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Legislative News Update (Vol 1, Issue 3)
July 19, 2019
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Power Outage: Are You Ready, Pet Care Pros?
July 25, 2019

Board(ing) Thoughts: Stepping Off the Hiring Ferris Wheel

Image of a ferris wheel

Just one of the articles from Pet Care Pro Quarterly, IBPSA’s digital magazine for pet care services professionals. Read the current issue online here.

NOTE: As a supplement to the article, below, IBPSA Members are invited to attend the free webinar, “Recruiting, Interviewing & Hiring: A Completely New Concept for Finding the Right People,” on July 31, 2019. Log into your IBPSA Member dashboard to learn more and register under Events.

By Jessica Finnegan

Board(ing) Thoughts is our quarterly feature from IBPSA advisory board members. In this issue, board member Jessica Finnegan shares her tips for shedding old hiring ideas and engaging in proactive, successful hiring practices.

Let’s face it, the process of recruiting, hiring, onboarding, and training for a pet care business can feel endless. There’s the old Ferris wheel of attributes looked for when hiring for operational involvement:

  • Open flexibility
  • Loves the animals
  • Reliable transportation
  • Past experience working with dogs (volunteering one day at the local shelter counts!)

The traditional hiring process is often the bane of our existence as pet care business owners and managers, as well as one of the costliest things we will repetitively do. It affects every pet care facility regardless of size and age. From one year opening to ten years and expanding, an endless loop of poor interviewing/hiring processes has most likely impacted every one of our businesses to some degree.

How do we succeed as leaders when candidates are not honest and we could not see through the smoke screen? How did that fantastic superstar interviewee turn into your worst nightmare within a few weeks (or less)? If you are pulling out your hair and wondering “how did we get here again?” know that you are not alone. For many of us, our clients’ needs and expectations are elevating along with our desire for staff that are more involved and want to be more invested. It is possible to stop the Ferris wheel by trying a new interviewing and hiring ride that better suits our evolving industry.

The following are some basic steps to help you embrace the idea of an entirely new, process-driven approach to recruiting and interviewing to achieve proven, positive results.

Step One: Who are you?

Have you taken a deep dive into identifying (in writing) what your business is, what its values are, why you do what you do, and what your non-negotiables are? What are the top five adjectives you would use to describe your business? For example, would you describe your business as energetic? Excited? Shiny and clean? Luxurious? What are some examples of your business’s core values? Instead of, “it is your job,” try “we are accountable, teachable, and excuse free.“ Maybe your value is “we are committed to the experience.”

Let’s table these examples for just a minute and see how they apply later.

Step Two: What does your perfect staff member look like?

Now that you’ve considered what your business is, what it looks like, feels like, and behaves like, let’s begin to dissect what a perfect staff member would look like. Based on your values and adjectives above, what kind of person would be able to uphold and honor those?

Possible characteristics could be:


Takes direction well and believes in chain of command.

Has empathy for people and what is truly meaningful to them.

Not afraid of working hard in different conditions.

Very consistent in work ethics.

Go through this exercise and write down what your perfect staff member would look like based on personality and not operational tasks. Remember, you can teach tasks, but you cannot teach personality. Make sure you are hiring for all the right personalities every time. Otherwise, you will continue to have sleepless nights.

Step Three: Creative recruiting for that perfect candidate

Now that we know what your business and perfect staff members look like, the question is where do you find them? It most likely won’t be in your normal recruiting venues. We have all exhausted Craigslist, local papers, flyers, family members, and even clients. Each of these also comes with potential major issues that are too costly to consider.

If you want something specific and you want success, you won’t find it riding that old Ferris wheel―you need to go find it yourself with direct and purposeful recruiting. For example, if you want to provide a luxury client experience with staff that are truly invested in the “experience” can you ponder companies outside our industry that provide this? Can you identify businesses that recruit and train staff to be completely attentive to your needs and make you feel so good about visiting them? Have you ever gone through a drive-thru or a clothing store or even a coffee place and thought, “Wow, I loved that! I wish my staff would do that.” If you want that kind of experience, then you need to go get those staff members and stop waiting for the perfect one to walk in the door.

