How can I get applicants to answer the questions in my listing?

Hello everyone! I am relatively new to the site and have just a handful of successful sits under my belt. My question is in the title, and I am open to any suggestions or feedback to improve my listing (linked in my profile).

I had a couple questions I found myself asking of every applicant, so to cut to the chase I put them in my listing under the Responsibilities section. However, I find that most applicants ignore the questions in their initial message and I have to ask them explicitly.

It’s important to me that sitters know what they’re getting into with my dog because she is not an extroverted, overly-friendly, instant-bff kind of animal. That some sitters don’t answer the initial questions makes me wonder if they read about her temperament at all before applying!

Is the fault on my end for having such a lengthy listing (and for putting the questions at the end)? If so, what would you change about this? Putting it at the very top in the Introduction seems a bit aggressive.
As a pet owner, would you take this as a “soft” red flag that a sitter might not read your Welcome Guide closely and/or not provide great care for your pets? I do still follow up with applicants who don’t answer, but I do wonder since I don’t feel like I have any unreasonable asks.

Looking forward to getting input from both the sitter and homeowner sides!

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I suggest adding at the top of the listing something like, “extra points for answering the questions at the end”

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Hi @adelia,

I am obsessed with your photos of your dog! She is so cute!! I love how she helps with the laundry too :rofl:

From the sounds of it, the questions that you are asking of interested applicants/sitters are most important to you. In that case, I would recommend not putting it at the end but rather in your introduction section - but not necessarily the first couple of sentences. I have a similar issue in that our dog has separation anxiety so I say first thing that he can’t be left alone for longer than 2-3 hours, that he was recently attacked so dog park outings are no longer an option and we request that sitters are COVID vaccinated as we have an infant.

If you have seen recently that you aren’t getting very many applicants that answer these questions at all it could be related to the 5 application pause/limit new feature that they are testing out. I have found that since the feature has started testing on the site I get much shorter application messages and applicants that have clearly not read my profile in any great detail just because they want to be one of the first 5 applicants before the pause happens automatically. I wouldn’t consider these applicants as a “red flag” for not having read or answered the questions but I would respond back asking them if they have read it fully and know about your pets reactiveness and what you are requesting with a sitter, yes this does require more work for you.

Personally as a sitter as well as HO I think lengthly listings are very helpful and are part to what can lead to a successful sit. Communication and transparency about responsibilities are key to a sit going well so having all of that detailed right away in your listing is so important for interested sitters to consider.

I like @BruceT suggestion too! that’ll certainly help you get more responses to your questions.

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Honestly, I’d take it as a red flag that they’re not reading through your listing thoroughly.
DISCLAIMER: I’m the i’s dotted and t’s crossed type of woman - sometimes probably too much so. I read every word and look at every picture in detail, google map the location, etc. I’m not crazy about having to apply for multiple sits at once because I don’t like having to withdraw apps later when I’m accepted for competing sits so I definitely don’t want to apply for sits that aren’t even a fit for me.
Just my opinion from my perspective, I’m sure there are other ones out there :slight_smile:

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I think your listing looks just fine and it took me less than a minute to look at it and read the relevant points so not too long.
I would be concerned with applicants not answering the questions. Even if they were in a rush to be in the first 5 applicants, they could have followed with a lengthier message after.

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Hello @adelia I see you’ve already had some constructive feedback. I agree with adding a message near the start, but I would suggest being direct in your content. I would explain that you have some non-negotiable requirements for the selected sitter. Mention that anyone not being able to comply with those requirements will not be considered.

In your response to any current applicants, I would also just say that if they choose to respond to your questions, you will review their application. Again, stress that these are non-negotiable requirements.

However, keep in mind that for every requirement that’s non-negotiable, you limit your sitter pool. Remember that your key goal is to get a sitter. Given the current climate is such that sitters appear to be at a premium, you may need to consider some form of backup plan. By that I mean to consider ways that you can ease your requirements. For example, is there someone a sitter could call on, should a vet visit be required? If so, perhaps the vehicle requirement (which cancels out many candidates) could be removed. We all need to think outside the box these days. It’s all well and good to have non-negotiables, but if it results in no sitter then it didn’t serve your purpose. It may sound harsh, but I mean that in a kind way. :slightly_smiling_face:

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Hi @adelia I am a sitter and HO (who also has a detailed listing) and don’t have any problem with your content. I’m glad you detail specifically what’s important as it help sitters decide whether to apply or not. For example, we wouldn’t apply as we mostly rely on public transport at sits so wouldn’t have a car that you state is required. If a sitter is not addressing your criteria in their application, I suggest you leave the questions / criteria where they are currently placed but put some extra words at the very top of the responsibilities along the lines of “My dog has / I have specific needs. To be considered for my sit, please address the criteria / questions below in your application.” I would then see it as a red flag if a sitter didn’t do that and decline their application and move on to the next one.

