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COMPETITIVE PAY, GENEROUS perks and access to benefits. A flexible schedule with room for growth. Plus a fun and collaborative company culture that revolves around pets. You offer all — or most — of this, yet hiring remains one of your biggest challenges thanks to a tight job market and evolved employee expectations ushered in by the pandemic.

So what should you do? Up your recruiting and interviewing game by following the lead of hiring-savvy pet retailers and service providers. Members of the PETS+ Brain Squad share here how they attract quality candidates who actually accept their offers and prove excellent fits for their business. Plus, Bob Negen of Whizbang! Retail Training provides his expert guidance. And don’t miss Jane Harrell’s column on p. 44.

(Have your own advice to share on topics like these? Become a regular contributor by joining the PETS+ Brian Squad at



1. Think ‘Job Marketing’

Gone are the days of traditional “Help Wanted” ads that simply describe the position and state its requirements. Instead, Negen recommends creating a marketing piece for the job and your business. After all, competition for qualified candidates — much less workers — continues to be strong going into the second half of 2022.

“Writing compelling copy is how you get better people to apply,” he says. “Birds of a feather flock together, so if you write a good marketing piece, you’re going to attract good people.”

Negen teaches an eight-step process for doing this. It starts with putting together an “Ideal Candidate Profile” that will inform what goes into what he calls a “Red-Hot Help Wanted Ad” with “If you are” and “If you would love” sections.

“When a great candidate reads the ad, you want them to start nodding their heads and say to themselves, ‘Yeah, that’s me!’”

Focus in the job posting then shifts to marketing your business with “We offer” and “Company description” sections, among others.

“This will attract like-minded candidates and weed out the others,” Negen says, reiterating that, “Recruiting is marketing. You’re trying to market your job and business to the right person so they want to apply.”

TIP: Visit to get all of the steps in Negen’s “How to Write a Red-Hot Help Wanted Ad” guide.

2. Enlist Your Employees

The Wild Pet in Charleston, SC, takes a collaborative approach to creating its job postings. Co-owner Keith Sudano invited staff to help update what he had written previously for a new listing that went up in April.

Manager Christina Cummings says, “We kept a few things that we really loved from his original ad and added a whole bunch of new content based on the employees’ perspective of the store and the hiring process. In a group email, I asked each of our employees to write about what it is like for them working at The Wild Pet and what they want in a new coworker. They each responded with their own contributions, and after a little discussion on what we all wanted to include, I simply compiled the content into a single job posting.”

Titled “Don’t just look for a job, seek out your purpose…,” it starts with “We are the employees of The Wild Pet stores, a place of wonder for people and pets alike.”

Throughout the ad, potential candidates hear from staff themselves about the company’s core values:

“We are a collection of individuals who are committed to delivering the very best in pet resources and service to our customers, yes, but not only that. We are committed to delivering the best in dedication, performance and support to each other.”

Before they can even ask about management style and room for growth, potential candidates read:

“We work for an ownership team that prioritizes using each individual’s skills and talents in their roles within the company, no matter what they are. And we work for a company that invests in us, providing ongoing, long-term and advanced nutritional education to qualify and prepare us to best serve the folks who come into our stores. No one who chooses to invest in their work here will be left to languish, and your efforts will not be overlooked.”

The posting goes on to illustrate what an average day in the store looks like and who would be a good fit. Cummings says, by involving staff in the hiring process from start to finish, the stores keep their employee retention rate high.

TIP: Get further inspiration from the full job posting at

3. Go Beyond the ‘Printed’ Ad

Dog Krazy stores in Virginia also enlist the help of staff for recruiting, most recently creating a video that answers the question: “What’s it like to work in the Dog Krazy Day Care?” It features staff loving on adorable dogs and cats, and being silly with each other as they work. But the video also shows the reality of such a job, including duties such as doing laundry, cleaning floors and picking up poop.

“Most people apply for a day-care position because they think it’s playing with dogs. It is 50% of the time, but the other 50% is spent cleaning and feeding, which is not as much fun,” owner Nancy Guinn says. “We wanted the video to be real, not staged, so we asked our employees to film their day.”

Views have topped 500 already and brought in “a ton of applications” that Dog Krazy management are working their way through.

They also have seen success with placing “We’re Hiring!” signs at the checkout desks of the six stores. Customers who want to apply or refer a friend for employment can scan a QR code that takes them to Dog Krazy’s online application.

TIP: Encourage your staff and customers to help you hire by rewarding their efforts. Staff whose clips were used in the recruitment video got a $25 gift card, and customers who refer a friend who then gets hired receive a $100 store gift card after the employee completes 30 days of work.

