Recruiting and engaging a new employee can be a stressful experience for any business. In the funeral profession, this is compounded by the fact that demand often exceeds supply when it comes to funeral directors. In the past, it was normal for the next generation of funeral home owners to take over the reins from their parents but this legacy trend has diminished over the last few years. These days, the new crop of funeral directors often have little or no experience in funeral service and are the first in their family to enter the funeral profession.
According to recent statistics from the American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE), the general profile of today’s funeral service graduates is overwhelmingly female, and most of them are fairly young and inexperienced (in 2018, 48% of new funeral service students were age 25 or less, and 30% enrolled with just a high school diploma). Also, keep in mind that potential funeral service employees are spoiled for choice — due to a strong economy and increases in minimum wage across the nation, many young people choose to enter the workforce immediately rather than sign up for more education. As such, the person who enrolls in funeral service education does so because they want to, and this is an encouraging sign of the level of commitment that a new funeral director hire will bring to the table.
Qualities to Look For When Hiring
Since there is a demand for high-performing employees in the funeral profession, hiring a new funeral director entails significant preparation and patience. Finding the right person to join your team is both a financial and emotional investment, and a bad hire can negatively impact profits and affect your funeral home’s reputation. It might take numerous interviews before you find the right fit. As you begin the search process, here are five distinct qualities to look for in your next funeral director:
It goes without saying that a funeral director should always put the customer first. Recent findings from a survey conducted by the Johnson Consulting Group show that families respond positively when the arranging funeral director effectively listens to their needs, works hard to meet their expectations and keeps lines of communication open. Unsatisfied families gave low ratings for impersonal or unprofessional first interactions. These results highlight how important customer service is to a funeral home’s overall growth and success. A funeral director should maintain a strong customer focus and make every effort to ensure families receive excellent care and service at all times.
Funeral directors are present during one of the worst moments a family can experience, and they must be able to show empathy for their families as they embark on the grief journey of losing a loved one. Being on-call 24/7 is part of the job, but having the ability to emotionally place yourself in another person’s shoes and respond with sincere compassion and understanding is crucial. It’s not enough to just be sympathetic—funeral directors who truly empathize with their families become part of the family. Nothing can replace this connection, and in return it drives success for the funeral home through positive reviews and a fiercely loyal customer base.
To ensure operational productivity and positive employee morale, potential funeral directors hires need to be able to work well with other members of the team. If the new addition does not mesh with the rest of the staff, or ends up becoming toxic to the company culture, your bottom line and your funeral home’s reputation could both suffer. During the interview process you can identify team players by asking specific behavioral and situational questions, and objectively evaluating their responses based on your own experiences and expectations.
As consumer preferences for funerals evolve and cremation rates continue to grow, funeral directors need to possess a creative spark to meet the varying needs and expectations of at-need families. An effective funeral professional should be innovative, proactive and willing to go above and beyond when planning funeral arrangements, driving growth or developing ideas to strengthen your funeral home’s reputation.
The steady impact of technology in the funeral and cemetery profession can no longer be ignored. Funeral directors need to embrace technology and understand how it can be used to transform and differentiate their funeral home’s products and services. This means offering more than just a static website—a tech-savvy funeral director should be able to operate diverse, online platforms and sales systems to manage daily operations and provide modern solutions that families have come to expect.
Ask any funeral director about what they do and almost all will say their work is a “calling.” Funeral service professionals are committed to helping people cope with the overwhelming tragedy of losing a loved one, and they give their all to support families as they make funeral arrangements. Funeral directors are truly a special breed, which is why hiring a good one is no easy task. It takes time to find the right person, and it’s important to know which distinct qualities to look for before, during and after the employment process.