• Latest from Contracting Business Success

    Photo 50628633 © David Franklin | Dreamstime.com
    Photo 161233010 © Jamesteohart | Dreamstime.com
    Jon Ryan: Recruiting is the art of asking questions.
    Jon Ryan: Recruiting is the art of asking questions.
    Jon Ryan: Recruiting is the art of asking questions.
    Jon Ryan: Recruiting is the art of asking questions.
    Jon Ryan: Recruiting is the art of asking questions.

    Recruiting to Control Your Market

    Jan. 27, 2022
    Poor recruiting can be disastrous. Know the desired attributes for major roles in an HVAC company, and watch for clinkers.

    When you recruit – and you MUST be recruiting constantly – the candidate’s technical skills as a technician, or a manager’s aptitude in handling the nuts and bolts of that role – is secondary to the “person” you hire. Personality traits, and positive or negative attitudes that you detect in a candidate will have a more significant impact on the person’s contributions for good or ill than their technical or managerial proficiencies and knowledge.

    That’s why the title of this article suggests that your recruiting can help or hurt your company’s control of your market. Imagine how fast a complaint about a rude or dishonest employee will spread through social media sites. Conversely, stellar behavior of near superhero employees could have many homeowners calling your company for HVAC service.

    Interviewers must be on full alert, watching for any negative tells the candidate may exhibit, because chronically bad employees are very good at covering up past behaviors, and these days, you really can’t talk to past employers about ex-employees.

    To explore the importance of smart recruiting, we again turned to Jon Ryan, president of Genz-Ryan, Minneapolis, Minn., who had provided us with insight about retaining customers in July 2021.   

    Ryan said candidates for technician jobs will typically fall into one of three categories:

    1)They remain at a company for many, many, many years, and if they leave, it has to be for a good reason.

    2) Candidates who are possibly not getting the opportunity they want. “They’re good employees, but for one reason or another – it could be related to the culture, or the company isn’t growing – but nobody is at fault; it’s just no longer a good fit and they’re looking for another company,” Ryan explained.

    3) Then, there are those who are habitually changing companies. “They play musical chairs and there’s a definite honeymoon period with each job,” Ryan said. “And after the honeymoon period, there’s always a reason why they need to leave.”

    It was Genz-Ryan’s experience with those “disappearing employees” that caused Ryan and his team to decide to never offer employment based on a candidate’s technical skills. Their culture – which Ryan describes as, “the energy in your company” was too precious, and took too much time to develop, only to have a bad apple spoil the bunch.

    “Culture is indeed a buzzword. It’s what energizes employees to rally together, rather than going off in different directions. Do employees want to help people? Do they help each other, or is it ‘all about me’?  Will they ‘throw somebody under the bus’ at any time?

    If they are a negative influence on your culture, for whatever reason, [they can’t stay]. Either it's no fault of their own and they're just not a good fit, or they carry negative energy with them. That can be so detrimental to your company and can set you back years, quite honestly. We hire for culture first.”

    I asked Ryan to describe the characteristics he and his managers look for in key HVAC business positions. To start, he referred back to the importance of each role in supporting the company culture. The process includes some plain speaking. Key to this is telling candidates in person and on their website, that their goal is to "Get Stuff Done," although a different s-word is used, for impact.

    We have an amazing in-house recruiter, and she uses our core values as a tool. Our culture is very open and very direct, and that’s really how you have to conduct your interviews.

    “Ask them, ‘did you see our core values [on our website]? Did anything stick out to you.’? Some will ask why we have to use that word. Others will say, ‘Yes I saw it and that’s really what motivated me to apply, because I feel like you guys are going to be a good fit for me.’ Then, we get into a conversation about what that means and why he or she feels they will be a good fit.

    “And then, you can get them to open up a little bit. I don't care if it's general manager, installation manager, comfort consultant, field technician, warehouse manager, whatever; you are hiring on culture first. 

    CSR Best Attribute: Empathy

    Empathy is essential when the CSR takes a call from a customer who thinks their day is about to implode.

    "We're typically dealing with somebody who thought their day was going to go one way, and a curve ball got thrown at them. And they know they’re [possibly] going to have to take time off work and adjust their day. And they know that whatever is happening, it's potentially going to cost them a lot of money, and [they think] nobody cares. Those CSRs are your first line, your first interaction. And they have to be empathetic.”

