J P Pest Services wants to plant a bug in the ears of job seekers.

“Being a professional isn’t something we take lightly around here. It takes integrity, passion, a bit of the wild side. It takes grit, focus, drive,” declares the narrator of its recruitment video on YouTube. “Point is, we take being a professional to heart.”

What's Working

The video helped boost applications at the Milford-based company. So did shortening its job application.

“You’ve got to think millennial,” said Glenn Moir, who works in the company’s human resources office. “Everything’s on the go. They don’t have time. We cater to them now and make it easier for them. Then we can dig in deeper later.”

The moves left company officials less anxious about finding new workers.

After the changes, about 2,090 applications flowed in during the first four months of 2019 compared to 658 during the same time frame in 2018 for the company, which serves all six New England states.

“Just the amount of people we can pick and choose from was tremendous,” Moir said in a recent interview before coronavirus precautions shuttered most businesses. The state, however, considers exterminators an essential business that can continue operating.

Hiking the pay also meant “we started to get a higher quality applicant also,” he said.

Money and messaging often prove a winning formula. The National Pest Management Association is spending more than $200,000 to exterminate misconceptions about working in the pest control business.

“Basically, there’s not always an image that it’s a professional industry, which it is,” said Cindy Mannes, the association’s vice president of public affairs.

The association will use the internet as the vehicle to drive home that message.

“The world is changing in terms of the types of careers that are available and how people are consuming information,” Mannes said. “We have to be where people are looking.”

The pest-control industry competes with construction, manufacturing and landscaping, so those working on the association’s project did extensive research on how those industries were wooing job seekers.

“The first thing we saw is every single industry had a very strong digital component and strong messaging related to their industry and why they should join that industry,” Mannes said, “and they were all run by trade associations.”

The pest management group hired a Pennsylvania marketing firm to overhaul its image. The association hopes to unveil its new website in October at the association’s convention in Nashville.

One group studied, the National Association of Landscape Professionals, saw a 340% increase in the number of people applying for the jobs through the association’s website for the year ending March 2019, according to Jennifer Myers, senior director of workforce development at the Virginia-based landscapers group.

“I don’t think that would have happened without all the work we’ve been doing, without promotion of the site,” Myers said in a recent phone interview. “Our industry knows about the site and are posting the jobs.”

The website includes a jobs board and information on apprenticeship programs. The pest management association wants to include hosting an online jobs board.

“All messaging will demonstrate the value of professional pest control when it comes to protecting homes, families and businesses, and will position the industry more as a people business, and not solely a bug business,” said the workforce development business plan developed by Vault Communications.

For Josh Brady of Anchor Pest Services in Manchester, it wasn’t a problem finding candidates to hire last year, it was holding on to them.

Brady, who co-owns the business, said he offered jobs to about a half-dozen people last year.

“Half of them said yes and didn’t show,” Brady said during a recent spraying job outside a North End home in Manchester.

Other new hires he phoned the night before they started told him they had moved on to something else but neglected to notify him.

This year, he raised the minimum monthly pay from $2,500 to $3,000 a month. He expects to hire three more workers — one full-time and two seasonal — later this year.

“Most people we’ve had to train fresh,” Brady said, including getting them to secure a required state license.

What’s Working, a series exploring solutions for New Hampshire’s workforce needs, is sponsored by the New Hampshire Solutions Journalism Lab at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications and is funded by Eversource, the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, the New Hampshire College & University Council, Northeast Delta Dental and the New Hampshire Coalition for Business and Education.

Contact reporter Michael Cousineau at mcousineau@unionleader.com. To read stories in the series, visit unionleader.com/whatsworking.

Friday, August 07, 2020
Saturday, August 01, 2020
Tuesday, July 28, 2020