The first editorial I ever wrote for The NEWS was about how to go into an interview with confidence and land the job. That editorial came out almost exactly a year ago to the day, just a few weeks after I’d been hired.

And while I still stick by my advice in that article, there’s one thing I forgot to emphasize — a quality that some HVAC contractors say is just as important, if not more important, than having the appropriate skills for the job.

What is that trait, you ask? It’s personality, plain and simple. If a technician has a personality and people skills, he or she is a step ahead of most other job applicants.

Contractors these days seem to recognize that the interviewees they pull from the rather shallow pool of job candidates may not possess all the technical skills they will need in the position; they expect to have to train and mold new employees into the technicians they need. I’ve been told it’s a lot like learning to drive — there’s only so much one can learn as a student driver, but as soon as you get that license and have the car to yourself, that’s when you really learn how to drive. So, not having all the skills isn’t necessarily a deal breaker for many employers.

However, if a job candidate has the personality of a moldy potato, it could prove to be a big problem. In the Jan. 20 article, “HVAC Contractors Seeking Employees,” Greg Crumpton, president and founder of AirTight Mechanical, Charlotte, N.C., pointed out that “finding a drug-free, driver’s license-carrying, insurable, communicative person who wants to physically work hard is a challenge.”

Notice how he didn’t mention “highly skilled” in his list of wants in a potential employee? That’s because those skills can usually be taught. But, personality and the ability to communicate effectively … Those are skills that are not so easily learned.

John Sigerson, field service representative, O’Connor Co. Inc., Omaha, Neb., and an independent wholesale distributor for Trane and American Standard, added that employers should look for candidates who “are hungry to work and start training them.”

So, what can job applicants do during interviews to make sure they pass the personality test with flying colors? According to a 2012 study authored by Dr. Lauren Rivera, assistant professor at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, more than half of the elite firms she studied gravitated toward job candidates they felt would fit in with the other employees and company culture. According to the study’s abstract, “Concerns about shared culture were highly salient to employers and often outweighed concerns about productivity alone.” So, researching the company, including its social media sites, would be a great place to start.

Then, when it’s time for the interview, candidates are encouraged to just be themselves (in addition to dressing appropriately, of course). They should let their personalities shine through while being sure to maintain a professional demeanor throughout the entire interview.

It’s no secret there’s a serious shortage of qualified HVAC technicians entering the industry. If a candidate has the desire to learn, the drive to succeed, and the personality and people skills to perform the job, there is an industry ready and willing to give them a chance.

Publication date: 2/10/2014 

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