Mike Mayberry

Not all potential "superstar" recruits are in your own backyard. The best person for the position you have open may be in the next county, next state, or even 900 miles away.

During the past two years I've talked with hundreds of HVACR contractors who are unwilling to consider someone unless they're local - right there in their own backyard. They continue to hold out week after week, month after month, waiting for the right person to just walk in off the street, or they settle for the "bottom of the barrel" just because they're local.

Sure, you may have to wait two to four weeks for someone to relocate, and it may cost you a little money to help that person move, but it can be well worth it. As I noted in my previous article, "Bull Dog Recruiting: The Pursuit Of Talent," you have to think of your recruiting efforts in terms of return on investment (ROI). If you need to invest some of your time and a relatively small amount of money to get a superstar on your team, the ROI will be very attractive. You'll get your return in just a few weeks of that person being on the job, and continued profits and growth for years to come.

Here's The Challenge

Once you've identified someone from out of town who appears to have the skills that you're looking for, how do you evaluate them without meeting them face-to-face? Well, at some point you will need to meet the person before extending an offer. However, you don't want to start paying travel expenses for everyone that looks good on paper.

Invest your time before you invest your money. Have several phone conversations to determine if the candidate really knows what they say they do, and if they seem like a solid person. Be candid with them about you, your company, the geographic area, cost of living, and range of compensation that you're willing to pay. Find out if there's a significant other who would be involved in the final decision to move and if they need help with the relocation costs. There's no reason to move the conversations further if you're not able to meet their financial needs or if they haven't cleared the move with everyone involved.

After all this, if you get that "warm and fuzzy" feeling, take it to the next step. Verify their work history, check their references (business not personal), and if they still look good, ask them if they're willing to let you do a background check (including a nationwide criminal history and driving record), and have them take a drug test. Up until this point, you have nothing more than time invested. The background check and drug test should be under $125 and will be the final determining factor for moving forward.

So, they passed the background check and drug test. Now what? Give the candidate a call and firm up what you're willing to offer them (the dollars) once you meet face-to-face and the interview goes well. If you can come to an agreement, and you feel they're serious about moving to your area and coming to work for you, book a flight, hotel, and rent a car. With a little advance notice, you can get most any flight for under $400, the car for under $50, and an average hotel/motel for under $100. At this point, your total financial investment is $675. That's still less than the average one-week employment ad in most major newspapers.

Here's where you find out if all your time was worth it. Try to schedule the interview for mid-morning, and if all goes well, introduce the candidate to your staff, and in the case of a technician, installer or salesperson, have them spend a few hours in the field with one of your top people. If your employees like the candidate and you still feel they're the right person for the job, make the offer. Give the candidate a formal written offer and get their acceptance in writing. There's nothing legal about them formally accepting, but it will help to solidify their commitment to you and your company.

Now that you've made the offer and the candidate has accepted, it's time to plan the move. By this time, you should have already agreed on how much money you're willing to spend for their relocation. From past experience, I highly suggest that you make the candidate pay for the costs and then have an agreement to reimburse them once they've officially started work. You don't want to pay for their relocation and have them end up working for someone else, or give them the money and they never move at all. Trust me, it happens.

Also, when it comes to relocation costs, I like to get an agreement from the candidate that if they quit within a certain amount of time (usually six months to one year), they will reimburse the company a prorated amount of the overall costs. No matter how much you trust the candidate, be sure to protect yourself.

Your Employees Are Your Company

Hopefully, everything works out and you've got your superstar. It's not easy, and it may cost you a little extra money, but in the end it will be well worth it. When it comes to recruiting, remember these three things:

1. You're only as strong as your weakest link. We've all heard it ... and it's true.

2. Your employees are your company. Your customers and prospective customers evaluate your company based on the people they talk to on the phone and those who come out to service or install their equipment.

3. Business is long term. Many times, especially in the heat of the summer when the schedule is backed up for weeks, we lose sight of the long term and focus everything on the here and now.

Don't settle for any bottom of the barrel employee just because he or she is local.

Mike Mayberry is president of HVAC Agent. For more information, visit www.hvacagent.com.

Publication date: 03/22/2004