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Hiring Smart

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Construction Practices

Hiring Smart

Use these tips to test whether an applicant has the skills and dedication for the job

By BY Chad Hatfield April 6, 2018
hiring the right kind of person for a remodeling home improvement company
This article first appeared in the April 2018 issue of Pro Remodeler.

Hatfield Builders & Remodelers has been in business since 2005. Our revenue in 2017 was $3.5 million.

The biggest challenge I’ve had over the years of running the business can be summed up in one word: people. Having the wrong person working in your company has a devastating and toxic effect on the business. In the past, we’ve made mistakes in hiring, and now we have a number of practices in place to ensure we bring only the right people on board. Here’s what we’ve learned.

Take your time

No matter how busy and overworked a person is, they always somehow find the time to fix the things that other people screw up. Yet we never think we have enough time to hire the right people in the first place. One thing I’ve learned is to wait as long as it takes for the right hire.

And that perfect candidate isn’t just someone who has the skills to do the job. The right hire is also a person that fits into your culture and values, and treats your business as if it was his or her own.

Test them, even if you don’t think it’s needed

No one ever says in an interview, “If you hire me, I’m going to come in late, leave early and not really care about what I do.”

With that in mind, we now find a way to have people show us that they can do the job rather than just tell us. We were looking to hire a project manager and found someone we liked who owned his own business. We interviewed him on the phone, brought him in for a face-to-face with four people and then he spent a day in the office with us. We then asked him, “Do you have any jobs we can look at?”

He said, “Sure.”

If you think a candidate has the qualities you’re looking for, ask yourself how you can test that.

So I went with him to a project that was almost completed. There were five or six things on that job that would have been red flares for us-—forget flags. I asked if he had a punch list, and he said there were just a few paint touch-ups that needed attention. I then asked about the other things I saw, and he said, “Oh yeah, I’ll call the guy and get that taken care of.” But he didn’t write it down, and it was obvious to me that he wasn’t going to do it. Needless to say, we didn’t hire him.

On the other hand, we talked with a designer from Colorado who said she knew 2020. We flew her in, and she spent a day and a half with our company. We asked her to do a cabinetry layout for us, and not only was she able to complete the task, she also made a number of alterations that were needed for the space without being asked. She then talked us through her work, explaining what she did and why she did it. 

So in an interview, when someone says, “I have this and that experience,” our first thought is, “How do we know that? Can we test for it?” People say what you want to hear.

But they lie.

Test before they apply

We want to hire people who are detail oriented. Someone who doesn’t pay attention to small things is not protecting our customers’ experience.

With that in mind, we start weeding them out before they even apply. For starters, we make our ad really long, knowing that a lot of people won’t actually read it. In the middle of the list of job requirements, we ask them to go to the careers page of our website and, in the cover letter portion, include the words, “I want to join Team Hatfield.” It’s a trick we use to sort out the people who pay attention rather than just hit “apply” on every job.

We received 400 resumes for two open positions. Just 18 of them followed the instructions. We’ve even had some long cover letters that mentioned the ad, but they still didn’t include those words.

Worth the effort

Our system takes extra time and effort, but it’s worth it. If you rush a hiring decision, you’re going to be wrong 4 out of 5 times. The most important lesson we’ve learned in this process is if you think a candidate has the qualities you’re looking for, then it’s time to ask yourself, “How do I know? What test can I give that will confirm what he or she is saying?”

It costs more up front, but in the end, hiring this way saves us money and gives our clients a better experience. Your current employees will appreciate it as well since it means they will be surrounded by other A players. 

written by

Chad Hatfield

Chad Hatfield is president of Hatfield Builders & Remodelers in the Dallas area.

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