Recruiting 101: Kick Off 2020 with Proper Preparation

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by Coach Rob Balfanz


Don’t wait until spring to bring the “training” part to spring training. Companies that continually recruit have a vision for today, tomorrow, and the future. People often don’t think ahead because they have the mentality of “if it isn’t broke, why fix it?” Great companies with great vision fully understand that the only thing constant is change. The economy changes, the landscape changes, people will take on different skill sets and companies will go in different directions based upon customer needs and wants. Smart companies with vision understand attrition, track it, and it becomes part of their daily language. Where do you get your candidates from? If you have any questions on where to look, how to cultivate talent, and how to build your own future, find out how VSI can help!



I still remember the day that I said, I will never use this texting thing. I will never join Facebook, I will never this, and never that…well never sure was short lived! Have you resisted the trend to join social media? Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn? Though it all might seem like unnecessary noise to distract you during your busy days, social media has become a great place to find quality skilled tradespeople. Social media is not only a powerful tool for companies looking to do business, it is also a highly effective way of recruiting new crews. On LinkedIn, you can run advanced searches to identify potential candidates in your area. On Facebook, you can post your job openings on your company page and ask employees and friends to share with their friend circles. I assure you, if done right, the return will be worth your time. Also, who said Craigslist doesn’t work? Craigslist will bring in leads (all kinds of them). You just have to sift through to find the gold. Reach out to local unions, trade schools, vocational-tech schools, and high schools, and ask that they share your openings on their social pages as well. They are often connected to a multitude of skilled talent looking for new work. Remember, the candidates are out there! The trick is connecting with them and then staying engaged. Social media is a powerful tool that allows you to do this instantly and from anywhere in the world. VSI can help you review some tips and tricks on how to effectively leverage social media. VSI can help you review some tips and tricks on how to effectively leverage social media.



Referral bonuses are a great way to incentivize employees to find new hires for you. You most likely have employees with old friends from high school, college, trade school, or previous companies. These relationships are valuable connections to trusted tradesmen in the industry. Their network could be chock-full of quality candidates and just waiting for you! This is also a great way to put extra money in the pockets of your employees.



Incentivizing your customers is a sure win, one that is often forgotten about or disregarded. If you have a happy customer, who would be a better champion of your product or service than that customer? If you think about it, happy customers who use social media on a regular basis are a huge organically generated marketing network. If you come back to your customers and personalize a message, a gift, a gift card or a monetary gift or all of the above, you could have customers/marketing partners for life! Sometimes, the best way to recruit is homegrown.



Hiring temps, freelancers, and student co-ops is another great way to build a roster, even a pipeline of talent from which you can choose when hiring full-time. Temp agencies bring on workers for overflow work, alleviating stress on your full-time or project employees. Freelancers and independent contractors can contribute to small projects in the short term. This gives you a feel for their work ethic and other measurable observations. As always, team up with your local high schools, trade schools, and community colleges for co-op prospects. Not only will you be able to handle the influx of work during busy seasons, but you’ll also have a chance to try evaluating new talent before taking on a skilled worker full-time. Picking up young prospects as freelancers and through student co-ops is an excellent way to bring talent into your company before your competitors do. Talk about smart business during a labor shortage! VSI has a database filled with Certified Professionals to explore as well.



Years ago, when I first implemented this concept, people thought I was off my rocker. I was asked why we not only needed to recruit monthly, but weekly. I come from the school of hard knocks and the mantra is and will always be, ABR: Always Be Recruiting. Need a pipeline of people who believe in your vision and want to be a part of the bigger picture? Then interview every day, every week, of every month of every year. If you go to a hardware store and there is person that you come into contact with that impresses you to no end, ask them to come in for an interview. Instead of telling people that you are not hiring right now, but you might be soon, have a plan already in place. Holding an open interview day or job fest at your facility is a great way to quicken the hiring and pipeline building process. Advertise your event in your local paper and on social media, asking local trade schools and co-ops to share. As always, ask your employees to encourage their job seeking friends in the field to come out and join your team. If you market the event well, dozens of candidates may show up. You can find your next great employee or employees within a few hours; just be sure your team is aware of this process.



