How to Attract Superstar Employees
By Being Offensive But Not an Asshole
Have you heard that job advertisements should not describe the position but describe the person you are looking for?
In the same light, your adverts should also describe what you don’t want. I learned this from the marketing Wizard of Ads, Roy Williams. We include this one phrase in all our job advertisements:
No whiners. No lazy people. Nobody with too many “personal commitments.”
I know, you are concerned about offending someone. Who will you offend? Whiners? Lazy people? People with too many “personal obligations?”
Example Job Listing:
Entry Level Opportunity of a Lifetime: Are you dependable and resourceful? Are you out-going and dedicated? Can you sell and delegate? Would you like to work in a fun environment where you are expected to act and behave like an owner? Do you have lots of energy, intuition, and initiative? Do you present yourself well, and have computer skills?
No whiners. No lazy people. Nobody with too many personal commitments.
Does this describe you? Email your resume. If you like, stop in any of our award-winning salons to talk with a manager or even an owner to get more details about the position.
Do you want them to waste your time, money, and energy? What if they make it through your interview process (because they are clever and know all the right answers to your clever questions) and mix with your workforce? Do your superstar employees want to work with them?
In 32 years of recruiting, hiring, and retaining employees, not always successfully, only in the last dozen years has it been necessary to maintain a constant state of recruiting. Consequently, we’ve learned to hire all superstars that come across our path.
If you haven’t figured it out by now you will. The most important resource is people — competent, qualified, motivated people if you can find them. So, when a superstar appears you make a place on the bus, as author Jim Collins says in his book Good to Great (Collins, 2001).
This is not as difficult as you might think. True, a small business does not have the financial resources to carry extra staff. Given the high employee turnover rates across all industries, especially among part-time staff, you can just put off the new hire by two weeks while you figure out how to make room on your bus.
To clear a space on the bus, ask yourself this question about everyone in your employ: “Would I hire this person if they came in today looking for a job?” If no, set that employee free. You’ll both be grateful.
If you have no one to set free, congratulations, you have ample bench strength. Bench strength means you don’t have that excuse for not setting free pigs in your employ. Pigs are the employees who destroy your reputation and cause your superstars to flee for less toxic pastures.
Pro Tip: Did you know more people are killed by pigs than sharks? More businesses are killed by the pigs they hire than by the shark competitors trying to steal market share. Avoid or set free the pigs and the sharks become irrelevant. Mind blown!
To maximize your recruiting advertising dollars all you need to do is become a preferred employer. This is much easier than you think and here’s why. Big business has a corporate office in some far-off city in a different state. You are a small business in your community, often where you’ve raised your family.
We have found building our community reputation and in turn, recognizing excellence in the community when we find it, are two keys to the perpetual flow of superstars wanting to work for you.
Here’s how it works.
Community Reputation Means Don’t Be an Asshole
There were several years when we frequently got nurses interviewing for positions with us. Turns out the doctors they worked for had a community reputation of being assholes. During the interviews, it took all my internal strength not to vocalize what I was thinking — “I’m so sorry you work for those assholes.”
How do you build a great community reputation?
First, don’t be an asshole.
How do you know if you’re an asshole?
I like the attempt to quantify assholeness by Jeremy Sherman (Sherman, 2018) Ph.D., in his article Universal Qualities of Jerks. In a nutshell, assholes use their asshole powers to acquire more asshole power all the time, pretending it’s for the greater good.
Here are a few of Dr. Sherman’s traits of the absolute butthead:
“Feigned invincibility: I win always.
Reality is my slave: Since I’m the most realistic, I’ve earned the power to control reality.
Self-winding movement: If you’re with me, it proves I’m right. If you’re against me, it proves I’m right.
Pious nihilism: The truth is that nothing is true. That means I don’t have to fuss over what’s true.
Spotting spots on you proves I’m spotless: So long as I can keep attention on your failings, I never ever have to consider the possibility that I’m wrong.
Exceptional exemptionism: I’m different from other people. I’m therefore exempt from the rules of society.”
It may be possible and is often true that assholes achieve greatness. Go ahead and achieve greatness, just know behind your back people are apologizing to your staff, “I’m so sorry you work for that asshole.”
Second, do your level best to quickly clean up and make right any customer service issues. No one is perfect and no one expects you to be. But when you are wrong, admit it and fix it — fast. Oh yeah, don’t forget that your employees are customers too — internal customers.
