Improve Your Salon Staff Recruitment & Retention

10 minute read

Salons and spas typically experience high employee turnover and it can impact your bottom line. Stylists and service providers may be looking to advance their careers or the business may not be the right fit. While staff changes are inevitable, there are some things you can do to ensure you hire the right team members and improve retention. Here are some salon hiring tips and best practices.

Employment Brand

You should be thinking about employee recruitment year-round, not only when you need to hire someone. Having a strong employment brand will ensure prospective employees have not only heard of you but may want to work for you as well. This will make it easier to quickly fill open positions with the right stylists who will stay with you for years.

Beyond recruitment, a strong employment brand can also help you get new clients. After all, people want to go to a salon where they know their stylist is passionate about what they do and enjoys the environment they work in.

Brand Reputation

Job candidates are doing their research and want to know about your company before they apply. How long have you been around? Are you a destination salon with clients driving many miles for your high-end services? Or perhaps your main goal is to provide quick and affordable cuts to the families in the neighborhood?

Similar to building your reputation for clients, building your employment brand can be achieved online through your website and social media.

    • Devote a section of your website for motivating top talent to apply.
    • Share employee stories, milestones, and awards to show candidates what they can achieve while working at your salon.
    • List your company values and provide examples of how your employees are living it out. For example, if your salon takes pride in giving back to your local community, post a photo of recent volunteer experience. You could also share a link to a community organization that you support.
    • Just as reviews attract clients, employee testimonials will do the same. Have your existing (or past) employees write or record a quick testimonial on why they love working at your salon. Ask them to share how they’ve grown professionally and personally through their experience.

Another way to build your brand’s reputation in the minds of potential employees (and clients) is to enter relevant beauty industry competitions. There are a lot of ones out there like the Salon Today 200, North American Hairstyling Awards, or The Contessa Awards.

You can also build a network with a local college that offers a program in a related field. Set up a mentorship program where you can teach a few students some tricks of the trade or make a classroom presentation to tell them about your experiences from getting through school to becoming a salon owner. Another option is to sponsor and judge a hairstyling competition for the graduating class. Even if you only hire candidates with experience, there is still value in creating a favorable impression on students. A few years later, after they have gained some experience, they will likely still remember your salon and may apply for your employment opportunities.

Employee Value Proposition

Develop an Employee Value Proposition (EVP) which outlines the rewards and benefits of working for your salon. It can incorporate the financial aspect (commission structure, benefits, etc.), but it should also extend beyond that. What type of environment do your employees work in? What is the salon culture? Do you provide professional development opportunities for your staff?

In addition to recruitment, the EVP will also help retain staff. So make sure that your EVP is a true reflection of your workplace. Employees will not stick around if they feel they were misled and don't experience what they were promised. When creating your EVP, talk to existing employees and ask why they came to work for you and what they enjoy about their jobs.

Job Postings

From time to time, stylists may visit your salon to drop off their résumés. Even if you are fully staffed, take a few minutes to quickly review them and keep the quality ones on file. When openings arise, you can consider these candidates and potentially save yourself some time and money.

If you need to widen your search and start advertising an opening, start by writing out the job description. Make sure to clearly explain the position and also incorporate your employment brand. When the job is ready to post, get the word out with these free or inexpensive methods:

    • Your salon website
    • Social media networks
    • A referral program where existing staff or clients can refer a friend or hair stylist they used to work with. You can reward the referrer with an incentive like a gift card.
    • Online job boards such as Modern SalonBehind the ChairSalon Magazine, Indeed, and Monster
    • Beauty/cosmetology schools (works great for hiring recent or upcoming graduates)

Download Salon Interview Questions



If you've done a good job with your hair salon recruitment strategy, you will have many qualified candidates to choose from. Many salon and spa owners hire based on skill. While important, it should not be the sole criterion in your hiring decision.


Decide on a minimum competency level and if the candidate meets it, consider other factors. After all, additional skills and techniques can be taught later while some other characteristics cannot be.

If your state or province allows it, consider setting up a trial to ensure that they meet the minimum skill level you desire. This can range from a test on a mannequin to a couple of days working in your salon with actual clients. It is also a great way to see what level of customer service they provide.


The key to having low turnover is to recruit employees that share your business’s values. Are they personally committed to a similar mission and vision? Do they reflect those values on a daily basis? How do they conduct themselves in front of clients, other staff, and even when there is no one around? Remember that even their actions outside of the workplace can influence people’s impression of your business

Fit and Personality

To have a loyal workforce, you need to ensure that new hires will be a good cultural fit. Will they get along with other employees and clientele? You should also make sure you have a good balance of personalities.

