Running a Shop

Slow Down Your Hiring

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A good friend of mine went on a first date the other night and it went really well—so he got engaged! The next morning, he heard about a new company that had a good month—so he invested half his savings into their stock. The day after that, he saw a house for sale that he really liked the color of—so he made a full price offer. By now you are probably wondering how I can call myself a friend without stopping him from making some potentially huge mistakes.

If any of that were true, you’d think that it was a recipe for disaster. Why, then, do we get surprised to find ourselves, as an industry, lacking for quality technicians? I think it’s for the same reason as my quick-triggered friend above.

How many times have we interviewed someone for 30 minutes and made them an offer to join our team? Think about what type of pressure we create to accomplish such an important task in a short amount of time. When searching for data to see how long couples spend together before getting married, the results showed 4.9 years. I am going to grossly understate the value of a spouse here when I say that, ultimately, we spend 4.9 years to decide if we want to spend nights and weekends together. I did the math recently and realized my wife and I spend, on average, 35 waking hours together per week. I spend far more time with the people on our team each week.

So, I will ask you, how much time are you spending getting to know someone before you hire them?

A little over 12 years ago, we made a commitment to interview people at least five times before we decided to ask them to join our team. I made this decision after I learned of an experience of another shop in my 20 Group: a stellar candidate showed up to the fifth interview with a loaded gun in their shoulder harness.

What I have found in doing multiple interviews is that I really learn who the person is during that time. We generally hire people for what they know and fire them for who they are. It is easy during the interview process to find out what they know. Not getting to know them in the interview process is like marrying someone after the first date. I believe hiring quickly creates a revolving door for technicians. If we commit to taking the time to get to know them during multiple interviews, we can avoid having to let someone go, or having someone leave, shortly after realizing that the fit was wrong.

When we interview the first time, we set clear expectations that the interview will be a brief introduction, no more than 10 minutes. While it does take a long time to figure out if someone is the right fit, it doesn’t take long at all to realize a candidate won’t be. This initial quick interview avoids both parties having their time wasted.

The second interview should be set up rather quickly after the first interview. Again, I communicate up front how long this should last. These interviews usually take around 30 minutes. My goal here is to make sure they have the skill that we are looking for. At that same time, 30 minutes gives me time to start to get a feel for the type of person with whom I am dealing. I also take the time to explain all the reasons they might not like working with us. It is important to paint a true picture of what it’s like working at our company. If we paint this utopian picture, it will only lead to disappointment when they see reality.

The third interview is where we bring in other members of our team to take part in the process. We feel it’s important to have our team on board in choosing with whom they will be working. The fourth interview is where we really have some fun. It starts out with a personality test that is designed to be enjoyable and light-hearted in nature. The results of the test are shared immediately with the candidate. We don’t use the test to determine if they are a good fit; we use it to learn more about the candidate. After the test, we engage in as casual of a conversation as possible. This is usually when you see the prospect really loosen up and show us who they are as a person. We talk about hobbies, family, and interests outside of work.

When I invite someone back for a fifth interview, I already know I want to hire them. It also shows me the commitment someone has for joining our team to “survive” this process. The only reason I spend a little time talking with this person before making an offer is to make sure I didn’t miss anything during the first four.

Our interviewing practices have helped us find a team that works well together and people feel like they are at a place where they want to stay put.

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