HVAC Contractors Share Best Hiring Practices
Business Owners Recommend Hiring for Personality, Training for Technical Skills
|Referrals, internal job postings, and networking are the top three methods for sourcing talent, according to a study conducted by Lee Hecht Harrison. (Photo courtesy of Waponi)|
According to a 2014 global talent shortage survey conducted by Manpower group, 40 percent of U.S. employers and 36 percent of global employers are experiencing difficulty filling jobs. The survey’s No. 1 most difficult job to fill: skilled trades.
So, when hiring an employee, it’s important for a hiring manager to consider all aspects of a prospect’s past and present to ensure the future is beneficial for all parties.
The NEWS recently spoke with a number of HVAC contractors and talent development representatives and created a list of best practices to consider when the time arrives for you to add new talent.
Referrals, Job Boards, and Trade Schools
Lee Hecht Harrison (LHH), a global talent development firm, conducted online interviews with 203 human resource managers and 200 external recruiters to gain insight into which sourcing and hiring practices are most effective. According to the study, there’s a shift away from job boards and more traditional sourcing methods toward tools that scour social networking sites for potential candidates. Referrals, internal job postings, and networking are the top three methods for sourcing talent, the study showed.
Lisa Ziegler, human resources manager, Environmental Conditioning Systems (ECS), Mentor, Ohio, said employee referrals and word of mouth have proven to be very effective recruitment tools for the company. “They’ve provided our best hires,” she said. “Employees and families understand the skills necessary to succeed. Relationships have often developed in trade school, past employment experiences, and in the industry to provide candidates with backgrounds necessary to be successful in the line of work we perform.”
According to Ziegler, ECS also posts job openings to online job boards and trade school job boards. “We get referrals from relationships we’ve developed over the years with the career specialist or instructors, newspaper advertising, and posting on the state unemployment website. We continue to try new avenues, but the most success has typically come from some type of referral.”
Greg Crumpton, founder, technology and business development, AirTight FaciliTech, Charlotte, North Carolina, said his company finds employees through referrals and word of mouth. He also posts to online job boards and uses BirdDog Recruitment and Applicant Tracking Solutions.
“We have a standing bounty on qualified folks we will pay to our employees for recruitment,” he said.
Trade schools are another great place to recruit potential employees, said Rick Tullis, president, Capstone Mechanical, Waco, Texas.
“We put most of our effort for hiring technicians into recruiting at the trade schools. We do more than just attend their job fairs, because everybody does that. We offer ourselves as adjunct instructors, hire interns, invite top students on special company visits, and host special luncheons for students.”
Many companies’ hiring processes include extensive interviews, background checks, and drug screening. “The better we are at hiring, the less proficient we have to be at firing,” Tullis said. “This starts with an extensive application and screening through our human resources staff. Once screened, we have candidates complete an online survey that will give us a breakdown of each individual’s work personality and abilities. When a prospect reaches the manager, he or she goes through a team interview process that includes a written and oral exam. We want to make sure a candidate is a good fit for our company and that the prospect knows what he or she needs to know.”
Tullis said he looks for team players with good communication and technical skills who have knowledge of the science behind what they do. On the other side, things that would immediately disqualify an applicant include lack of professionalism, dishonesty, inability to explain basic refrigeration principals, and not having the ability to admit not knowing something.
Crumpton said his company focuses a lot of effort on the human side of the interview. “We have multiple interviews with a rotating cast of current employees. We are far from a traditional HVAC company or a service department, and we’re seeking those who can blend into our unique culture. Due to many of the secured sites we work within, including banks, government sites, and data facilities, we do extensive background checks, review driving records, and implement drug screening before the final interview.”
And technical knowledge, while a plus, is not necessarily a deal-breaker, added Crumpton.
“We look for good people willing to serve, learn, be taught, and to teach,” he said. “We can train for technical know-how. We can help a great person become a great technician, accountant, or whatever. We cannot, however, teach a great technician to be a great person.”
According to Mike Agugliaro, owner, Gold Medal Service, East Brunswick, New Jersey, his company starts with about 60 candidates who are invited into the company for an hour to learn about its core values, brand promise, and to get a feel for the team. The candidates then have a mini experience interview where they answer questions from team members. This process narrows down the pool tremendously, Agugliaro noted.
A best-practice tip is to have a second set of eyes on the job candidate, Agugliaro said. “When one of our managers or team leaders is going to hire somebody, they will bring in another manager or team leader to sit in the final interview process. That person sometimes sees something or hears something that either helps make a definite decision or makes the person question the choice he or she has made.”
Sweetening the Process
Rob Minnick, president and CEO, Minnick’s Inc., Laurel, Maryland, goes a step further than the traditional interview process. His company actually brings in the candidate for a day on the job — and pays them for the time.
Minnick’s also uses TriMetrix software for job benchmarking. “We have a model set up in the profile and it lets us know if the candidate hits our benchmarks,” Minnick explained. “I made a mistake once; I went with my gut, not the assessment. The assessment has proved itself worthwhile.”
The first thing Joe Kokinda, president and CEO, Professional HVAC/R Services Inc., Avon Lake, Ohio, tells job candidates is his process is unlike any other experience they’ve ever had. It begins with a two-hour interview process tailored to learn all about the employee, right down to his or her extracurricular activities.
And, Kokinda won’t make an offer until the candidate emails him three figures.
“First is the bear minimum they need to live,” he explained. “The second figure is what they need to save 10-20 percent of their pay, and the third is where they want to be. It tells me who I’m dealing with, and how much they think they’re worth. It builds confidence.”
You Get What You Pay For
With the scarcity of skilled employees in the workforce, many business owners predict the job market will continue to get more competitive. A company’s No. 1 recruiting tool is its culture, according to Agugliaro. “Culture helps attract, hire, and maintain employees. You can either create culture by default or design. Creating a culture by design allows you to look for people who fit your culture based on core values; it’s a definite formula for success.”
Additionally, things like benefits packages also help recruit skilled employees. “People forget you get what you pay for, most of the time,” Agugliaro said. “If you’re looking for cheap, unskilled, unexperienced employees, that’s exactly the kind of work you’re going to get. We’re always looking for the Michael Jordans and Wayne Gretzkys. We want the best of the best. And, our culture helps drive that. But, delivering on the relationship — making sure they’re making the money they deserve and receiving the benefits they deserve — is equally important and something I think we do well.”
Publication date: 4/13/2015