According to a survey from the Society for Human Resource Management, 18 percent of service-sector human resource professionals indicated they had more difficulty filling key positions in the first month of 2016 – up nearly four percent from the same time last year.
What does this mean for pest management professionals looking to hire qualified service technicians? Is the pool of qualified candidates not as deep as anticipated or are industry standards rising to meet the changing demands of the position?
In either case it reinforces the importance of having proven protocols in place for hiring and being deliberate about the process from start to finish. The costs associated with failed hires are significant to a company – regardless of its size.
The service technician or specialist is for all intent purposes the industry’s most prominent face to consumers. They are often the only “real person” a consumer will actually meet when they have pest management services done in their home or business.
This is another reason why it is important for managers and human resource specialists to get it right more times than not when it comes to technician hiring.
Adam Vannest, director of training and technical services for Northwest Exterminating in Atlanta, says the company considers a variety of factors before extending an offer.
“The demands of the position continue to evolve and as a result so does the skill set we look for in technicians,” says Vannest. “We are looking for individuals who can be trained in multiple skill sets to adapt to the changing role they have to play.”
Northwest knows it has a responsibility to hire technicians who are not only proficient at the job but who are reliable, personable and project a professional image. “We are putting technicians in customers’ homes every day so it is important that we hire people who are confident, capable and connect with our customers,” adds Vannest.
Vannest shared the 10 point checklist he uses when interviewing prospective technicians to see if they not only can do the job but how they will mesh with Northwest’s family-oriented culture where the emphasis is on lifelong learning and a sincere commitment to customers.
1. Character – What are the candidate’s core moral and ethical character traits? Can the company trust the technician to represent it in the field and take care of their customers? Northwest provides employees with classroom and one-on-one character building training to help them build character and how to overcome their fears to be the best they can be.
2. Are They A Cultural Fit? – Will the person fit into Northwest’s culture? Vannest usually gets a sense during the first interview whether or not the person will blend into the company’s family culture. “You can’t fit a square peg into round hole,” says Vannest.
3. Being A Genuine Servant Leader– At Northwest is it important that employees genuinely care about their co-workers, customers and community. They need to be true servant leaders that focus on the needs of others, especially team members, before they consider their own.
4. Overall Attitude – Attitude is one thing a person can control and Vannest looks for technicians that are not influenced by outside factors and who are able to present a positive attitude to co-workers and customers.
5. Communication Skills – Today’s technician must be able to effectively communicate with customers face-to-face, over the phone or through emails and texts. Vannest does a lot of coaching with technicians on how to leave a positive impression with customers before, during and after a service call through good communication.
6. Legal Requirements – Northwest looks to hire responsible people who will take care of their service vehicles and equipment. They also want safe drivers and will review driving records before hiring and require annual driver safety training. Northwest also performs pre-hiring drug testing and random drug testing post-hire.
7. Skill Assessment – Can the aspiring technician handle what is expected of them both in being proficient in pest management techniques as well as the physical demands of the job? Can they wear a respirator, can they lift a certain weight and do they have a fear of heights or enclosed spaces?
8. Self-Image – Does the person present a professional appearance and care about them self as well as others? Vannest looks for technicians that present themselves in a consistent manner in how they dress, communicate and interact with others.
9. Technology Proficient – It isn’t as much a generational or capability issue as it is a willingness to learn and adapt to the technology advances (i.e. hand held devices, texting customers, etc.) that are available. Northwest looks for candidates who are willing to use technology to their advantage.
10. Ambition to Grow – Technicians (or any employee for that matter) who don the Northwest uniform must be willing to grow and be lifelong learners. Northwest is a strong believer in promoting from within and looks for people who want to further their skills and career and don’t view their position as “just a job.” Vannest says they challenge technicians to be the best they can be and encourage growth.
Experience vs. Enthusiasm
There is a belief by some in the industry that it is easier to hire an enthusiastic candidate who are new to the industry rather than bring in an experienced technician that you might have to “break” of his or her bad habits.
While each company views and values experience differently, Vannest says it depends on the position they are applying for and the individual.
“There is an advantage with someone that is new to the industry,” says Vannest. “We can show them our way of doing things, how to use our equipment and educate them on our approach to pest management.”
Vannest says Northwest has seen faster onboarding process and a higher level of success with general pest control technicians that are new to the industry and have learned the company’s way from the start.
On the flip side Vannest says experience speaks volumes when it comes to hiring technicians in specialized fields including bird control, wildlife management or commercial services.
“If you are looking for a service specialist to handle a food processing or other sensitive account you will look for someone with experience who knows the particulars of those environments and can hit the ground running,” says Vannest.
The Next Generation of Service Technician
When asked what the next generation of service technicians will look like, Vannest feels they will have a more expansive educational background and demand a different approach to training.
“Millennials are very on-demand and interactive in their learning and will want to know why it is important to know something,” says Vannest.
The new breed of technician will also be more of a consultant to their clients in Vannest’s estimation.
“They will be less about bait stations and applications and more about prevention,” says Vannest. “They will be tasked with achieving results by using less product and will rely more heavily on technology to connect with clients and solve problems.”
By Jeff Fenner