There are a few ways to actively recruit:

  1. Create a recruitment business card that provides your information on the back and on the front a simple statement that says: “You were amazing! Come be amazing with us!” When you experience someone who you wished you could steal for your pet resort, then introduce yourself, hand them the card, and say, “When you are ready for an incredible change, let me know!” Let that recruitment card say the rest.
  2. Present quarterly job fairs at your business site. Send and post invitations where your perfect staff members hang out and work and encourage them to come. Set regular job fairs so the community and staff know you are always seeking the most talented people to care and protect their pets.
  3. Educate your staff on what the perfect staff member resembles and provide a referral bonus for all hired “A team” players. Get your staff recruiting for you.

Step Four: Interview for values and skills that cannot be taught

It is time to throw away your standard interview questions that help identify task and operational competence and begin to create value-based, open discussion questions that will provide you an in-depth look at your candidate’s core behavior and beliefs. When you find the right value-based candidate, the tasks will seamlessly fall into place.

Step Five: Hire for caliber not crisis

Take your time. This is easier said than done, but it is so important. The time you take in the beginning will pay off in full. You will experience fewer and fewer sleepless nights, less stress with scheduling and staffing, and enjoy improved ability for you to work on the business instead of in the business because you are filling in for all the people who just did not work out.

Consider group interviews to take your process to the next level. Group interviews provide a comfort for the group, so job candidates are not alone. You benefit from that comfort level by engaging them in group discussions that ultimately reveal who they truly are.

Step Six: Inspect what you expect

Now that you have hired who you believe is the perfect staff member, it is just as important, if not more so, to keep your finger on the pulse with their training. We sometimes have the tendency to work with them closely on the hiring process and then assign them to another staff member to train them. Keep in mind that the first 30 days is the most critical. It takes 21 days to create a habit. New staff will create a pattern that will follow them through their time with you. You have put so much work into finding them and folding them into your business, don’t let go. Inspect their progress and make sure they understand what your clients, guests, and business expect from them. Ensure the habits and behaviors developed in the first 30 days reflect the values of your business.

The pain, frustration, and expense of recruiting, hiring, training, and then losing staff over and over has become a process of the past. Our industry is exploding with people from industries from all over the spectrum. We should no longer look to hire staff coming from other pet care businesses just because they have pet care business experience. We want so much more for our clients and guests. The expectations from our clients are so much higher. It is time to elevate your skills in driving the recruiting process and becoming experts on who to look for and where to find them. The rewards will be priceless!

Jessica Finnegan is the Director of Operations at Greenbriar Veterinary Hospital & Luxury Pet Resort. Greenbriar, a hybrid of resort and hospital, is one of the largest boarding resorts in the United States. For the past decade she has led a team in taking the best care of resort guests and the patients in the hospital. In her spare time, Jessica spends time working with her consulting business clients, helping other leaders from many industries create marketing strategies, business development, and employee growth plans.


In the Q2 2018 issue of Pet Care Pro Quarterly, Laura Schorrak, owner of The Dog Den and The Puppy Den, shared her thoughts on the group interview in “The Pet Care Profile Interview.”

How do you find people to bring into your organization that truly care about it the way you do?

Culture is so important. When we are hiring, we hire for culture and fit first. We believe we can train for the skills, but the passion and drive have to come from within. Our process is multi-step and involves several of our team. The first step is simply applying for the job and answering a few basic questions. From there, applicants are selected to join a group interview. At a group interview, we have a team of Dog Den-ners asking questions and talking with a group of applicants. During this process, our team determines if they think the applicant is a good fit for the company. This group will select people to come to a working interview in the daycare. During the working interview, the interviewee will meet with several more staff members and our daycare pups. During the entire process, the applicant will meet and talk with at least seven different people in the company and each will weigh in if they think that person will be a good fit for the team. I actually do not take part in the interviews at this point because I want the team to choose their team members. It’s a lengthy process but we find that it produces a team that wants to work together and lowers the turn-over rate.