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Two builders working on a project
Hiring the right crew.

How to hire tradies properly

Hiring the right people for your business can be quite the tricky thing. Because you have things to do, got a business to run, You really want to get it done, don’t you? So you decided you want a new person, and you really just want it done. You want a new person in the job doing their thing and that leaves you vulnerable to making poor decisions and rushing decisions.

When you check out a resume or when you’re interviewing someone, your thinking something like, “Hope this is the right person.”

And your interviewing as well. They come to the interview or submit their resume hoping it’s the job from heaven, the best job ever. They either have done this type of work before or they’re looking for an improvement from their current work situation, and they want it to be right too.

So you’re both there hoping it’s going to be great and that leaves you both vulnerable to making a poor decision.

Hiring the wrong person

It’s easy to hire the wrong person given this situation, isn’t it?

A tradie business is a people business. You’re dependent on hiring the people that will help you to grow your business. After all , you grow by hiring more people to do the work and by taking your share of the cut.

You need people to run it as well, not just the trade people doing the work but the people running the operation behind the scenes, in the office, all of that.

If you don’t hire the right person, someone who turns out to be no good, it will be a costly error. It costs you the time.

  • You have to rehire someone else
  • You’ve wasted time figuring out that they weren’t doing a good job
  • They weren’t suited, or
  • Didn’t fit the culture

It’s costly and you’ll regret it when you made the bad decision.

I regularly assist people who’ve made a poor hiring decision, and have to deal with the fallout of that.

As a business adviser for trades people, I see people paying the price for ill-considered hiring decisions, particularly in the new part of their relationship, and it can be very frustrating and costly for them.

I help people grow and scale. You need good people to help you grow and scale your business. You do. You’re reliant on your people. You are only as good as the people you hire. Your business really is your people. After all you’re a trade business. That’s what it is.

If you’re hiring people and then hiring replacements, you’re limiting your ability to grow. Hire badly and you get caught in that loop of rehiring, you’re not really helping yourself grow.

So this piece is about hiring properly with discipline and by being methodical.

Hiring with discipline

Hiring suitable people can be a bit tricky because of that loaded environment. But you can improve your chances of finding good people by using some disciplines and some structure. And like most of my advice, it’s not difficult to understand.

I’m going to teach you a very simple process to follow.

What is important is the ‘doing it’ – sticking to the process and the being disciplined and not just going “Thank you, you seem great,” and hiring somebody (which is very common).

Be diligent and follow this process instead.

1. Write the job description. 

What you want this person to do and what do you want this person to be responsible for? What do they own? Write that down.

  • How will you know if they’re doing a good job?
  • How will they know if they’re doing a good job?

Try and keep it short. We just want a description of what you expect them to do.

Don’t just say ‘Concrete Finisher’. Tell them what we are doing and tell them what they’ll be responsible for.

2. Write down the attributes you want them to have.

I’m thinking things like:

  • Be clean
  • You want them to be presentable
  • Be good with people
  • Have good attention to detail
  • You want them to be punctual
  • Care about doing a good job
  • Be organised
  • Be good at finishing things off

All that stuff. It will be different for different businesses. Whether you need a craftsmen, or if you need someone to get things done, you want people who have different attributes.

Write this stuff down, “What do you want this person to be like?”

I’m obviously thinking about a trade person here. But if it was somebody in the office, you might want them to have different attributes like being organised, being able to juggle things more and being good dealing with .

3. Write the job ad and write about the job description and the attributes you want. 

You want someone who’s punctual, someone who’s presentable.

You’re ruling people out here. If your ad says “I need someone who’s presentable” and they see that in your ad and they’re a scruffy bugger, they might not apply. So you’re helping yourself by ruling out that people you don’t want.

  • Remember your job ad is a sales pitch. Saw how exciting the opportunity is.
    • Exciting growing business
    • Great job opportunity
    • Working a fun team, etc
    • Say nice things about the job
    • Say a few things that you want from them
    • “You need to be organised, and proud of doing good work”
    • “Need to be presentable and tidy”

Write those things in your job ad as well as the pay grade.

4. Filter through some resumes. 

Don’t bother interviewing the people who clearly don’t fit. Be disciplined here. If there’s nobody that fits, don’t just go and pick somebody who’s the best out of the poor bunch. Wait until somebody good shows up.

5. Interview several people

Interview people for those attributes and prepare yourself some questions that help you establish whether somebody is punctual, tidy, etc.

And if they show up scruffy and you want somebody tidy, they’re not in a good shape already.

And don’t just say, “Are you punctual?” because everyone’s going to say “Yes“.

Ask some questions where they have to tell a story about being punctual or how often they’re late. Things like that. Do your interviews and select your winner.

6. Check your references.

6Make sure they’re not lying. Make sure they’re not just putting on a good front for you. Check their last boss or the one before, not just their best mate or their mom. Make sure these are people, are real employers, not just their mates.

I know this sounds tedious because it is tedious. That’s several hours of work, maybe even a couple of days.

It’s tedious but it’s worth it.

Having the right people on board pays off.

The price you’ll pay for a bad employee is much higher than a few hours of being a bit disciplined and methodical.

Once you’ve written a job description for the trade in your business, you can use it again and again. You can adapt it as you look for team leaders so some of this work repeats and you can use it again.

If you’re hiring in a haste, and then you complained to me that you have hired in haste and now you’ve got a problem, I’ll probably say something like, “I told you so”. So it pays to be disciplined and do the work.

I have seen people hire somebody who turned out to be an absolute disaster. They were dishonest and appeared suspect and a bit strange to begin with. Their LinkedIn profile looks dodgy. They could smelled a rat but they hired them optimistically, anyway. They gave them the benefit of the doubt and they lasted a couple of days.

The price you pay

So we all wished that we listened to our instincts and to the voices in our head that said, ‘We probably shouldn’t hire this guy’ rather than giving him the benefit of the doubt. And we wished we’d checked his references because we wouldn’t have wasted these couple of days and $3,000.

He threatened to make a call if they didn’t pay him for the week. So they had to pay him $3,000. They were $3,000 and 4 weeks behind. Some discipline and some method would have saved them from that hassle.

Here’s what you need to to do to avoid this:

  • Do your diligence
  • Set your processes up
  • Follow your processes
  • Don’t allow yourself to be beguiled by a nice smile or a firm handshake or somebody who seemed willing
  • Don’t let your desire to get someone in quickly make you skip that process because you might regret it.

There you go. Hire with some discipline and some method. See you later.