Is Technology Making Your Hiring Harder or Easier?

If you’ve had trouble finding and hiring the right people to grow your remodeling business, you’re not alone. In fact, a recent study showed that nearly half of small business owners are finding it difficult to find qualified employees.

With advancements in technology impacting so much of how we do business, the question is, is it helping or hurting your chances of making that hiring process, and the result, better?

Let’s take a look.

Finding the Time to Find Applicants

One of the biggest barriers to filling an open role is simply the legwork and investment to get the word out. From taking the time to write a proper and accurate job description to creating accounts and posting your job on all the right job boards, the hours add up.

Fortunately, this is one area where technology can make a big difference. There are many services that allow you to send your job description out to multiple job boards with one account and one click. This can literally save you hours, plus it gets your job out that much faster.

So, let’s chalk that up as a win for technology!

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The Pile of Resumes

So you’ve used technology to get your job out there, but are you prepared for what’s next?

The influx of resumes.

Thanks to technology, you’ve been able to reach that many more applicants that much faster—but that also means a pile of applications to sort through.

And, because it’s so much easier for candidates to apply for roles (thanks to technology again!) you could end up with a ton of applicants that aren’t even remotely qualified.

No wonder hiring is tough!

With the stack of resumes on your desk or in your inbox, how can you possibly know which applicants to interview and which to reject?

Let’s give technology one check in the “helping” column because it’s made it easier to find applicants. But it gets one check in the “hurting” column because it’s made hiring harder by giving you so many applicants to plow through.

Decision Making—Who to Hire?

The good news is that while technology has created some extra pain around that pile of applicants, it’s also provided some relief.

For decades many large enterprises have been asking their applicants to complete something called a personality job fit survey, which scores them against the key traits of the role. It’s a proven formula for matching the type of work people like to do to the work required by the job.

Simply stated, people who are doing work that they naturally enjoy are happier and more productive. The job fit survey matches applicants to job roles and then instantly identifies which candidates are most likely to succeed on the job. This allows the hiring manager to avoid the huge stack and focus only on resumes from strong applicants.

And while, historically, surveys like this have been too expensive for the small business owner, technology has now made it accessible—and affordable—to everyone.

For about the cost of posting to a job board, small businesses can use the job-fit survey technology to identify instantly which applicants are a good fit for the job. In fact, it’s proven to be five times more effective at predicting job success than traditional hiring.

Conclusion

Hiring is difficult and painful. However, technology has made great strides to increase the speed of finding applicants and to enable us to make faster and better hiring decisions.

And for the more than half of you who are experiencing the difficulty of finding and hiring the right people for your business, this is indeed good news.

 Join us in October for the 2015 Annual Remodelers Summit! This year’s theme: Technology — Click here for details!

Should You Hire “Old” People?

I was interacting with a younger contractor about his search for an estimator.

Here is what the contractor wrote to me:

I wanted to get your opinion on a quick question. How much weight should I be placing on age when looking at potential candidates for the Estimator?

Ideally I would really like to have someone in their 30’s or early 40’s. As you know, most of our administrative staff are in the latter stages of their careers. I’d like to have someone on the team that is driven to help me make improvements and comfortable with the technology. I’m seeing a few candidates that have the skill sets for the position but I haven’t been pursuing phone interviews because they appear to be a bit older than I’d like.

Do you think I should be interviewing anyone who’s qualified, regardless of age? I know this is probably a touchy subject for legal reasons but communications to the candidate would all fall within legal guidelines.

What are your thoughts?”

My first question to the contractor was “What is ‘old’ in your mind? Just curious.” Being of an age myself that I have been educated to think of as “old” I was just wondering!

