IFDF Funeral Profession 2022 Series - Interview with Mariah Ballard
IFDF Blog Series
Funeral Profession 2022 ~ Perspectives and Influencers
The Independent Funeral Directors of Florida's mission is to promote, enhance and perpetuate independently owned and operated funeral homes, crematory, and cemetery firms in the state of Florida.
Each month for our blog, Colette Kemp, IFDF Communications Committee Co-Chair, interviews people from our profession to provide insights and perspectives that may be helpful to funeral professionals and independent funeral home owners as they grow their businesses and serve their families.
It’s no secret that hiring is currently a significant concern for many small businesses in the United States, and the funeral profession is also being affected by this challenging situation.
As a business owner myself, I understand how stressful day-to-day operations can be when you are short-staffed. This is why it's essential to have a recruitment strategy in place to ensure that you always have the right people for the job.
While finding and hiring the right person can be time-consuming, you can do a few things to make the process easier for yourself.
- Make sure you have a written job description and outline what skills, qualifications, and experience you are looking for in an applicant.
- Advertise your position in different channels, including social media, job boards, and referral networks.
Bonus Tip: Visit this link on how to use social media for applicant screening by SHRM https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/tools-and-samples/how-to-guides/pages/howtousesocialmediaforapplicantscreening.aspx
- Be prepared with a list of questions that will help you assess whether or not someone is suitable for the position before they walk in your door.
- Make sure that your company has a recruitment policy in place and that it clearly outlines how applicants should be treated during the interview process - from first contact to follow-up after an interview has taken place.
- Conduct interviews face-to-face - phone interviews don't provide enough information about an applicant's personality, and it also allows for distractions. If you wish to interview candidates outside your geographical area, use Zoom rather than the phone. You will be able to see how they show up, and you can determine if you have rapport with them because you can see each other.
Another option for recruiting is to use a third party or outside recruitment service.
As this monthly blog is about “perspectives,” I thought it would be good to hear from a professional recruiter and get their tips and thoughts on hiring funeral professionals.
Mariah Ballard is a search consultant for independent funeral homes. She specializes in supporting them to find qualified people to serve families.
Ms. Ballard is the first point of contact for all the funeral homes she works with, and she has helped them find qualified professionals in the past. She always looks for passionate people about caring for others and can empathize with a families' needs.
Thank you for agreeing to speak with us, Mariah, to get things started. Could you tell our readers a little about yourself, your company, and what you do?
I am a search consultant with gpac, a national executive placement firm. https://gogpac.com/
I work on behalf of our clients, searching for top professionals to join their staff. We only work with the top candidates in the field, meaning we have an extensive vetting process to ensure each candidate's skill set, work experience, values, and personality fit our clients' needs.
As someone who sources funeral service professionals for independently owned firms, are you seeing increased demand for staff at the moment? Which positions are most in-demand and why?
Our funeral team here at gpac is relatively new - it has been around for about a year now due to the rising need for funeral service professionals. We have placed candidates anywhere from apprentices/interns to Area Managers, but most firms are short-staffed and urgently need funeral directors/embalmers.
What's the biggest hiring challenge independent owners are facing?
When they post ads online for a licensed funeral director, I hear that they get responses from students looking for apprenticeships or people from entirely different fields interested in learning how to become a funeral director. Also, qualified candidates usually receive multiple job offers because everyone is short-staffed right now. Using a third party can solve this problem because we build strong relationships with our candidates. We make sure to find out all other places they are actively considering and how they rank each job opportunity. We help our clients tailor offers that cannot be refused because the candidate gives us more personal information about their needs than they would a potential employer.
One of the things I think you can do for our members is to help them see things from the applicants' perspective.
We've touched on the owners' challenges, but what about your applicants?
What's the biggest challenge they face in today's funeral profession job market?
Finding companies that guarantee a healthy work-life balance. Of course, that is hard because of the profession in itself, but if your staff only has one day off every two weeks and is usually called in on their only day off, it can cause stress in their personal lives or physical or mental well-being.
What are candidates looking for in a funeral home, and what's trending in importance to them? For example, are you seeing people more concerned with salary and benefits or work-life balance?
There are many factors. Firms with leaders who recognize and reward their efforts and a compensation/benefits package that reflects today's economy and a steady schedule are all equally important.
Do applicants reach out to you when they are ready to leave a job? How does that typically work for you?
We actively reach out to everyone on a daily basis. Coming across people at that exact moment when they have decided enough is enough is just based on the fact that our funeral services team here at gpac reaches out to thousands of people weekly.
How can independent firms attract the best professionals, and how can they stand out in a marketplace where they may be competing with large corporations that have HR departments and large recruiting budgets?
Having a work culture that attracts people to their firm is the first step. The second step is to consider using a third-party recruiting service. They can have the best work environment, the friendliest team, and the best compensation and benefits, but no one will know unless someone is letting people know on their behalf. They do not have time to actively recruit top talent unless they have a full-time in-house recruiter working around the clock.
What's the most challenging part of your job, and what's most rewarding?
I have a background in sales, both business to business and consumer. This is the most meaningful sales position I have had because I get to help so many people. Assisting an owner to find someone after interviewing people for two years and also assisting people in leaving bad situations to go on a new journey. Receiving recognition and gratitude is the most rewarding thing.
What do you think associations like the IFDF could do to support recruitment efforts in the profession?
Inform independently owned firms that they cannot recruit today the way they did 5-10 years ago. Innovative recruiting efforts are required to be successful, and if they do not have the time to use these creative techniques themselves, it is best to find someone else who can do so on their behalf.
Thank you for your insights, Mariah; if someone wants to connect with you, how can they reach you?
To get in touch, readers may email me at Mariah.Ballard@goGPAC.com or call me directly at 605.679.9936 at any time.
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