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Interiorscape Forum / Scaper Talk Discussion Forum / Human Resources / What do YOU want in an employee?
Posted:  15 Jul 2013 01:53  

I've become really interested in interiorscaping as a career move. I'm in school for Horticulture, and currently work full-time as a gardener in traditional landscaping. I'm considering applying to a well respected local company, but have no current experience in interiorscaping. It sounds like a blast, but I'd like to be prepared should they interview me and have an idea if I'm really the good fit I think I am.

My question is this: What would you want to see if I was your prospective candidate for an introductory horticulture position? Any specific things (knowledge base/education/experience/interest/personality traits/etc.) that you'd be looking for in particular?

Any and all responses are greatly appreciated!!!

Thanks very much,
Posted:  16 Jul 2013 00:18  
Hi, Lauren,
It may become "a blast" for you at some point, but it's pretty physical work, and it's demanding of your organizational and people skills as well as your horticultural knowledge and skills.  You'll be doing a lot of walking, bending stooping, carrying, going up and down stairs and ladders, climbing in and out of planters and beds, and hauling water all over creation (hopefully in a watering machine and not two 2-gallon watering cans).

That said, you sound enthused about the job, so here goes:

Knowledge base: can be very helpful if it's well-grounded in facts and/or experience; can be dangerous if it's based on the weak foundation of old wives' tales and internet lore about indoor plants.  I recommend one book for you to read before you get started: The Healthy Indoor Plant by Rosemarie Rossetti and Charles C. Powell.  You can thank me later.

Education: a basic hort education is always beneficial, but emphasis is on the word "basic"...unless you have been blessed with some formal education in tropical indoor foliage, breadth of knowledge is more important than depth.  Most hort programs barely cover interiorscaping.

Experience: none needed, and in fact I almost prefer it that way when I hire.  I don't want somebody else's mis-trained or burned-out technician.  I want my techs to learn how I do things, because our clients like it that way.  And the bottom line is this: success in the interiorscaping business is all about pleasing your clients.

Interest: I like well-rounded people, because they are usually like sponges about learning new fields of endeavor.  I don't expect a technician to be committed to a life of caring for interior plants, so a willing blank slate is a good thing. 

Personality traits: because interiorscape maintenance is a mostly solitary job, a tech needs to be organized, trustworthy, honest, a good communicator, a self-starter and a friendly person with a respectful attitude toward clients, employers and managers and co-workers and the general public.  You must be a team player even though your team may consist of you alone most of the time, because you are part of the bigger team that comprises your company.  Oh, and I like people with clean driving records and a neat appearance.  Nothing makes a manager or owner sorrier he/she hired a tech than having to continually put out fires dealing with motor vehicle crises or freaked-out clients reporting weirdly-attired people infesting their offices.

Wishing you all the luck going into your new career, and feel free to get back to us once you've gotten your feet wet.
Posted:  18 Jul 2013 03:43  
Thanks, Clem; This is just the sort of advice I was looking for. I've ordered the book and will take your comments into consideration. I really appreciate you having taken the time to fill me in!

All Best,
Posted:  18 Jul 2013 19:03  
Who knows?  Maybe one day you'll be looking for a position in our area, and you'll already know how to answer all the interview questions!
Posted:  26 Jul 2013 03:43  
Right on Clem.  I think that was a good summation.  I'd just like to add a few things.

LT, first, to repeat what Clem said, this is an EXTREMELY physical and taxing profession.  I've trained healthy young men in their 20's, who said they'd be falling down on their beds when they got home for the first couple of weeks.  This is probably what side lines more beginners than any other thing.
But forewarned is forearmed.

Second, to add to all the character and work traits that Clem mentioned, I would add efficiency, which is not exactly the same thing as organization, and creativity.  You never have enough time to get done all the things that need to be done, so you have to be constantly creative in solving problems, cutting corners while increasing quality, figuring out how to do everything faster and better.

Third is customer service.  Any kind of experience you have in this field would be invaluable.  For most of the time, you are the only contact the client has with your company, and you'll need to take the lead in making sure the customer is getting what they want/need/expect, and is "feeling the love."

And I would recommend that you study up on all kinds of gardening in your area, because people will ask you all kinds of questions, and it's nice to have answers for them.

Plus I would warn you that after 6 months or so, you're going to start thinking you pretty much know it all.  I think most of us have gone through this.  Trust me, you will have barely scratched the surface.  I've been an interior landscaper for 30 years, and I'm still learning. 

The most important thing to remember as a plant tech?  I'm sure other people might have a different take on this, but I believe it is to make sure that all your customer's plants are BEAUTIFUL!

Good luck to you.  You might just be one who will find this work a blast.
Posted:  26 Jul 2013 18:42  
I'd take Wrangler's third point even further: this job is about 90% customer service...the plants are almost incidental to it.

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