If you’ve hired cleaners in the past or are doing so now, you know it can be a time-consuming and even frustrating process. Some people will express interest in the job but not provide enough information to even merit following up, while others will fill out an entire application form but then not show up to the interview.
If you’re new to the industry and are thinking about hiring your first few cleaners, it may feel overwhelming. What questions should you ask them? How do you know if they will be a good fit?
Having ran a cleaning company ourselves, we know it isn’t easy.
And it becomes even more discouraging when the new cleaner you just hired doesn’t show up for their first shift.
If you spend 10 hours of your time screening and training a cleaner and they disappear within the first week you’ve just wasted 10 hours of your time! Multiple that by 3 or 4 cleaners a month and you’ve got a serious problem on your hands.
But on the other hand, if you DON’T spend the time screening and training an employee, aren’t they are even more likely to disappear on you?
It can definitely feel like a lose-lose situation.
But if that were truly the case, this article would end here. There would be no lessons learned for us to share, no tricks of the trade to teach.
Instead, we have good news and bad news.
The bad news is that there is no quick fix. No magic question you can ask that will tell you for sure whether or not the person you’re interviewing is going to be a great long term employee.
Creating an effective interview process takes time and persistence. In fact, the one we recommend below is more than just an interview. It’s a repeatable system that even includes some of their training.
The good news is that once you’ve invested that time in the beginning, you can create a repeatable system that saves you way more time in the long run.
Not to mention having an effective interview process will significantly reduce the number of cleaners who disappear within a few days of being hired.
In our experience, it actually led to a cleaner turnover rate of less than 10% annually. (If you’re new to the industry, this is virtually unheard of!)
In this article we’re going to share the 4 steps in our interview process when we ran our own cleaning company, Clean Simple.
Step 1: The Phone Interview
This is not a new idea. I’m sure many other janitorial business owners have learned that a quick phone call to applicants can save you a lot of time spent being no-showed for interviews, or meeting with people you would never hire anyway. We recommend asking if the person has time for a quick 15 minute conversation right then and there, but if they don’t you can schedule one for another time.
If you’re looking for a great phone interview script, here’s one we recommend. Once you’ve gone through the questions in the first section and rated the person’s answers, you may also want to discuss some of the topics listed at the bottom.
Having said that, when we ran our own company we would save these topics for step 2: the group information session. Before ending the phone interview we would give them the time and place of our next group information session and explain that if they were still interested in the job they would need to attend the session to find out more about our company and the position.
Step 2: The Group Information Session
Once a week, at the same time and place, we would hold an information session for anyone interested in a job at Clean Simple. In the session we would go over all the information a cleaner should know about our company and the position before decided they want to work for us. We would talk about why we were different from other cleaning companies, the types of clients we served, they pay and the benefits, and the technology we expected our team to use on the job.
During the information session we would observe the candidates and make notes about each of them. Were they on time? Were they dressed appropriately? Did they engage with the conversation, or at least pay attention?
Attending the session was a mandatory step in the hiring process, so if the candidate didn’t show up, they were no longer being considered for the position.
From the list of candidates who did come to the information session, we would eliminate any who we felt wouldn’t be a good a fit. We would then call the rest and invite them to a group training session.
Step 3: The Group Training Session
For those who we invited to an initial group training session. We would be transparent about the fact that this was still part of the hiring process, and that without attending and doing well at the training session they may not be considered for the position.
In our training sessions we would go over how to use Swept software, then do a simulated on-site training session with a location that allowed us to demonstrate proper cleaning techniques for various areas of a site (ie. bathroom, kitchen, offices, etc.)
At the end of the session we would have candidates fill out a short quiz to demonstrate how well they understood the training.
Throughout this session we would use a scorecard like the one shown below to evaluate each candidate. Click here to get a copy of our Cleaner Training Scorecard.
Step 4: Unsupervised On The Job Training (Residential Only)
Once again, we would be transparent that this final step in our hiring process: unsupervised on the job training. At this point we were fairly confident in the candidate’s ability to represent our company well and do a good job cleaning, so we would bring them to one of our own homes or the home of a customer we had built a trusted relationship with, and let them clean unsupervised for a few hours. We did this only with residential sites, and often just to see how they did when interacting with a client.
At the end of the shift someone would evaluate their work. When possible it was a real client, but when it wasn’t we would have the spouse of of one of the owners (who the cleaner didn’t know,) be the client. This allowed them to give us an idea of their professionalism and level of customer service. If no one else was available we would do the evaluation ourselves.
Needless to say, if a cleaner makes it past the phone interview, attends the information session, does well in group training, and impresses a client (or us, the owners) on site, we’re thrilled to have them join the team.
Not only because they likely have the skills to be a great cleaner and ambassador for our company, but because if they are willing to invest the time into completing all these steps, the chances of them disappearing once we’ve finished training them and signed the paperwork are quite slim compared to someone who simply showed up for one phone or in-person interview.
Now, if you’re thinking this sounds like a big time commitment on your end to create and maintain these systems, you’re right — it’s not a quick fix for hiring or retaining cleaners.
BUT, and this is a BIG BUT….
The time you will save over the long run on starting the process over and over again with new candidates (after the last ones disappear on you,) or replacing cleaners who worked for you for a short period of time, will definitely outweigh the time invested in this hiring program. As we mentioned above, when we ran Clean Simple, we maintained a cleaner turnover rate of less than 10%!
Besides, as you’ll notice, we intentionally made the most time-consuming steps in this process group sessions to ensure you’re “interviewing” as many candidates as possible at once.
One last side-note…
If you’re wondering how we would get enough people to apply in the first place that we could hold regular group information and training sessions, check out this blog post about writing great job postings.
By writing better job postings you’ll not only attract more cleaners, but you’ll attract people who never would have considered taking a job as a cleaner but see how your company and the position could be a great fit for them.
Hope this helps — happy hiring!