Like many other sectors of the technical skills market, the HVAC industry is facing a skills gap. Across the country, 77% of construction contractors planned to increase their workforce in 2019, and 78% were having a hard time filling those roles. Hiring HVAC technicians takes an average of 36 days, a week longer than the national average for similar jobs, which is 29 days. Finding talented employees with a strong work ethic is critical to the long-term success of your business. Your HVAC installers and maintenance professionals interact with customers directly, and the quality of their work reflects on your reputation.
If you need help finding top talent, these tips can teach you how to hire good HVAC technicians.
Table of Contents
- Always Be Recruiting
- Have a Defined and Comprehensive Interview Process
- Hire for Character, Train as Needed
- Form Relationships With Local Trade Schools
- Offer Competitive Compensation Packages
- Be Ready to Invest in Incentives and Continued Education
- Talk to the HVAC Recruiting Specialists at Coachfirm
1. Always Be Recruiting
Fantastic candidates are hard to find and in even greater demand. One mistake many small businesses make is to recruit on a job-to-job basis. Maybe you’re only hiring a few HVAC techs a year. Your recruiting efforts, social media posts and job fair visits may be thorough when you have a role to fill, and nonexistent when you don’t. It’s possible the best candidates aren’t looking for a job at all. Recruiting should be about creating demand as much as it is about filling roles.
A great recruiting strategy keeps you at the top of people’s minds. When a great HVAC technician is thinking about a job change, you want them to check your website for open positions. Instead of recruiting for specific jobs, position your company as a great place to work. Highlight your inviting culture, enticing benefits and professional support. Even as a small business owner, you can have qualified candidates lining up for interviews with each new posting.
An ongoing recruitment strategy can help you reel in star candidates before someone else does. Make sure your website has an open invitation for resumes, regardless of your current job listings. When the right candidate is job hunting, they can throw their hat in the ring, even if you’re not currently hiring. If you meet a skilled HVAC employee at a job fair or through an unsolicited resume, consider creating a position on the spot. If you know someone will be a great fit, offer the benefits and incentives needed to bring them on board.
2. Have a Defined and Comprehensive Interview Process
Most mid-level skills job recruiters agree they get lots of applicants despite the skills gap. The issue is the people who send their resumes don’t have the skills needed for the job. Or if applicants have the right skills, they don’t fit in with the business or culture. With these concerns in mind, sifting through applicants requires a defined process.
Once you decide which candidates to bring in for interviews, prepare to make the most out of your short time together. Ask detailed, deliberate questions in line with what you want from your new hire. Let’s say you identify one of your ideal personality traits as being people- and customer-service oriented. Ask how candidates might handle a demanding customer or ask them to describe a time they went above and beyond on a service call.
3. Hire for Character, Train as Needed
Becoming a highly skilled HVAC technician takes years, often beyond what is taught in vocational programs. In most cases, earning a state license for Journeyman HVAC status requires at least four years of work experience. Expecting a candidate to spring forth fully formed, mastering every skill on your list may cause you to turn up short.
Hiring HVAC techs this way also has a potential drawback. A technician who has spent years learning the ropes under someone else’s instruction might not do things the way you do things. Maybe another company expected them to cut corners or use outdated practices. Regardless of the years of experience, you’ll likely have to spend some time retraining a candidate and teach them the way you do things.
When you hire someone with a can-do attitude who is ready to learn, you can feel confident they’ll absorb the information. They’ll contribute to your team culture and are likely to stay with your company longer. With time and encouragement, an unskilled candidate with the right personality has the potential to outperform a skilled candidate set in their ways. You can teach anyone how to fix a broken compressor fan. You can’t teach just anyone to do it with a smile.
4. Form Relationships With Local Trade Schools
Only 35% of HVAC instructors say their program has adequate access to apprenticeships. Meanwhile, 25% of HVAC programs face significant under-enrollment, and another 31% have missed their enrollment target by a few students.
The next generation of HVAC employees is in trade school classrooms and high schools. Your relationship with your local trade schools should be twofold. First, provide the on-the-job learning opportunities HVAC programs are missing. At the same time, prepare to play industry advocate. Visit career fairs at high schools and vocational schools to show students the opportunities available in the HVAC industry.
Convincing students to become HVAC technicians will benefit your local job market a few years down the road. Some great talking points to mention include:
- Service technicians and installers earn more than typical college graduates.
- The industry reports high levels of job satisfaction.
- HVAC jobs are outsource-proof, and heating and air conditioning are in high demand.
Whenever you meet with students, provide resources and education first. Talk about what a typical day in the life looks like, and highlight the training needed to pursue an HVAC career. Invite students to shadow your business for a day. Your goal is to inspire young people who will enjoy the job a be well suited for it.
5. Offer Competitive Compensation Packages
The national median annual salary for an HVAC mechanic or installer is $48,730. Apprentices earn about half the wages of their experienced counterparts, and the top 10% of the industry earns $77,920. Your state or county’s wages could be higher or lower, so check with your state department of labor for the most accurate compensation data.
While benefits vary by employer, you should expect to offer perks on par with what your biggest competitors provide. For many employees, an excellent health, vision and dental insurance package outweighs a bump in salary. Research the benefits your fellow HVAC companies offer and ask yourself what you can afford and what you can do better. Some prevalent benefits in the industry include:
- 401(k) retirement plans and contributions
- Company vehicles, cell phones and tablets
- Paid holidays, sick days and vacation time
- Flexible scheduling
- Tuition reimbursement and continuing education
- Signing bonuses
6. Be Ready to Invest in Incentives and Continued Education
If the job market doesn’t turn out the experienced candidates you need, find them within your own workforce. When you invest in upskilling, you treat your entry-level employees more like apprentices. You cultivate your own talent pool for upper-level and leadership roles. Since208,730 HVAC employees will retire by 2022 and leave 115,070 unfilled positions in their wake, a succession plan is crucial.
By offering opportunities for advancement, you gain many advantages. First, when you hire internally, you get candidates who are already part of your company culture. They know how things are done. Since you’ve been training them, they have the exact set of skills you’re looking for. Second, you increase employee retention. Your qualified workers might start looking at other roles if they feel there’s no opportunity for promotions or raises. When you do hunt for external talent, you can attract more candidates through growth opportunities.
You may be able to get a lot more out of your team when you offer productivity incentives. Some companies provide commissions for selling homeowners additional products and services. Others offer bonuses for having a record for perfect installations. You’ll find your team is a lot more willing to make an extra sale or do things right the first time when a bonus is on the line. A comprehensive incentive program might tie increased pay to productivity.
Talk to the HVAC Recruiting Specialists at Coachfirm
Attracting and retaining the right team members is about knowing your employees’ worth and developing talent from within. At Coachfirm, we’re dedicated to small business owners nationwide. Our HVAC business consultants solve your industry’s problems, especially issues related to talent and managing a team.
We know the HVAC industry is a tough market. As a consulting firm, we understand how to hire good HVAC employees for small businesses. Our human resources and recruiting coaches can help you turn around your recruiting strategy so you can market your workplace the same way you do your excellent services.
If you need more advice to attract the best HVAC installers and mechanics to your workplace, contact Coachfirm today.