Here is what I think is important to look for when interviewing:

  • Attitude, because you can’t teach it. The right candidate will impress you with her or his drive, the grounded-ness and confidence that comes with knowing one’s self. You sort of “feel” this when interviewing a candidate. The absence of a good attitude in a new employee simply sets up all involved to be very frustrated, with the new employee being let go sooner than later.
  • Aptitude, or the ability to learn. You want to hire someone who will have some knowledge but not be hidebound by it. Asking a candidate about what he/she has learned in his/her life can give you good insights into how he will approach embracing your company’s systems and new ways of doing things, in general.
  • Drive, as that is another thing that cannot be taught. Working with an employee who projects a solid base of energy, a spark, is very inspiring compared to working with one who sucks the energy out of the room.
  • Familiarity with technology, because a good estimator needs to already be up-to-speed regarding this. The degree of familiarity that a position requires is something that you and your company need to determine. Just be sure to not engage in magical thinking, which can result in hiring a “really good candidate” except for the fact that the company will need to teach him computer skills, starting with how to type.
  • Prior experience, even though it will likely not be a fit for what you want from a candidate. There are simply not that many estimator candidates out there. Some companies take an “aging” lead carpenter who is very analytical and computer-savvy and teach her how to be an estimator. The lead carpenter’s experience managing her projects so they came in on time and on budget are a plus in an estimator.

Regarding age, I understand your perspective. My thinking these days is that if one hires an employee and the employee works for the company for 5-10 years that would be a very long time. Many young people are working a year or two or three at a given job, followed by several other similar stints, to build a resume.

So age is less relevant in mind than it would have been a while ago.

I am curious to learn how old the estimator is that my contractor friend hires. An older person can bring a different perspective to a company, one that balances that of the younger folks who work there. Just don’t let age get in the way of hiring someone who turns out to be a great employee!

What are your thoughts on the subject?

Please share in the comments below!

Reading Between the Lines: What to Look for in a Resume

Resumes can be loaded with information if you know what to look for and, just like first impressions are very important in face-to-face meetings, the same is true with resumes.

For example, when you receive a resume from a Lead Carpenter candidate, keep in mind that this candidate is a “hands -on” person and usually does not have the time to develop above average writing skills.  The resume will usually reflect this and that may be fine, considering the position they will fill.

However, when you are looking for a Production Manager who will be responsible for leadership, managerial responsibilities, and customer contact then writing and communication skills are essential. So the first impression of this candidate’s resume must reflect this level of expertise.

Next, read the content carefully as the style in which a resume is written is packed with information.

If many details of the past are carefully listed in chronological order, it is likely the S and C behaviors are in place. These behaviors reflect a person who is detail and research oriented and may not handle multi tasking well.

On the other hand, a resume that is written in a direct style with crisp language could mean that the D and some I behavior is in place.  These behaviors reflect a person who makes decisions quickly, can handle conflict, but yet enjoys being around people.

Which type of a person fits the position you are trying to fill?

Every job candidate is bound to put their best foot forward, so carefully read the content and then be prepared to ask questions to draw out more information about their behaviors. This way, you can be certain that this person has what you need for the position.

Does Your Company Have the Bench Strength You Need?

Bench Strength — Definition: The competence and number of employees ready to fill vacant leadership and other positions.

Do you have employees in the wings to take on more leadership if the business needs it? This need could develop because the company has grown and needs additional skilled managers . . . or because an existing key manager leaves the business, taking his or her talent and skills with them.

Unless you prepare in advance, either one of these scenarios could see you scrambling for new employees – a condition that inevitably costs valuable time and money. Most important, if you hire out of desperation, you might end up paying more than fair value for your new staff person, or hiring the wrong person—triggering another exit and even more distraction.

The best way to avoid this unhappy scenario is to build bench strength with smart, thoughtful hiring, and a plan to grow replacements from within.

So let’s start.

Ask yourself these questions:

• What is the financial cost involved in hiring a replacement for a key position? Some studies say up to 15X the annual salary of the position.

• What is the loss-of-productivity cost? This can be huge as it affects the entire company as a number of staff members are forced to shift focus to hiring.