4. Recruit on Facebook

When Angela Pantalone needs to hire day-care and boarding staff for Wag Central in Stratford, CT, she includes in her recruitment plans the University Sitters of Fairfield County private Facebook group with its nearly 20,000 members. College students make excellent fits for the roles.
“Many have multitasking skills, are adaptive to crazy hours, have business or nursing knowledge due to their fields of study,” she explains, “so the common-sense aspect of dog care doesn’t always need to be taught to these individuals, to many of them it’s innate.”
Employers post open positions in the group, and students learn about seasonal and year-round part-time work that pays minimum wage or higher.

TIP: Make it clear from the beginning that the student must communicate on their own behalf at all times. Pantalone says, “I never deal with parents.”

5. Partner with Workforce Training Programs

Over her nearly 37 years of owning and operating Anderson Acres in Bakersfield, CA, Janice Anderson has developed strong ties to a variety of area workforce training programs, both from private and government entities. This gives her regular access to candidates eager to learn on the job at her pet boarding, grooming and transportation business. The benefits for Anderson as well as the participants — from high school students to military veterans — are numerous.

“The adult placement agencies and organizations offer great benefits like vetting of the potential hires, employer reimbursement for training costs, a person assigned to work with you and the new hires,” she says, adding, “not to mention there is no more deserving group than our veterans.”

Younger candidates come from Kern High School District Regional Occupational Center, which has a veterinary teaching hospital on campus as well as a farm. Anderson hosts a “Community Classroom” site at her business, where the students learn grooming skills while receiving school credit.


“I have been involved with KHSD ROC since the inception of the Animal Care Program 25-plus years ago as an advisor, a Community Classroom site and now as a teacher within the Veterinary Science Program. Over the years, I have had some wonderful students work for me.

“These types of programs are wonderful opportunities for employers and the employees. The chance to teach youth, to instill in them knowledge about the industry, an understanding of responsibility and even a work ethic, I find rewarding.”

She adds, “There are so many programs out there. You just need to look. The names may be different, but the goals are the same… employment for those who need jobs, and employees for those who need worker bees.”

TIPS: Anderson offers this advice from her years of experience employing high school students: “Teenage drama is real! Never hire besties or partners together, it never goes well. Scheduling can be a challenge around school and prom. Oh yeah, and holidays. Transportation is a must! (I do not run a taxi service.)”And she has to regularly tell them to “put the phone away!”

6. Accept Applications on Facebook

Deana Deitchler, owner of Dogs Paw in Park Rapids, MN, likes to see beyond what a candidate puts in an application or on a resume, so she shares job postings and accepts applications through her Facebook business page.
“I added Facebook applications because so many people find it easy and we can get an idea of who a person is from their profile. And they can look at my business to see if it feels like a good fit for them,” she says.

TIP: Get step-by-step instructions on posting a job on Facebook at

7. Be More Efficient with Google

To avoid wasting time on people not serious about working at Crossbones Dog Academy in Providence, RI, owner Katherine Ostiguy posts job openings on Indeed and ZipRecruiter, but only accepts applications via a Google Form on her website.

“It really helps reduce the applications from people who are sending them out just to meet their unemployment benefit requirement,” she says. “Applying on Indeed takes literally one click of one button. Every single question on my application is required, so the applicant has to type text or click boxes throughout the entire form. If they’re looking for the easiest way, my application is not it, so there’s less chaff in my wheat.”

TIP: New to Google Forms? Learn more and get started at

8. Take the Old-School Approach

F or some owners, going back to pen and paper best suits their business. Amy Schiek of Lucky Dogs in Skaneateles, NY, says of her hiring process, “They need to fill out the application by hand and send it back to me by a specific date. This allows me to see what their handwriting looks like (because we sometimes need to leave notes at clients’ houses) and if they follow directions in getting the application back to me in a timely manner.”

TIP: Be sure to provide enough room on the application so the candidate can write neatly. Who hasn’t started to fill in a section only to realize they’ll have to squeeze the remaining text to make it fit.

9. Start Interviews with a Video

Wendy Megyese, owner of Muttigans in Emerald Isle, NC, also uses video during the hiring process. When candidates respond to her job posting, she says, “We ask them to send us a video telling us about a time they did something special for someone. This gives us insight into their friendliness and creativity, characteristics that are very important in our culture.”

About 20% of applicants reply as requested, which helps her focus on those truly serious about a position with the pet store and coffee shop. Megyese shares a standout example of this valuable step.

“One young lady took the time to set up the camera on a tripod. She told us her story, which entailed planning a surprise event for her grandmother. Then she added how much she loved animals, and in the next frame had her cats on screen.

In the following frame, she had prepared herself a cup of coffee and ‘showed’ us how much of a coffee aficionado she was. Although we do not expect the videos to be professional, the time and attention to detail that she put into creating this was impressive.

