Ultimate Guide for Hiring HVAC Techs
Learn how to find, hire, and KEEP quality HVAC technicians
Almost across the board finding, recruiting, and hiring HVAC techs is almost always the biggest pain point for our HVAC clients. As you already know this is a problem across all the trades all over the country.
We put this guide together to help you think about HOW to attract the talent you need in a fresh way.
PERCEPTION IS REALITY
There is a great book called Perception by Dennis Proffitt and Drake Baer. In that book, they show a number of studies that detail how our bodies and ability to move influence how we view our surroundings. For example, researchers found that if you are obese or tired, distances look farther to you. People wearing heavy backpacks see steeper hills in front of them than those without backpacks.
“Put another way: Our walking ability shapes the apparent walkability of the hill, which determines how we see it. You do not see the hill as it is but rather as it is seen by you,” write Proffitt and Baer.
If you are holding something that extends your reach—like a grabber—things appear closer to you, too. In sports, successful baseball batters literally see bigger balls coming at them from the pitcher, and golfers who putt well see bigger holes.
Our body’s energy levels also impact decision-making. In one experiment, participants who drank a sugary drink made better decisions and delayed immediate gratification. Similarly, when judges make parole decisions just before their lunch breaks or the end of their day, they tend to deny parole. That’s because a decision to grant parole requires more careful consideration—and, so, more energy.
The way you think is tied to how you physically feel. So, it’s essential to make sure we (or others we rely on) are not too depleted when hard decisions need to be made.
Now that we know how much perception shapes how we see, hear, understand, process, and take in information our challenge is how we can use that to help you find more, and better qualified, technicians for your HVAC company!
This is where I would start with creating a plan for finding, recruiting, and hiring HVAC techs in the world.
If you have a service manager or guys that you would consider great HVAC technicians, I would have them all take the Ennegram Personality Test – it costs $12.
You also want to consider having them take Tony Robbins’ DISC Profile Assessment.
These tests will show you what the ideal result is for a tech you know is going to do the work and a great part of your team. Then, when you have candidates take these same tests, you use those results to compare with the applicants. Do they score high in the same ways as your good techs do?
That is a big indicator that they will be a good hire!
STOP ADVERTISING FOR HVAC TECHS
We will start with an easy, but powerful, differentiator, when running help-wanted ads for technicians. Stop advertising for ‘technicians.’ Start advertising for MANAGERS.
I got this one from my dad who ran giant car dealerships for almost 50 years. He never advertised
for salespeople. He advertised for sales MANAGERS. If you advertise for sales managers, you get GOOD
salespeople who think they are good enough to be a sales manager but, for whatever reason, don’t have
that opportunity where they are currently.
The same concept applies to you. Instead of an ad for hiring an HVAC tech, if you advertise for a lead guy or, better yet, if the situation applies, a lead guy who could potentially work up to being an owner in the business, now you are appealing to a whole new audience.
The difference is subtle, but the impact can be huge.
Depending on the requirements of your state, this may be potentially huge for your business and the idea behind this guide initially!
This idea really hit home for me. I have worked exclusively for HVAC owners for close to five years now, spent hours and hours in the field with their guys, tagged along on new installs, taken hundreds of photos, been in meetings at the office, driven and flown to spend time with HVAC owners and not even I knew that it was possible for a young man (or woman) to start as a helper, work for two years, take a test and be certified as an HVAC technician able to run service calls, diagnose and fix residential units and make really good money in the process. With NO need for insane student loans, spending years in college, and no need for a trade school or vocational training.
I also HAVE a 17-year-old son that absolutely loves to fix things and is just one of those kids who is really good at figuring things out. At 16 he replaced our kitchen sink. He has every tool an aspiring tradesman could want. He can replace a deadbolt, replace the water filters on the OS unit in the basement, change the sump pump with no instruction, and just last fall, helped replace our water heater that went out.
This is him helping trim a tree in front of one of our HVAC clients’ offices so we could get a better shot of their sign from the street for a video project.
My point is with all my experience working with HVAC companies and RAISING a young man who would love to be an HVAC tech, I had no idea this was possible. He is already attending and excited about being a lineman right now.
