What Should I Do When I Get Unqualified Pet Sitting Applicants?

Recently I received a question asking:

“How can I find qualified people? Most who apply are not qualified”

I asked the pet sitter to tell me what they mean by not qualified and they told me what they meant below.

This may be a long post, but I assure you, it will be useful and supportive.

The Background:

Hiring is tough. Especially for our industry. I mean we are not looking for someone to work 9-5 and just be a cashier, right? We are looking for specific people to do specific things and someone who we can trust, that can be professional, and of course understand the people and pet bond. Not to mention, almost on call.

This topic is so mighty that I actually wrote 60 pages and recorded two hours of audio to walk you through the entire process step by step so that you could have the only robust guide on the pet sitting market!

Although as I am helping pet sitters coaching on the phone and in our private facebook groups, I see people eliminating people prematurely sometimes without giving them a chance.

I always compare hiring to dating, and this is the same thing. You could be out there dating and have a perfect list of what you are looking for, but if you are looking for perfection, you may never find it. So… I challenge everyone reading this – what are your must have’s and negotiable?

Let’s take a look at this pet sitters “unqualified applicants”:

The Unqualified:

(From the pet sitter who wrote me this question)
Here are the common ones I disqualify immediately:
1.  Those that can’t follow the instructions in the job posting.  (ie:  send me your zip code, resume, why you are interested etc).  If all you can do is reply with your resume with no cover email, I’m not interested in you.  If you can’t follow these instructions to get my attention, you are likely not going to follow the client’s!
Yes. I agree. To a point. Although depending on what they send you, you could reply and say “I think you forgot to attach your cover letter? (Or resume?)” and see their response. Maybe they did forget. I can’t tell you how many times I have sent an email and forgot the attachment. Now, if they wrote you one sentence and didn’t seem interested, I would just press delete. 
2.  Those that are available between 6am and 7am, or only after 6pm. etc.  I don’t want  a client to have more than 2 pet sitters and me as a second back up, and they need to be flexible enough in their schedule to provide coverage.
Personally, I totally understand what you are saying, and normally I would tell you that you are 100% correct. But there is a thing I call and “insurance policy” pet sitter. Those are the ones, that if a great enough type of personality can really help your business if you are ever in a bind. Generally though, you are right on with deleting them. You are looking for someone looking for a LIFESTYLE, not a JOB. 
3.   College students.  Their schedules are to erratic and I don’t have time to manage it, and I don’t want to have to introduce clients every 5-6 months to their “new” sitter.
Your systems might be working against you and you are striving for perfection in your company in a way that may not be attainable. Unless you are willing to wait 6 months for someone. In my personal experience, college students are great! They need the money, love the flex schedule, and are usually responsible. I would not disqualify them and again, tell your clients that you work as a TEAM. Unless you are willing to wait up to six months or so to find someone w open availability. What we ask for really is a LOT. This is assuming you do more pet sitting than daily dog walks. 
4.  Those with horrible grammar, spelling, don’t respond in full sentences.
I agree. Delete them.
5.  Those who’s last pet was 15 years ago when they were 7.  I feel the best service is provided by those that have current experience in particular with dogs.
I don’t agree. Maybe their situation doesn’t allow for them to have pets? Maybe they have a family member that is allergic? Maybe their pet died and they didn’t want to go through that trauma again? Just having a pet in your home, doesn’t qualify you for this job at all. 
6.  Those under 21 years old (they have to be able to enter a contract on behalf of my company).
Are you looking for ICs? That would be a whole other ball game then and I will tell you to RUN to the employee route. You are too much of a control freak. I can tell that by this list 🙂 I mean that with a happy heart! By your comment, are you saying that you can not enter in a contract with someone under 21? They have to be 18. Again, in my experience, age doesn’t mean a thing. I had a 17 yr old working for me that was stellar! Not to mention, age discrimination is illegal. 
7.  Those that have any dependence on the income earned from pet sitting.
I don’t agree. Do you have any idea if their family helps? If their spouse helps? That is part of the pre qualifications that you can get past when you email them back, “How much do you need to make a month?” How much money will the person make in the job you are offering? Your craigslist add you sent does not tell me anything other than $10-$19 a visit. Which, by the way, would ONLY make sense if you were charging clients $35-$40 a visit. Otherwise paying that much will either put you under or NOT make you any money. 
8.  Those that are willing to drive 25 miles one way for pet sitting jobs! (or anything along that line)
I agree. Delete. Qualifying their area is important and one of the reasons why we seek a resume. If you accept that many will apply who are outside the area, you won’t be as disappointed. In a way, you can’t blame them. They do not really understand what this job entails like we do. So don’t be offended or discouraged. 
I think our (my business peers and I) problem is getting qualified candidates (or in some cases ANY response at all).  One of my friendly competitors says he gets hundreds of applicants a year, but a vast majority of them are highly unqualified.
I couldn’t agree more with this statement. If you realize that you are only looking for 1 out of 100 and expect them to be bad, you won’t get as discouraged. You will also learn that you never stop hiring. You should always be looking. Even when you don’t think you are. There are 12 more places you can be looking for qualified pet sitting applicants other than craigslist. 
So for us, its finding sources outside of Craigslist to find sitters.  It is THE single most frustrating aspect of my business and preventing me from growing it.
I completely understand. Know that you are not alone and it is my belief that every pet sitter with staff feels the same way. So, you just need to know all of the places to look. I can tell you 12 resources you can look for pet sitters and dog walkers outside of Craigslist, but you need to keep an open mind. Consider changing your help wanted advertisement.
Here is an actual advertisement I found on Craigslist: 

