6 Tips for Hiring the Best Nail Technicians

Read on to find out what salon owners and an expert in the field look for in potential employees that will help make a great team.
Read on to find out what salon owners and an expert in the field look for in potential employees that will help make a great team.

Salon owners often find it to be a monumental task to hire the right nail technicians.

For starters, having a clear idea about the vision of your salon and what services you wish to offer helps to give you a good idea of the right nail techs you wish to hire.

Janice (Owens) Thompson, cosmetologist, former educator for Backscratchers and owner of The Beauty Spot Studio in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, explains, “You may have a very peaceful salon, studio or spa. Your target clientele are people looking for a peaceful, relaxing experience. Hiring someone with a big personality and fills the room with conversation but also does excellent work isn’t always going to be a good fit. Same holds true if you have a fun, upbeat environment. Hiring someone who is very quiet and even shy won’t be an asset to your business.” Therefore, knowing the vibe of your salon is going to be a huge help.

Regarding the interview process, Tracy Maylett, Ed.D, CEO and organizational psychologist of DecisionWise and co-author of “The Employee Experience: How to Attract Talent, Retain Top Performers and Drive Results,” states, “We have found that many employers fail to ask the right questions in an interview. Asking the right questions may mean the difference between a star hire and one that leaves a wake of problems (and bad customer relationships when they leave)."

Read on to find out what salon owners and an expert in the field look for in potential employees that will help make a great team.

1. Attitude

“For me, one of the most important criteria in hiring someone is they have a good character and love to do the nails! The mood and attitude is very important to keep up the good energy at the salon and in our communications between me and the other colleagues,” states Eneva Cene, salon owner of Eneva Nail Art in Tromson, Norway.

Hannah Bae, salon owner of HB Nail Lounge in Richardson, Texas, mentions passion and enthusiasm regarding attitude. “I think in any career, in order to be successful, you have to love what you do and keep the positive energy,” she says.

2. Trust

Jaime Schrabeck, Ph.D., salon owner of Precision Nails in Carmel, California, mentions, “I want someone who can be trusted with sharp tools, a salon key and access to client information.”

That is definitely something all salon owners want, but how do you know if you can trust a potential nail tech who is interviewing for a position?

Regarding the interview, Dr. Maylett advises, “Some employers use trust-focused questions to ‘self-report their own levels of trust.’” In other words, they ask interview questions like “tell me about a recent job where you were put in a position of trust by your manager.” Not a bad question on the surface. However, prospective employees see through that question and will provide the answer the employer wants to hear. Reversing the perspective is a technique used by psychologists that can come in handy here. Instead, ask questions about what level of trust the employee would require out of the manager (or salon). For example, a question might be, “As your manager, how would I go about earning your trust?” Another great question would be, “Trust is very important in a salon, as you know. How would I know you trusted me?” These are two psychological “tricks” at play here. First, you’ve likely heard the phrase “trust goes both ways.” If the individual doesn’t trust the manager, it’s often a sign that the manager doesn’t trust the employee. Asking about past managers is often a good source of information here. Second, in responding, the candidate will give a good idea of what trust is to that individual. Pay attention to what is said and what isn’t said. What’s left out when defining trust may provide some interesting information.

3. Skills

Cene explains, “Skills, of course, are very important, yet, for me, it is not a priority if the person is kind to my clients and I like their personality. Improvements in the technical part can be done through time with practice. Overall, the person who will balance between the two will have the best chance to be hired.”

Schrabeck mentions, “At a minimum, a candidate needs to be qualified by a valid licensure. Beyond that, I look for the aptitude to learn, not necessarily past achievement, because I will provide all of the training, products, etc.”

Janice Owens Thompson adds, “Training an employee and mentoring them to bring their skill set up to par can be accomplished by a good leader/coach/mentor. However, training someone to fit into an environment that they cannot be who they are will always end up in a failed hire.”

4. Customer Service Minded

Patience and customer service is important to Bae. She explains, “Nail techs need to have patience and work diligently and pay close attention to the details. Nail techs need to know how to engage in conversation with their clients and provide high quality results. Your clients care about the quality of the service you provide, but they’re also there to get pampered! Treat them to the level of service that they’d be proud to tell their friends and family about.”

5. Motivation

It’s important to immediately gauge how motivated a potential employee might be. That isn’t always easy. Dr. Maylett suggests this regarding interviews, “There are some great questions to ask around motivation that don’t specifically say ‘what motivates you?’ One of the most effective is: ‘Tell me about a good day at work.’ Variations of this include: ‘Thinking back over past jobs, how would you answer the following questions: What was the difference between a great day, a good day and a horrible day at work? Can you give me some examples of each? If you were an owner of this salon, what would the work environment look like (hours, working conditions, services provided, expectations of employees, etc)?’ The answers to these questions are often very telling, as they give a good sense to what motivates an individual.”

6. Employee Involvement

Keep in mind that you may want to involve your current nail techs/employees in any decisions you make on new hires. This could also help with employee retention, as your employees will be working together and it is important to find the right fit. Janice Owens Thompson suggests, “Let your employees meet the potential hire. Tell them what you are looking for in a new employee. Keep them in the loop.” She also adds, “You can take a potential new hire who has all of the attributes you’re looking for, but if the personality doesn’t mesh with the business atmosphere or even with the other employees, you’ve created a tense working situation for everyone.”

Fostering Engagement

As a final thought, which could come into play regarding attracting the right employees and retaining them, Dr. Maylett has this to share: “The relationship between the manager and the employee has a far greater influence in whether employees will engage in their work than hours worked or even pay. But, many managers (or owners) fail to look in the mirror when it comes to why employees are leaving or why they become disengaged. It’s easier to blame turnover on lack of employee motivation, pay factors, hours worked, etc. However, DecisionWise 2022 research found that if a manager is engaged, his/her employees are 213% more likely to be engaged in their work. That same study tells us that as much as 40% of an employee’s engagement can be tied directly to his/her manager, and an employee who has a positive view of his or her manager is seven times more likely to remain with the company than one who does not respect the manager. So, if turnover, disengagement, dishonesty and other negative factors are impacting the salon, a manager/owner manager/owner may want to look in the mirror!”

About the Author:

Marcia Travelstead is a former nail technician and a freelance writer who resides in Honolulu, Hawaii. She is a longtime and regular Nailpro contributor.

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