In my previous article – When is the Right Time to Hire Help? – I advised that the first step to take when considering taking on help is to define your ideal employee. This is an important step that is easily skipped over. But including this step in yoru hiring process will aid you in the process of looking for and screening candidates and save you a lot of stress and pain later.

When I hired the first contractor into my pet sitting business, it happened pretty much by chance. One of my pet sitting customers said they would be interested in becoming a sitter so I gave her the job and she starting taking on sitting assignments. For a while she did fine but because we had not set any ground rules or even discussed a job description we ended up having disagreements because we didn’t have the same expectations. I expected that when she said she wanted to take on a job that she wouldn’t call at the last minute needing a replacement because something else came up. I expected that she would commit to the job and the job would be her first priority. But I blame myself – I had really given little thought to what my ideal employee would be like and I hadn’t been very specific about my expectations.

When you think about the vision you have for your business what does your relationship with your employees or contractors look like?

Do they work unsupervised or with close supervision?

Do they contribute to the business by offering ideas and improvements or do they just do their job and leave the creative work to you?

Do they work as a team or independently?

Is it important that they want to improve their skills by attending regular training?

These are all important questions to ask yourself to determine what you want in perfect staff member.

There are other practical considerations that you also need to consider. The first is whether you need staff to work part time hours or a full work week. This will depend on the type of work that they will be doing for you. One of the major considerations you need to make before you advertise for help is whether you want to work with employees or independent contractors. This will depend on how much control you need to have on how they perform the job. With contractors you must be careful to follow IRS rules and this means that you can control the end result of their work but not how the result is achieved. I will cover the rules in more detail in my next post in this series.

Once you have determined the hours they will work and type of staff you want to work with you will also need to think about the personality traits that you would like your staff members to have. Again this will depend on the work will do in your pet business. If they are working with customers you want them to be outgoing, have confidence, and be polite and courteous. If they will be working with the pets only then it is more important that they have experience working with animals.

A part of their personality is also their motivation for performing the job for you. Do they want the job just to pay the bills or are there other motivators for them? Are they interested in a part time job with pets because they love to be around animals? In my experience you want to find staff members who are motivated by the joy of the work itself as they will often go the extra mile to make pets happy and at ease.

Along with the right personality it is also important that they have the right skills for the job. If they will be working in an office you will want someone with good computer, email, organizational, and phone skills. If they are working with pets you will need to find out what type of pets they are comfortable working with, if they are confident to give medications including shots, and have they been trained in pet first aid. One other important skill to consider is writing skills. I get my sitters to write a note to clients at each visit to tell them about the pet and their behavior. It is important that the sitter be able to write an informative and legible note.

Finally there are practical considerations to consider. Of course it is vital that your new staff member will be able to perform the work you need done. If they need them to drive to pet sitting, walking, or training jobs they will need a drivers license, good driving record, and reliable vehicle. If you want to be able to contact them by phone or email, you may need them to have a cell phone or computer and internet access. If you staff will be entering clients homes you will want to conduct a background check and if they will be handling money a credit check is also advisable.

Make a list of the personality traits, skill set, and practical requirements of your ideal staff member. This list will help you to write your advertisements and also help you to screen candidates once you begin interviewing. We’ll get to these topics in the next few posts – but until then please tell me about the experiences that you have had with staff and how this has shaped how you define your ideal employee/contractor.