With the Spring selling season in full swing, you may have a wave of new orders. Maybe you have been considering hiring some new staff to help out. But you don’t want simply a warm body to fill the need. Like eating a cookie before dinner, that’s usually not the best choice.

Think bigger.

Here are some helpful things to consider when adding staff to your shop:

Hire for Attitude, Train for Skill

You’ve read this before, right?

Attitude is always incredibly important, especially in the decorated apparel industry.

When viewing potential candidates, consider their future potential. Not only for the current slot but three or four positions above that one.

Can you envision that person growing into a press operator or senior leader in a few years? Maybe even a manager?

I know it sounds like a cliche, but you need to build your bench strength for tomorrow, today. That’s certainly possible if you are considering the growth potential of any new hire.

As they say, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

Go Beyond a Job Description

In marketing your open slots for your team, don’t make it sound so boring.

Paint a bigger picture. Of course, describe what they will be doing and the pay range. That sets the tone and details core expectations.

But, what will attract better people is illustrating how awesome it is to work in your shop.

Let’s face it. This is a fun industry, composed of incredible people. What is it like to be part of your family in your shop? That needs to be in that job posting.

What do you or your employees tell your family or friends about your shop?

Sell your company just like you would to a customer.

After all, without great employees, you probably won’t have great customers either.

Baseline Aptitude – Teamwork

One quality that I’ve always looked for in potential hires for the shop was a candidate’s previous history in belonging to a team.

The culture in your shop is crucial to your success.

That lone wolf mentality doesn’t work out well usually. I like finding folks that have participated in sports or worked on projects as part of a bigger team.

That is a group dynamic that translates well to a company culture that you want to grow.

During the interview process have them describe their outlook on teamwork and how they personally have worked together to solve a challenge. The majority of the processes in your shop is handled by working with multiple people to complete tasks. Ontime and with quality.

You absolutely want to hear about how that candidate has worked with a group to have similar success.

What was their role? How did they contribute or helped solve a sticky situation?

The Interview Process

I’ve hired hundreds of people over the years.

The process for me starts with a phone call. This happens after I cull through the applications and decide, based on the information there, who might be a good fit.

On the call, I ask basic questions to get a sense of who they are as a person. I may clarify a point, or ask about a particular item on the resume that stood out.

It is a short phone call, no more than five minutes. I use the back of their resume or application to take notes about them.

If I have a good feeling about the candidate, they move to round two, which is the in-person interview. (Queue the serious business music here)

For our example for this article, let’s pretend we are interviewing Gary for a job as a puller for screen-print production.

Gary doesn’t have any experience in the industry but passed the phone interview. I liked his style on the phone and seemed relaxed and funny. He has enjoyed a stable working background and is looking for work as the company that employed him moved to another state.

He’s in the lobby now waiting for the in-person interview to start.

The receptionist is making a note of how he acts. Was he early? Dressed like a slob? Did he ask her questions or seem interested in the company information plastered all around the walls?

I’ll ask her about Gary when he leaves. Her opinion matters, just like anyone else we might meet while Gary is here. I’ll ask them about him too.


We’ll go into my office or a conference room for our initial in-person chat.

I handle the questions, but I like having another staff member in the interview with me. Ideally, this is your HR person or the manager of the department where Gary will be working. If you don’t have those, then someone that is a senior person in your shop will be fine.

They can ask and answer questions too, but their role is to be an observer.

What they are looking for are body language queues, interesting responses to my questions, and a general sense of the person. Especially if they will be managing this person. Their opinion is gold.

Don’t Ask Yes or No Questions

This really works. Over the years I’ve developed a good sense of people that is based on how they tell the story of their background.

Yes or No questions don’t pull out as much detail as getting Gary to describe his experiences.

“Tell me a story about how you…”

“In your last job you had to learn that equipment. Explain that process and how you learn best…”

“Describe to me an instance where you…”

“At one of your previous jobs can you describe a mistake you made and what you learned from it?”

I’m sure you get the idea. The goal is for the candidate to tell you a story. Of course, it matters what they are saying, but pay attention to other things too.

Are they nervous telling it? Confident? Does it seem authentic? Do they blame other people or humble about how they faced challenges?

Watch their body language. Are they engaged with eye contact and an open and friendly posture? Do they shift in their seat and have their arms crossed over their belly?

The second person in the room will be paying attention to these details. You’ll be too engrossed in the conversation to notice all the details.

After Gary leaves, his potential manager and I will have a discussion about what they liked or didn’t like.

The Shop Tour

If my gut tells me that the candidate could potentially be hired, we’ll go out on a shop tour.

However, if something happens during the interview where I feel that the candidate won’t be hired, then the process stops right there. No tour. I thank them for their time and end the interview.

But our example candidate, Gary, did well. He earned the nickel tour.

Despite not having an industry background, his answers were strong and I like that he is a tennis player with good hand-eye coordination.

During this ten to fifteen minute event, we quickly walk around the shop. I purposely walk fast. This is a test to see if Gary has the hustle to keep up. If he is four paces behind me, that can be a signal that he doesn’t have much drive.

I’ll explain our processes, but doing it in a way that should make Gary ask questions if he is interested.

This is the key reason for doing the shop tour. Engagement. You want to see if Gary projects himself in the role of working for the company. Does he see himself doing that work?

People that walk two steps behind you and only nod their head at everything you say, don’t work out as well as the ones that want to know “what does that thing over there do?”

Is Gary really interested in what we are doing, or will this just be a paycheck for him?

What I’m looking for is for Gary to ask tons of questions. Especially in the work area where he will be stationed. Seven million bonus points are awarded if Gary starts taking notes, or linking a previous job he had with something in the shop.

Excitement and Engagement Say Hire Me

After all these years I can tell who will work out usually. Sure, I’ve been wrong. Sometimes you get fooled.

But I’m more often on the money.

Even if the job is in the screen room reclaiming frames, you can tell when someone “gets it”. They are excited about the position and the opportunity ahead of them.

For open positions, I like to have a few candidates to consider. I keep a folder with the stack of resumes/applications in order of preference. The top dog is always the king of the mountain. They are the one to beat.

At the end of the hiring process, I’ll gather all my notes and discuss the option with the key management team. I want the area manager to be confident that the person selected is someone they are comfortable with for their crew.

Offering the right person a job is always a good feeling.

Ring, ring, ring.

“Gary? Hey, I just wanted to say congratulations and offer you the position…”



“You are only as good as the people you hire.” – Ray Kroc

“If you compromise and hire someone mediocre, you will always regret it.” – Sam Altman

“Hire the best people, and trust what you hired them to do.” – D.B. Sweeney



Production Manager Tool

From day one, we’ve been devoted to making InkSoft the most useful tool for printing and customization professionals across the industry. While thousands of users are growing their businesses with InkSoft Stores and the Design Studio, we know we still have a lot of work to do to help print shops run more efficiently.

The next big step is a production management tool. We want to bring InkSoft full circle by providing a powerful way for you to streamline production and communication, ultimately boosting profitability and reducing costly mistakes. Not to mention, solving the challenges outlined in this article.