How to recruit an everyday Super Groom
by Caroline Carter
This article is designed to share just a few useful hints and tips if you are about to embark on filling an equine job vacancy, or for those who have been looking for a time and don’t feel they are making the progress they should be. I would like to preface the article (to minimise any social media bashing I might otherwise get!) by saying that I am 100% behind grooms:
- being paid a legal wage
- working legal hours
- being accommodated in civilised and comfortable digs etc.
We sponsor the British Grooms Association in all they do on behalf of the grooms and we often work closely them on certain issues but independently, we have published a lot of articles/blogs which are being shared far and wide and which promote change and offer well-researched advice and views on current issues.
In this article we turn our attentions to the other side of this equestrian employment equation, the employer. Employers get tired of hearing “it’s a groom’s market” right now, I know I seem to say it several times daily, but really, it is. I think on reflection though, what I should be saying is that it is “it’s a good groom’s market” – there is a world of difference and we all have stories to tell on that front!
It’s probably worth taking a moment to summarise what makes a good groom (not exhaustive by any means). The first two points, I wouldn’t have dreamed of needing to include, even just 5 years ago! I do this in the somewhat innocent hope that the not so Super Grooms, might read and reconsider their ways :
What makes an everyday Super Groom?
- Someone who does what they say they will do, when they say they will do it!
- Someone who responds within a reasonable time frame to phone calls/emails/texts during the recruitment process with yourself and the agency
- Enthusiasm and ability to communicate with horses and ideally people too!
- Skills and experience relevant to the job being applied for
- Longevity in former jobs for at least 18 months to 2 years in most cases and sound reasons for moving on
- An easy to follow CV
- Relevant references
It is a sad fact that, in 2018, grooms who fit this description are not plentiful and you could be forgiven for thinking they are in decline. I believe I am somewhat qualified to make such a statement. That being said, I see visible ripples of positive change as I am told that at The Grooms List by Caroline Carter Recruitment, we have:
- The best overall recruitment solutions which are great value for money!
- The best jobs
- The best “complete” service to grooms and employers
- The best track record of filling vacancies with quality people, faster than any other recruitment agency out there.
- The largest reach to >44,000 potential jobseekers
You won’t find any agency more committed to getting it right than us!
Whether it’s via our easy to use website www.thegroomslist.co.uk with affordable subscriptions starting at £60 or our hands on,deal directly with Caroline Carter Assisted and Bespoke Recruitment services (find out more here), we certainly have a constant stream of decent grooms and reputable employers registering who we regularly talk with and where necessary, advise accordingly for the benefit of everyone involved in the recruitment process, with good results and fab feedback.
That being said, as an experienced recruitment consultant even I am having to look through 20 times more candidates these days than in previous years in order to fill one job. Even though we have many loyal returning customers who wouldn’t dream of going anywhere else, I also get new employers who are often at their wits end when I speak to them. It’s tough out there finding good staff and don’t we all know it?! Grooms who tick all the aforementioned boxes are snapped up fast and can negotiate the very best deals. They are the ones we all want, but they find their new jobs as fast as the grey hairs are appearing on my seasoned recruiters head. Many of them come directly to me to ask about my vacancies not wanting to be on the ‘open market’!
I would like to take this opportunity to share with you some of the benefits of my experience gained through the years I have been recruiting grooms on your behalf. This should help to ensure better outcomes when you are lucky enough to have those coveted everyday Super Grooms cross your threshold.
Finding the right everyday Super Groom for your vacancy
Give some serious forethought to your vacancy – consider sustainable compromises
It can only pay dividends if you spend time really analysing what you/your team need vs what you want – they can actually be two different things! It’s probably worth having a wish list of the “must haves” and “nice to haves” so you can know what is negotiable yourself, at least before you start. Be tough on yourself though, I am afraid to say that these days, just because you can afford to have it doesn’t mean you will get it, unless of course you are prepared to pay “silly money” and even then it’s not a foregone conclusion.
If you are struggling to find your everyday Super Groom consider, for instance, is it really worth holding out for a groom that will do every “late night check” vs a little give and take with a rota system? If you won’t compromise, someone else will and you may well find yourself constantly losing out, grooms won’t often tell you why they REALLY didn’t take your job and it may not always be obvious to the employer, but they do tell us and often in no uncertain terms. 9/10 times when I speak to an employer, within the first few sentences I have pinpointed why they may be having difficulty filling their vacancy, it really is worth having that chat if you are getting stuck or not making the progress you think you should be . Do contact me if you would like to discuss your search for staff.
Don’t offer an unsustainable compromise
Many employers these days are getting pushed to this under the pressure of securing what seems to be the right candidate for the job. If you really don’t want to be mucking out the grooms’ horses on their days off, don’t sign up for that to secure them, knowing within weeks that will all be too much for you on top of your other life commitments. But if you think laterally there are other solutions:
- You could discuss someone else doing this service and the groom paying them for it.
