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Ask pest management professionals who they hire and they’ll say the best-qualified candidate who also fits the company culture.

But how do you know that you’ve found the best candidate if you haven’t cast a wide enough net?

The thing is, companies often fish the same pond, even use the same lure, to attract new hires. According to a survey on workplace diversity conducted for PCT and the National Pest Management Association in November, nearly three quarters of pest management companies do not take specific actions to attract and recruit diverse job candidates.

Diversity is more than race. It’s also gender, age, life experiences, skills, abilities and disabilities, culture, sexual orientation, geography, learning styles, political views and more. Diversity brings with it diverse ideas, which can provide a better understanding of customers and that help grow the business.

“I don’t look at the ethnicity of my company as a determinant of diversity; what I’m looking for is people that think differently enough to help us make the best decisions,” said Ravi Sachdeva, CEO of American Pest Management, Manhattan, Kan.

By not reaching out to diverse populations, firms are not seeing the full scope of potential candidates. In fact, they may be missing out on the best one for the job.

So how do PMPs expand the search? “You have to meet people where they are,” said Billy Olesen, operations manager, Chuck Sullivan Exterminators, Olympia, Wash.

PMPs shared how they have successfully expanded their search efforts and increased their appeal to diverse candidates.

 

ATTEND CAREER FAIRS

Some companies participate in career fairs where they’re certain to reach diverse job candidates. Sprague Pest Solutions participates in job fairs geared to specific populations and income levels in Seattle and Denver, where it has branches. The firm also reaches out to colleges and universities with entomology programs and to local community colleges, which really reflect the diversity of the local community, said Leila Haas, director of human resources.

Cook’s Pest Control in Decatur, Ala., attends university career fairs, including those at historically black colleges, to attract business majors to fill accounting and management positions.

Angie Persinger, human resources manager at Rose Pest Solutions in Northfield, Ill., attends events at the Great Lakes Naval Station and she brings employees who also are veterans to talk to potential candidates. “They seem to have their own way of talking with each other and getting each other on board with things,” she explained.

Haas encouraged PMPs to bring employees like those you’re trying to recruit whenever possible to these events.

 

WORK WITH REFERRAL PARTNERS

Numerous organizations exist to help companies connect with different populations. These include workforce partners that are affiliated with community economic development programs and that organize job fairs.

Cook’s Pest Control works with an organization to recruit people with disabilities. Ken Yarrington, owner of KenX Pest Control in Chariton, Iowa, grew up around “handi-capable” people as his father worked for Easter Seals and United Cerebral Palsy. “They have a place here, too, and they can work very well given the right positions,” he said.

 

ENCOURAGE EMPLOYEE REFERRALS

An employee referral program helps ABC Home and Commercial Services in Dallas-Fort Worth increase diversity. “We never excluded anyone based on gender or age or anything like that and then once they’re on board and see who we are as a company, they’re likely to refer somebody that would be diverse, be like them,” said Joe Campbell, vice president of operations.

 

WRITE BETTER ADS

“Massaging the job description” also helps attract diverse candidates, said Audrey Hall, president of Eco Serve Pest Services, Orchard Park, N.Y. Rather than just focusing on field work and hard labor, emphasize flexible work hours to appeal to working mothers, fluency in Spanish to attract more Hispanic candidates and “we hire veterans” to speak directly to former service members. Avoid industry jargon; be cognizant of the words you choose so you can reach a broader group of people, she said.

 

ASK BETTER QUESTIONS

“It’s exciting to hire somebody who doesn’t think like you,” said Olesen. To do this, ask the right kind of questions during the process. One of Olesen’s favorites is, “What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment?” “You’ll get some really interesting answers” that help you “to look at them a little bit differently and understand a little glimpse into their background,” he said.

 

Be intentional about where you are posting for jobs to ensure that you’re not just continuing to attract the same groups of people, advised Haas. For example, some PMPs advertise jobs on PestVets, a website developed by NPMA to help PMPs connect with veterans.
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HIGHLIGHT DIVERSITY

People look at a company’s website and marketing materials and ask, “Is this somewhere where I want to work? Does this look like a place where I would be accepted?” and if not, they’ll look elsewhere, Olesen said.

As such, he’s planning to retool the Chuck Sullivan Exterminators website “because it doesn’t reflect diversity.” Start with updating photos and highlighting workplace diversity as an important value when telling the company story, such as on the About Us and employment pages, he suggested.

 

TARGET SPECIFIC JOB SITES

Be intentional about where you are posting for jobs to ensure that you’re not just continuing to attract the same groups of people, advised Haas. For example, some PMPs advertise jobs on PestVets, a website developed by NPMA to help PMPs connect with veterans.

Think outside the box as well. Consider putting job notices on the bulletin board at the local daycare facility to reach working mothers or at the ice hockey rink to get in front of young people.

 

CONSTANTLY RECRUIT

“If you want quality candidates you have to be actively recruiting,” said Olesen. When the barista or department store clerk provides excellent customer service, offer a business card should they ever be looking for a different opportunity.

“You’re out there among so many different people every day. There’s no way that you don’t see somebody different from you as you’re going about during the course of the day,” said Faye Golden, governmental affairs manager at Cook’s Pest Control.

 

ADAPT AS NEEDED

At times, PMPs may need to adapt policies to embrace diversity. Someone with ADHD, for instance, may benefit more from shorter, more frequent classroom training lessons broken up by segments of hands-on training. “You have to able to able to adapt and not be so rigid that you’re going to eliminate some of that diversity,” said Olesen.

 

LOOK BEYOND YOUR BACKYARD

Don’t overlook geographical diversity either, said PMPs, because people from different regions may bring different perspectives to the business.

Cook’s Pest Control has begun to recruit people outside its home state. It recently hired entomologists from Texas A&M and Mississippi State, said Golden.

 

GO BACK TO SCHOOL

Sylvia Kenmuir, who now works at BASF and formerly was national director of technical training at Target Specialty Products in Santa Fe Springs, Calif., urged PMPs to reach out to elementary and high school students to promote the industry. “We need to get to them younger” and showcase the opportunities for those who enjoy math, science and chemistry, as well as the opportunities for those who don’t plan to attend college, she said.

It’s also important to “get those role models out there and be comfortable enough saying, ‘Hey, not only am I a really good technical director but I’m black or I’m Hispanic.’ If we do that I think we could attract more college and high school kids,” said Kenmuir.

 

TAP AVAILABLE RESOURCES

“We have got to develop the resources that people have at their fingertips so they will know where to go, how to even start looking for diverse candidates,” said Golden, who also is chair of NPMA’s Diversity Committee.

As such, NPMA’s Workforce Development website recently was launched (workforce.npmapestworld.org). Many of the resources on the site were developed by NPMA’s Recruitment & Retention, Diversity, PestVets and Professional Women in Pest Management committees, and it features information on employee recruiting, hiring, training and retention.

Additionally, on June 12, Jason Payne, president, Payne Pest Management, San Diego, Calif., will present a webinar titled “How to Attract and Find Diverse Candidates.” (Visit https://buff.ly/2vkz1Fx.)

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

These tactics not only help attract diverse job applicants; they expand PMPs’ access to candidates overall. With hiring a perennial challenge, that’s a good thing. But don’t expect immediate success. It can take a while to get traction with new ways of recruiting. “You just have to keep at it,” said Campbell.

The author is a frequent contributor to PCT.