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How to find the best employees for your craft business

The first step to finding good employees is to define what that means for your business. Do they need a certain skill set? Do they need to be good with customers and eager to learn?

“Have in mind your ideal employee and what makes him or her so great, then think about the worst employee you ever had and what made that person so bad," says Terri Swain, managing partner of the HR Consultant LLC in Fort Worth, Texas. "Develop behavior-based questions that give you an idea of how that person behaves, remembering that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior."

Ask questions that probe and require the potential employee to apply skills to a situation, such as:

  • Tell me about a time you went the extra mile for a customer. What did you do? What was the reward?
  • Tell me about a time you didn't get along with a co-worker. How did you handle it? What could have been done differently?

Questions like these go outside a listing on a resume to give you an idea of how the person thinks and operates. Then, once you have defined who is an ideal candidate, recruit where those people are. Swain offers the following tips for finding your ideal employees.

  • Be proactive. Are you looking for great customer-oriented folks? Carry business cards and hand them out to people you meet in your day-to-day interactions who exhibit great customer service skills.
  • Recruit at craft fairs. Attend craft fairs and talk to your customers. You never know who might be on the market for something more than the products you are selling.
  • Offer craft classes. Classes are not only a great way to bring new customers to your store, but attendees may include potential recruits. People attending classes are enthusiastic about the subject matter. They want to learn and be immersed in what they are learning. Talk to them about open positions and gauge their reactions.
  • Look no further than down the aisle. You have the opportunity to find talent within your pool of customers who walk through your doors every day. They know the product. They know the store, and they may already have a repertoire built up with your current staff. And as customers, they also have a stake in your success as a business. To attract these potential candidates, post job openings on your website, or include them in a customer newsletter or email blast.
  • Ask for referrals. Ask your current employees if they know someone who is interested in working at your business, as it's likely they've gotten to know your customers, or have friends with the same interests. And offering a referral incentive will make your employees more likely to recommend qualified people. You can also ask your customers for referrals.
  • Spend a little green. If you want to attract entry-level workers, consider paying above the prevailing wage for such positions to get the cream of the crop.
  • Partner with a school. If your business is located near a community college or university, use the college's placement office, particularly if it has an art department. Also consider developing relationships with schools so professors or teachers will refer students to you for internships or open positions.
  • Network with other businesses. Where do the "crafty" people hang out in your community? Visit a paint-your-own-ceramic business or the popular new franchise, Wine and Design. Ask these businesses if you can post your job opportunity on their bulletin boards.

Crafting your ad

Your job ad should be crystal clear when it comes to expectations for the position, says Andrea Herran, principal at Focus HR in Barrington, Illinois. It should also include specifics such as hours offered, days of work, expectations for customer relations, attitude, etc. And, if you offer an employee discount, make sure to include that in the ad, as it may entice passionate crafters to apply.

"When describing the job, give candidates the good, bad and ugly of working for you," she says. "This way, if something occurs on the job, it's not a surprise, but if it doesn't happen, they will only wonder what all the fuss was about."

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