- You could offer slightly more on the wages to contribute to livery at a local yard.
It is my experience that 99% of the time grooms with a horse will want to keep their horse at their place of work, and being unable to do so can be a deal breaker for them. Some will attend an interview only breaking the news they have a horse/dog/boa constrictor etc. when they get there thinking an employer might relent. Think before you speak, if you sign up to an arrangement that is destined to break down you are setting yourself up for failure. On the other hand, if you consistently find it difficult to secure staff because they all seem to want to bring a dog/horse to the job, maybe it’s time to reconsider how you can compromise a little and accommodate this?
Work out your salary package in advance
Make this simple, clear, affordable and sustainable for both parties. As an agency we only ever quote gross salary figures, so do consider talking with your accountant (if you have one) and make sure you are clear on what the wage might equate to after tax, especially if you are considering offsetting the accommodation (learn more about accommodation offset rates here). If you get an everyday Super Groom through your doors the chances are they will know their worth and be interviewing for a good few other jobs too.
If you are at all “fluffy” or non-competitive, you almost certainly will lose out to other employers who are on top of this information and know their upper and lower wage ranges in advance, and so can have confident discussions about it and make a firm offer of a salary and total package there and then. Even better, discuss it with the applicant before any interview so neither party is wasting their time. See my advice on negotiating a salary package here.
I am frequently surprised when grooms have, let’s say, 3 interviews planned but take the first one offered which ticks the boxes even though they haven’t visited the other yards. The reality is that many grooms site not having the time to attend lots of interviews, and not wanting to drive around the country, so they take a not necessarily wise but pragmatic “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” approach. If you are at all indecisive or vague in any respect at this point the likely outcome will be a disappointment and you may never know why!
Finally a word to the not so wise! More often than you think, employers advertise a full time permanent role and when a jobseeker attends an interview they are presented with an offer of self employment within that role. Not only is this a complete turnoff to many jobseekers who immediately will query your integrity not least because most know that it’s illegal to employ someone in a full time, permanent & exclusive role as self employed and if they don’t know, it is usually just a matter of time before they or the HMRC will get to know and you will be in some hot water. If aren’t up to speed on this employment legislation please, don’ delay & check out https://www.gov.uk/employment-status/selfemployed-
Give some serious thought to your job vacancy advert
“Sell” your vacancy. Look online at all the various jobs on www.thegroomslist.co.uk or on our No.1/most popular equestrian recruitment social media pages (Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and Instagram) and see what the jobs listed seem to have going for them, or not. Look at how we advertise and the types of pictures we use and plan your own advert by that comparison. Our traffic is unparalleled and we are, hands-down the best in the business for drawing job seekers to our vacancies. Play to your strengths and consider that in your own job advert. See our handy guide to writing an effective job vacancy advert here or again, call Caroline Carter directly for advice on 0203 006 5730/07747 686118.
Promote your assets
For example, accommodation. I am amazed by how many employers with lovely accommodation don’t post pictures of it in their job vacancy adverts. I am equally amazed that many of those, like the one in our picture (!!) with rather less attractive accommodation do post pictures not seeming to see the reality of their offering. This is a major feature of your job advert which must be sold if it is part of the deal and it can really make a difference between an everyday Super Groom choosing your job over someone else’s. If you don’t have the nicest accommodation it is a total turn off, especially if you don’t make any effort to make it nicer and more welcoming. You have to ask yourself, would you live in it? Would you expect a friend or family member to live in it?
Don’t advertise your vacancy all over the place -This can lead the everyday Super Groom to think there is actually something wrong with the job!
Avoid that tumbleweed experience! It is human nature to do something, everything once you have made a decision to actively recruit for a vacancy. This gives us a feeling progress is being made. Tempting though it is, you really don’t need it on every agency website (you are just wasting your hard earned money), or in every Facebook group etc. You just need to pick the right agency, and here at The Grooms List by Caroline Carter Recruitment we know what we are doing, take a pride in filling your vacancy and we have the social media coverage you need anyway, so we can target your approach and whether you are a DIY website user or using our Assisted or Bespoke Recruitment service, no need to mess around anywhere else! I am constantly surprised that in this market there are still an not insignificant amount of Employers who don’t post an ad at all, or do and then sit back expecting to be swamped by applications, this rarely happens anywhere. These days you have to work with your chosen Agency, if they are any good, they will be able to offer advice on what to do to maximise applications for your vacancy. Get more details about our services here.
Be transparent about the wage and salary package – don’t seem furtive in your advertising!
