How to Hire the Right Person for Your Funeral Home

Every small business owner knows the stakes involved in hiring a new employee. This is especially true for funeral homes, where a single employee making a bad impression can be incredibly damaging to a business’ reputation.

Hurting your funeral home’s standing in the community isn’t all a bad hiring decision can do; a poor hire can also negatively impact employee morale as well as be financially draining. Here’s how funeral directors can avoid making such a mistake.

While many people attribute picking the right employee to luck, in most cases, hiring the right person has nothing to do with luck. The most common reason the wrong person is chosen to fill a position has to do with immediacy: the business needs to fill the job quickly.

Other times, the person responsible for the bad hire has no idea what went wrong, saying “sometime you make a mistake”. Unfortunately, no business owner can afford to make such a mistake.

Hiring Mistakes Will Cost You

When you factor in the costs involved in bringing a new employee into the funeral home, you’ll find hiring can cost $5,000 or more. And according to the U.S. Department of Labor, when the person hired is a disappointment or the employee is dissatisfied with the position and leaves, it can cost the funeral home at least 30% of the employee’s first-year earnings.

3 Guidelines for Hiring the Right Person

Knowing the true cost of hiring the wrong person (the drain on financial resources and the potential loss of reputation) isn’t enough to avoid making hiring mistakes. Using the wisdom of Malcolm ForbesWilliam Vanderbloemen, CEO of Vanderbloemen Search Group, and Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action as a foundation, here are three of the best guidelines for hiring the right people for your funeral home.

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Hiring Guideline #1: Look for the “Rock Stars” of Funeral Service

“Never hire someone who knows less than you do about what he’s hired to do.”

– Malcolm Forbes, former publisher of Forbes Magazine

Five years ago, Joe Joachim, of funeralOne, published the post, How to Hire Great Funeral Home Employees. Anyone who knows anything about the company’s culture recognizes his penchant for hiring, and working alongside those people who are what he likes to call “rock stars”: those who demonstrate a full commitment to the profession:

“Rock stars are passionate about their work. They live and breathe the job, always thinking about ways to improve their performance. They draw on their own strengths to establish themselves in their position.”

New hires then should be passionate, self-aware, and totally committed to their profession. But if you take Malcolm Forbes’ position, they should also know as much as you know about funeral service.

What if those you’re interviewing are fresh out of a mortuary science program? Certainly the level of knowledge a new graduate holds can’t possibly equal that of an experienced funeral director. And while it makes sense in this case to review the courses taken and grades earned, it’s also critical a candidate’s funeral service education comes from an institution which meets the American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE) accreditation standards. In a case like this, ‘heart’ and a ‘good attitude’ can be more important factors than knowledge successfully demonstrated in the classroom.

Hiring Guideline #2: Hire Those Who Exemplify Your ‘Company Culture’

“If you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood and sweat and tears.” – Simon Sinek, author & speaker

A funeral home’s ‘company culture’ is a subtle blending of the funeral home’s mission, values, ethics and goals. You could say it’s the set of beliefs and behaviors which shape how the firm’s employees and management interact and handle outside business transactions. Often, a company culture isn’t clearly defined, despite the fact that it permeates every aspect of a business, and affects employees’ feelings about the business, their understanding of what is expected of them, and creates a mutual understanding of the things that matter most to the funeral home.

When the time comes to hire a new funeral home staff member, do all you can to ensure an individual reflects the beliefs and attitudes, and demonstrates the behaviors that make up your funeral home “company culture” is an essential to hiring the right person. A 2005 study revealed employees who fit well with their organization’s company culture had greater job satisfaction, were more likely to remain with their organization, and showed superior job performance.

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Hiring Guideline #3: Think “Soft Skills”

“Now more than ever, soft skills are vital to becoming an irreplaceable team member.” – William Vanderbloemen

Soft skills are exactly what they sound like; they’re a combination of emotional intelligence and what we used to call ‘people skills’ (the ability to ‘work, communicate, and ‘play well with others’). The Collins English Dictionary defines the term “soft skills” as “desirable qualities for certain forms of employment that do not depend on acquired knowledge: they include common sense, the ability to deal with people, and a positive flexible attitude.”

How can you best assess a candidate’s soft skills or degree of emotional intelligence? Hiring experts tell us to get out from behind the desk. Take them on a tour of the funeral home and then take them out to lunch. Make the interview an occasion where you can observe the candidate interact with others in a variety of situations.

One Final Thought On Hiring the Right Person

When you’re looking to hire the right people for your funeral home, remember this from John Muhaise Bikalemesa: “You’re not just recruiting employees, but are sowing the seeds of your reputation.” And a funeral home is nothing without a good reputation.

Kim Stacey is a licensed funeral director, certified grief counselor, and holds a Master’s Degree in Anthropology. She is currently a professional freelance writer specializing in developing unique search engine optimized content and copy for funeral homes, cemeteries, and industry suppliers. You can reach out to her for comment or conversation at [email protected].

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