Did you think the days of yard signs, wall signs, and old fashion phone calls were over? Old school tactics still work, you just need to use them correctly, in the right places at the right times. Yard signs catch commuters’ eyes, giving people another reason to contact you. With phone calls, if you call and they answer, you’ve got about three seconds to catch their interest and make something happen. Wall, billboard, and  building signage still work too. A person may drive by it daily for a long period of time, and never use it until one day they get a call from a friend that needs a job, or they are thinking about transitioning from one career to another. When it comes to recruiting, there is not one thing that works, you have to be diverse and willing to try everything.



As most of the information provided in this blog, sometimes conventional wisdom says, “forget the old way of doing things and focus your efforts on new, cutting edge, technological methods.” In my experience, there is a time and place for all of this and more.  Call people —don’t just text or e-mail them. Visit job sites so you can provide more information about your business. Focusing on the “why” will give them a reason to give your business a try. Face-to-face relationship building is still very important in our industry. Business deals and relationships are built on trust and on adding value, and I don’t see this changing in the foreseeable future.



Don’t sit behind a computer or a tablet all day and night and think that you will build your business and reach or exceed your goals this way. You will need to get out there and mix it up. There are dozens of meetings, power networking events, mixers, after-hours socials, etc. Over the course of a month’s time we could all keep busy 5-6 days a week going to meetings and social events if we wanted to. So put a plan together, map out each quarter, and go to the ones that will add value to your business and your employees. Get involved in as many local state, and national industry associations you are available for. Some examples are your local NARI chapter, HBA chapter, and Chamber of Commerce. These are just a few, as there are many others out there.  Find out where VSI will be in 2020 and get involved!



What will you do once you do get the candidate lead? Is your onboarding process defined? Does everyone on your team know and understand the process? Once you have a candidate or a company that you want to move forward with, be sure to have an onboarding process mapped out. This is true with a single employee, a class of new hires, a group of contractors or a single crew that will be sub-contracting work from you. It is critical to roll out the red carpet for them. Treat them so well that they can go work for anyone else in the industry, but they choose not to leave you because of your planned and thought out process, your vision, your culture, and your genuine care for them, their families, and their overall well-being. To learn more about this and find other helpful tips, visit VSI on Facebook.



If you don’t track it, you won’t improve it. We are in the age of technology and analytics. Knowing and understanding history is one thing but tracking and analyzing information for the future can also help tell us where we need to go. Early in my career, I was always told, “we don’t know what we don’t know.” However, I am the type of person who wants to know where we are going so I can map out how we will get there. Do you want a bumpy ride or a smooth ride, a roller coaster or a train ride? Also, you want to be sure you are in the right vehicle for the right roadway or pathway. Looking back at new construction in the early 2000s, more homes were built during that period. Fast forward 20 – 25 years and something tells me we may be in for a remodeling uptick; therefore, we should be prepared for this shift. Track everything and let the data guide you forward. Regarding recruiting, where are your leads coming from? How much do they cost you and are those leads working out? If not, call a time out and regroup accordingly.



Remember the old cartoon series, G.I. Joe? The ending of every G.I. Joe episode ended with the sentiment that “knowing is half the battle!” We knew it then and we know it now, to go where we want to go, we need to know three things: where we’ve been, where we are currently, and most importantly, where we are going. I always say, plan for the worst and plan more for the best! You will experience turnover, lead time issues, health issues, weather-related delays, transportation delays, product defects, and a lot more. We know what we know, and we have to plan and forecast accordingly for what we don’t. In the skilled construction trades, my goal was always to have 15-25% more than what we needed. What is your goal and are you on track to meet or exceed it? Be motivational, be inspiring, be passionate, be tough, yet empathetic. Find out who wants to be part of the whole process, not just a part of the outcome, good or bad. Recognize who is worth being a part of your vision.


This takes time, effort, and true grit. As we kick off 2020, as always, it all starts and ends with being a good coach and making a positive impact on your team, on and off the job. Remember: knowing is half the battle.


To a successful 2020,
Coach Rob

Topics: training   leadership   labor