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@Snowbird As someone who has been there and done that, I would say the goal isn’t to get a sitter, but a qualified sitter. That’s really important when it comes to pets with needs.

I’m not saying to hold out for perfection, but I certainly paid for it dearly (and my pets), when I didn’t closely vet and qualify a couple of recent sitters

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@Catin88 That is certainly a valid point and thank you for pointing that out. I didn’t mean to imply to lessen their standards, but more to think outside the box as to how to manage, should a suitable applicant not be found.

I still think it’s realistic to say that the more things someone specifies as to requirements, the more they need to acknowledge that they will limit their applicant pool. That includes applicants who would be very much capable of giving excellent care, but maybe, for example, can’t afford to rent a car and does not have one available to them.

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Hello, I’m equally obsessed with the pics of your pooch, gorgeous & am only sorry we don’t house sit in the USA! I had a quick scan through all of it (& am not applying) & whilst you could move the questions, anyone who is keen to sit should easily find them and answer them in the application. I always read the pet responsibilities as the most important bit before applying (& if they are hugely onerous or obsessive, which yours aren’t, then that’s the red flag not to apply). Hope that helps.

As a former ad copywriter, the most important things in each section need to be stated first.

Introduction

“…we have always wondered why it was so hard to find someone to come stay at our house”

Nooo! - Sorry but that sentence has to go!

You wouldn’t put “I have always wondered why I can’t get a job” on a resume!

I did the graphics on a burger van whose owner told every single customer how bad trade was, and then he wondered why his clientelle started dwindling.

If they heard from his own lips that others don’t want his food, then why should they buy from him?

You’re doing the same by using this sentence. You’re TELLING them to stay away!

If you take none of my other advice, please take this advice! As a sitter, if I was pressed for time, I honestly would have just clicked the Back button before reading any further.

Also you haven’t talked about Cortana in the Introduction.

I would move these three paragraphs from Requirements to the Introduction:

Cortana is very reserved with strangers and needs some time to get comfortable, so we ask for at least an hour of overlap at the beginning of the stay to welcome you inside and let her adjust! From previous sitters’ feedback, we know that she’ll continue to be timid for the first couple days of your stay and prefer to keep some distance, though she will still loosely follow you around the house and lounge nearby.

She is also dog-reactive within about 6ft, exact distance depending on how rambunctious the other dog is. Due to this, we unfortunately cannot welcome other pets or young children into her home.

Even though Cortana can’t come nose-to-nose with dogs, she’s very good at sitting on the side of the trail to let them pass. She’s also great at not wrapping herself around trees!

In the Home & Location section, write about the Home first, as that’s most important, then the location.

The Responsibilities section is a wall of words. Separate each paragraph with a gap like you have above.

Definitely give the line: “Please include the following info with your application:” its own paragraph with gaps above and below, so it stands out!

But there are also things that, in my opinion, would be better suited for a zoom call, than on the listing.

I know you want to weed out unsuitable people before a call. But two of the requirements could possibly make you sound over-anxious.

The first requirement about experience with reactive dogs - that’s perfect!

5a.
Next one; I personally would only include the first sentence:
“Confirmation that you will have a car for the entire duration of the sit.”

It’s not necessary to explain why on the listing. It will seem less strict on an informal Zoom call.

5b.
The same with the last requirement:
Just state “Any schedule flexibility around the sit start/end dates” and remove the rest.

I had to read the rest of that paragraph three times before I understood it. But that could be because it’s very late here!

By all means put lots of info in your listing. However, I think the requirements are slightly too much …But NOT too much for a Zoom call!

The listing can’t do all of the recruiting for you. It might take time having calls with several people, but you will know when you get the right people.

Excellent suggestion by BruceT:
“extra points for answering the questions at the end”

Sorry for the lecture / consultation. That’ll be $4,999 please.

But your photos are wonderful. Probably the best I have seen on this site.

Great idea to have the star of the show in each scene!

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I agree! I’m detail oriented and definitely make sure to read a listing carefully so I can make sure to address important points (I’ve been forced to skim quickly since the start of the 5-applicant pause—ugh—but now send a short note saying my application will follow shortly, THEN do a full perusal of the listing and write a thorough application).

If you want to make sure you book someone who read the Responsibilities section, I’d leave the questions right where they are—it’s the perfect way to weed out those who don’t follow instructions well. You probably don’t want sitters to exhibit that lackadaisical attitude when it comes to following instructions regarding the care of your pets and home.

