Every now and then an article pops up about how to choose a pet sitter. This is one of the most important decisions any pet owner can make before leaving their pet in someone else's hands and I wanted to share with you how we choose our pet sitters.
I'd first like to bring attention to the fact that we use employees. One of the main differences between employees and independent contractors is that independent contractors should carry their own insurance and bonding whereas employees are covered under the employer's plan. We also go above this and have workers comp insurance as well to cover our employees.
When it comes to selecting employees for our company our process isn't much different than any other business. We post an ad and sift through the resumes we receive. We look at animal experience but it, honestly, isn't a deciding factor. What we're really looking for is someone that has experience in industries that require punctuality, reliability, and time management. The animal experience and knowledge can be taught. The other stuff, not so much.
After we sift through the resumes we begin the interview process. We do a first interview that focuses on their background and work experience and a second interview that focuses on animal experience and teamwork skills. What we're looking for in the interview is twofold. First, we want to make certain our personalities meld with the person we are interviewing. It is much easier to work with someone if you can get along with them. And second, we look for them to understand the questions they are being asked. How they answer is important but our experience has been if we have to explain the questions to a candidate then they aren't going to be detail-oriented during their pet visits.
After the two interviews are completed we review the candidates once more and contact the ones we like best and fit our current location needs the most and tell them we'd like to move forward with a background check. For the background check, we'll only kick a candidate if a trust violation type of crime comes back. We aren't going to not hire someone because they got a speeding ticket once in 20016 or anything like that, but any type of theft or crime of that nature will result in someone not being hired.
After the background check has cleared we begin onboarding a training. The new hire accompanies me on a visit or two. I like to have at least five visits so I can show them how visits should be stacked. This is surprisingly something that a lot of our new hires don't understand. Our pay is commission-based and pays by the job so doing two 10-20 minute visits in an hour is much better than doing one and then returning home or doing other errands before doing the second visit. It is even better to take visits close enough together to get three visits done in that one hour, but those occurrences are rare. Typical travel time is 15 minutes between jobs.
After the ride-along training, we sit down with them for an hour or so to go over the employee handbook, company policies, and walk them through the software system we use for visit check-ins and check-outs.
After all that training is done we start scheduling them for visits and introducing them to clients we'd like for them to take over. We prefer to have myself or a senior sitter accompany them for a meet and greet or two before unleashing them into the wild but if we can't get schedules to line up we have a handy-dandy checklist of questions to ask at the meet and greet we send to them and tell them to have the clients call the office with any scheduling or payment questions.
That is our hiring process. It is long and sometimes costly. As with anything in life, we have made mistakes and some candidates that looked good on paper, interviewed well, and seemed competent during training have snuck through. They don't last long before we realize we need to part ways, and we have had candidates that have thought a job walking dogs would be a fun relaxing way to spend their day before realizing a week in that jobs require responsibility and those people don't last long either.
Hiring processes are, at best, messy and inaccurate. We spend maybe four or five hours with a person before they are fully integrated into our company. It takes close to forty hours to start to get to know a person. No business owner has that kind of time, and busy pet owners' hiring a pet sitter even less. This makes this one of the advantages of using a company over an individual. We've done a lot of the getting to know you work ourselves and if the person we're sending has been with our company any length of time then you know you're going to get a trusted and reliable individual coming into your home to take care of your pet.