If you are a regular reader ofThe NEWS, you have undoubtedly read in these pages that the HVAC industry will need an extra 20,000 technicians every year through 2010. We have covered this topic about as much as “Entertainment Tonight” has covered the Anna Nicole Smith story. However, it is one thing to know the problem exists, and quite another to come up with a plan to help deal with this industry-wide issue.

So unless a contractor has a plane ticket to head down to the Bahamas to take a paternity test - in which case that person’s money troubles might be a thing of the past - a plan to deal with this issue is of the utmost importance.


One key to having enough technicians is hiring the right technicians. Contractors need to find people who are looking for a career, not just a job.

This means doing a lot of work on the front end to make sure the prospective employee is the right match for a company. Believe me, this will save a lot of time in the long run.

Make these individuals jump through hoops. If those applying truly do want a career rather than a job, they will not bail out just because of the legwork.

The first step is multiple interviews. Anyone can put lipstick on a pig for one interview. Have a few meetings with these applicants. Put them in different situations. See how they interact one-on-one, in a multiple interview setting, and under pressure, if possible.

And although you should have a few conversations with applicants, don’t take them at their word. Use every tool at your disposal to make sure these applicants are, in fact, the people they claim to be.

Make sure you order a background and credit check. What these checks produce can be very telling. Something as small as a traffic ticket to an item as large as a felony can be discovered when a background check is completed.

And there is no reason you need to be the bad guy in this, if you don’t wish to be. Play a little good cop-bad cop. Tell the applicant it is not you who wants to run a check on their driving record, but rather the insurance company. You don’t want to give them a drug test, but the company’s attorney insists on it.

Don’t want to go through the expense and time of doing the background check? Not a good call in my opinion. But then at least boot up the computer and do a quick search on the Internet.

Go ahead and google their name. If a MySpace page pops up and there are pictures of the applicant doing keg-stands, then your interest in that candidate may change somewhat. If under goals they have put “Having a good time,” and “Appearing on The Price Is Right,” then perhaps your business would like to go in another direction. And what does this type of search take, five minutes?


Another quick tool that some contractors don’t take advantage of is the reference check. I realize there are some legal issues with this one, but I heard of a great idea when speaking with a contractor at the Quality Service Contractors show in Scottsdale, Ariz.

This contractor told me that he calls the applicant’s prior place of employment and simply says to the former boss, “Do you have something positive to say about the individual? If not give me a moment of silence.” Those five seconds of silence can be the most important thing you hear during the entire hiring process.

Finally, you have gathered all the pertinent information and are ready to make a decision. One last, very important item to keep in mind is that as the leader of your business, it is critical to make sure you are not playing god.

The best predictor of future performances is past performances. If your background check, reference check, and credit report do not add up to a responsible employee, don’t think somehow that individual will be different with you. If this person can’t take care of himself, how is he going to take care of your customers?

They might be charismatic and make you feel like all they need is another chance, but it is best to cut your losses before they’re hired.

Remember that although this list of items might sound cumbersome, it will save you time in the long run.

Publication date:03/12/2007