Not all "superstars" are in your own backyard. The best person for your job may be in the next county, 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 the person is 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 with 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 actually cost you a little money to help someone move, but it's worth it. 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, then do it. You'll get your return just a few weeks after the right person is on the job, as well as continued profits and growth for years to come.

Here's The Challenge

Once you've identified someone that appears to have the skills that you're looking for, how do you evaluate the candidate without meeting him or her 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 has the necessary skills and seems like a solid person. Be candid 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 the person needs help with relocation costs.

There's no reason to move the conversation further if you're not able to meet the candidate's financial needs or the move isn't cleared with everyone involved.

After all this, if you get that "warm and fuzzy" feeling, take it to the next step; verify the candidate's work history and check business references. Ask if the person is willing to let you do a background check, including a nationwide criminal history and driving record. Also, have the prospect 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.

The Next Step

So, the person you were considering passed the background check and drug test. Now what? Give the candidate a call and firm up what you're willing to offer in terms of salary - after, of course, you've met face-to-face and everything goes well. If you can come to an agreement, and you feel the person is serious about moving to your area and coming to work for you, book a flight, hotel, and rental car. With a little advanced 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 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. If all goes well, then introduce the candidate to your staff. In the case of a technician, installer, or salesperson, have the prospective employee spend a few hours in the field with one of your top people. If your other employees like the candidate and you still feel the candidate is the right person for the job, make the offer.

In the end, give the candidate a formal written offer and get acceptance in writing. There's nothing legal about a candidate formally accepting, but it will help to solidify the 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 to help with relocation.

From past experience, I highly suggest that you make the candidate pay for the costs and then have an agreement to reimburse the person once he or she officially starts work. You don't want to pay relocation costs for a person who might go to work for someone else or never move at all. (Trust me. It happens.)

When it comes to relocation costs, I also like to get an agreement from the candidate that if he or she quits within a certain amount of time (usually six months to one year), the person will reimburse the company a pro-rated amount of the overall costs. No matter how much you trust the candidate, be sure to protect yourself.

When it comes to recruiting, remember these three things.

1. You're only as strong as your weakest link.

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 we lose sight of the long term and focus everything on the here and now.

Don't settle for the "bottom of the barrel" just because they're local.

Mayberry is president of HVAC Agent, partner of The News in its new Career Center, an online resource for HVACR job seekers and employers. For more information, go to and click on the Career Center button.

Publication date: 03/15/2004