That fact was substantiated when we published a small contractor survey in 2005 and finding qualified workers was the third most popular problem - or should I say unpopular - among the survey respondents. I don't want to make it sound like HVAC contractors have the market cornered on the woes of finding good workers. I'm willing to bet that any service or vocational trade has been experiencing the same problem for years.
But that's someone else's problem. I'm concerned about our trade.
Inevitably the question comes up when a bunch of contractors are having a group discussion or listening to a seminar speaker: How do you find good workers?
DEFINING GOOD WORKERSThere always seems to be a few people in the bunch who will say that if a person has a pulse and a driver's license, he or she will be hired. Don't laugh. Now mind you, that person may not be hired for anything more than a helper or a parts runner, but if the need is there, a person whose only qualification is a chest that expands and contracts may get the job.
My favorite description is a person who can fog a mirror. That always draws a chuckle. But deep down, the chuckle merely replaces the anguish of finding just the right worker. So, who is the right worker?
I would have to list several qualities of what to look for in a good worker, and then later I'll list a few of what not to look for.
First of all, does the worker have a personality? You can teach them how to install and troubleshoot an HVAC system but if they have little or no people skills, they can break a customer relationship. And strong businesses are built on strong customer relationships. If your worker can fix a furnace but can't fix a customer, you may have a problem. Ask them to define "fixing a customer" during your interview process.
A person with a stellar list of recommendations and testimonials is another strong candidate. Just because he or she is looking for another job while being employed in the same field is no reason to think they are a bad worker. Find out why they are looking for a job change, it could be something very minor and fixable.
Check out their educational background. A good worker is one who is willing to learn. A good attendance record at training classes and seminars is a very good sign.
THE NOT-SO-GOOD WORKERSLet's have a little fun with this.
We've already mentioned the person who can fog a mirror but do little else. Run as fast as you can from that interview. Mirror foggers are available anywhere - but do you want them representing your company? I doubt it.
How about the person who shows up at the interview without a driver's license? If he or she tells tell you they left it at home, ask them how they got to the interview. You'll also learn a little thing about honesty, too.
Then there is the person who just can't seem to stay with any one company for long. That person's resume reads like a book (if they even have a resumÃ©). "Resume, what's a resume? I thought resume means going back to doin' what you were doin'."
Remember I mentioned having a personality? How about someone who keeps having personality conflicts with ownership or management? I'd run from that interview, too.
Then there is the person who wants to work Monday-Friday from 9 to 5 and have nights and weekends off. Heck, I'm a journalist and I've never heard of those hours.
But don't call me, I'm happily employed.
Publication date: 08/21/2006