How many other young people or adults for that matter have no idea they could be, not a helper, but a PAID APPRENTICE, with no need for formal training or education?
Not just young people, but there is a lot to be said for being in the trades. And there is a real opportunity for HVAC owners to appeal to the unemployed during this ‘great resignation’ time. People that would make fantastic technicians that might not have considered it before might very well be open to the idea now.
Again, perception is reality. We are appealing to the same group of people but if we say essentially the same thing but in a different way it sinks in. It clicks, it resonates with them.
This idea would be downright simple to test and implement. You could run a Facebook ad that would have a lot of appeal. The point of an initial ad is NOT to get a ‘lead’ or applicant.
The point is just to get them to CLICK ON THE AD. That’s it.
sample landing page
Questions like: Are you good at working with your hands? Good at figuring things out? Love to know how things work? Ever taken apart a fridge or tv to see if you could fix it yourself? And actually succeeded at it? If so, this opportunity might be perfect for you!
There you have it. Now you are appealing to a MUCH wider audience, in a much more appealing way, and then it is just a matter of filtering out the individuals that aren’t a good fit.
It’s easier to create a fantastic offer first. Then after it’s working (aka producing applicants for you), you introduce friction (be pickier about who you want applying) vs. making a so-so offer and trying to tweak and improve your hiring funnel with very little results to go off of.
BIRDS OF A FEATHER FLOCK TOGETHER
Do you have a formal program for your best guys to refer friends, people they know that might be a good fit for your team?
Pro: People tend to hang out with people who look and act like them. If you have a performer, then you would do well to hire their friends. Your employees want to work with good people. Very few employees will choose an incentive over poor work relations as a long-term strategy. They are more likely to bring in quality candidates.
Con: You have to make it rewarding to bring people in, meaning: plumbers, electricians, and HVAC techs need not worry about having less work by recruiting for you. If they work less as a result, the incentive failed. And make your company an environment they will want to refer into! If everyone is worried about being fired or the next change, they won’t bring their friends into that environment.
Most of us have built pay-for-performance environments in the residential service industry. It’s natural then that giving them an incentive to recruit goes a long way.
I like to encourage retention on this. The referring plumber or tech can get $2,500 after 90 days and then $1,000 for each year their referred plumber or tech stays. I only use this incentive for technical roles.
Here is an ad that helped one of our clients use their staff to recruit more techs.
GET THIS PAGE ON YOUR SITE ASAP!
We have had great success with some clients by getting a really strong career/hiring page on their websites.
Very often if somebody is considering applying with your company they are going to look at your website and online presence.
Some things you want to make sure your website has are:
- Involvement in the community
- Photos of actual smiling people (no stock photos)
- A team page with some bio information
Doing this kind of work for our clients is what we LOVE doing!
If you need help with any of this reach out today.
SO CHEAP BUT SO IMPACTFUL
You have how many branded vehicles out on the roads and all over town every day?
Adding a graphic similar to this one could cost $20-40 each and potentially be seen by thousands of people a week!
A lot of those people have spouses, older teens, friends, relatives, hell themselves even that might be looking for work. To make it REALLY powerful, put your impactful apprentice ad to work!
Build community relationships to find the best HVAC hires.
Ron Smith, an HVAC consultant and coaching pioneer who’s owned 24 HVAC companies at various times during his career, suggests beginning the HVAC recruiting process at local schools.
“Form a relationship with the leaders of your community’s high schools and vocational schools, and ask if you can speak to the students in group sessions,” says Smith, author of the bestselling book HVAC Spells. “After building relationships, these groups are more likely to keep you in mind when they graduate from school and are looking for jobs. Your education will help them understand the employment opportunities
available in the HVAC industry and can assist in your recruiting efforts.”
HIRING A RECRUITER
For many of you, I know that hiring a person to only recruit is difficult because of your company size. However, if you have good management, you can hire someone for around $13/hr. You can look to fill the position on a part-time basis. Maybe someone in school would be a good fit?
Benefits of hiring a recruiter:
- Really follow up with all the applicants that come in
- Coordinate having the better applicants take an assessment, and make sure they are worth a damn before you meet them
- Meeting and keeping in touch with local trade schools, colleges, vendors, and supply houses and letting (the whole world) know you are hiring!
