The jan/san industry is not getting any younger. Distributors historically have struggled to recruit young professionals and recent graduates to sell toilet tissue, vacuums and other “unglamorous” products. With Baby Boomers retiring in droves, distributors need to find replacements for these vacancies. But more than simply filling a need, distributors really should be cultivating the future.

Sanitary Maintenance asked its advisory board members how they’ve been reaching out to the next crop of employees. Not every company featured has had success attracting the new generation, but they’ve all learned some lessons along the way.

Here’s what they had to say:

Question: What personality traits or qualifications do you look for when hiring young people? Why these?

Aggressive, organized, structured, engaging and fearless.
— Hank Josephs, President, Spruce Industries, Rahway, N.J.

When hiring a young professional some of the traits to look for is their lifestyle, what are their goals in the way of having a family, where they see themselves in five and 10 years, what are their ambitions. Finding out what the young professional wants to do, and plans to do, tells you more about whether your company can offer what it takes to keep this young talent for an extended period of time.

Young talent that understand stability and want to grow and be able to provide for a family speaks volumes over the person with a business degree who wants to get in sales because their dad was in sales and they have a good lifestyle.
— Eric Cadell, V.P. of Operations, Dutch Hollow Janitorial Supplies, Belleville, Ill.

Competitive fire and ability to strategically explain the mission of our company.
— Chris Nolan, President, H.T. Berry Co., Canton, Mass.

I listen to them when I interview them to determine if they really want to be in sales, if they understand the street. I guess attitude is what I look for the most, even over education; most of my best reps didn’t go to college. Also, that they have families (you can’t do this job without a supportive spouse), they are willing to work longer and understand that selling is not an eight-hour job. You try to feel them out to find out really what they want.

But it comes back to attitude and how they treat people. You watch how they talk to people, are they afraid of people or afraid to ask questions, what their language is like. I don’t think there is a science to it. 
— Bill Nourse, President, Brookmeade Hardware and Supply, Nashville, Tenn.

Stable values, honesty, focused work ethic, patience, humility, empathy. These are key elements that you can teach yet are key ingredient for ability to get trained and long-term success.
— George Abiaad, President, Royal Corp., Santa Fe Springs, Calif.

When hiring a young professional I look at their prior job experience. I interview to get a feel for their personality, attitude and ability to communicate effectively. I always contact references and also always obtain developed references (people who have worked with the candidate that they did not list on their reference list). I have a list of situational questions that I always ask that leads into good conversation to get a feel for how they would work within our team.
— Shelley A. Riley, President, MaintenanceMart Janitor Supply, Phoenix

Assertive, progressive, open to change, self-confident, polished.  Sales is not only about forming relationships easily, it’s about presentation, earning trust and changing methods whether that be style of selling or technology supporting the sale. It is also critical to have superior follow-through. Those that send a note after an interview are more likely to stay in the recruiting pool as they display not only follow-through, but just plain professional etiquette.
— Charles Wax, President, Waxie Sanitary Supply, San Diego

Energy, character, reliability, communication skills, people liker. We've found the Predictive Index helpful in determining whether talents are matched appropriately to the job, whether the potential prospect has the intrinsic motivation to succeed.
— Paul “Dutch” Owens, President, Gem Supply, Orlando, Fla.

previous page of this article:
Tips For Retaining Young Professionals
next page of this article:
Using Internships To Attract Young Professionals To The Janitorial Industry