The Fourth “R”: Recruitment

Protect your commitment to recycle, reduce and reuse by eco-proofing your hiring process.

You use organic product lines, rely on paper-less marketing, employ energy-efficient appliances and go to great lengths to ensure that the treatments on your day spa’s service menu satisfy clients’ sustainability standards. However, eco-conscious industry experts agree that there’s one operational variable out of your control, even at the greenest of facilities: your staff.

As patrons become increasingly environmentally conscious, it’s crucial that you’re able to count on eco-savvy employees to carry out your green initiatives, and further reduce the size of your spa’s carbon footprint. “It’s always beneficial when new hires actively participate in a green lifestyle; it ensures that a connection already exists between the company culture and their values,” says Cici Coffee, CEO of the übergreen Natural Body Spa and Shop, which has locations throughout Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Florida and Kansas.

Although it’s unrealistic to expect the average employee to have earned a degree in environmental studies (and illegal to mandate that job candidates subscribe to a holistic philosophy), there are subtle ways to integrate a distinctly green message into your recruiting process, job interviews and orientation sessions. Below, several environmentally committed spa professionals share time-tested methods that attract sustainability superstars.

Where to Fish

You can spare yourself some weed-out hassle by being strategic about where, and how, you broadcast open positions at your spa. Before she advertises openings at Ultimate Realm of Serenity in Norman, Oklahoma, owner Monica Marsh seeks leads from those who most fully understand Ultimate Realm’s mission: her community network of neighbors who embrace a similar approach to business.

“There’s a local acupuncturist who’s active in the green movement,” Marsh explains. “He has referred several like-minded individuals my way. That’s where we find most of our massage therapists.”
Marsh also sits on the academic advisory boards of several massage and skincare therapy schools that adhere to holistic practices. “In exchange for my time, knowledge and experience, these schools’ counselors are always willing to help me recruit therapists who are dedicated to working in a green establishment.”

Coffee of Natural Body has had success using online career services provided by schools with a stated sustainability mission, such as the Atlanta School of Massage. “Candidates from these networks show up to interviews brimming with environmental passion,” she raves.

Conducting research into the ideology driving local hiring forums has proved beneficial for Ayde Mendibles. This owner of Body del Sol Medical Spa in Fresno, California, discovered a local site,, on which she now immediately posts available positions.

Generic job posting forums such as classified newspaper sections and Craigslist can also help. However, experts advise against indicating that preference will be given to “eco-heroes,” as doing so could land you in a legal quagmire for discrimination. However, using select keywords helps to attract green applicants. “We’ve learned through trial and error to emphasize our green approach in online job ads, and link to our very Earth-focused website,” Marsh says.

Scott Kerschbaumer, owner of Pittsburgh-based ESSpa Kozmetika Organic Skin Care, believes that Craigslist’s huge audience renders it a surprisingly useful hiring tool, provided employers supply the right details. “By posting a specific—and probably lengthy—job description, you weed out lackadaisical candidates,” he explains. “We always include bullet points to spell out our green way of business, urge applicants to study our website before contacting us and include a ‘buzzword’ at the end for job seekers to include in the subject line of their application emails. That way, we know who actually read through the position requirements.”

A clear, focused website is crucial in driving home your spa’s message of environmental consciousness and attracting like-minded applicants. “Communicate your brand more emphatically, and the most fitting candidates will come your way naturally,” Kerschbaumer says. “For lack of a better word, it’s an ‘organic’ process.”

A clear, focused website is crucial in driving home your spa’s message of environmental consciousness and attracting like-minded applicants.

Careful Questioning

Once you’ve opted to contact or interview an applicant, much of the remainder of the process depends on something that comes naturally to spa professionals: intuitively reading people. “I always have candidates tell us about their community outreach initiatives,” Coffee says. “It’s a great way to find out whether they’re ‘others’- or ‘me-centric’. The latter is a non-starter for a day spa environment.”

During interviews, it’s important to clue in to indications that the candidate actively embraces a green lifestyle. “If someone is eco-savvy at home, it’s only natural for that attitude to carry over to a work environment,” Marsh says. “When we don’t have to train and remind new hires to ‘be green’, other staff members can focus time and energy on improving their own job performance, as well as marketing efforts and customer service.”

Maritsa Victorian, director of Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary, a founding member of the Green Spa Network ( that’s based in Freestone, California, suggests conducting an initial telephone interview to save time. “We inquire as to candidates’ personal practices with regard to sustainability, and if we like what we hear, we invite them in,” she explains. “Then we take them on a tour of our facility that helps us gauge their familiarity with practices such as composting, recycling gray water and using solar power.”

Brad Drummer, co-owner of the LEED-certified, Washington, D.C.-based Nusta Spa, cautions against being blinded by green, however. “At its core, service drives this industry, so during interviews, I primarily ask myself, ‘Is this someone who’s going to empower the client to feel better, or will she simply perform extractions?’ ” he says. “Those individuals most in tune with the human environment are usually the most amenable to our environmentally focused business model, whether they previously embraced sustainable practices or not.”

To Green-finity and Beyond

Once a promising candidate is on board, you’ll want to build upon the eco-momentum established during the interview. On new hires’ first day at Nusta, Drummer leads a tour in which he describes the environmental impact borne by each aspect of the facility. Once prospective Osmosis employees clear the final hiring hoops, they’re treated to an organic facial.

“Throughout the service, we teach them about the products used, and inform them of those product companies’ eco-conscious practices,” Victorian says. The message continues to resound in Osmosis’ handbook, video session (which shows employees the various ways in which Osmosis contributes to its community) and in-person training.

Though most eco-savvy employees have deeply personal reasons for embracing sustainability practices, incentives can do wonders to boost their morale. Body del Sol employees receive a gift card to a local organic restaurant when they suggest new green practices that Mendibles can incorporate. Coffee keeps the bar high by recognizing those employees in each of Natural Body’s locations who go out of their way to practice the “three ‘R’s” as “Eco Heroes of the Month.” At Osmosis, Victorian awards role models in this arena with Go-Locals cards that allow employees to patronize neighboring businesses and earn more rewards. Employees can also utilize carpooling sign-up sheets to coordinate gas efficiency.

Though they require a measure of added strategy, experts say the rewards of green recruitment methods extend beyond benefiting spa operations. “During training, all our employees learn to live greener, and often tell us about how our practices have carried over to their habits at home,” Mendibles says. “That’s incredible to hear.”

Green-screening your team also helps to keep you, as the employer, up to eco-savvy clients’ standards. “Conscientious hires are going to ensure you’re doing what you’re saying, that you’re following through in thoroughly green treatments and business practices,” Kerschbaumer concludes. “Because if you’re not actually doing it, the ‘true-greens’ will be the first ones out the door.” •