“I NEED TECHNICIANS!”

by Trevor Flannigan

HOW TO RECRUIT HVAC TECHS & PLUMBERS MUCH FASTER

I have used Linkedin, Craigslist, BirddogHR, Facebook, gone to supply houses, offered recruiting bonuses, and even hired a designated recruiter. After using each avenue to recruit, I have learned there is no “magic bullet.” No one method is superior to another, just different.

Trevor Flannigan

“Recruiting technical roles is one of the largest pain-points in managing a residential service business. It actually makes me sad when I listen to the news and they say it’s hard to find a job. I’m thinking—‘Go be a plumber or an HVAC tech!’”

— Trevor Flannigan

Pros and Cons of Recruitment Tools

Linkedin

Linkedin is great for salespeople and more advanced roles inside your office like HR or Marketing. I have hired all three of these positions using the Linkedin Job Postings.

PRO:

This is designed for genre recruiting because it delivers your posting as a recommendation for people that fit that genre. If you are looking for a marketing person, then you’ll be able to attract a chunk of marketing people because that genre fits into the framework.

CON:

It doesn’t work for a lot of management roles. I tried to hire an HVAC Service Manager from this and that’s not really a genre that Linkedin catches (it was a total waste of money)—And it costs upwards of $400+ to post a job on Linkedin.

“We are experiencing a major shortage of HVAC workers. When I need to hire, I first ask if our current contractors have any friends that may be interested. Then we turn to Facebook to post job openings online. I haven’t had any success with Zip Recruiter. We are also working with local technical schools and offering some scholarships in order to recruit.”

— Charlie Conklin, President of Sentry Heating, Air Conditioning, Plumbing & Generators

Craigslist

In many ways, this is my secret weapon of choice, but I’ll spill the beans here. Posting is fine and it’ll bring you candidates, however, calling people that are offering plumbing, HVAC or electrical service is where you’ll really excel. I cold-called all of them weekly. I told them, “I just want to tell you what our company is all about”—more on this in a bit. These people aren’t job hunting, but they do feel alone. They don’t have a network of people that can empathize with their situation. Many of them would actually sit down with me because I was in the industry.

PRO:

I hired many people from my cold calling efforts. Not all of them worked out, sometimes they had a hard time wrapping their mind around the price or the pay structure, but the quantity made it work. I had one major success, he was a million dollar service plumber and best in the company at sales, work ethic, and attitude. Additionally, posting for Entry Level Plumber (Electrician or HVAC Technician) was a fantastic way to find drain technicians or apprentices. It’s free to call “competitors” and only $25 for a Craigslist job posting—just make sure you are posting weekly because your listing gets buried fast.

CON:

You have to kiss a few toads here. This is a quantity play, not always quality. Posting here is a good way to fill the pipeline and keep your Technicians Sales Engine going.

Birddog HR

This is mostly a CRM/pipeline in my mind. It’s a great tool for posting, but— more importantly, it is a great place to track and house all the applicants in your company. The MOST important part of recruiting and using this tool—or Zip Recruiter (same thing)—is making sure you are following up with every single lead.

PRO:

This is such an easy way to post for jobs. It hits Indeed and a few dozen other sites. You can refresh job postings every 30 days with zero effort and refreshing them is important. You will see huge influxes at the beginning of these refreshes because it pops to the top of all the boards. It is a great way to house all your applicants, easy to search them, and organize what you’ve done with each one.

CON:

I’ve noticed that it almost becomes white noise if you don’t make it a priority. Be deliberate about checking this all the time so you don’t leave any applicant wondering. They promote this product as a one stop shop, but it’s not for our industry. To hire plumbers, HVAC techs and electricians, you have to do all things.

Facebook

Social media is great because you can hit a lot of people quickly. However, it’s very difficult to target a specific kind of person with the technical experience you want. Facebook ads are great for attracting green technicians—that person working in the stockroom at Michael’s, wondering what they’re going to do with their life. Target your post knowing this: If you ask for a guy/girl with a lot of experience you probably won’t find him/her.

PRO:

Pretty cheap for the amount of impressions you get. You are exposing someone to your ad when their defenses are down (you are more likely to have someone digest it that way). People can share what you post if it’s compelling enough and then you’ll get real traction.