“We did hire her, and she stayed with us for two years before heading off to college. While she worked for us, she was always diligent in her duties, reliable, teachable and approachable. We were sad to see her leave and would hire her back at any time!”

TIPS: Limit your directions to “Just be yourself. It doesn’t have to be professional,” Megyese says. “I find that how they format it and how long they choose to make it also says a lot about them.”


10. Give Candidates an Audio Call

The pandemic has brought about greater use of video calls, but Heather Persinger, owner of Aristopets in Lewisville, NC, starts the interview process by phone.

“I like to be able to hear how a possible employee might answer their phone, how they actually respond to questions over the phone, if they have a somewhat general phone etiquette,” she says.

TIP: Make note of the candidate’s environment. If they answer from a place with background noise or other distractions and don’t move to a quieter area or ask to return your call, it can show that they are not serious about discussing the job and impressing you.

11. Incorporate Growth-Minded Questions

Lisa Kirschner, owner of Sit, Stay, ’N Play in Stroudsburg, PA, values in job candidates the ability to learn and grow. To determine if they have this, she asks growth-minded questions such as:

“What’s a recent book/article/podcast that inspired you or changed the way you think about your work?

How would you go about becoming a really good saxophonist? (They should have a go-to process for learning anything new!)

Do you receive negative feedback or constructive criticism often? Do you like it? And how do you handle it?”

During recent interviews for a client-facing position, the answers to these questions helped weed out “close-minded” candidates, Kirschner says.

“The team member for this position has to deal with unhappy guests at times, as well as feedback from the rest of the team and myself. We all feel that feedback is a gift and a learning opportunity to grow. If the person does not take feedback well, they are not a fit for us.”

TIP: Ask your team to contribute to the list of growth-minded questions, as it will help them to better evaluate candidates with you and invest in the new team member. Kirschner says, “I let the team know that they are hiring this person, I’m just the one making the offer. Because of this, the team has buy-in to make sure this person will be successful.”

12. Ask What They Feed Their Pets

A job candidate’s pet care philosophy should be a match for the hiring business, no matter what it sells or which services it provides. Shane Somerville, owner of Paddywack in Mill Creek, WA, asks prospective employees what they feed their pets and if they are open to trying new kinds of foods.

“We are very focused on quality, freshness and variety in feeding. A candidate who is feeding their cat nothing but mid-grade dry food, for example, and who indicates they aren’t interested in exploring more options is not going to be able to communicate the importance of high-moisture diets for cats, or why ingredient quality is important.

“Not only do we want employees to understand and embrace our nutritional philosophies, but they tend to have much better customer interactions if they’re able to share information from a place of personal experience. A candidate who isn’t willing to try the foods and products we offer is not going to be able to connect in the same way to our customers.”

TIP: To not waste anyone’s time, ask these types of questions on the application instead of waiting until the interview. Somerville says, “An applicant indicated that they strongly support feeding kibble (partially “to help clean teeth”) and in particular prescription dry food, and was not interested in switching their dog’s diet. They also said that they do not support raw diets. Next!”

14. Always Do a Working Interview

To get hired at All Pets Considered in Greensboro, NC, candidates must impress during a three-part interview process: phone, in-person and working. The paid working interview spans two days.

“We view these two days as a great ‘first date’ and a good window into our work culture and expectations of management. It’s also a good way to have a ‘no hard feelings’ division if the candidate does not feel like it is a good fit for them or we do not feel like they are a good fit for us,” owner Alison Schwartz says.

“During their working interview they are given a brief tour of the store to review the products we carry, and they work at the register to check out customers and answer phones. Senior staff members will help guide and lead working interviews.

“We have been doing these types of interviews for about five years. We started because we were struggling with our tight-knit staff not being very inclusive of new hires. We found that this method gives our staff more of a say in who gets hired and also gives them motivation to include the staff members once hired.

“It also helps us weed out individuals who are not going to be a good culture fit. Sometimes during the interview process, someone can present themselves in a different way. We find that working on the floor gives us the best exposure to strengths and weaknesses that some candidates are not either aware of or truthful about during the interview process. There are times we have let people go at the end of their first working interview day because they are just that dismal of a fit that our staff vetoes hiring them! We also have had individuals who have completed the working interview and decided we were not a good fit for them. It truly helps us avoid disasters by being an open book and also giving us a window into the candidate’s customer service skills.”

Schwartz says staff retention has more than doubled since she implemented this step in the hiring process because staff get to be part of it.

TIP: Schwartz says, “Listen to your staff and their observations because they are the ones who will be most closely working with these individuals. They often have opinions that are valuable when it comes to hiring decisions. Our staff is very protective of our store and their coworkers, so I find that their investment in hiring valuable.”



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