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Hiring Cleaners: How to Find Workers and Grow Your Cleaning Business

May 1, 2023 10 min. read
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It’s hard to find good employees for your cleaning business. And when you do, it can be even more challenging to keep them.

Don’t worry, it’s not just you. According to cleaning industry expert Katie Pearse (Glisten Academy), staffing is by far the toughest part of running a housecleaning business.

But it’s worthwhile when you succeed. You’re creating careers for hardworking cleaners, helping your clients, and growing your business in the process.

Here’s how to confidently find, hire, and retain new cleaners for your business—along with some tried-and-true advice from Katie to prove it works.

For even more advice on hiring new employees, hear from five other home service pros in this episode of Ask a Business Mentor:

Hiring cleaners: how to know it’s time

It’s most likely time for you to start hiring employees if:

  • Your schedule is consistently full, you’re waitlisting new clients, and there’s enough work to keep another cleaner busy long-term
  • The business is doing well financially and can handle the expense of an extra employee (including wages, taxes, and benefits)
  • You have enough time to focus on hiring and properly training a new cleaner
  • Hiring another cleaner will help you offer new services, like laundry or carpet cleaning

If any of those situations sound familiar, you’re ready to grow your team.

How to prepare for hiring cleaners

Before hiring cleaners, you’ll need to complete several tasks to stay compliant with federal and state labor laws. Here’s a quick overview of what your to-do list should include:

  • Apply for an employer identification number (EIN) through the IRS
  • Register with your state labor department
  • Be ready to report the employee’s information to your state’s new hire reporting agency
  • Get a payroll system in place to help you keep accurate records
  • Get workers’ compensation insurance
  • Write an employment contract or at-will agreement (and get a lawyer to look it over)
  • Create an employee handbook, if you don’t already have one
  • Get a personal data form that your employee can fill out for payroll purposes
  • Assemble an info package about disability, family leave, and other federal policies
  • Create standard operating procedures for every task you do (hint: our house cleaning checklist can help you get started)
  • Set up a workplace safety program
  • If you have an office, put up the required federal posters about worker rights
  • Order employee uniforms (or be ready to order when you get your new hires’ preferred sizes)

How to pay your cleaning employees

Before you start looking for employees, you need to know how you’ll be compensating them. This will be important information to include in your job posting!

Here’s what to offer cleaners:

  • Good cleaner salary well above minimum wage
  • Paid breaks, meetings, and travel time
  • Paid mileage (if they’re using their personal vehicle on the job)
  • Health benefits and insurance
  • Bonuses and other incentives
  • Scheduled raises
  • Flexible working hours
  • Paid holidays and vacation
  • Uniform and cleaning supplies

You’ll also be able to attract better employees if you offer a positive culture and a business where cleaners want to work.

How to hire cleaners in 6 steps

You’re ready to grow your team and start hiring cleaners—but how and where do you find them? To get the answers, watch Katie Pearse’s video about her hiring experience, then keep reading!

1. Identify your ideal employee

First, figure out what type of people would do well in your business. College students? Parents re-entering the workforce after staying home with their kids? Professionals looking for part-time evening hours?

Whatever your ideal employee might be, make sure their lifestyle and job needs match up with the role you’re hiring for. This will give you a much better chance of finding the right fit for the job.

For example, maybe you’re looking for someone to handle midday cleaning. Your ideal cleaner could be a stay-at-home parent who only has a few hours to work while the kids are at school.

Pro Tip: Already have a team of cleaners but looking to hire more? Get more people just like your current workers with an employee referral program.

2. Write a job description and posting

Job descriptions are an internal list of employee tasks and responsibilities. This sets expectations for your employee and helps you evaluate their performance.

When you’re writing a house cleaner job description, you’ll need to answer questions like:

  • Will the employee schedule new jobs, create quotes, or send invoices?
  • Will they interact with customers, whether in person or by text or email?
  • Do you need them to work specific days or hours?
  • How many jobs will they need to complete each day?
  • What cleaning duties will they be responsible for?

READ MORE: Employee hiring and engagement tips from 6 industry experts

Next, create a job posting that you can share online to market the job to potential applicants. It builds on the responsibilities laid out in your job description and should also include:

  • Company overview
  • Position summary
  • Personality characteristics
  • Job requirements (phone, driver’s license, their own car, previous physical labor or cleaning experience, clean criminal record)
  • Hours (full-time, part-time, days, times)
  • Compensation (wages, benefits, vacation, incentive, perks)
  • Additional information candidates should know (background check, drug testing)
  • A request for at least two references
  • How they can apply (email, web form, through the posting)

Pro Tip: Make your job posting sound like the people you want to hire. For example, if you want your staff to be friendly and professional, make your posting friendly and professional, too.

3. Advertise the job

How do you market to cleaners? Simple—you already know what type of person you’re looking for, so find the places where they spend time. Then you just need to create a message that attracts and connects with them.