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Brilliant, brilliant advice! Long live copywriters.

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Here are my thoughts regarding @BillyBonnieBenji’s excellent feedback above!

I agree with points #1 and 2. If you want to keep the sentiment you wrote in #1, perhaps you could change it to something like:

We live in an incredible location with an incredible pup, and are excited to share our home and dog while we’re off on our travels.

With #2 (paragraphs about Cortana), you could add a couple of sentences describing her positive personality traits first, THEN the paragraphs about “Cortana is very reserved with strangers…” and “She is also dog-reactive…”. These pertain to the sitter’s stay (overlap at the beginning / no pets or children rule) so it makes sense to put those parts in the intro. With the third paragraph, I’d keep it in the Responsibilities section, attached to this bullet point:

  • Long walk/hike on Newport’s beautiful trails, usually about an hour or so (even though Cortana can’t come nose-to-nose with dogs, she’s very good at sitting on the side of the trail to let them pass. She’s also great at not wrapping herself around trees!)

#3—I personally am more interested in the location (town/city) and what I’ll be near vs. information about the house, so I really like the way you ordered this section and would keep as is. I think this is just a matter of personal preference.

#4—It does look like a wall of words in its current state, but moving some of the paragraphs to the Introduction, per @BillyBonnieBenji’s suggestion, will help immensely. You can add spaces in between your “question” bullet points in the last section. And (to get to the point of your original post), could you phrase your requests for information as actual questions? This should encourage/remind people to actually address those points in their application. You could also add asterisks or some other visual cue to that section, to highlight it. For example:

Please include the following info with your application!

  • Do you have any experience with reactive or sensitive dogs? If so, please give a brief description of your relevant experience.

  • Will you have a car for the entire duration of the sit? We live a 15-minute drive from the vet and a 30-minute drive from the veterinary urgent care and it’s important to us that she can be quickly conveyed if anything happens! Rideshare apps (Uber, Lyft) are not reliable in this area, we don’t have public transit, and we are unable to leave our car for sitters as we need it to go on our trips.

  • Do you have any schedule flexibility around the sit start/end dates?The listed dates will be the minimum length of the housesit we need, but most of our travel takes us right past family that we love to visit. So if you have the availability and the interest to stay a little longer, let us know!

#5—This probably comes down to personal preference, again, but I don’t think your explanations after the questions about the car and schedule flexibility are too much or confusing. I prefer too much information vs. too little, and if I read questions like that in a listing, I want to know why! For example, if you just asked about schedule flexibility without giving the reason, I would wonder if your trip plans were unconfirmed and therefore on shaky ground. It would probably put me off applying. Your explanations are great.

Hope some of that was helpful! I don’t know how this got so long. I only meant to write a few sentences. :joy: (Oh, and I agree with everyone else—your photographs are the BEST. I loved looking for Cortana in each pic.)

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Fair point. After seeing @IfItFitsISits 's suggestion of the Requirements info, that would be even better. It’s still at the end but stands out more.

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The 5 application cutoff is a HUGE detriment in spending too much time responding. I’ve been with the site for almost 8 years and even when I respond immediately to an alert, by the time I craft my application the status has changed to ‘pending reviews’. This has happened 3 times in the last week and I’m trying to find a way of both answering any questions and not missing the cutoff. IMHO this is a really awful change to the THS.

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I agree with most of what you said, but I part ways with house before location. As I depend on public transportation, location is always up there with the details in the pet(s), and always before the house. But that’s just me :).

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But what would be the point in attracting lots of sitters and then the right one isn’t among them?
When you start a business that’s the first lesson you learn: you can’t sell to everyone. Specify and attract exactly your buyers. This might only be a fraction, but they are the most likely to buy from you.

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@Eagle-Eye But what if a listing doesn’t attract ANY sitters? Where does that leave a pet owner, with imminent travel plans and no applicants? It’s not a parallel to many businesses, where you can lock the front door and leave the valuable stock - in this case the pets - sitting on the shelf. I therefore stand by my comment, and am comfortable with us agreeing to disagree.

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Hi Adelia,
I read your ad. As a sistter you come across as very friendly and also give a lot of useful information about your adorable dog. Well done!

Your questions at the end are posed in an indirect way so it could be a cultural thing. As a Brit living amongst the Dutch I have learned to be a lot more direct both in asking and answering questions. It has taken many years to get used to a different communication style. My suggestion would be to respond to people who have applied to your sit and thank them for their interest and then pose your 3 questions as questions.
Do you have experience with sensitive dogs?
Do you have the use of a vehicle? Are your starting and ending dates flexible?
If they then don’t answer then I would pass on them.
Hope this helps and good luck with finding the right sitter!