A good, talented HVAC manager is like the rest of today’s recruits: hard to come by. However, they’re an extremely important part of any HVAC company. Which also means that sometimes, they’re the hardest to hire. A company isn’t looking for any average Joe when recruiting an HVAC manager. It goes way beyond HVAC knowledge and expertise.


Recruiting an HVAC Manager

There isn’t really a right way or a wrong way when it comes to recruiting an HVAC manager. There are, however, tried-and-true methods and tried-and-true pitfalls.

Ted Puzio, founder and owner of Southern Trust Home Services in Roanoke, Virginia, likes to advertise the benefits he offers specifically for managers right on his website. The benefits Southern Trust offers are some of the best, if not the best, offered within its geographical region, Puzio said. So why not make them available for potential candidates to see?

Puzio also has a full-time recruiter on staff who targets particular job boards in their area, or uses Facebook and its private groups (such as HVAC, plumbing, electrical, etc.) to advertise the opening for a manager.

Chris Hunter, principal industry advisor with ServiceTitan, partner with Go Time Success Group, and former founder of Hunter Super Techs, said companies often fill manager positions by promoting their most skilled technicians. But doing that isn’t necessarily a great thing.

Hunter himself has made that mistake before.

“What ended up happening was I took my best producer out of the field and put him in a role he wasn’t necessarily fit for. And it ended up putting more on my plate … So the overall lesson is don’t assume that just because someone is a good player, they’ll make a good coach.”

How Hunter did bring in good HVAC manager candidates, however, is by influence.

“It’s having an influence in your community, your church, or any organization you belong to. When you have influence and you can start to meet a lot of people, that's where the best connections come from.”

In other words, candidates don’t have to have HVAC expertise or knowledge. In fact, many companies prefer to hire HVAC managers based on character or merit rather than industry knowledge. Companies can broaden the scope to anybody who has a proven track record.

Puzio said some of the best HVAC managers may come from other industries that are centered around customer service. He cited restaurant workers, Amazon workers, and people who work in pest control.

However, Justin Carrol, president of P1 Service Group located in Aurora, Illinois, feels very strongly about the latter. He recommends recruiting a manager from within the company, not outside of it.

“Anytime you hire someone outside of your company, you take a risk that they may not be a cultural fit,” he said. “They could push your current employees out the door. Any management position is a risky hire from outside the company.”

Instead, the company should have an internal leadership program that all employees have the option to attend, Carrol said.

“We’ve seen tremendous success with that,” he said. “And through that training program, you’ll absolutely identify which employees have leadership traits and it’ll be worth your while to further develop them.”


Qualities of a Manager

When choosing an HVAC manager, more than anything it comes down to the type of leader they are. If a potential recruit doesn’t align with said company’s values, it could create a potential nightmare, Hunter said. Hunter used to use a personality test to help narrow down which candidate would make a good HVAC manager.

“The thing I loved most about it was that it actually tested for a lot of the things that were a part of our core values. Stuff like integrity, and teamwork, and [the test] would actually score them on that,” Hunter said.

Every company has its own unique culture and set of values they are committed to. So regardless of what position an employee is being hired for, it’s vital that they fit in with the existing company culture and values. That’s where it begins, Carrol said.

Carrol looks for specific values like humility, someone who is a really good coach. P1 has a guiding principle that Carrol said applies to leadership very well: “Caring but not enabling.”

An HVAC manager who’s a good leader is going to care about those they are coaching as human beings. But at the same time, they aren’t going to enable someone to make bad decisions, or allow them to not follow through on specific actions or responsibilities. And if they do, that HVAC manager needs to be able to take action — whether it be a conversation or disciplinary, Carrol said.

“You have to have both pieces,” he said. “Without caring, nobody wants to listen to you because people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

For this reason, HVAC managers have be good communicators, and it takes a certain type of personality to both command respect and make people want to listen.

“Managers are going to have to have good communication and people skills,” Puzio said. “They deal with so many different personalities in both the employees and customers … so they have to have that type of personality: slow to anger, problem-solving capabilities, knows how to diffuse a problem rather than antagonize it.”

“I think one of the biggest indicators, whether they're going to be successful or not, is how well can they gain the influence to lead the people?”
Chris Hunter
Principal industry advisor, ServiceTitan

Call to Recruit

It’s no secret that recruiting is a challenge. It’s especially tough to find in an industry like HVAC that is already dealing with labor shortages.

“When you couple that with the requirement that not only do they potentially have to have industry experience, but they also have to be a good leader, you really are kind of looking for a unicorn, to some extent,” Carrol said.

Yet an HVAC manager isn’t something the industry can live without. It’s a necessity to any HVAC business. Owners need to focus on being owners. And though it may be hard to relinquish control for some, the owner or leader of the company is the one who is going to set the tone of what type of leader the HVAC manager should be.

Part of being a good leader is being able to coach, but in turn, being able to be coached.

“An HVAC manager has to be able to coach and mentor the field experts, whether they be a helper on the HVAC side or whatever. They will have to coach them, manage them, and mentor them up …” Puzio said.

Hunter recommends the book “It’s the Manager: Moving From Boss to Coach.” He wishes it was required for every HVAC manager out there. It talks about how a manager is the key reason employees stay or leave a company, and what they need to do to influence and gain the respect of their team.

“And I think one of the biggest indicators, whether they're going to be successful or not, is how well can they gain the influence to lead the people?” Hunter said. “The most important thing a company can do to attract good HVAC manager candidates is to create the company everyone wants to come to. Have your mission, vision, and core values be the magnet for top talent.”