You never truly know about a person’s abilities until he or she gets in a truck and goes to a customer’s home or office to perform work.

Testing helps, talking helps, but the proof is in the execution. In some states you can hire an HVAC construction technician as a subcontractor for a few days and put the person in a truck with your existing technicians. In other states you can’t.

All new hires should have a 90-day probationary period. With field personnel, you’ll probably know whether they are productive within a month. If they are not, get rid of them. Poor workers will cause you many problems long after they are gone.

There are some things that you can do during the hiring process to get a feel whether a person knows what he or she is doing. I have seen many who sound good but cannot perform in the field. I’ve also seen some who cannot communicate well but if you put them in front of a screwed-up HVAC system, they can fix it. 

I believe in testing. It’s a good way to find out what a person knows on paper. You have to be careful, though. I’ve seen many pass tests on paper but still not perform. I have seen only a few not pass a test and perform. 

Some companies give practical tests along with written tests because some people don’t do well on written tests. They do this in the training areas in their buildings. They ask a technician to fix a purposely unmaintained system. Or they ask an installer to perform ductwork fabrication.

When interviewing, I like to find out how technicians think. What are their reactions to specific situations? How would they handle specific things that come up in the field?

Best behavior

Remember during an interview that HVAC sales technicians are at their best. Do they drive up in another company’s truck? How would you feel if a technician took your truck on an interview for another job? See how neat their vehicle is. You’ll get an idea of how neat they might keep your truck.

Look at the application. It probably will be the cleanest writing you will ever see. If you can’t read their writing, what makes you think that you will be able to read it on service tickets? 

In addition to technical questions, here are others you should consider asking:

  • “Describe what you normally do when going to a customer’s home or office.”
  • “Have you ever had a situation where you couldn’t fix the problem or the customer was rude to you? How how did you handle it?”
  • “Do you work on your own car?”
  • “Would you fix or replace a 20-year-old system? If you would replace it, how would you talk to the customer about replacing it?”
  • “How do you feel about maintenance agreements?”

If applicants say they believe in them, ask them to sell you one. Ask them how many they sold at their previous company.

These questions should provoke conversations and give you a good idea of how service technicians think. Get a feeling as to whether they’re just telling you what they think you want to hear. If the applicants pass the technical and the conversational parts of the test, it’s then time to check references, give a drug test and a driver’s license check. Assuming they pass, it’s time to see how he or she does in the field.

Copyright Ruth King. All rights reserved. Write to Ruth King at Profitability Revolution LLC, 1650 Oakbrook Drive, Suite 405, Norcross, GA 30093; email; call (770) 729-8000.