- Help drive and coordinate the apprentice program
- Help drive the retention ideas listed below!
- Conduct exit interviews to know of any issues leading people to leave your team
I am sure they could do 20 different things on this list if it was their ‘job’. If you spent $2-3k a month and they helped you bring on 3-4 techs, that helped generates $250k a year in revenue each. That was a damn fine investment.
Better yet, hire somebody to help in this area and give them a fair base with a generous incentive plan for each technician hired and an additional amount for every quarter that guy stays on. That makes them motivated to find you guys that will stay AND they are motivated to make sure those guys are happy and let you know about issues that might be festering that you don’t know about!
Pro: This person can grind for you! Cold calling is not for everyone. If you find someone who can deliver on par or better than you, then it’s a perfect situation. Managing all the channels above isn’t easy while trying to run a business. A dedicated recruiter will relieve some of the hiring pressure for you. This person can handle the grunt work, leaving you to be the face who meets with prospective people (if that is your desire).
Con: It’s hard to find this person — someone who has the ability to make something from nothing. I have found that people who are good with phone sales have this something-from-nothing ability. The cost is not beneficial if it’s not done right. Like many things in our businesses, it becomes an overhead headache. A super-dynamic person or a pretty good person, coupled with super-strong leadership, is the key to
OTHER GREAT HIRING RESOURCES
- Job board at the local VA
In many ways, this is my secret weapon of choice, but I’ll spill the beans here.
Posting is fine and it’ll bring you candidates; however, calling people who are offering plumbing, HVAC or electrical service is where you’ll really excel. I cold-called them all every week. I told them, “I just want to tell you what our company is all about.” More on this in a bit. These people aren’t job hunting, but they do feel alone. They don’t have a network of people who can empathize with their situation. Many of them would actually sit down with me because I was in the industry.
Pro: I hired many people from my cold-calling efforts. Not everyone worked out. Sometimes they had a hard time wrapping their mind around the price or the pay structure, but the quantity made it work. I had one major success: he was a million-dollar service plumber and the best in the company at sales, work ethic, and attitude.
This is not a magic bullet either. This is mostly a CRM/pipeline in my mind. It’s a great tool for posting, too. More importantly, it is a great place to track and house all the applicants in your company. The most important part of recruiting and using this tool — or the similar Zip Recruiter — is making sure you follow up with every single lead. (More on that later.)
Pro: This is such an easy way to post for jobs. It hits Indeed and a few dozen other random sites. You can refresh job postings every 30 days with zero effort and refreshing them is important. You will see huge influxes at the beginning of these refreshes because it pops to the top of all the boards. It is a great way to house all your applicants, easy to search them, and organize what you’ve done with each one.
Con: Maybe it works too well as an always-running piece of recruiting because I’ve noticed that it almost becomes white noise if you don’t make it a priority. Be deliberate about checking this all the time so you don’t leave any applicant wondering. They almost tote this product as a one-stop shop. I would argue that it might be this way for many businesses, but it’s not for our industry.
A trillion dollars.
That’s what U.S. businesses are losing every year due to voluntary turnover.
The annual turnover rate in the U.S. in 2017 was 26.3% based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Not having a PLAN to retain your team in this day and age is just plain irresponsible and dangerous. The biggest factors according to a 2009 McKinsley Quarterly Survey found that praise from one’s manager, attention from leaders of the company, frequent promotions, opportunities to lead projects, and chances to join fast-track management programs are often more effective than cash.
As the owner of an HVAC marketing firm, I am invested in completely understanding the industry of my clients. In some ways, I’m in a unique position to gain insight on hiring since I don’t run an HVAC company myself. I’ve joined many online HVAC groups full of HVAC techs. When I ask if they would leave their current job for $5 an hour more in pay the answer was a resounding, almost unanimous NO.
Staff retention doesn’t have to be complex and it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. It just has to be a priority. Trust me, I know you have 100 priorities on your plate but this one deserves a spot at the table.
I am sure you agree that losing a couple of your best guys unexpectedly would qualify as important and urgent! We want to help you avoid that.
