As a business, employees are your greatest asset. I set out to build a company that everyone wants to work for, and have personally taken ownership of our hiring process to make it happen. A focus on keeping employees happy is not very common in the blue-collar construction industry, as many employers rely on the idea that simply having a job is good enough. But if you want to be the best in your space, you must have the best people working for you.
Unfortunately for my industry, with people increasingly drawn toward desk jobs comes a decline in those who are learning trades like carpentry. Therefore, we have a smaller and smaller talent pool and have to focus even harder on securing top talent. But this is relevant for any industry: You want those people who’re going to defend and fight for your company on a day-to-day basis.
Pay is definitely an important factor for attracting the best, but I’ve also ended up toe-to-toe with monster companies that had significantly more money to spend on hiring. I had to be creative. No idea was too crazy, and the following strategies are what worked best.
Testing Different Mediums for Job Postings
When tackling this challenge, I first had to find the job posting channel that yielded the most qualified applicants and the best return on investment (ROI). I put myself in a prospective carpenter’s shoes and went searching online for “carpentry jobs,” “construction jobs,” etc. I noticed that one website in particular showed up in both organic and paid results significantly more than others.
This website had a pay-per-click model to show sponsored postings. I started posting jobs and advertising with them, but I still needed to try out other ways to post so I could compare.
I thought about traditional methods, since construction has a lot of traditional-minded people that needed to see my posting. Newspapers were the obvious idea, but I didn’t like being unable to track how many people saw the job posting. What if it was just another listing thrown in with a thousand others — would it be worthwhile?
I decided to try it. It was about $200 for a job posting ad in the local newspaper for a Wednesday and a Saturday during the busiest season of the year. To track its value, I created a custom shortlink using Bit.ly, and kept it simple so that readers could easily type it in and go to the job posting. After tracking the ad, I realized that I’d spent $200 for one candidate to view and apply, which could have been used in another medium to yield 40+ candidates.
Using Realistic Job Postings
Once I honed in on hiring, I focused on doing it right and trying to hire the best. However, I had back-to-back hiring rounds that were complete failures. One person was afraid of heights, one person didn’t know how to do half of the things he’d listed, etc.
So I focused even more on finding quality employees who would stick around. One obvious problem with my process was the amount of wasted time. To help, I reached out to another local contractor who has grown his company tremendously in the past five years.
His advice: In your posting, make the realistic requirements the last thing that people read, not the perks and benefits. When a candidate reads a job posting, they often remember the last thing the most. In many postings, this is how great the job will be, the salary, etc. Often, ads are so focused on the fluffy parts of a job that responders just apply, forgetting about the actual requirements, skills and hard work that will be needed.
For my next postings, I touched on qualifications in the beginning, then put the details about skills, qualifications and work ethic at the bottom. This way candidates would remember that there’s hard, qualified work involved. This strategy cut down on the number of unqualified applicants, saved us days of time, and helped us filter through the everyday regulars so that the rockstars stood out.
Implementing Skills Tests
Skills tests also help cut down on wasted time. It’s how you minimize the chances of people like my one hire, the fellow who couldn’t do half the things he’d said.
For my next hiring round, I wrote three simple questions about carpentry fundamentals. This helped me gauge how much someone really knew during an initial phone interview. These were questions that would have been tough for someone at a lower skill level, but that an ideal candidate would know. Only 20 percent of those who made it to this stage made it to the next one, and we then had a great crop of people for our next interviews.
Now, once I have a handful of candidates who’ve passed the phone interview, I bring them in for an interview and give them a more comprehensive written skills test. Even in-person interviews can take up to an hour of my day, so as soon as the candidate comes in for the interview and we introduce ourselves, I sit them down to take the skills test.
When they’re done we look at the test. If their knowledge isn’t what we need, we can expedite the interview process tremendously. This also allows me to keep working while the candidate is taking the test. I don’t have to waste 20 minutes only to find out they aren’t qualified.
Pay attention, though — sometimes you’ll find a candidate perfect for a lower position, and you may be able to snag yourself a good employee for a different job. Overall, using these techniques should help you find your ideal candidate without taking up too much of your most likely limited time.