CON:

Probably not going to get you someone that can just start in a truck right away.

Supply Houses

This is super old school. The technicians coming and going from the supply house already have a job to go to that day and are making money. What does work with supply houses is posting a flier with your recruitment bonus on it, I even put the little cut pieces of paper at the bottom of the flier for easy tear-and-call functionality.

PRO:

If you have a contact at a supply house and all the technicians know them, they can be super beneficial to feed you leads. There is always a cork board next to the front door you can post information on.

CON:

Good and loyal technicians do not want to be seen talking to their competitors, management, or ownership. If someone does, it might not be the attitude of the person you want on your team.

Recruiting Bonus

Most of us have built pay-for-performance environments in the residential service industry. It’s natural then that giving them an incentive to recruit goes a long way. I like to also encourage retention on this. The referring plumber or tech can get $2,500 after 90 days and then $1,000 for each year their referred plumber or tech stays. I only use this incentive for technical roles.

PRO:

People tend to hangout with the people that look and act like them. If you have a performer, then you would do well to hire their friends. Your employees want to work with good people, thus they are more likely to bring in quality candidates.

CON:

You have to make it rewarding to bring people in, meaning: plumbers, electricians, and HVAC techs need not worry about having less work by recruiting for you. If they work less as a result, the incentive failed. Make your company an environment they will want to refer into!

Designated Recruiter

For many of you, I know that hiring a person to only recruit is difficult because of your company size. I would argue, however, that if you have good management, then you can hire someone for around $13/hr. Also, you can look to fill the position on a part-time basis. It’s a hard position to find, but once you find someone that “gets it,” they will pay off in a big way.

PRO:

This person can grind for you! Cold calling is not for everyone. If you can find someone that can deliver on par or better than you, then it’s a perfect situation. Managing all the channels above isn’t easy while trying to run a business. A dedicated recruiter will, at the very least, relieve some of the hiring pressure for you. They can handle the grunt work, leaving you to be the face that meets with prospective people.

CON:

It’s hard to find this person. I have found that people who are good with phone sales have this something-from-nothing ability. The cost is a not beneficial if it’s not done right. A super dynamic person or a pretty good person, coupled with super strong leadership, is the key to success here!

“There is a great opportunity within the industry but a lack of skilled craft workers. We have found most success in recruiting events through the  military and area schools. We hire professionals with other skills that are beneficial to the job and train them in the plumbing industry through PHCC’s accredited program.”

— Sam Dowdy Jr., General Manager, Coppera Plumbing & Commercial Services

The Recruiting Pipeline

I thought of my recruiting efforts as just another sales department in the company. I built up a pipeline of leads and I chased them until I lost them or won an employee. As with all sales departments, you need to constantly be feeding the machine with leads. You need to aggressively do all the things above on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

 

I had a revelation one day last year. I heard about a fantastic HVAC salesman from another company and I was told I should go after him. We talked about typical sales vetting things and then he dropped a bomb. He disclosed that he already applied for my company 2 months prior. He said he would think about my offer, but he eventually said, “No.” He had already given us a chance, but we “wouldn’t interview” him. Lesson: Never stop reviewing your applicant pool. It’s your pipeline! If you stop reviewing your applicants, this could result in some major misses.

 

Your recruitment should be thought of as another sales channel in your growing business. If you stopped taking calls for one day, what would be the impact to your sales? It’s no different for recruiting.

 

“I just want to tell you what our company is all about.”

 

This is more or less the phrasing I used when asking prospects out to coffee or lunch. I never used the word interview. What comes to mind when people hear the word ‘interview’ is typically an objection; however having a conversation over a cup of coffee is no big deal. Get the prospect off-site, comfortable, and make it casual. The off-site is another key. The best guys are typically already employed and they don’t want to have their work truck or van seen in their competitor’s parking lot. After gauging the interest of the prospective employee, I would either offer them a job on the spot or oftentimes just leave it at, “Let’s do this again!” or “If you ever need anything give me a call.” Throughout our meeting, I focused on building the relationship so that the chance to meet with me again was greater. Ultimately, my goal was to be the person they called on the worst day at their current employment, asking if I was still hiring (it happened more often than you think).