Here is just a handful of ideas you can offer that can make a world of difference when it comes to keeping the guys you have (for years to come)
- Offer professional development
- Make a great culture a real priority
- Encourage feedback!
- Support them in ways outside of work
- Provide feedback and recognition
- Setting them up for success with a great onboarding process
- Mentorship programs
- Wellness program
- Flexible work arrangements
- Acknowledgment of milestones, big and small
- Involve them in important decisions (sometimes)
- Training and education
- ESOP (Employee stock ownership program) can have fantastic tax benefits!
- Sabbatical program (take 6 weeks off)
- Altering work responsibilities periodically
- Encourage open communication
- Celebrate employee tenure with a service yearbook
- Profit sharing
- Team building exercises
- Have leaders (not bosses) Few people want to be leaders, but everyone wants to be the boss. Remember, though, that people follow leaders, while they abandon bosses. A boss is a dime a dozen while leaders are rare.
- Be a brand they can be proud of
- Find a pain point of your techs and help get rid of it!
- Scopely celebrates failures by holding a “Fail of the week” session, where team members share some ‘epic fails’ and what they learned from them. This weekly meeting shows employees that Scopely encourages them to take risks and doesn’t punish constructive failures. As a result, employees are more likely to experiment fearlessly.
- Conduct regular ‘stay’ interviews.
YOU HAVE TO DO IT
(I know it sucks. I know it’s hard.)
Back in 2012, I was running a business that sold and installed security systems in homes and businesses. Most of my installers were your average 19-22-year-old idiots that I would have to train and babysit and hold their hands to get them to show up to work, on time was a miracle, and pray nobody steps through a ceiling or drilled into an electrical panel that week.
Then a guy named Rob came along. Rob had installed security systems for years and was VERY good. He knew everything and had been in the industry since I was in junior high. He could do 3 installs a DAY, every day, by HIMSELF. It was a miracle when my two-man crews could get 3 done in a day.
The problem was Rob was an asshole, pure and simple. I don’t think a week went by that I didn’t think he and I would end up in the parking lot actually fighting. He was rude to the person who handled payroll. Rob wasn’t terrible with customers but he sure as hell wasn’t great. He pissed off the other techs on a regular basis.
This is an extreme example but one I am sure you can relate to. I worked with a number of ‘Robs’ over the years. Sometimes you have to make the best of a crappy situation. I get it, I’ve been there.
Back in 2019, I attended a Tony Robbins Business Mastery conference in Palm Springs. There was a really incredible lineup of speakers that we heard from over those 5 days. One of them was a CEO who ran several billion-dollar companies. He was clearly brilliant and knew how to move the bottom line. He gave us one piece of advice that really resonated with me especially having spent almost twenty years in the same shoes are HVAC clients are in, running a service business with either installers, delivery guys,
or technicians of one sort or another.
He asked us “How many of you have somebody working for you right now you should go home and let go?”
I was literally stunned. I expected a decent percentage might raise their hand. Maybe 15% of the room or so. It made a SOUND having roughly 80-85% of the room raise their hand at the same time. I couldn’t believe it.
He went on to explain how absolutely vital your BEST people on your team are to the success of your company. We all know this already. But if you tolerate people on your team that you know are bad apples (but pretend it’s not THAT big of a deal) to stay on because they are really GOOD at what they do, efficient, talented, fast, and capable even though you KNOW their attitude is shit, or how negative they can be, or how much drama they cause for others, this is what happens.
The ‘good’ people on your team will either think:
A) You don’t know, which means you are stupid.
B) You do know, you just don’t care enough to do anything about it
Regardless of which it is, the cost is the same – your good people will leave.
Let that sink in. Those 1-2 guys that are ‘good’ but you know their attitude is shit or you know they can be destructive to the new guys when you aren’t around. That could literally be what prevents your company’s growth (or might have already held it back).
Good people are too rare and too hard to find (and keep) to tolerate an atmosphere where poisonous, negative people are allowed.
Something to think about.
Have questions? Or need help to implement tactics to fully staff your team? Call (or text) Matthew at 316-312-8181 for or quick chat or to get started!
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