Onboarding first-time employees?
Set them up for success with tips from Scentcerely Yours owners Rob and Susi Brucato

Meet the owners: 

Rob and Susi left their finance careers behind to provide a custom candle-making experience to the residents of Geneva, Illinois at Scentcerely Yours. Three years later, the couple’s unique ability to help customers tell their own stories through scent has made them a staple in the community.



Onboarding anyone can be difficult, but bringing on employees who’ve never had a job before comes with its own set of risks and challenges. We’ve hired many high school and college students with no prior experience and have been very successful (and lucky!) with the outcome. All it takes is a little tailoring to your strategy. 

Set expectations 

It’s important to remind yourself that your new employee has never had a job and isn’t used to being in a workplace. While we have a business to run and set expectations for our entire team, we always keep in mind this is new territory for high school students and first-time employees. Communicate openly and honestly about what is expected right from the beginning. 

Adapt training to their learning style  

Pay close attention to — and ask questions about — how they learn.  Be flexible (within reason) and adjust your standing training strategy so they can easily buy into the process.  

This shows that you genuinely care about their progress, and that goes a long way towards cultivating a committed, passionate employee — and getting them excited about what lies ahead.

Switch gears when interviewing 

Interviewing candidates who are new to the workforce takes a different decision-making style. Since they have no prior experience, there is nothing concrete to judge them on. During the hiring process, instead focus on their:

  • Personality
  • Character traits
  • Potential
  • Communication style

Trusting your gut isn’t always recommended when hiring new employees — but in this case, it’s important. We have hired many first-time employees, and while several of them were very quiet and reserved during the interview process, our gut feel was that they had a good work ethic and would fit with our culture.  

Three of these employees turned out to be some of our superstars. They love the job and have expressed that working at Scentcerely Yours has boosted their confidence, increased their people skills, and helped them envision their long-term career goals. 

Explain culture and core values  

Spend more time educating your newbies on the importance of culture and core values —after all, they have no preconceived notions of these concepts. This can be done with new employee forms and onboarding. Core values explain expectations and operating principles, and we make sure to share with all employees that we don’t just talk the talk, but we walk the walk as well.  

We want our employees to see everyone (owners, managers, and employees) doing whatever it takes to create an exceptional customer experience. We also make it a point to spend a lot of time emphasizing culture and the impact it has on the customer experience, as well as an employee’s happiness and commitment to the job.  

Our consistent message about culture is “you better like the people you work with and the job that you do or you won’t be happy.”  While that seems so simplistic and obvious, it is often overlooked.  We would rather be brutally honest and transparent upfront so all of our employees know about the environment/culture they will be working in.

Emphasize that you want to help them grow

Communicate to the employee that you consider their personal and professional growth to be just as important as their success in the workplace. While they likely have some anxiety and stress about their first job, we make it a point to tell them that we’ll do whatever we can to help them grow in other areas of life.  

We want to show them right up front that we care. This simple statement goes a long way and has a positive impact on the employees’ perception of the company, job, and manager/owner.

Say thank you often  

Show your appreciation throughout the day by saying a simple “thank you” to the employees for things they do. Even if it is part of their job, they’ll appreciate it more than they’ll tell you. We always thank all of our employees at the end of their workday because we want them to leave on a positive note. 

This positivity sets the tone for the rest of their day/night, and also for their next scheduled shift.  

We have had numerous employees tell us how much they appreciate that simple “thank you” at the end of their shift. Again, it shows you care and that you appreciate your employees.

Whether you’re onboarding first-time employees or seasoned staff members, Homebase can help. We’ll automate your process by sending a customized welcome packet before the first day so they can e-sign all the necessary forms. Then, we’ll securely store those documents right in Homebase. Get started today! 

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