Growing into the double digits? You’re not alone. Many home improvement companies are having their best sales year ever, and many are booked out months ahead for roofing, siding, window, or other short cycle construction jobs.
The demand is there. What often is not are the people to fill it. You can’t hit growth targets at the level set by a business plan without being adequately staffed.
Yet, a small home improvement company—under $5 million, let's say—almost certainly does not employ a full-time HR person, who would normally undertake recruitment, or at least do the legwork.
All On You
That means when you need to fill a position, it falls to you, the owner. You have to set other tasks aside and devote time to writing job descriptions, sourcing candidates, sorting through resumes, arranging interviews, conducting background checks, and preparing an offer. That’s something few owners or general managers relish, not only because it burns up time, but because they’re not that good at it.
Do it today, and you’ll find that the world of recruiting, like everything else, has changed. ContactRecruiter's Andrew Greenberg points out that “finding and hiring the right people in this kind of recruiting environment requires keeping up with new recruiting technology and social media, developing relationships with successful candidates, and asking the right questions.”
Since your likeliest candidates are already working, but still looking, regular social media messaging about available opportunities are a highly effective recruiting tactic. But someone has to write and post those messages, and track the responses.
If you’re doing the recruiting yourself and it’s a top position you need to fill—marketing director, sales manager, production manager—you may end up settling for someone who can “do the job,” rather than the person who’s going to make a demonstrable difference in company performance. Recruiting professionals refer to this as “hire-itis”: You get sick of the whole thing.
Call The Professionals
All this is one big reason to consider using a professional recruiter. "Nearly two-thirds of companies outsource at least some of their recruitment efforts simply because they either need to hire quickly, or they wanted access to a vendor’s talent and expertise," according to the Society for Human Resources Management.
Additionally, since recruiters are specialists in finding and hiring the appropriate candidate, they're likely to be better at it than a company owner, who feels burdened by having to recruit on top of everything else.
The risk? A bad fit. “The outsourced provider may ... recruit employees who do not fit with the overall culture of the company,” writes Chron's Calia Roberts.
Blogger Laura Randell takes the case further: “External recruiters will never know your business as well as your own staff, try as they may, because they don’t work in the organization on a day-to-day basis, experiencing all its nuances and political challenges," she writes for ERE Media.
If you’re looking to fill a position on a temporary basis—assisting an overtasked office manager or manning the phones, for example—you might consider a staffing, or temp, agency. These provide and pay temporary or contract workers.
One advantage is “they can find people you can’t,” according to a blogger for BFS Capital. They’ll deliver workers who have been pre-screened (background checks and drug testing) to temporarily fill a job at your company. So, instead of you burning a huge chunk of time for this hire, a temp will be at your office door in a week.
“During the course of a year, America’s staffing companies hire more than 15 million temporary and contract employees,” according to the American Staffing Association (ASA). And while these temps fill a temporary gap in your ranks, statistics show that those often become permanent. An ASA poll of staffing agency workers found that “35 percent were offered a permanent job by a client where they worked on an assignment, and two-thirds (66 percent) of those accepted the offers of permanent employment.”
What Kind Do You Need?
If you’re looking to fill a full-time, permanent position, look for a recruiter—a friendlier term for a headhunter. There are two main types: contingency and retained. Contingency recruiters start with the job you give them, and find someone qualified to fill it. They only earn their placement fee when you hire someone into that role.
Advantages? “It requires a low up-front investment and limited time commitment on behalf of the business,” Greenberg explains.
The downside, he points out, is that this type of recruiter is "financially motivated, which means they don’t invest the same amount of time, energy, and resources on hard-to-fill positions.” Contingency recruiters also shop around candidates to multiple clients, to maximize their own chances of earning the placement fee.
Retained recruiters, on the other hand, get an up-front consulting fee, and then set out to find you the very best candidate for that job. Their fee—often higher than that for contingency recruiters—gets you exclusivity and total focus on filling the job to your requirements.
Can You Afford It?
Compensation for a headhunter typically falls between 15 and 35 percent of the successful candidate’s base salary for the job filled. Contingency recruiters receive about 20 percent of the hire's salary, while retained recruiters, as mentioned, often have higher fees.
Pinnacle Group International, a retained recruiter in Pennsylvania that specializes in hiring for the remodeling industry, has been at it for 33 years. “A company might call up and say, ‘We’re not having luck hiring a project manager. Can you help us hire one?’” president and founder Grant Mazmanian says.
Pinnacle then asks the company to email the list of duties and responsibilities. More importantly, Mazmanian notes, “we want to know the personal attributes, the qualities, or personality characteristics” that would enhance the likelihood that the candidate is a good fit for that job.
That project manager, for instance, needs to be able to work comfortably not only with homeowners, but with subcontractors as well. “When you get to project management, it’s head skills, not hand skills," Mazmanian says.
Pinnacle, with 30,000 names in its database, receives half its fee of anywhere from $4,500 to $5,500 up-front. Job searches are about equally divided among sales, admin, and production employees.
Attract the Best
Finding first-rate employees has become an ongoing concern for many home improvement companies, and retained recruiting firms offer a level of credibility and dedication that gives companies a leg up.
“Because retained searches receive high priority, candidates will take a call more seriously and are willing to hear about an opportunity when they feel that the client has invested in the search,” notes a blogger on the website of business coach and speaker Cameron Herold.
On the other hand, owners in a hurry to hire “will hire anybody, and then they’ll suffer for it,” Mazmanian says. The negative effects of that hire-itis could include mediocre performance, damage to your company’s reputation, and having to start the recruitment process all over again.
These days, with unemployment at 3.9 percent nationally and as low as 2.2 percent in some areas, 90 percent of those applying for jobs at home improvement companies are already working, Mazmanian says, “but something’s changed in the workplace” that makes them open to moving. “Everybody is working who wants to be working, and they can go anywhere else they want to.”