The seasoned everyday Super Groom has his/her antennae finely tuned to all attempts to fudge the details of wage and salary package. Let’s face it, there is so much in the popular press these days, they could be forgiven for thinking that every employer is trying to bypass paying as they should. We know that is a minority issue but, unfortunately, perception can be reality to many, so remove that elephant in the room from the outset. We all use the terms IRO/Circa/depending on experience etc. but consider publishing your upper and lower limits so applicants know what is and isn’t on the table, and again no one is wasting their time. As I have said, grooms are hypersensitive these days to employers paying less than the National Minimum Wage and whenever they see terms like “working pupil”, “on application”, “by negotiation” they will often give that job a wide berth. If you mean to charge for other things like accommodation, utilities, livery say so, for all the reasons stated.
Don’t change the job spec too frequently
Nothing says “Nightmare to work for!” or “No one is interested in this job!” more than a job ad that is posted every week or so with constantly shifting parameters. As already stated, if you research, consider, plan and carefully construct your job vacancy advert, and you are with an agency that knows what they are doing and have advised up front on how hard or easy this might be, there should be no need for you to keep updating your advert.
Fully disclose all duties
It is well worth preparing a job description ahead of time, which is then made available to all potential applicants pre-interview. Along with providing a contract, it is an excellent “framework” for both sides that sets things out in a professional manner, and then there can be no misunderstandings which can lead to the breakdown of working arrangements down the line. It gives applicants time to prepare and consider before an interview and it will help you crystallise your thoughts and approach the whole thing with a more confident proposition and a better chance of success. Again, do share this with your agency – a good working relationship between you should mean the recruiter themselves can be a useful sounding board. We recently had an everyday Super Groom turn up to an interview where the employer hadn’t told her a routine part of the job was an expectation that she would go in and feed ostriches every day! The employer waited until 2 hours into their interview to mention it, the interview continued to the end but the would-be everyday Super Groom was not best impressed and took another role, leaving the employer wondering why the groom had wasted her time, and feeding her own ostriches – say no more!
Interview people yourself
Unless you are a large organisation who employs many grooms and have someone dedicated to recruitment on your behalf, don’t delegate this vital part of the process. I know it can be hard when you are very busy, away a lot and need a position filled or if you have an outgoing groom more than happy to pitch in, but trust me, it rarely works. You and your incoming everyday Super Groom need to see the whites of each other’s eyes. Finding a new member of staff who may be with you for a long period of time, in and around your home and yard and caring for some of your most precious things, deserves to meet YOU and you will regret it down the line when characteristics emerge that you would possibly have picked up on at the interview. It can also make the candidate feel that you don’t care too much, or that you are uninvested, can’t be bothered etc. If they go to their next interview and meet that prospective employer who is cheerful, involved and friendly, you have lost them. It is great for team members to meet but I often hear stories of overstretched grooms moaning to potential new recruits, whose only trace of being at the interview is the dust from their boots as they turned tail and ran in the opposite direction as fast as they could, or genuine everyday Super Grooms who have been scared off with the “you will never fill my shoes” subtext to discussions!
Work out when you want someone to start and give yourself time!
Don’t be backed into a corner by leaving it until the last moment. If you find yourself understaffed or with an outgoing groom who has taken you by surprise, consider stopgaps such as freelance grooms or temporary staff. Don’t be pushed into a corner, give the planning process covered above insufficient time and then accept the first person that vaguely ticks the boxes, this rarely works. Furthermore, don’t place your ad on the website and sit back waiting for hundreds of everyday Super Grooms to apply, it won’t happen. Get involved from day one.
Be careful “out there”!
Register with our agency and be assured that you are dealing with an experienced recruiter who is invested in your recruitment drive. Anyone can take on a role as an equestrian recruiter when in fact they have never done the job before. I am the only person within my agency who routinely talks with employers about recruitment and employment issues and, even with my extensive experience, I will often refer employers to experts when venturing into uncharted waters e.g. employment law etc. There are no shortcuts to experience I am afraid. Don’t be afraid to ask questions to ascertain just how qualified and knowledgeable the individual you are speaking with is. Establish whether they actually have any real recruitment knowledge and experience, and that they are up to date with the current equine recruitment market and associated laws. We all want to talk to a friendly voice for sure, but that alone is not enough to ensure a safe and successful pair of hands to assist you.
When screening for interviewees, stay safe – go with your gut instinct. If you feel there is something “off” about anyone you speak to, do not invite them for an interview, no matter how pushed you are to fill that vacancy! Most times there are no issues, but once in a while, I do hear some real horror stories especially when employers set sail into the deep and sometimes choppy waters of social media. Also as alluded to, be careful when dealing with inexperienced recruiters who don’t know what to look for and don’t have the instincts developed by years of hardcore equestrian recruitment experience when setting up interviews for you. This requires a career history that brings with it a certain depth and breadth of knowledge that can’t be imitated.
We do hope you enjoyed and found this article useful. Knowing the difficult place we all find ourselves in whilst recruiting these days it was designed to share just a few useful hints and tips if you are about to embark on filling a vacancy, or for those who have been looking for a time and don’t feel they are making the progress they should be. If you would like any more free, friendly, professional advice pick up the phone 07747 686118 or send me a message anytime email@example.com.