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Finding — and Keeping — the Right Team (Part 2)

Effort taken for interview preparation is time well invested

CHICAGO — One of the major frustrations for dry cleaners in 2022 is the exact opposite of the challenges they faced in the depths of the pandemic — too much work and not enough people on staff to do it. Finding the right people to fill out a team has become a critical mission for many cleaners.

In Part 1 of this series, we looked at strategies to find people who are legitimately looking for work, and today we’ll examine the interviewing process for finding the right talent for your business.

Asking the Right Questions

Being prepared for interviews makes the process easier for both employer and applicant, says Jennifer Whitmarsh, a member of The Route Pros, a drycleaning consulting firm. Part of this preparation is not reinventing the wheel for each meeting.

“At one point, I felt that I needed to be asking different questions every time,” she says. “You’re interviewing different people, so it didn’t make sense to do that. I now have a good group of questions, including behavioral questions. You don’t have to make it harder on yourself.”

Behavioral questions are essential, she says, because they tap into the applicant’s actual experiences. Instead of asking them what they would do in a certain situation, Whitmarsh prefers to ask them what they have done in past situations. This gives a truer sense of the person, she says.

Amy Wischmann oversees hiring at Benzinger’s Clothing Care, a drycleaning business with five locations and 40 employees in the Buffalo, New York, area. She has also found that internal referrals have been a valuable method for hiring: “We’ve had good luck finding drivers that way. Someone will say, ‘Hey, I do know someone who has retired and is looking for some extra cash.’”

The hours of the position to be filled can also be a factor, Wischmann says.

“We get the most applicants when we post jobs that are in the evening,” she says. “The people who really seem to be seeking employment are those who are already working elsewhere, and they’re looking for additional money. We have some evening sorter positions, for instance, and when we post those jobs, we get twice the number of applicants as for positions during the day. So, if there’s any work that can be shifted to the evening, that might be worth exploring.”

While some people still set up interviews as a requirement of their unemployment benefits and never show up, Wischmann has found that particular point of aggravation has eased considerably.

“We’re still seeing that to some degree, but I do think that if they’re searching, they’re serious about searching now,” she says.

Expanding the Search

Whitmarsh believes that having a smaller pool of potential applicants means that dry cleaners should be prepared to throw out a bigger net and look in places that they might not have considered in easier hiring times.

“You have to be creative,” she says. “When you’re out and about at the grocery store, the restaurant, the dog groomer, or wherever, notice when you are interacting with somebody who is giving you exceptional customer service. You don’t know what’s going on in that person’s world, so have a simple conversation: ‘Hey, I love the way that you work with me every time I’m here. If you’re ever looking to get out of this field, please give me a call.’”

This effort costs nothing and might gain a cleaner his or her next best employee.

“Give them your card or give them your number — you never know,” Whitmarsh says. “Not every waiter or waitress wants to stay in that field forever, and it’s not always about money. Maybe they really don’t love it. They’re just doing it until something else comes around. So, ask when you’re out.”

Come back Thursday for Part 3 of this series, when we’ll explore some common hiring mistakes. For Part 1 of this series, click HERE.


Two men at a job interview

(Image licensed by Ingram Image)

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Dave Davis at [email protected].