With that in mind, a couple of characteristics to look for are humility and leadership. Your hires should understand their strengths and weaknesses and always be willing to learn. For the long-term growth of your team, you want to bring in leaders who take initiative and want to move up the ladder.


There will be times when the salon is quieter, but there are always other tasks that can be done. Restocking shelves with retail products, ensuring the salon is clean and tidy or answering the phones to name a few. Would you rather have a stylist who is willing to pitch in beyond their job description or someone, who thinks certain tasks are beneath them?

To ensure you get someone with the traits you desire, craft interview questions around those qualities. Also, consider asking why they are looking to leave their current employer. Their answer can tell you a lot about their personality and their ambitions.

While many salon owners only hire stylists with established client lists, this is not recommended by many industry experts. If these stylists are coming from another salon, they may be stealing their clients’ information. Beyond the ethical dilemma, you may be putting your own client list at risk if you hire them. What if they do the same thing to you in the future?

Download a free interview template now.


After selecting a candidate, you need to set and manage the expectations of the salon and of the new employee. Create an orientation program for new hires.

First, provide them with a list of rules and expectations. It can go over topics like professional conduct, dress codes, and brand values. Consider creating a contract to explain that client lists belong to the salon. Or implement a non-compete clause where they may not open or join a salon down the block from you. Make sure to check with your state/province about the legality of such clauses as the laws can vary greatly. While it is often just a formality, these could protect your business.

Even when you hire an experienced stylist, have him or her partner up with one of your trusted employees. This will allow the new hire to observe and get a feel for the salon culture, processes, and experience. After a couple of shifts, have them switch roles. That way the new employee can get comfortable and may even contribute some fresh ideas for the salon.


Regardless of the careful selection process or the clearly stated expectations, staff changes will happen. However, you can minimize turnover by following a few steps.

Appreciation and Encouragement

Thank them for their contributions and reward them for their hard work. Showing your appreciation does not have to be complicated or expensive.

Know Your Employees

Spend time to get to know your staff members and to find out their interests. If one hair stylist loves knowing about the latest styling tools and trendiest beauty products, ask for their input before placing your next purchase order.

Career Advancement

Provide regular feedback to employees and learn about their short and long-term goals. Provide opportunities for them to develop the skills necessary to reach those goals. Even if their dream is to manage their own business, share your experiences and offer to mentor them. With your support, they may be open to partnering up with you if you wish to open a second location or to franchise your salon.


If your team members feel they are being treated poorly (relative to coworkers), they will leave. Set up an organizational structure to clearly outline everyone’s roles and to determine the decision-making process. In addition, develop a set of criteria to explain how and when employees can be promoted, for example, from a Junior Stylist to a Senior Stylist.

When Employees Leave

Even the best employer has staff members who will resign. No matter the work environment or the positive relationships with coworkers and clients, employees leave for reasons that are beyond your control. Reasons may vary from going back to school to starting their own salon or relocating to a new city.

Resignations can be managed so that you minimize the impact of the loss of the employee on your workflow and work environment. Handled effectively, the exiting employee leaves knowing that he or she has contributed and added value during their time in your employment.

  1. Develop an employment-ending checklist, which can include but is not limited to:
    1. Receipt of a written letter of resignation with a termination date,
    2. Return of company property (i.e. keys, styling tools, and any other company-owned items),
    3. Review of the non-compete agreement or confidentiality agreement with the employee

  2. Hold a recognition and farewell event for the employee before his or her last day.

  3. Conduct a confidential exit interview.

  4. If an employee is viewed as a threat to the ongoing work and environment, make sure you take appropriate action. You can terminate the employment relationship immediately or you can limit access to your business system. Restrict their access to client details, marketing functions, and/or inventory if your departing stylist will continue working for a couple more weeks. Be sure to notify them of these changes and to explain that it is simply business and is not meant to be personal.

  5. Be reasonable and understand that some customers are loyal to their service provider. Ask your departing stylist to leave business cards that you can provide to any clients who ask where they have gone to. When clients ask for them, make sure to communicate that you value their business and have many talented stylists who will be happy to serve them. Even offer a special deal or discount to give another stylist a chance. Stay professional with these clients; they may end up sticking with or coming back to, your salon.


Having a loyal workforce with minimal employee turnover does not happen by chance. It starts with building your brand and hiring the right combination of skill and character. Once they are on board, effort should be made to retain them as well.

How Insight Software Will Help

Insight Management Software will help you manage your staff more effectively and efficiently. Record employee contact details, create recurring work schedules, set unique prices and appointment durations, track hours worked, and automate payroll. With Insight, you can also determine what each employee can access: appointments, client details, inventory, reports, and more.

Experience Insight today - download a free trial

Topics: Management
Posted on July 2, 2019