How to choose which employee to hire in your electrical, plumbing or building business

Tips for Small Business Trades & Construction Hiring shortlisting

Being on the tools is easy. Taking customer calls is simple. Smashing out quotes just isn’t an issue. Scheduling work for everyone in the team is more than manageable. But knowing who you should hire when you’re looking at a pile of applicants? Now that’s a whole new level of hard.

So we’ve put together three tips to help you know which tradespeople you should hire, and which applicants you should steer clear of.

1. Move quickly on great applicants.

Great tradespeople get snapped up quickly because they’re in such high demand. So start separating the good from the bad as soon as applications roll in.

But how can you tell who’s a good employee from a bad one? There are a number of ways, but keep in mind this is fairly superficial. So the following points should be used as indicators that give an idea if someone is great:

The reputation of their previous employee.
If you haven’t already heard about their previous company’s reputation, do a little digging. The chances are if the company is reputable, your applicant will be too.

The length of their employment.
The longer someone is at a job, generally the more loyal and dedicated they’ll be. There are obviously exceptions to this rule, good people moving on quickly from toxic work environments, or bad people staying in one company as they’ll struggle to find employment elsewhere.

Volunteer work.
This may seem a bit of a red herring, but it is a telling revelation about their character. If they’re willing to give back to others or the community, then it’s likely they’ll have a positive attitude to work and be a good addition to your team.

While it’s easier to get a gauge of good qualified tradespeople from their CVs, it’s harder for apprentices and fresh tradespeople. That’s why the next step is to get on the blower.

2. Jump on the phone.

Consider each of these shortlisting tips a test - seeing which of your applicants meet the mark. In fact, calling them is a two-fold test: an initial screening test to see if it's worth getting them in for an interview, and a test of their customer skills with your firsthand experience of how they handle themselves on the phone.

Questions to ask them over the phone include:

  • Why do you like to or want to work in this trade?
  • What are your career goals? Where do you see yourself in five year’s time?
  • What kind of values do you like to see in your ideal boss and company?
  • Why are you leaving your current job and why do you want to work for me?
  • What's the most important trait of a tradesperson?
  • What would you do if a client becomes irate about the work you’re doing while onsite?

Once you’ve completed all the phone interviews, you need to weigh up who might be the best fit for your company. To do this, we’ve produced a scorecard to make comparing applicants easy.

3. Use a scorecard to compare applicants.

Trying to compare your top applicants can be difficult, particularly when you think about which applicants might fit in with your existing employees. However, if you pop everyone on the scorecard, you’ll see where your gaps are and which of your applicants fill them.

There are four skill types, plus a column for initiative, personality type and your gut feel. Here’s an outline of what each means:

Essential skills.
These are the technical trade skills necessary for completing regular jobs: i.e. the ability to install, maintain, modify and repair electrical distribution systems and associated electrical equipment.

Customer skills.
These are the customer relationship skills your employees will use on the job, which will encourage repeat business and increase the likelihood of word-of-mouth referrals.

Sales skills.
These are skills that will help acquire new customers or produce cross-selling opportunities when onsite. For instance, identifying additional work that needs or may need doing in the near future.

Specialist skills.
These are nice-to-have skills that let your business offer additional services and create new revenue streams.

This is a characteristic of someone who is proactive, seeing that something needs doing and doing it. If you find people like this, it’s a huge YES to hiring - even if they don’t necessarily have as many skills as others.

Personality type.

Alison Mooney has recognised people have one of four different personality types, and knows a team needs a balance mix of all to really succeed. They personality types are: Precise, Playful, Peaceful, or Powerful.

As a general rule, ask each candidate what they relate to most from the list below. The name for each personality type follows each question.

  • Do you like to take the lead of situations? = Powerful
  • Are you most concerned about quality of work? = Precise
  • Is a great team environment a must? = Peaceful
  • Do you like having a good time at work? = Playful

Like with many things in life, your instincts will normally serve you well. After going through this thorough shortlisting process, you should have a fairly good indication of who you want to get in for the interview, and subsequently hire. So listen out for it.

What next?

Once you’ve moved quickly on the best applicants, put them through the initial screening test phone call, and completed the hiring scorecard, it’s time to move onto the exciting interview process. Good luck.