If you ask a PCO what their biggest challenge is, they’ll almost always say “hiring.” They can’t get enough applicants for their openings, and when someone does come through the door, they are often a poor fit or entirely unqualified.
Over the past several decades, a decline in trade school attendance and trade education in high schools has severely impacted the number of qualified, trained candidates for pest control positions. While industry associations are doing their part by sponsoring more outreach to students, more pest management companies than ever are re-thinking their hiring processes, from job descriptions to recruitment budgets.
What does that re-thinking look like? Expanding the scope of their search. Women make up just over half of the US population, yet they represent less than 5% of the workforce in the pest control industry. This is less than welders, lawn care companies, truck drivers, painters, and construction workers.
If we do more to attract the interests of women, we can grow our applicant pool and improve the quality of our workforce. The following are 5 tips on how you can recruit, hire, and retain more women to work for your company.
Because pest control is a male-dominated field, many of the standards in place are geared toward men by default, rather than by necessity. Stop and think about the physical requirements of the job, especially with regard to equipment. Instead of a 50lb backpack, is there an option for a 25lb one? Are your ladders aluminum or fiberglass?
Making small equipment changes (and highlighting these options in your job description), will widen your candidate pool and show women that they can also do the job in the same way as their male coworkers. It will also show them that you’re dedicated to their success in a field that is often inflexible to their needs.
Job descriptions are more than a list of requirements. They’re an ad for your company, and as such you need to consider who you’re marketing the position to.
On average, men will typically apply for a job as long as they meet 60% of the qualifications. Women, on the other hand, are less likely to apply for a job unless they meet 90-100% of the qualifications. Further, studies show that the language you use in your job listings can significantly affect their to appeal to men versus women.
Textio, an augmented writing platform for creating highly effective job listings, found that roles that are ultimately filled by women are twice as likely to contain what is called “growth mindset” language.
Instead of using words like “must”, “best and brightest”, “super smart”, or “high performer”, think about incorporating more words like “loves learning”, “seeks a challenge”, “driven”, and “highly motivated”.
Not only does this language improve rates of female interest, it doesn’t alienate men. This means you’re broadening your candidate pool, opening the door for more quality candidates, and improving the time it takes to hire.
People are more likely to apply to positions where they can easily see themselves. Most pest control websites showcase a technician or two on their homepage. They also feature photos like this on their careers pages.
What message is it sending to female applicants if women are only shown as customers? Think about how you can feature the women at your company across your website. If you don’t have any yet, think creatively - use stock imagery or bring a female friend or family member in to take photos in the uniform. Feature these photos on your website, your newsletter, your blog, and on social media.
It is important to set an example and show that you support and encourage your female employees (even if you don’t have them yet.)
As we mentioned earlier, women tend to not apply for a job unless they meet almost all of the requirements listed. Showcasing your training program and educational opportunities will show female applicants how they can gain the knowledge and experience needed for the job.
Do you provide thorough onboarding training or pay for entry-level technicians to get their licensing and certification? Do you have a support system and a path to grow like J.C. Ehrlich? If so, highlight those programs!
By promoting your paths to advancement, you’re showing applicants (male and female) that you provide the structure, education, and encouragement needed to succeed.
As you start to recruit more women, it’s important to make them feel like they have support. Teach them about safety and how to avoid a hazardous work environment. Give them lessons on self-defense and how to avoid and deflect harassment. Provide them with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to do their job well.
Another way to offer support is to provide them with a mentor. Pair them with another female employee who can offer insight and share experiences. Encourage them to meet in person and help them in the process. NPMA offers a great mentorship program where they can meet another female in the industry. The link to signup can be found here: https://npmapestworld.org/member-center/mentoring-program/
Making major hiring changes requires time and energy, but it’s a small price to pay for a higher quality candidate pool. These tips will help you attract better applicants and increase your diversity, which will in turn make your company more desirable as a workplace and as a vendor to your customers.
If you want any more advice or are interested in talking through some of these tips, please reach out! You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.