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Hiring Good Talent in Todays Market

Effective hiring is one of the
most difficult and most confounding
aspects of running
a drywall company. This is
largely the result of decreasing
numbers of young people
entering the construction
industry in addition to
increasing retirements. Not to
mention the increasingly
transient and less responsible
labor pool that served as a
training ground for some
great estimators and project
managers at work today.

As the economy picks up and
companies become busier, it
will only get worse. But it is
still possible to find and
attract some good talent. It
just takes a little more work,
and you may have to examine
some of the methods you’re
accustomed to using.

In its most simplified form,
hiring consists of three parts:
Finding someone who brings
to the table what you need,
selling him or her on the
opportunity you offer, and
closing the deal. Each of these
is loaded with things that can
go wrong and have accounted
for numerous incidents of
hiring the wrong person as
well as missing the opportunity
to hire the right person
for the job. On the other
hand, understanding these
three elements and using that
understanding to your advantage
can save lots of time and
money. It can put you ahead
of your competition and
ensure that you have a qualified person show
up who feels good about having made the move.

Finding the Right Person

Finding the right person for the job is
arguably the most important and often
most difficult part of the whole process.
Look around your office today. You can
probably guess who reads the classified
on a regular basis and who doesn’t. The
top people in any company have other
things on their minds and are generally
too busy for that. Very few positions,
especially management level positions
are filled through newspaper or Internet
advertising. But don’t give up hope.
There are more effective ways to gain
access to the talent you need.

The good people who work for you now
know others like themselves at their previous companies. Ask them.
Your vendors also know people at other companies. But be careful here as some of these folks can be pretty gossipy at times, and
they typically will only tell you about
people who “are looking.” A more

proactive and more effective approach is
to enlist the help of a headhunter who
specializes your industry and will commit
to an exhaustive search on your
behalf, Before you put a headhunter to
work on a search, check out the individual
and the firm. Ask for a full
description of their process and a client
reference or two. Don’t waste your time
with someone who can’t give you both.

Sell the Opportunity

Once you have identified a good
prospect or two, you have to put a little
effort into selling the opportunity, This
usually starts during the first interview
and, in my experience, is the most poorly
handled and frequently overlooked
element of the entire process. That’s a
shame, too, because selling the opportunity
consists mostly of asking questions
about the career interests of the
candidate and showing how your company
can fulfill those interests.

Of course you are going to thoroughly
test and reference-check someone before
you hire. But the truth is that if a candidate
doesn’t leave a first interview with
more interest than he had when he
walked in, you may have wasted your
time. I’ve seen the whole process die
right there.

A good prospect is probably not desperate
for a job. The good ones almost never
are. In this market, a sharp estimator
with a track record of success has countless
options. Sometimes an employer
will tell me, “I don’t want to do any selling.
Either they want the job or they
don’t.” That’s fine if you’re happy taking
a chance on somebody who got fired
from the last job or quit because of not
being able to get along with others in the
workplace. We have all seen examples of
poor work ethics. Besides, while you sell
the opportunity you gain valuable
insight into how the prospect thinks and
whether or not you want to hire. It’s a
two-way street. You have on your “selling
hat” and your “buying hat.”

During the course of this process it is
also critical to check out the candidate’s
work If you’re trying to hire
an estimator, then a take-off test is
critical. Use a small section of an
old job and go through the takeoff
together. You’ll gain a lot of knowledge
about the estimator’s thought process.

If you’re looking for a project manager,
then ask questions about specific jobs.
Ask for examples of jobs that were
turned from losers into winners. Ask
about jobs that made profits substantially
above the expected, and ask how
that was accomplished. Let him brag a
little, then ask him to speak candidly
about a problem job or a loser. An experienced
and competent PM should be
able to answer those questions with
some detail.

All this questioning and selling says to
any prospect that you are serious about
putting together a competent and successful
team, and you intend to make it
an attractive opportunity for the right person. Don’t expect to accomplish all of this in one interview.

Typically, two or three interviews are appropriate. More than
that, and you probably miss out on
some good opportunities.

Closing the Deal

Closing the deal is the final component
of making a good hire. Handled properly,
this step can ensure that your
newest addition starts off with a smiley
face and a fire in the belly. Handled
improperly, you help someone get a nice
big raise somewhere else or have him
start with you feeling like he didn’t get
what he should have.

If you have the indication that a candidate
is motivated only by money, then
tendering an official offer is probably a
waste of time. There are ways of finding
out about that beforehand. But if you
believe the candidate brings to the table
what you need and you have agreed on
what can be expected from you and
your company, then you should expect
to pay 5 percent to 20 percent more
than the candidate’s current income.
There are lots of exceptions to that rule
of thumb. This isn’t rocket science.

Again, successful hiring has become
more difficult and will get worse before
it gets better. This is due to demographics
as much as it is to the fact that today’s
fresh graduates have lots of options that
appear more glamorous than the drywall
subcontracting industry. But as long as
you know what you want and you make
the effort to find someone with those
skills and qualifications who is willing to
make a move for the right reasons, and
you’re willing to do what it takes to
person. Don’t expect to attract that talent, you can still hire some
accomplish all of this in one good people.

About the Author

Jeff Chestine is an executive recruiter at Peterson Consulting Group, Vero Beach, Fla. He specializes in locating
and attracting top talent for reputable
companies in the interiors industry.

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