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According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers is projected to grow 21 percent by 2022. This is faster than the average for all occupations.

At the same time, the HVAC industry is said to be “graying,” meaning it is staffed by a significant number of aging baby boomers closing in on retirement.

As these two factors converge, the need for effective recruiting and staffing is critical to the success of any HVAC contracting company. But it’s not as simple as putting a classified ad in the local newspaper and sitting back waiting for the phone to ring. In fact, ringing phones and newspapers are terms that are not even in the vernacular of the potential employees you are trying to reach.

So how is a contractor supposed to find good help these days? Here are some recruiting strategies:

  1. Never stop recruiting

    • You have an opening. You fill it. End of story, right? Wrong. Recruiting only when you have a specific job opening makes the process more stressful. You are reinventing the wheel every time. Instead, always be on the lookout for talented people who would be a good fit for your company. Did you get great service from a real go-getter somewhere? Was the polite young man who fixed your Aunt Betty’s furnace someone she’d like to see you hire? Was your mechanic’s nephew top of his trade school class but now bottom of the heap at a competing company? Taking the names and contact information of these folks and inviting them to take a look at your company’s website to learn what you do is not the same as promising them a job or even scheduling an interview with them. It does provide you with a running list of potential candidates to tap the next time you have an opening to fill, making it less of a panic situation. Starting with a list is easier than starting from scratch every time you have a job opening. Even if the people on the list aren’t available when you call, they might know someone who is.
  2. Be true to a school … or two

    • Don’t just go to your local technical college’s job fair once a year to assess the talent; build a relationship with the school. Host student visits to your facility. Hire interns. Be a guest instructor and have regular contact with the instructors in the programs that relate to your business. If your company is top-of-mind for a school’s instructors and counselors, you’ll get their best graduates applying for job openings. Another effective recruitment tool is to have graduates of a particular trade school or technical college who are doing well at your company go back to school and talk to current students. If they see someone just like them who’s happy and successfully employed, yours will be a company they want to work for too.
  3. Use the Internet effectively

    • There are many online job boards on the Internet. Use them all and you’ll be inundated with applications, but only a few will be from qualified candidates. Be selective. Be sure you list your job in the proper category on the general sites like Monster, CareerBuilder or SimplyHired. Jobs can be searched on these sites by both location and type of job. There are also industry-specific job boards too, like hvacjobcenter.com and hvacagent.com.
    • Some job sites charge a fee for listing, while others, like Craigslist, are free. Also, some allow you to search resumes of people looking for jobs who have posted on the site if you’d prefer that to posting a job yourself. You may also want to appeal specifically to military veterans and can start by going to dol.gov/vets and clicking on “hire a veteran.”
    • Because there are so many online job boards to choose from, the research company Software Advice conducted a survey of 150 recruiters to determine which job boards companies should focus their recruiting budget on to achieve the best results. They found Indeed, CareerBuilder and Craigslist are most effective for recruiting candidates for entry-level positions, whereas LinkedIn and Indeed were effective job boards when seeking candidates for mid- and senior-level positions.
  4. Emphasize the small stuff

    • Realize that while salary is important to younger employees, other considerations are almost as critical when deciding whether or not they want to work for a particular company. Clearly explain all the benefits you offer, including some that may seem minor to you. A flexible start time, for example, might be exactly what inspires a young dad to take a job at your company. Maybe his spouse works unpredictable hours and finding someone to watch the kids in the 20 minutes between the time she leaves the house for work and the time the school bus arrives on Tuesday mornings is a huge hassle.
  5. Hire smart, not fast

    • Yes, you’re hiring because you are short-staffed, but don’t just hire the first warm body that responds to your ad just so you can move on to other pressing tasks. Even if the person seems to have the right training and skills, take time to get to know them better before making an offer. Why? Because you can teach someone job skills, but you can’t teach them to fit into your company. Get other employees involved in the process. Have a promising job candidate meet with various people throughout the company and afterwards solicit employees’ feedback. Do they think this candidate fits your company culture?
  6. Focus on technology to attract young workers

    • Millennials – people born between the early 1980s and early 2000s – have been raised with technology all around them. This is not your grandfather’s workforce. So play up the technology you’ve integrated into your operations when recruiting them. Those things are attractive to this generation because they show your company won’t hold them back as technology marches forward. Things like project estimating on iPads, having the latest in GPS systems in your vehicles or offering direct deposit rather than paper paychecks show that you are not stuck in the ways of the past.
  7. Ask the people who know your company best

    • Your employees know you, your company, your clients and the job better than anyone. Ask them for referrals. They have a network of people they know from trade school and former jobs. You could even offer bonuses to employees whose recommended recruits are hired and stay on the job six months. Other people to tap for referrals are your vendors, clients, business associates, and community contacts.

Recruiting a great staff takes time, effort, and creativity, but what you put into it is what you’ll get out of it. Take the time to do it right, and you won’t end up with a revolving door, but rather a top-notch staff who was hired young and may end up “graying” in your company.

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