Business Management

What Are Salon Owners Looking For?

Salon owners today look for professionalism, good communication skills, a positive attitude, and a clean and neat appearance when hiring new employees.

You might be surprised to learn that many salon owners prefer to hire new graduates who are fresh out of school and enthusiastic about the industry and their profession rather than hire a nail technician who has been around a few years. You’ll score big in an interview if you show a salon owner your professionalism, communication skills, and a positive attitude.

We asked top nail and full-service salon owners around the country what impresses them about a job candidate and what they look for in an applicant. They emphasized that they can teach technical skills, but a potential new employee must walk in the door with an eagerness to learn and a positive outlook.

John and Sharon Hickox, owners of Hickox Salon in Portland, Ore.: The first thing we look for in a job candidate is initiative---have you been working in any type of job while you are going to school? A positive attitude and appropriate dress for the salon you are interviewing at are also very important.

It’s important to find out about a salon before you interview there because different salons have different climates. If a candidate already knows something about our salon and what is like to work here, that impresses me.

We look for maturity, adaptability, flexibility, and the ability to get along with everyone, from the clients to our staff. We want someone who understands the business environment and someone who’s in good health.

Finally, we look for candidates who are willing to adapt to doing nails our way---so everyone’s services are consistent---and for candidates who are committed to continuing their education throughout their career with us.

Frank Alvarez, owner of Mark-frank Salon’s in Cleveland, Ohio: We want to hire recent graduates as nail technicians who have the desire to be the best they can be. We place more emphasis on attitude than on technical skill, which is something you can perfect once you’re here.

As a new nail technician, you’ll apprentice with an experienced staff member until you are ready to build your own clientele. You’ll observe other staff members, and may do one client a day at first as you build your skills and confidence.

Kathy Fanslow, owner of The Grand Salon in Chicago, III.: When interviewing potential new hires, I look at their communication skills, their appearance, and how well they present themselves. Confidence is very important. If you can show confidence in yourself then your skills will definitely stand out in an interview.

It sends up a red flag when candidates talk about the last place they worked and how bad it was. Putting someone else down never makes you look good. I am satisfied with people who say that it was time to move on, but not with those who say how much they hated their last job.

Jesse Briggs (pictured with his wife, Flo), owner and cofounder of Yellow Strawberry Global Salons of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.: The first thing I look at is the total image created by your dress, nails, makeup, and jewelry. This tells me everything about your professionalism and sense of fashion right away. I look for personality, charm, and wit. Those three qualities tell me how well you’ll get along with clients and other staff members.

I then have you do a full set of nails or a fill on the next person who comes in---someone you’ve never seen before---and personally observe how you handle the service from start to finish. I place an emphasis on skill, not timing, because you can always learn how to work up to speed.

Rhonda Hicks, owner of E’Mages by Hair Station Unlimited in Houston, Texas: The first way you show me that you are serious about wanting to work here is by being on time for the interview and dressing professionally. I’ll ask questions about your hobbies and your experience with team sports and activities. I like to see an aggressive attitude and a willingness to start at any position in the salon that I believe is right for you. It also impresses me if you walk in the door with a resume in hand.

I look for confidence and freshness. I want people who are optimistic and hardworking so they can take advantage of any opportunities that come their way.

I have new candidates bring in a model and do a manicure, pedicure, and a full set of nails. Then I evaluate to see if additional technical training is needed. To test attitude and stamina, I have a job candidate assist at our salon on our busiest day. If you get through this working hard and without complaining, chances are we’ll work well together. I want someone who’s interested in the industry’s hard work, not its glamour.

Ada Menzies, owner of a full-service salon for 20 years and president of Smart Salon Concepts, a consulting and education company in Boulder, Colo.: The only thing I look for is a positive attitude---it’s everything I expect a job candidate to be excited, happy, turned on, and awake!

I’ll ask you questions that show me how you think. For example, “What kind of person annoys you?” A person with a negative attitude can go into great detail answering this, while someone with a positive attitude might think for a while and then give a simple answer. People with a great attitude can learn technical skills and apply what they learn to service their clients, while those with great technical skills but a negative attitude won’t build their clientele because clients won’t like them. I also ask questions like, “What would make you miss work?” to see where your priorities are.

