In my last column, I discussed an “open market” recruiting plan for salons with a focus on hiring professionals from the current job pool (November 1995, page 108). Now we’ll investigate what I think are superior sources for ongoing staff recruitment: cosmetology schools.

An established salon program for recruiting from schools is not the quick fix that an ad or mailing will produce; rather, it is a stronger, long-term solution to finding qualified people to take positions at your salon. An added bonus of school recruiting is the profile you can create for yourself as a leader in your community.

Before you make the rounds at the schools, make sure your existing staff is fully and uniformly trained and that you have in place a training system for new recruits. This must include technical training in all services, and most important, training in customer relations, follow-up, and goal-setting.

Instill in your staff early on the idea that while you the salon owner will provide the tools for success, it is the responsibility of the individual to grow her own nail business (whether she’s an employee or a booth renter). Once you are satisfied with your internal training program, you are ready to hit the schools!

“Students are very receptive to special guest speakers,” says Pat Castro, director of education at the College of San Mateo in San Mateo, California. “They need professional role models to encourage them and to give insight to the real-world challenges they will encounter after finishing school.”

The first step is to make an appointment with the school director. Be prepared and on time. Share some information about your background and your salon. Debbie Mack, director of education al Pivot Point International Cosmetology Research Center in Chicago, III., has established a “Partners in Education” board of directors consisting of salon owners who give constant input to the curriculum presented in the school. “This feedback makes our students the most desirable in the job pool. I’ve seen ads that sax ‘Pivot Point gratis wanted’ in the paper,” she says. Think about helping to establish; a similar board in your area. What a great way to network with other salon owners in the process!

Outline your presentation and ask about any restrictions on content or time. Have the person in charge profile the students; with regard to length of time in school, educational background, and placement possibilities. Set a date for the class and reconfirm the day before.

The Big Event 

Don’t be nervous. Remember: You know more than the students and they are going to soak up everything you have to say! Be sure to arrive early for setting up, and make sure you have perfect nails, of course!

Introduce yourself and pass out your class outline. Be sure your salon information is included in the handout. Have the attending students sign your signup sheet so you have their names and addresses for future reference.

Be sure and close your class with an invitation to your salon. Tips has a formal invitation card that is presented to each student. You might also ask your distributor for a small gift or catalog to give out. Plan to stay a while after class to answer students’ questions.

Mack says, “I take my students on field trips to selected salons in the area. The salon owners provide a tour during business hours so the students can see professionals in action. We discuss the methods we see when we return to the school. We think it really helps us keep a finger on the pulse of service needs in the professional environment.” You might think of hosting such an event in your salon.

My salon presentation to schools is in two parts. Part one contains the information students need to make the transition from the school workstation to the professional workstation. My partner and co-owner of the salon, Stephanie Bricker, has won the Station Management Award at NAILS Magazine Shows and loves to teach this class. “There is a lot to know about the right setup for your table,” Stephanie says, “including what implements to choose and where to place; them. I provide a shopping list for those ‘must have’ items.” You can also recommend distributors you feel tire good to do business with in your area.

Stephanie closes her class with a French manicure polish demonstration that always wows the class. We try not to be product specific during the class because we want the students to identify with the salon and not a particular product or manufacturer.

The second class is my area of interest and focuses on the business of nails. Your own business presentation should emphasize the benefits of working in your salon. Start with 10 important questions students should ask when selecting a salon to work in. Give the students tips on interviewing and include your employment application to practice on in your handout.

Offer some pros and cons of the compensation systems that are predominant in your area. Be sure to cover pricing of services and simple marketing techniques, but remember to keep it basic so as not to overwhelm the students.

After class, review your sign-up sheet and highlight any student who seemed to be the kind of person you would be interested in hiring. See which students have the initiative to take you up on your invitation to visit your salon. We send them a recruiting package and find out when they are due to graduate.

Follow up with the director as well. Have her critique your presentation and also discuss the students’ reaction to the information so that you can be even more effective in the next class. Be sure to set up a date for your next visit.

For an investment of just a few hours every several months, the payoff can be tremendous to you as a salon owner in need of a good staff. You can snag the best and brightest before they get into the open market. At the very least, they will have firsthand knowledge of you and your business.

Locking yourself in as a knowledgeable professional with your local cosmetology school is the best bet for low-cost, high-quality salon recruiting. And as you drive away from that school and the enthusiastic students you met, you can’t help but remember when you were there yourself and feel just a little bit warm and proud that you might be helping the next generation of nail technicians on their road to success in the business we love.

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