Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Hiring Mistakes

What is more frustrating and defeating than making a hiring mistake? We recently came to the realization that we really messed up. A stylist with 2 years experience did a stellar technical interview then aced her practice/training haircuts. We put her on the floor in time for the holiday rush and - wow- how could we have misread the situation so terribly.
We took her off the floor and set up one-on-one time with our trainer. Our trainer had to go into serious remedial training. It was like she had no idea how to cut hair. And she didn't seem to see that the cuts were if her eyes didn't see the weight never occured to her to taper was a disaster. After two intensive days full of haircuts on live models our trainer was exhausted (so was the stylist) and still gave her cuts just a 6 out of 10. The following week we put her with our salon manager for additional cutting training followed by another day with the trainer. By the time it was over she had done 20 training cuts and was still a solid 6-6.5. To add insult to injury she didn't seem to retain any of the instruction she had been given.
Clearly we messed up. But what do you do at this point? We misjudged her skills and based on our job offer she left a steady job at a chain salon. Had we assessed her skills accurately she never would have gotten an offer.
Sadly, we are at the point now, where as a small company with limited resources, we cannot invest any more in trying to get her on the floor. We need stylists to be farther along than she is. I feel terrible that we are going to let her go and will be offering generous severence to ease my guilt.

Have you had a similar experience? How did you handle a hiring mistake?


  1. Hi Cindy,
    I tried emailing you in the contact form, but it kept locking up.
    Great blog, just came across it tonight. I am planning on opening a higher end salon. I have good P&L experience. However the key is a reasonable growth plan. I'm looking at a 10 chair salon in a significant suburb of Minneapolis. My question is, assuming I get the location reasonably correct, and if in the first month we have say 90 customers...what is a reasonable and doable monthly growth rate assumption during the first year? My thought was that if we get 90 customers in the first month, if we have a reasonable marketing plan should we be able to grow by about 90 customers each month? Does that seem a reasonable assumption? I realize this is a complete guess, and you don't have a crystal ball, but I'm trying to get a feel for how the monthly guest visits could reasonably grow. Any insight you can give would be wonderful.

    1. Sorry about the contact form...I just did a test and it worked so hopefully it was just a fluke. Oddly, your comment also didn't appear on this post but I pulled it from my email notification and posted it so I can add my reply.

      You're right, all I can do is guess. I'm assuming the demographics of your location allow that type of growth. Your realtor should provide you with demographics for your location showing population in a 1,3,5 mile radius by age, gender and household income. I've had salon owners tell me they think they can get 15% of the population as clients. You can't. The demographics should be strong enough that you can make the business work on a small percentage of that population (less than 5%).

      Will you be bringing any clients with you do the new shop or are you starting from scratch? One thing to remember is that clients are loyal to their provider/salon which is a double-edged sword. It makes it easier to hang on to them, but difficult to lure new clients in. Even if you are the best place in town, people who have a long-standing relationship somewhere else may not give you a try. We find comfort in the known.

      That said, assuming the demographics are strong, your projection doesn't look ridiculous. Just make sure you have the resources to get over the hump if you don't make those numbers. The last thing you want is to run out of money and do a groupon to keep the doors open. Ugh.

      When we opened our second location we had some name recognition in the city already and we are a men's only salon. We had 613 new guests in our first 6 months, and 536 in our second 6 months. We sponsored a sports talk radio show during the first 6 months and stopped it after new client count dropped off. We also did a direct mail campaign to surrounding zip codes right when we opened.

      Assuming you are a women's salon, you might try a mailer that offers something non-threatening - something they can use without feeling like they are cheating on their stylist. Maybe a complimentary blow-out (or $off). That way they can get to know you without committing to a cut or color and without tipping off their regular stylist (because that makes the client feel guilty). When they get the blow-out, have a great offer for their next visit on a cut/color. Or sell them a 3-pack of blow-outs for a special price to keep them coming back in even if they are not ready to switch stylists yet.

      Good luck and keep us posted!

  2. Hi Cindy,

    Thank you for sharing your experience and insights. About the hiring mistake, even with tests and all it is hard to know exactly who will work out and who will not. But as soon as you realize that someone will not work out then the faster we show them the exit the better.

    In this particular case I feel there may be another element at play and that is stress. Some people completely turn off under stress. The training regimen must have put some serious stress on this person. To the extent they felt demeaned and/or their confidence in their ability shattered. The training not sticking is a clear sign of that. The relationships are not healthy anymore to call it a training. It is more like a performance improvement plan. And PIPs are highly stressful and even if it succeeds you will never get back the whole employee. They will resent it.

    Can such trainings be done constructively? No matter how experienced a person I hire I let them know that we do things differently and some training may be necessary to tune to our way of delivering the service. The humble ones accept this while the cocky ones exit. It is a positive outcome either way. And it leaves the door open for some constructive training down the road as we discover their true abilities.

    How do we interview for the candidates ability to act under stress? I try to relax the candidate and just get their life stories of highs and lows. Probe a little deeper to see the causes of their highs and lows to know them better. And if we decide to hire then I let them know that first 90 days of employment are probationary and an extension of the interview. If it does not work out then either party can say quits.

    Ultimately I think you did the right thing. It is win-win for the employee and the business.

  3. This is perfect blog for anyone who is looking for topics like this. It has got it all, information, benefits and overview. A perfect piece of writing. Good job.

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  6. Cindy we need an update its almost Nov 2016 we need you!!!

    1. Hey Tam,
      That's nice of you to say. What would you like me to write about? Any particular issues keeping you up at night?

  7. Hi Cindy
    I would like to ask your thoughts on our system which I calculated myself years ago. We have 8 station salon very busy. I pay 2 assistants 7.00 an hour each.....I pay my stylists a salary and commission tiered pay if you double your salary of 7.00 an hour you get salary plus 30 percent of anything after you doubled. If you do over 500.00 in clients you get 40 percent straight. If you do over 1300.00 you get 45 percent straight, if you do over 2000.00 you get 50 percent straight. On the 45 to 50 percent tiers there are deductions on chemical services 5 to 10 dollars depending on cost of supplies. This system works well for me and has for 20 years. We did raise prices and each time I implement the 2.00 for me 2.00 for you rule where I keep some profit. What do you think?