In the last article, we discussed the cost of replacing technicians. Part of the cost we included was the cost of “bad hires.” The term bad hire would apply to any technicians that leave the company for any reason before they have generated enough profit to pay for the cost of hiring them. In the last article, we estimated it costs $40,900 to hire and train a technician. Let us discuss ways to improve the quality and probability of success in your hiring process.
One of the first questions to ask is, what kind of candidate are you looking for? Do you want to hire someone experienced? Or do you want to start from scratch? Another option is to promote from within. Each of these strategies has advantages and disadvantages. Depending on how urgently you need to fill the vacancy, the type of candidate you want will vary.
Starting from Scratch
The advantage of starting from scratch is that you can train the new technician to do the job according to your standards. You will not have to break old habits that do not meet your standards or fit your culture.
The disadvantage is that more training will be required. This increases the cost of hiring and training. Since the new technician will need extra training, he or she will be unproductive for a longer period.
An experienced technician will typically start to make an impact much sooner. If the technician has training on the products you offer, he or she may be able to start handling calls within a week or two.
A trained technician will usually have ingrained processes from his last employer. This is one disadvantage. The new hire’s work habits may not fit with your service department’s philosophy. For example, he or she may value the number of calls per day, while you may care about first call efficiency. Ingrained habits can be difficult to change and frustrating to deal with.
Experienced technicians will typically fall into two categories, employed and unemployed. When talking to employed technicians, you need to resolve the question of why they want to change. If they are relocating, their company has new owners or they need more money, they may be a good candidate.
If the technician is unemployed you must find out why, and not just the applicant’s version of the story. Most unemployed technicians are unemployed for a reason that makes them a high-risk hire. The exception is a technician that has relocated for a reason other than a job.
Promoting from Within
Promoting from within can be the easiest and safest way to acquire a new technician. If the individual has worked for the company for a period of time, you will know what kind of worker he or she is. I would encourage every company to develop a career path in the company that leads to working as a field technician.
For example, a new employee could start working in the warehouse. The next step might be helping with deliveries. The next logical step would be helping set up equipment. If the employee has done well in these positions, you might have a good potential technician.
As a service manager, recruiting should be an ongoing process. This means that you should always be looking for suitable talent. Even when you do not have an open position, you can be looking for the next person you might want on your team.
I worked with a dealer that knew who his next service manager would be if the current service manager left. He had not offered him a job, but he had taken him to lunch, gotten to know him and knew that he would be a good fit for his company.
Social media can play a part in your recruiting process. Your company should have a strong presence on social media, and that presence should make your company attractive to potential candidates. Younger people entering the workforce will look at your company’s social media as part of their job search.
When I was a service manager, I was always looking for talent that I could poach. If a technician was servicing a vending or a mailing machine, I would look at them and decide if they had qualities I wanted on my team. If they did, I would start to cultivate a relationship so that I could approach them when I had an opening.
When you bring candidates in from outside your company, you will want to be thorough in your screening process. This can help prevent hiring mistakes and the associated costs.
Screening starts with reviewing the resume or job application. When you are looking at the resume, look for missing time periods and check if the applicant has often changed jobs. Both of these can be signs of a problem employee. You will also want to contact previous employers and references. Understand that most employers will be reticent about providing information: they will only want to confirm pay and dates of employment. One question an employer may answer is whether the applicant was eligible for re-employment. A no to that question should be a big red flag.
The second phase of the screening is the interview. You will want to ask questions that are open, requiring a detailed answer. Try to develop a list of standard questions that you can use with all candidates. You need to know whether a person fits with your department’s culture. You will also want to ask specific questions to probe any questionable areas on the person’s resume.
I recommend developing a written list of questions to ask during the interview. In doing a little research online, I found numerous websites with lists of questions available. I recommend creating a form with the questions that fit your needs. Use the form on each interview and make notes about the answers you receive. This will make it easier to compare multiple candidates.
The third phase I would recommend is an aptitude test. I use an old class entrance exam from one of the manufacturers. This test has pictures of gears and question about what the result would be when a gear rotates in a specific direction. The test also asks questions about the use of a meter and about how to measure current, resistance and voltage. A test like this helps you understand the applicant’s aptitude and knowledge level.
The last phase of screening should be a standardized psychological test. Most of these tests will provide you information on the employee’s reliability, honesty, customer service potential and other valuable insights. You will typically pay for this service, but by identifying potential issues with a candidate, you can avoid bad hires and the associated costs.
The last part of the hiring process is the probationary period. In many companies, this period is 90 days. In most cases, employees terminated during this time have a minimal impact on your company’s unemployment insurance rate. These employees typically do not receive benefits. During this period, you will want to pay close attention to performance. If an employee fails to report for work on time, or requests time off for non-emergency reasons, termination might be the best choice.
A new employee should be on their best behavior during this period. If they show signs of unacceptable behavior during this time, the problems will normally get worse rather than better.
The result of a good recruiting and screening process will be better hires. Remember that recruiting is an ongoing activity. It lets you develop a pool of potential candidates that may be available when you have an opening. If you can hire from within, developing a career path that leads to a field technician career, you will reap the benefits of hiring a known quantity.