversation she has during the treatment. By the end of the service, I know she’s a good technician if my skin feels terrific and I come out the room with my head in a cloud.”
Still another way to determine if an applicant is right for your salon is to simply spend time with her. When Nykiel finds someone who is eager and interested, she invites her to spend a week in the salon---observing, getting to know the other technicians, and the services and products being offered. “This saves everyone time,” Nykiel says. “By the end of the week, they know if they don’t fit in or feel comfortable here. During that week, she also does a facial on me. It’s a great way to interview without leaving any bad feelings between you and an applicant if it doesn’t work out.”
STEP 4: TERMS OF EMPLOYMENT
One of the last steps in the hiring process, but one of the most important, is to come to an agreement with your candidate on the terms of employment. “You don’t want any misunderstanding,” Wenstein says. “It’s important to discuss whether she will work on commission, sign a rental agreement or receive an hourly rate. Whatever your terms, spell them out in writing so that everyone is clear about who pays for what.”
For example, will the salon pay for retail products and then offer the esthetician a commission, or will the esthetician choose the retail line? “Many salon owners prefer that the esthetician owns the retail line. She buys it, then pays the salon a 5% or 10% commission on her sales,” says Wenstein.
STEP 5: THE INTRODUCTION
The last step in hiring an esthetician is to give her a good start by properly introducing her and promoting her services. “We put an announcement together and introduce her to the entire client base,” Nykiel says. “We mail fliers, create business cards, and do everything we can to promote her. It’s like a coming out party.”
Nykiel says salon owners can generate a lot of excitement for new estheticians by creating an air of mystique. “By the time we hire someone, our clients have seen her around,” she says, “and they’re curious. We tell them she’s the newest professional here at Syd Simons and wouldn’t they like to sit down and talk to her sometime? We do it in an intriguing way that leaves them wanting to find out more about her.”
Ultimately, no matter how careful you are, you won’t know if you made the right hiring decision until your new technician has worked with clients for several weeks. “Hiring someone is like cooking a pot of chilli,” Laxman says. “You throw in a little of this and that---salt, garlic, pepper, all good spices---and you can still screw it up. I’m a good cook, but I blew a chilli dish four weeks ago. Something went wrong. It’s the same thing with hiring facialists. You interview and interview and still don’t know if you’re hiring the right person with the right experience, the right touch, the right background, and the right client relations. You just hope that you’re lucky and you’ve made the right choice. And if you do make a mistake, don’t be afraid to cut your losses and try again.”
WHERE TO FIND QUALIFIED APPLICANTS
Kathy Haller looks for potential estheticians by contacting schools in her area. “They can give you an on-time record and tell you if a student was present in class,” she says. “They can also tell you if the student was booked and requested. We hired one of our best technicians when she was a student. We knew she would be terrific because she had clients she met at beauty school calling and asking us if she had received her license yet. That says an awful lot.”
Harrold Laxman prefers to ask his clients to help him find potential employees. “When I decided to start my skin care department,” he says, “I asked my clients where they went for their facials and waxing, I asked who they recommend and compiled a list of estheticians working in other salons. I then called those technicians to see if any of them were happy enough with their salon to come in for an interview.”
Other good sources for finding estheticians are local tradeshows and trade magazines. Contacting skin care suppliers and manufacturers also may be helpful. Then there’s the newspaper classifieds. “I find the most qualified people read the papers,” Wenstein says. “When composing an ad, the simplest word to use is facialist. So your ad might read: ‘Facialist needed for busy nail salon starting a skin care department.”