• What effects do these costs have on your business and on your remaining key players? Everyone works harder to cover, getting disgruntled and unhappy.

• How will you find this new teammate? How much time will it take? Depending on the process used, expect to invest 100 hours or more between recruiting, reviewing information, interviewing, and onboarding.

I think it’s clear that developing a plan to increase bench strength in advance is well worth the effort.

First, assess your current organizational lineup to see if you have employees that have the potential to move to advanced positions in the future. This is especially important for the roles that are the most difficult to fill like Production Manager or a top salesperson. Start with the positions that have a deep impact on the business and would be the most difficult to do without. Especially for these key positions, you should have an understudy in the wings. Not sure who on your team has the potential? Ask. Talk about their goals. During these discussions, you’ll quickly identify those who are ambitious and want to excel. Also, look for the “energy generators.” These people who bring vigor to the table. They will fuel you and each other.

Second, review job descriptions. Clearly defined positions are most crucial when the cost of replacing someone is especially high, such as leaders and key management personnel. Some of the skills and traits required to lead may only develop fully over time; and during a crisis you don’t have time to wait.

Third, hire smart. Picking your team is 90 percent of the battle. Know what skills and experiences different positions require and use it to find the best people. Also, think ahead and make sure that everyone you hire has the potential for advancement.

Fouth, train, train, train. Help your team members get ahead. Give them the opportunity to take on more responsibility and learn new aspects of positions within the company.

For example, do your lead carpenters have an opportunity to learn scheduling? Is the Production Coordinator learning the basics of estimating? Are you teaching the entire team how to decipher financial and understand how to generate profits?

This type of ongoing training will help individuals be ready to move up when you need them. Another benefit is this: As the rest of the staff sees a team member move up, they’ll get excited about the opportunities that exists for them as well and this means retaining your talent far longer than in the past.

Building bench strength is a positive move for the company as well as for each individual on the team.

Ramping Up Production Efficiency

Production is really where the rubber meets the road. The people involved in production are a huge part of the customer experience —  and it’s also where your money is won or lost.

Three Major Goals of the Production Department Include:

  • Complete jobs on time,
  • Within budget,
  • Resulting in a highly satisfied client

This is a challenging list of goals but when they are accomplished, life is beautiful! Clients are happy and send referrals. You are happy because the company made money, your team is happy because they accomplished a difficult goal.

Tips to A Successful Production Department:

1. Hire Great People for the Department.

Depending on the market, it can be a challenge to find talented production members. I caution you, however, that even if it’s tough and takes time, don’t rush your decision. These front line workers are too important to the company. Use all of the tools at your disposal to spread the word and then vet each candidate carefully. I always recommend hiring the best person you can find. The stumbling block for some remodeling company owners is the fact that great people demand higher compensation! Yes, they do and that’s because they earn it by delivering better results more efficiently, earning money for the company each step of the way. You’ll never grow into a top company if you will settle for mediocrity in your people because you’re afraid to spend the money on greatness.

If you’d like to review a sample job description for a Production Manager, click here.

2. Set Expectations Clearly.

Expectations start with the job description you’ve created for each position. Let’s focus on the Production Manager. The person in this role typically has the most influence on the results of any job. One of the common problems I see is that the people in these positions are not meeting their responsibilities — possibly because they don’t have the expertise, the owner won’t let them do their job, communication within the company is weak or non-existent or they have never understood what their goals are.

If you have a production manager who is not living up to expectations, take an hour or two and review or write job descriptions. Include a list of their responsibilities such as “Produce all jobs to meet stated Gross Profit Margin.” Getting everyone on the same page will be very helpful as you move forward.

3. Monitor Progress Regularly and Consistently.

This monitoring includes regular meetings with the production team (we recommend weekly meetings) and regular productivity reports (job cost reports produced weekly as well) that you and the Production Manager or Lead Carpenter will use to check estimated costs against actual costs as the job progresses.

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