I’ll have a candidate bring in a model and I’ll ask her to do her best things leaving the door wide open for her to perform whatever service she does best. I also want to see if she introduces me to her model and I observe how she communicates with her model while she’s doing her nails. If she has a good attitude, I’ll have her come back in a few days and do a service on me. I’ll observe her cleanliness, the pride she takes in her work, as well as her personality, manners, and positive attitude.

I ask candidates to bring their own tools for this service, and 99% of the time, they forget something. That’s fine---what I’m looking for is how they handle this situation because it shows how they’ll get along in the workplace.

Geri Mataya, owner of Uptown Hair Design in Pittburgh, Pa.: During an interview, I pay close attention to baody language and appearance. Beyond that, I look for enthusiasm, communication skills, people skills, and a desire to learn and work. I also want someone with a good artistic eye.

What impresses me is a candidate who has a steady job history, extra activities, advanced training and classes, and a thorough list of references.

lan Papaleo, owner of Salon Papaleo in San Pedro, Calif.: What impresses me is a candidate’s eagerness to learn and openness to try different things. I always look at the hands to make sure they are well-cared for. If the nails are a little on the avant-garde side, I know the person is open-minded and creative and takes pride in her craft.

The first thing I look for in a new-hire is personality. Why? Personality is something that can’t be learned. Technique is number two only because it can be learned through education. The third thing I look at is grooming.

Thomas Reid, vice president, Illusion Unlimited Salons, Cleveland, Ohio: I look for people who have ideas and are thinking. We ask candidates how they would improve their past job experiences just to see their level of awareness. In new-hires, I look for attitude, warmth, the ability to make me feel comfortable during the interview, sincerity, and inner confidence. After all, a nail professional will be in a fairly intimate setting, holding a client’s hands for up to an hour and a half and talking to her about a multitude of topics. It’s not solely technical abilities that build a clientele. It’s social skills as well.

Teamwork is truly the essence in our full-service salons because the hair designers and nail technicians need to support each other. An individual with a big ego has a short shelf-life here.

We ask all prospective employees to do models and to spend an entire day at the salon. I want to see how they spend the day during down time. We want to hire people who are involved with our clients, our staff, and the working environment.

Michael A. Schuh Jr., owner, Michael’s Salon and Day Spas, Dayton, Ohio: I want to hire a career-minded individual with a high level of responsibility who has future goals and concern for client service. I also look for a team player and an overachiever who’s willing to give in order to get. Potential hires need a good personality, self-motivation, good communication skills, and stability.

During the interview, I have a candidate do all nail services on a model to show her techniques. I ask a variety of questions to see how a candidate thinks and responds. Then she’ll go through a 30-day probation period so we can closely evaluate her personality, skills, and teamwork.

I’m impressed by a neat resume with a clear goal statement and experience appropriate to the candidate’s age. A red flag goes up if a candidate applies for a position that she seems overqualified for.

Gina Marsilii, owner of Perfect Ten Nail & Tanning Salon in Wilmington, Del.: The top qualities I look for in a job candidate are personality, an eagerness to learn how to do really good nails, professionalism, and an interest in how the business works both ethically and artistically I want someone who cares about the big picture.

I’m looking for a goal-oriented people who are flexible with their clients to build their book, who set goals to help themselves grow, and who look at doing nails as a career. This shows in how you answer questions. I also like to ask offbeat questions, such as, “What is your favorite movie?” because it lets me see more of your personality.

I’ll ask you to bring in a model and do a full set of acrylics, a manicure, or a repair. Once you’re hired, you’ll have a three-month probationary period where we can see how we work together and either one of us can back out of the relationship without any hard feelings.

Noel deCarpio, owner of Noelle the Day Spa, Stamford, Conn.: I am most impressed by a job candidate’s enthusiasm for more education as well as her positive attitude and willingness to learn all aspects of a position. I look for an applicant who is dressed professionally in an understated style, with particular care given to hair, nails, and shoes! I always ask applicants if they have a good relationship with their father and mother. We at Noele believe that people who have a good sense of family will get along well with their working family. Applicants must perform a manicure, acrylics, gels, wraps, tips and a pedicure on a model. They need to show a real hunger for the position, and I’m impressed when they speak well for their former employers.

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