Here is our recipe for correcting our screw-ups:
Listen with empathy (take notes). I’m constantly amazed at how many upset guests calm down and feel relieved just to have someone listen to them. They only need to vent — they ask for nothing.
Repeat the issue back to the guest as you now understand it (this shows you are empathetic and demonstrates that you understand the real issue).
Apologize and explain that it won’t happen again (make sure it doesn’t happen again through policy and training if necessary).
Ask the guest what you can do to fix the issue (do not assume you know what the guest wants).
If it is reasonable, and it usually is, implement the fix. If it is unreasonable, offer a reasonable solution. You don’t want to go bankrupt, but you also don’t want a bad online review. (We are often able to give the guest an entire refund for a service or product they used but were unsatisfied with, for example, if they are willing to take the refund in the form of store credit.)
Many managers and business owners dread dealing with a complaint or unsatisfied customer. I look forward to the opportunity to right a wrong — win back a customer lost. Statistically, 80% of your clients will continue to do business with you if you properly and quickly handle your screw up. I like those odds.
Recognizing Excellence in the Community
Some of you are going to have heartburn with this suggestion. We gently poach superstars from other businesses. For many years I refused to engage in this recruitment strategy because I found it distasteful, unethical, and downright playing dirty.
I like to think we prepare our part-time staff to be excellent employees no matter where they end up after working for us. And that is apparently true because other businesses like to try and poach our employees. After a few too many successfully poached employees I began to justify playing the same game, but with a twist.
Pro Tip: We do not rehire an employee who leaves us for another job — especially if the reason is solely for more pay.
Around the holidays, the shopping mall stores try to poach employees from local businesses. They don’t always pay more but they make promises of more hours and a permanent position if they like you. The problem is the mall stores never end up offering more hours or a permanent position and they layoff all the seasonal staff by mid-January.
As sure as cold weather in winter the prodigal ex-employee comes with hat in hand for their job back. All is forgiven, but you don’t get your job back — it has already been filled.
Unless you move out of state or quit for other reasons unrelated to your dissatisfaction with working for us, we don’t rehire. We’ve made many exceptions to this policy and have regretted it 100% of the time. Your call.
We decided if other businesses were going to try and poach our staff with promises of more money, we would start trying to poach their employees with something more valuable — recognition.
We have a Care-Bear award we give to staff who exhibit exceptional customer care. We thought, why don’t we give Care-Bear awards to employees of other businesses who give us exceptional customer care.
Here’s how it works:
Carry a trinket (e.g., a small teddy bear) or a mini-award certificate printed on the back of your business card when you shop at local businesses.
When you experience excellent customer care recognize the employee and give them the trinket or mini-certificate. Explain that this is what we do for our staff. We do not offer them a job. It’s not necessary.
First, you’ll be amazed at how good you feel when the employee’s face lights up with gratitude. Second, be prepared for the following possible reactions: they might be speechless, their eyes well up, ask if you are hiring, give you even better service.
Our best employees are our best customers — we call them guests. We invite guests to join our team through in-store, text, and email marketing.
Our second-best employees were someone else’s best employees — some call that poaching, I call it setting them free to pursue a job that is more rewarding and suited to their skills and temperament.
To have a successful recruiting program you need to advertise what you don’t want as well as what you do. Becoming a preferred employer means you don’t have to work as hard recruiting and retaining part-time employees. Preferred employers are not jerks and they fix broken promises quickly.
While most small businesses offer competitive pay and benefits, you can excel by providing something few businesses do — recognition to your staff and theirs. All of this is not only a recipe for fruitful recruiting but also success in retaining part-time superstar employees.
- Job postings must describe the person, not the position, both what you want and don’t want. Include this line in every job posting to filter out what you don’t want: No whiners. No lazy people. Nobody with too many “personal commitments.”
- Evaluate your existing staff against these criteria so you know where to make room on your bus for a superstar: “Would I hire this person if they walked through the door today?”
- Become a preferred employer so superstars come knocking on your door.
- Don’t be an asshole! Assholes repel potential superstars and chase away existing superstars.
- Gently poach superstars in your community by giving them something more valuable than money and in short supply — recognition.
- Fix broken promises quickly. No one is perfect and no one expects you to be. When you screw up, admit it, apologize, and make it right — fast!
Collins, J. (2001). Good To Great: Why Some Companies Make The Leap and Others Don’t. New York: Harper-Collins Publishers.
Sherman, J. E. (2018, June 29). Universal Qualities of Jerks. Retrieved from Psychology Today Web Site: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/ambigamy/201806/universal-qualities-jerks