Growth Strategies

How to Hire Workers for Crummy Jobs

Need someone for a task that would make even Mike Rowe blanch? When working for you isn't a dream come true.
5 min read

Despite the higher U.S. unemployment rate, some business owners have difficulty recruiting employees for certain jobs.

Take entrepreneur Cassie Piasecki, 42, who had to hire preppers at her Southern California nail salon to carry heavy tubs of water, then clean them, along with tools and towels, of dead skin and nail clippings after pedicures.

"It was a gross job," says Piasecki, who has since closed her salon. "I did my hiring two ways. I used Craigslist to put a detailed description of the prepper job. I didn't want to surprise applicants by the job duties or the pay. I wanted them to know exactly what they were getting into. And, the other way was word of mouth. Either a client or a friend of an employee. They would usually relay the job duties to the friend."

So how can a new employer fill a position with little glamour and scant pay?

Related: Foursquare's Dennis Crowley on Hiring Talent

Hiring is often the easy part. Hiring people who are likely to stick around can be another story. Yet many business owners have found ways to do it. When hiring for hard-to-fill positions, consider the following tactics.

1. Be honest. Tom Nardone, 40, owner of PriveCo in Troy, Mich., relies on brutally truthful job ads to fill positions at his company that manages 10 Web sites selling unconventional and sometimes risque items, such as gifts for a bachelorette party, hair-loss treatments and enemas. "Want to work in a dirty and messy warehouse that is full of weird and embarrassing stuff that people buy online?" reads one of his ads.

Nardone, whose ads on Craigslist sometimes attract critical comments from strangers, says, "I'm not being a jerk. I'm being honest about what the job is like. I'm not saying: 'We need a team player to foster warehouse synergy.' I'm telling it like it is."

And because of that, the people who do apply know what they're getting into. "This honesty helps prepare people for . . . working here," says Nardone, whose company has

$4.5 million in annual revenue. "Also, it weeds out the cynics and negative types that destroy a workplace."

Nardone is doing exactly what industrial psychologist Jeffrey Saltzman recommends. "Realistic job previews, where you honestly tell people what the job entails, will create a condition where more people will not take the job, but the ones who do will be much more likely to stick around. You need to find the right person for the right job," says Saltzman, CEO of OrgVitality, an organizational effectiveness consulting firm in New York City.

2. Point out the pluses. Nardone's ads, laced with tongue-in-cheek humor ("You'll work like a dog because everyone here does"), not only point out some downsides but they also spell out the benefits: He tries to foster a family atmosphere in the office and warehouse and buys his 11 employees lunch on Mondays and Wednesdays. Plus PriveCo offers raises, health insurance and an informal atmosphere where employees can dress as they wish and listen to the radio all day.

Tom Gimbel, CEO of the LaSalle Network, a Chicago recruiting firm, insists that no position is impossible to fill. He should know. He has hired workers for some pretty unusual tasks, such as holding picket signs or emptying half a million manila folders. Gimbel points out that a lot of entrepreneurs consider a job undesirable simply because they wouldn't want the post. "You don't think about whether you want the job. You think about who would want to do that job."

Related: Hiring Your First Employee

For example, many people would not set out to be a sanitation engineer but shortages of this type of worker are rarely heard of, Gimbel says. This might have to do with the pay and benefits as well as the chance to work outdoors.

3. Be a good boss. There are three main selling points to a job: the work involved, the company and the supervisor, says Gimbel. "If you can sell one or two, or … three of those things, then you can attract people." When it comes to retaining employees, perhaps the most critical variable is the management, say Saltzman.

"The majority of people like what they do," he says. "A bigger and more potent issue is that people might not like where they are doing it." For example, he says, a worker might remark, "I like being a taxi driver; I just don't like the way I am treated by this company."

Says Gimbel: "In all of the studies we've done, 80 percent of the people who leave jobs don't leave because of the job but because of their manager."

Related: Do You Need a Full-Timer, Contractor or Outsourced Help?


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