Marketing techniques for finding the best employees

Even in a down economy, it seems plumbers continue to be plagued by a shortage of labor. This isn’t a labor problem. It’s a marketing problem. The proper application of marketing to the recruiting and hiring process will dramatically improve your results. Below is a list of marketing techniques you should apply to your recruiting process in order to find the best of the best employees.

Unique selling proposition: A unique selling proposition, or USP, is a concise statement for customers stressing how your company is different from your competitors. Create a USP for prospective employees. For example, you might stress that your company has the best tools, the best trucks, the best training. Or, you might claim that your company is where elite professionals work.

Features and benefits: In recruiting, features are characteristics of your company that are relevant to employees. These include pay, benefits, vacation, training, on call policies, and so on. The benefits are what the employee gains from these features. A classic way of identifying benefits is to use the bridge words, “which means” after the feature. For example, “We provide company uniforms, which means you spend less on clothes.”

Brochure: You should have a company brochure for consumers. You should also have a company brochure for employees; that is a recruiting brochure. This piece should present the history of your company, your employee USP, the features and benefits of working for you, testimonials from current employees, and a call to action, such as how to apply. The visual elements of your recruiting brochure are important too. Pictures of smiling, happy employees should reinforce the copywriting.

Send the brochure to everyone who applies for a position. Put a PDF version on your website. Give copies to local trade schools.

Advertising: In the past, most open positions were advertised through the newspaper classified section. Today, we have lots of ways to get the word out. This includes employment websites, Craig’s List, search engine marketing and social media. Amid the Internet glitz, don’t overlook some of the traditional vehicles like placing a small ad in Contractor Magazine and advertising for new hires on your trucks and place of business.

Get creative: I know one contractor who printed up business cards with a promotional message about working for his company that he handed to plumbers in supply houses and everywhere else he found them. The card noted that now was not the time to discuss career opportunities (since the plumber was probably on someone else’s clock), but that he would welcome a call at a more appropriate time. He shared it with the Service Roundtable and it’s proven to be a winner.

If it makes you uncomfortable approaching a plumber who’s gainfully employed by a competitor, get over it. Your competitors won’t hesitate to recruit your people. I know an east coast contractor who uses a special truck for parts runs to the supply house. The truck ID is basically a recruiting billboard.

A Las Vegas contractor actually pays for a billboard, purely to recruit. The billboard is located next to his largest competitor, which has become his greatest source of employees.

Advertising copy: You might think the economy is incentive enough for someone to apply, but it’s not. The best people, the ones you most want to hire, are probably gainfully employed. You need to recruit them away from another company. Your recruiting ad copy should sell prospective employees on working for you. Make the case that you can improve their circumstances, and not just economically. In Service Roundtable recruiting ads, we state, “No jerks!” It’s surprising how attractive that makes us.

Advertise year round: Recruit and interview year-round, even if you don’t have any openings. Keep a file with the people you interview and stay in touch. When one of your plumbers quits out of the blue, you’ve got a bench team to call upon. This also reduces the likelihood that a current employee will be able to hold you hostage by threatening to leave.

Recruiting spiffs: You pay spiffs and incentives on products, why not pay them for recruiting? If an existing employee finds someone you hire, pay a recruiting spiff. This encourages your existing team to network, recruit and talk up the company with prospective employees.

Application: The employee application should collect information from the prospective employee that will help in the screening process, and should also subtly market the company. For example, you might include a question that is a reversal, such as, “We are a selective company, focused on delivering high quality, friendly service to our loyal customer base. How would you enhance our reputation?” In other words, are you good enough?

Interview: Remember the interview is not a grill session. It’s a sales call. You should be selling the company to the prospective employee. Do it well and the prospective employee will try to sell you on his or her capabilities.

Once you recruit good people, put programs in place to retain them. Just as it costs more to get a customer than it does to keep a customer, it costs more to churn through employees than to keep good ones.

Matt Michel is the CEO of the Service Roundtable, a business alliance of plumbing, HVAC, electrical, and service contractors. Learn more about the Service Roundtable at www.ServiceRoundtable.com, or e-mail Matt at: [email protected].

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