5 ways home improvement contractors can recruit good help (without paying for ads)

It’s the busy season for home improvement installers and contractors. That means there’s a good chance you’re looking to expand your crew. If you’re struggling to hire and retain new team members who have the right skills and a strong work ethic, consider the following tips.

#1: Be clear about what you’re looking for

Start with a clear job description. If your company does flooring, be clear about whether the candidate should specialize in carpet, laminate, wood flooring, or other. If it’s a roofing company, are you looking for someone who can do shingling, gutters, something else? Should they be experienced with a certain type of material or specific products? Be clear about physical requirements: will they have to climb ladders, lift heavy loads, drive commercial vehicles? The clearer you can be in your job description, the more likely you’ll be to weed out unqualified candidates.

#2: Network – tap into the people you know (and the people they know)

You already know smart, hard-working people in your industry. Chances are high that they know good people too!

  • Be vocal and tell people that you’re hiring. Pass out your business cards. Don’t just talk to people in your industry. It’s possible your insurance salesman neighbor has a brother who is an excellent plumber who’s in the market for a new job.
  • Post creative hiring notices on your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and/or LinkedIn pages – your personal and business pages.
  • Add a tagline to your email signature with a link to the job description – for business and personal emails. For example: “My company, Roofing Unlimited, is hiring roofers experienced with cedar shake. Learn more at www.roofingunlimited.com/jobs.”
  • Post flyers around your community. Ideas include bulletin boards at churches, coffee shops, restaurants, and libraries.
  • Talk to your current crew. Encourage them to recruit qualified candidates on your behalf and consider offering a referral bonus. Ask them for ideas about where you can find qualified candidates. While you’re at it, reach out to valuable past crew members to see if they can refer candidates.
  • Talk to vendor reps and supply houses. Your vendors sell to and build relationships with other people in your industry. Let them know you’re hiring and ask them to pass the word around. Leave some of your business cards with them. Send them an email with the job listing(s) so they can easily forward it to others. Spoiler alert: make sure you have a good working relationship with the suppliers first!
  • Visit local retailers (Lowe’s, Home Depot, etc.). See if their experts know of other contractors looking for work.
  • Attend industry expos in your area. One Lowe’s Field Service Manager has seen success with networking at places such as home builder association events and garden expos.

#3: Cultivate a new workforce

Contractors all over the country are dealing with a skilled labor shortage. Consider offering apprenticeships. If you can invest some time and energy to train people new to the trade, you could build your own loyal workforce.

  • Challenge current crew leaders to bring on an apprentice to train. Check local trade associations to see if they sponsor and recruit for apprentice programs.
  • Reach out to local tech schools, high schools, and community colleges. Not all students are bound for four-year college followed by an office job. See if you can build relationships and participate in recruitment programs with these institutions to generate a funnel of new candidates. “We have been networking with community colleges,” said Gary Jaggers, a Lowe’s Field Service Manager.  “We are seeing a trend with the community colleges offering more classes in the trades – carpentry, HVAC, etc.”
  • Look for job fairs in your area. Perhaps the chamber of commerce or another community group hosts job fairs that you can be a part of.
  • Check out associations like Home Builders Institute (hbi.org). HBI offers apprenticeship programs, including a program to train, certify, and place military veterans in a variety of trades.
  • Sounds funny, but go grocery shopping. There is often that younger person working a lot harder than their peers stocking shelves, even when no one is looking. Talk to THIS person about your company.

#4: Be a company worth working for – and then sell recruits on your awesome company

It’s important to understand what employees value in an employer today and then do what you can to become that employer. The opportunities here are limitless, but here are a few to consider.

  • Pay a competitive wage. When you find an employee that you truly value, you want to keep them around as long as you can. It’ll only cost you more to find and train someone new, so why not invest in the good people who already work for you? Pay a competitive wage and consider additional compensation in the form of personal time off, benefits, weekly paychecks, mileage or vehicle reimbursement, etc.
  • Offer training. Be sure to spend time training employees as soon as they’re hired. Make sure they understand your processes, tools, organizational structure, customer service philosophy, and general expectations. This will make them feel more secure in your environment and increases their likelihood of getting through the first 30 days. Consider offering an annual training budget for employees to learn new techniques, products, tools, and technologies needed for the job.
  • Make their work more efficient. Invest in systems and processes that help your employees work more efficiently. For example, minimize the time they spend filling out and submitting paper work. Shorten their drive times. Improve communication from office to the field. You may find that increasingly, employees expect to be outfitted with mobile technology (tablets and phones) that allows them to complete and submit paperwork electronically from the field.
  • Keep them busy. Set realistic expectations about weekly hours your new employees will be expected to work and then make sure they get those hours. They’re depending on that paycheck, so if they’re constantly short-changed on hours, they’ll start looking elsewhere fast.
  • Build and encourage relationships. People work for people, not companies. When your employees like working for you and with you and with their other crew members, they’ll stick around longer. Have some fun and reward good work.
  • Sell your awesome company. Identify what makes your company unique and communicate that clearly to all candidates. You’re in stiff competition for these workers, so be sure to keep appointments, communicate clearly, be respectful, and follow up whether you want to hire them or not. Even if you don’t hire them today, they may grow to be a stronger candidate in the future, so make sure they have a good impression of you.

 #5: Make it a process

As you get through your busy season, remember that recruiting should be a process, not a one-time event. Throughout the year, exercise the tips provided here and continue to build a pipeline of potential recruits. Find a way to manage their contact information so you can reach out to people later, when you’re ready to hire.


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