ALBUQUERQUE, NM — Have you ever walked out of an interview with a prospective employee and wondered if you asked all of the right questions? Or did you do everything you thought you could to keep an employee, only to see them jump ship to a competitor or to another profession?

These are some of the issues raised by Jim Booth, who addressed hvac contractors at the Air Conditioning Contractors of America’s (ACCA’s) Annual Conference 2000, held here recently. Booth has his own consulting business (Grandy & Associates) and designs marketing tools for contractors, as well as presenting business workshops for owners and employees.

Booth pointed out that one industry trade association said enrollment in hvac trade schools is down 71%. With so many contractors competing for the best qualified candidates, this makes recruiting and retaining even more difficult.

He added that the high costs of recruiting make it a necessity to look for the “right” people and to do an equally good job of retaining them. For example, Booth said it costs 30% of a new person’s salary to recruit them, and 1.5 times’ their annual salary to replace them.

During and after the interview

“There are some important areas that you should key in on during the interview,” Booth said. “Ask people why they would leave a job.”

Booth listed some reasons why people leave their jobs:

  • 41% feel advancement is limited;
  • 25% feel lack of recognition;
  • 15% cite inadequate salary;
  • 10% are unhappy with man-agement;
  • 5% are bored with job; and
  • 4% have no particular reason.

Booth said it is important to make the job candidate familiar with your company and what is expected of that person. The job description is a way that employers can protect themselves from possible discrimination lawsuits, because the candidate is aware of the nature of the work.

Points to think about when considering a new hire are his/her phone skills. By calling a job candidate, employers can get an immediate indication of how well he/she handles himself/herself. The telephone screen also shows how much a candidate is interested in the job, whether a rapport exists, and how a candidate “sells themselves.”

There are a bevy of screening tests, including achievement, aptitude, physical, and security. Booth suggests forming a checklist before testing job candidates. The checklist should include:

  • What makes up a test?
  • What are the benefits/disad- vantages of testing?
  • What are you trying to measure?
  • Are you discriminating?
  • How much should you spend?
  • Which tests are the best?

Booth said that a lot of thought should go into the actual interview, such as who will conduct it, when and where it will take place, what information is needed, how many interviews are needed, and what is its purpose.

His suggestions: Screen the candidates, have a plan of attack, follow a logical sequence, interview in a quiet spot, and put a candidate at ease.

Making the hiring decision

OK, you’ve asked all of the right questions and avoided those you cannot ask (race, age, criminal record, etc.). You know the applicant’s work history, skills, education, and aptitude. You’ve done an effective job of selling the candidate on the position and the company.

Now what do you do?

Booth suggests several things that should affect your hiring decision:

  • Don’t hire someone just like you.
  • Don’t expect to make a silk purse from a sow’s ear.
  • Focus on accomplishments, not credentials.
  • Fit the candidate to the job.
  • Put yourself in their shoes.
  • Hire the one who wants the job.
  • Limit the number of deci-sionmakers.
  • Don’t settle for the lesser of two evils.
  • And if you make a hiring mistake, rectify it immediately.

Once you’ve made the hiring decision, which is supported by an adequate number of professional and personal references, it’s time to make the offer. Booth said employers should not delay in making the offer, give the candidate time to make the decision to accept the offer, confirm the salary and benefits, and stay in touch with the candidate.

Booth also added that honesty is the best policy when hiring. You should share as much information about the company as necessary, while not making any specific guarantees that cannot be backed up.

Welcome wagon

He concluded by saying there are a few ways to make the new hire feel at home and begin to lay the groundwork for the strong foundation for an employee who will grow and learn as the company grows.

He suggested that employers notify everyone about when the new hire is starting, take the new person on a walking tour of the facilities, set aside adequate time to fill out paperwork, and make the person feel at home by doing the following:

  • Arrange for a “buddy” to help answer questions and orient them to their new position.
  • Re-evaluate your orientation process so the new hire is getting the most from the experience.
  • Establish clear expectations of the new hire.
  • And review work schedules, holidays, vacations, and “pat” periods.

All of these tips are geared to finding the best possible people and keeping them happy and comfortable within the organization.