Here’s how to reach and where to find employees for your cleaning business:

  • A Careers page on your website (ideally with a job form for applicants to fill out!)
  • Job boards like Indeed, Craigslist, Kijiji, Monster, Glassdoor, and ZipRecruiter
  • Social media, including job and interest groups for your community
  • Branded flyers and signs advertising the job
  • Approaching hard workers at large businesses and inviting them to contact you for a job
  • Referrals and recommendations from your clients, other employees, friends, and family
  • Applicants who previously applied for a different position
  • Past employees you want to hire again (or who might know someone worth hiring)
  • Job fairs and career days
  • Professional recruiters

READ MORE: Get expert hiring tips from Nick Huber (The Sweaty Startup)

Share your job posting on these platforms, and don’t be afraid to put a little budget behind your efforts. After all, you’re paying to market to clients—you should be doing the same to attract cleaners.

You can try several platforms to see what works for your business. For Katie, the best results were with Kijiji.

We tried a few different things like Monster and Facebook, but it was always Kijiji that worked like a charm.

Katie Pearse Glisten Academy

4. Interview candidates

As you start to receive and sort through applications, start making a shortlist of candidates you’d like to meet with.

These are the qualities that Katie and her partner looked for in their applicants when they first started hiring:

  • Experience: You can lose time and money training people who are new to cleaning and might quit after a few months, according to Katie. You may need to hire people without experience, but try to look for those who do—especially if they want to make a career out of it. They already know how to do the job and understand how hard it is!
  • Independence: Look for applicants who show they’re independent, motivated, and able to work without a supervisor—but can still work as part of a team. “You need people who like to work on their own, because you are working alone most of the time,” says Katie. “You might have a partner, but you’re not working side by side.”
  • Friendliness: Your cleaners are part of a team, so they should get along well with others. They’ll often communicate with clients on your behalf, too, so they should be friendly and professional. In many ways, your cleaners are the face of your company, so they need to make a good impression and represent your brand appropriately.
  • Commitment: Your employees need to show up every day, no ifs, ands, or buts. “You have to be committed to serving your clientele,” says Katie. “If you don’t show up, nobody else can step in. I had staff with such high commitment that they would be upset if they got sick. They felt bad that their clients weren’t going to get their houses cleaned.”

READ MORE: Attract employees with these expert hiring tips

When you have your shortlist, book an interview with each candidate, ask questions, and get to know them. This will tell you if they’re likely to be a valuable member of your team.

Pro Tip: You might find it useful to have group job interviews and auditions. This can cut down on no-shows and wasted time. You can also see how your candidates get along with each other and work together.

5. Hold paid auditions

Some cleaning companies hold paid on-the-job auditions. This involves taking candidates along with current employees to help tackle real cleaning jobs while they’re being closely supervised.

Here’s Katie’s experience with auditions:

I pay them for the audition but explain they had to pass the audition to become an employee.

I say, ‘The manager will tell you what to do; just do your best.’ You have to know how your cleaners clean. There’s no point going through the hiring process with someone if they can’t clean or don’t show potential to learn.

Katie Pearse Glisten Academy

Pay closer attention to attitude than technique during the audition. Maybe a candidate takes longer to vacuum, but they’re paying attention to the details and they’re open to learning how to do better.

At the end of the audition, share constructive feedback so the candidate knows what they did well. You can pay them by check or e-transfer, regardless of whether or not you’re hiring them.

6. Hire the successful candidate

Depending on how interviews and auditions go, you may end up with one or more candidates who would do well on the job.

You’ll recognize a great employee right away, so trust your instincts. Make them an offer in writing, get their signature, and start filling out the paperwork for their first day.

If your candidates are only so-so, though, don’t hire one—you may end up firing them and finding yourself back where you started.

READ MORE: Kristen Hadeed’s 5-minute team-building activities

Retaining your cleaning employees

Katie and her partner built a core group of eight cleaners who stayed with the company for years. But to get there, over 200 employees came and went, often lasting only a few months.

In the early years of Katie’s business, the churn of staff coming and going was a constant grind. She finally figured out that money wasn’t the best motivator.

In later years we were paying almost double what we paid in the first years.

But the same amount of people didn’t make it through training and ended up leaving. It didn’t improve our retention at all.

Katie Pearse Glisten Academy

Fortunately, Katie found three other factors that did motivate staff to stay:

  • Benefits: When Katie’s company put a health benefits program in place, it changed everything. “People started looking at our company as a place for a career,” says Katie. “We couldn’t afford 100%, but we asked for the best package possible and paid 50%. Staff had health care, vision, dental. It showed that we cared.”
  • Autonomy: Katie trusted her staff to be in charge and make their own decisions, which gave them pride in their jobs. She says, “You’ve got to have your staff be your representatives. I was always huge on empowering them and giving them all the tools they needed to make decisions. They never had to run things through me.”
  • Connection: The cleaners who connect with clients and care about helping them are far more likely to stick around. Katie recommends looking for this trait during the hiring process and encouraging staff to develop it. “You genuinely have to care about your clientele, and you have to be committed to serving them,” she says.

READ MORE: Learn how to get more clients for your cleaning business

Hiring and retaining employees takes a lot of time and effort, and sometimes it can feel like an uphill struggle. You’re experiencing growing pains—and that’s completely normal!

Keep at it and don’t give up. Before you know it, your cleaning business will have a dedicated, hardworking team of cleaners who care about your clients just as much as you do.

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