by Elizabeth Fantetti, PBA Director of Membership & Association Programs

As a business owner, you know all about the challenges you face while trying to make your business successful and sustainable. One of the key, yet difficult, elements to get right is hiring employees with the right attitude, skill and motivation that fit with your salon and the direction you want to take in the future. Hiring team members just to fill a chair can prove disastrous and potentially result in losing clients and/or low workplace morale.

While trying to cultivate a cohesive team with current staff can bring about unique challenges, team building while bringing in new staff with positive attitudes and a willingness to be part of a team can help bring new energy and focus to the entire group! To get this process going, keep your eyes open as you hire new employees and be sure to ask simple but meaningful questions during interview sessions. You will be able to get a good feel for a potential new hire’s personality and attitude based on their answers if you truly pay attention. In addition to your regular set of interview questions, include some of the following from the Professional Beauty Association’s (PBA) Business Blueprints; they are simple, open-ended questions that can reveal more about an applicant than he or she realizes. The more information you have, the better decision you can make for your salon and your team.

Why are you leaving your current job?

Talk about a loaded question.  Everyone knows it can be a faux pas to openly bad mouth your previous employer in an interview, but it’s amazing how many people will open right up given the opportunity.  If the answer is anything other than wanting to be closer to home, pay attention!  This question can truly separate your top picks from those who can’t walk out of your salon soon enough.

A quality applicant will typically be looking for a new environment to grow and expand their skills. Ask additional questions to see if their talents and ambitions are in line with what your salon has to offer. If your salon primarily caters to senior clientele, a stylist looking to experiment with new trendy cuts and intense color might not be a good fit, and vice versa.

If the response you get is a complaint in disguise, make note of it and do your homework. If you don’t know much about their current salon, a quick internet search of salon reviews is a good place to start. Not all applicants willing to vent about a previous employer are bad apples. The frustration may be legitimate and you could have an amazing future employee ripe for the picking.

Where have you worked previously? What were your greatest frustrations? What did you enjoy most?

This series of questions is primarily for applicants who have been stylists for at least a couple years. It’s good to know what size salon they are accustomed to working in; if they have worked at slow salons; or a salon packed with appointments from open to close. This question helps set a precedent for what type of answers they should have to additional interview questions.

If an applicant expresses frustration with back-to-back appointments and you know the salon they worked at pales in comparison to the workload of your salon, that might send up red flags. On the flip-side though, if they love a fast paced environment and previously worked at a busy salon, great news for you so long as your client base can keep up. Lack of work for an ambitious and skilled stylist might just lead them to find another salon. Just be mindful throughout your interviews and remember you are looking for a good match for YOUR salon.

What were your greatest contributions at your previous job?

While many applicants will use a question like this as an opportunity to add some fluff to what they have to offer, you are the only judge that matters when it comes to their answers. Timely, consistent and reliable? Great!  Motivated, edgy and outgoing? Perfect!  It’s completely up to you what matters most, but with a question like that you will be sure to have a good gauge of what they value in themselves and ultimately what you value highly as a salon owner and employer.

Other answers to pay attention to may give you an inside look as to what their future goals are. Maybe they implemented a better way to track product inventory, improved the appointment scheduling process or helped fellow stylists create a social media strategy to bring in new business. Answers like these highlight those individuals with future management potential. On the other hand, lackluster responses or a long, confused pause could be a red flag.

While these are just a few good questions to ask, they are definitely not the only questions that can reveal a lot about an applicant. Before your next interview, take a good look at the questions you typically ask and come up with your own list of good and potentially bad responses to keep your mind sharp during your one-on-one interviews. If you are looking to refresh your list of interview questions or need some guidance on many of the day-to-day workings of a salon, be sure to check out PBA’s Business Blueprints at These online resources cover topics such as business management, guest services, human resources, marketing and communications and much more.

Building your team with the right people from day one will truly allow you to spend more time growing your salon and focusing on more important issues rather than micro-managing problem stylists. When you have a solid team in place, implementing your own teambuilding events will be much more enjoyable and fulfilling for you and your team. So focusing in on the details of what a truly good fit for your salon is from the beginning will help keep your team positive and motivated while saving you time and money in the long term.

About the Author

Elizabeth Fantetti is the director of membership and association programs for the Professional Beauty Association (PBA). PBA advances the professional beauty industry by providing our members with education, charitable outreach, government advocacy, events and more. PBA is the largest organization of salon professionals with members representing salons and spas, distributors, manufacturers and beauty professionals/NCA. Visit or call 800.468.2274 (480.281.0424) for more information.