Hiring new employees can be both exciting and daunting. In addition to your day-to-day tasks and taking care of the families you serve, you must find time to advertise for the position, screen résumés and conduct interviews; not to mention the additional pressure to make sure you find a candidate who will fit your company culture.
Today’s hiring landscape is constantly changing. It is difficult to find qualified candidates, and even more difficult to keep them for long periods of time. Keep reading to learn some helpful tips from experts in the preneed profession.
Before you start the hiring process, you need to know the full picture of what you are looking for in the position and candidate. When preparing the job description or posting, ask yourself:
- What will the day-to-day duties include? Will it be full-time preneed or a hybrid role with additional duties like answering phones, managing the office or working visitations? How much authority will this person have to make decisions concerning the preneed business? Who will they report to?
- What type of person are you looking for in this role? Keep in mind that the role of a preneed counselor is very different than that of a funeral director who works mostly with at-need services. Think about what characteristics would complement your firm and help this person find success. You might even want to look for someone who would challenge your at-need staff to get out of their comfort zone in order to grow the preneed business. “It’s important to look for someone with a strong work ethic and problem-solving skills,” said Lori Crabb, Vice President of Sales at PreNeed Systems. “I always look for someone who has longevity in a previous career and has been involved in the community.”
- What will the compensation structure look like? Make sure it is attractive enough to interest someone and show you are willing to invest in their success. While this doesn’t need to be included in the job posting, it is important to have this outlined so you can be prepared to discuss it in the interview. “Be willing to put the money at the front end,” suggested Wanda Sizemore, Homesteaders Director-Field Training and Development. “Turnover and failure happen because people don’t have enough time to get themselves established.”
Think Outside the Box
You never know where you will find the right candidate. Depending on your location, continue to use the traditional recruitment ads either in your local newspaper or online. However, you might be surprised to find candidates in some non-traditional ways as well.
- Word of Mouth – Do you or your staff know anyone in the community that would be a good fit? Even though there might be a big learning curve, it’s sometimes helpful to find candidates outside the funeral profession. It might be someone they know who has a caring demeanor, connection to the community or a passion for serving others. Depending on the hours, it might be helpful to find recently retired teachers or bankers who aren’t ready to leave the workforce just yet.
- Local churches and/or community centers – Many churches have community boards and publications to share local events. Ask if you can post your opening on their board or in their weekly publication. It also doesn’t hurt to ask the office staff if they might know anyone who would be a good fit.
- Social media – Post your job opening on Facebook. This is a free and simple way to get the word out in your community. Those who follow your page will often share or tag someone they know looking for a new opportunity. Make sure you paint the picture of your funeral home and the value of this position.
- Veterans – Many Veterans have found a second career in funeral service. That’s why the Funeral Service Foundation and the ICCFA Educational Foundation created Journey to Serve in 2021 to engage, recruit and hire more military Veterans to careers in the funeral profession. You can find a free toolkit on their website to help you better communicate and recruit Veterans to your team.
Ask the Tough Questions
The employment landscape has changed in recent years. Career longevity has shortened and it’s getting harder and harder to find the right person for the job in many professions. According to an Indeed survey, 43% of employers say that their biggest challenge is finding qualified candidates. While someone may look good on paper, it is important to ask some of the tough questions in the interview to make sure they are the right fit for your firm.
- Why are they looking in the funeral profession? For some, this may be their first venture into funeral service. It’s your job to paint the whole picture for them and explain the sensitivity of the position as well as the thick skin and perseverance required when people say no.
- Are they willing to take on challenges? Whether you are starting your preneed program from scratch or filling an open position, this person will be required to be creative, compassionate and driven all at the same time. Depending on their background, they could be facing a big learning curve.
- What is their buying style? While this may not seem like a normal part of the interview process, it is important to understand the buying style of each candidate. “People will sell like they buy,” shared Sizemore. “If they are cheap and just want cremation, that’s what they’ll sell. Be sure to ask questions to determine their comfort level and buying style.” Asking candidates to describe what they would want for their own funeral is a good way to gauge this.
Finally, don’t be surprised if the candidate interviews you. It is more important than ever for people to find the right fit for themselves. They want to know what makes your company stand out from other employers and how they will fit into your culture. This might seem like a no-brainer to many in the funeral profession because you love the work you do. Be sure to share your passion and what keeps you coming back, even on the hardest days.
What other advice do you have for funeral professionals looking for new talent? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.