    The opposite, negative habit for a CSR: not listening, or interrupting. The technician equivalent is ‘mansplaining,’ or discussing the problem with a customer in a way that makes them feel ignorant. The better approach is for the tech to explain that they want to know the full story about the problem.

    Example: “We definitely appreciate you passing the information along, because I make sure we get the right person out here. But the last thing I want to do is estimate or guess or ballpark anything. I want to hear directly from you, what the problem is."

    Dispatcher Best Attribute: Organization

    Organization defines the dispatcher’s role because they’re assigning the technician and obtaining feedback from the technician. 

    “You have to make sure that you're getting complete information from the technician you might be communicating with,” Ryan said. “The CSR's job is to listen to the customer, and possibly take a call-back. The dispatcher's role is to assign the technician and then make sure that everything is good [to proceed with the call]. They're working with the warehouse, with delivery, with the supply house, they're working with a lot of different people. Strategic thinking is a huge part of it. Dispatchers are really project managers, I think that’s probably the better way to say it.”

    A dispatcher can’t seek to be everyone's friend. You have to be friendly, a good coworker and a team player, but if you're worried about being a friend, you're not going to get the right technician on the right call, Ryan said.

    “You're not going to make sure that the tech is doing everything they need to do, to make sure that the job is done and done correctly. If you're looking for a role where you're going to be people's friend, don't be a dispatcher.”

    Office Manager Best Attribute: Analysis

    Office managers are often charged with managing people and things, however, Ryan said the key focus should be on managing people and results.

    “It’s rare that you have people who are good at managing people and things. We have managers, and below them are coaches, and then captains. The further down you go, the more you’re managing the technical side of things.  Coaches are serving in an accountability role, and setting the others up for success. Managers are at a higher level, looking at data and digging into why [things happened]. ‘You had a six-figure day as a team, but what are the opportunities that slipped through your hands there?’ You're always looking for the opportunities for improvement.”

    Service Manager Best Attribute: Organization

    Service managers are planners and reviewers, looking to the next day, but also backwards a bit, to analyze past performance. 

    “You're also looking maybe weeks or months out,” Ryan said. “And the installation manager is looking at the current day, to a day or two out, and backwards, to identify areas for improvement; they’re problem solving. The installation manager's role primarily is setting the team up for the wins for the day. They’re looking at the scope of work, looking at the material list, making sure everything is in place; did everyone do what they needed to do, so that the installers can get out there and knock it out of the park? Because really, what the installation manager is looking at is opportunity cost, because if you make a mistake today, odds are you're not going to be able to recover that.”

    Comfort Consultant: Sales and Information

    Post-sale, one of the duties of the comfort consultant is to ensure the office and installation teams have full information.

    “They’re documenting everything. If it's a very complex job, there might be some sort of a walkthrough. We also have the sales rep, who sold the job, show up on the day of install to help bridge that gap, that relationship with the homeowner, and make sure that the installer or technician is set up for success. To make sure that there's little to no confusion about what's happening.”

    The sales manager is also the contact if a customer wants to cancel an appointment, whether it's service or repairs or a proposal that they signed up for. Their job is to find out why.

    “Did we make a mistake? What happened? They're having some remorse about something, or, we didn't do our job in making sure that they understood what they were getting.”

    Then, the sales manager’s task is to return to the customer to hopefully make things right.

    “Sometimes it is about money, absolutely, but not as many times as we like to think it is,” Ryan said.

    Relaxed Q&A

    Ryan believes recruitment and evaluating talent is more art than science; it’s the art of asking questions.

    “You have to have your wits about you and ask questions, ask lots of questions. Try not to be very formal, and you don't necessarily need a formalized list of questions. Following the interview, make follow-up calls.  When they're in-person, that's one thing, but do a follow up call with them to ask if they had any question."

    “You may want to ask them the same questions that you asked them before, to see if their answers are the same. If they're telling the truth, the answer will be the same.  But if they throw you a different answer, I'd say that they were probably not being honest with you. Try to get them to let their guard down and have it be a conversation more than anything else. You're going to get more of the truth of what's going on.”

    Related

    skynesher/iStock/Getty
    Football Players
    Football Players
    Football Players
    Football Players
    Football Players