  • People and pet friendly personality
  • Current experience with dogs, whether volunteer, professional or with personal pets
  • Excellent customer service skills
  • Mature and extremely reliable
  • Flexible and consistent schedule.
  • Quick learner, detail oriented, able to follow instructions, natural drive to exceed expectations
  • Stable work history which demonstrates ability to work unsupervised
  • Cell phone (with text and/or email preferred)
  • Internet connected computer with printer
  • Neat in appearance
  • Reliable personal vehicle with valid driver’s license and auto insurance
  • Able to make a one year commitment
  • Age: Unfortunately, due to insurance and other requirements we must fulfill, this position is not appropriate for those under 21.

If you meet these qualifications, please email the following information: (Due to time constraints we can only respond to those who do)

  • A brief description of yourself and your pets
  • Why you are interested in the position and what skills/experience you have to offer
  • What days and times of the week you are available
  • Your zip code and nearest major cross streets
  • Your resume or work history for the last 5 years if no resume is available

General Responsibilities:

Typical pet sitter responsibilities: Walk dogs, pet waste pick up and disposal, refresh water, feed pets, clean litter boxes, play with cats/dogs, rotate lights and blinds, bring in mail/newspaper. Some pets may require medication. Most visits occur between 7am and 8:30pm, some weekends and holidays. Number of visits/week 0-25.

Typical dog walker responsibilities: Walk/play with dogs, pet waste pick up and disposal, refresh water. Some may require a meal and/or medication. These occur primarily Monday-Friday between 11am to 3pm, sometimes weekends. We prefer candidates be available all weekdays during this time. Number of visits/week 0-25.

This advertisement is so detailed it could be for some job with a PHD. I think the writer totally missed the boat on this. What is reliable? What is quick learner? What is neat in appearance? Mature and reliable? Assuming that someone has pets? I think the entire thing is a turn off and a drag to read!

So What Should You Do?

You want this to be an advertisement! It is your job to qualify them. How about appealing to the readers emotions? Narrow down the type of person you would like (Like a stay at home mom?) and talk to HER. (Is that is who you want)
Try mixing it up a few times. If you are dropping a flier off at the vet or groomer than make it specific to the audience reading it. Make it sound like the best job in the WORLD! Your only job here is to get as many people as interested to contact you. YOU qualify them. Not some advertisement.I think that is where many pet sitting business owners miss the boat. They try to let their job description do the qualifying for them when in all honesty the most qualifications should be:
1 – Area applicant lives
2 – Hours of availability
3- Amount of money needed a month.
I talk a lot about this in Lesson 3 of the Employee Quick Start Program. 
Everything else is subjective and that is what you have interviews for. I have said it before, and I will say it again.
It is pet sitting, not rocket science. So, this defiantly is one of my longest blogs, but hopefully you got a lot out of it. Sound off below. What do you think? What are your tactics?

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