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The Best Practices for Finding, Hiring Talent

How facilities managers can land top workers in a tight labor market.

By Kate Rockwood

The combination of fewer workers, early retirements and an aging workforce have made finding talent tough for managers in just about every industry, including facilities management (FM).

“The average age of a technician has risen, which means that there are not as many young people coming into the field. And that also means that as people retire, then that shortage just becomes greater and greater,” said Scott Scheesley, Manager, Facilities Maintenance HVAC/Refrigeration, for Weis Markets, Inc. in Sunbury, Pennsylvania.

For FMs, snagging skilled workers these days also often means competing against companies who are willing to pay top dollar. However, that doesn’t mean FMs can’t compete against higher-paying companies or improve their outlook on attracting high-quality candidates. Just the opposite: Salary isn’t the only benefit employees want and tweaking your application and interview process can help you find top talent and keep them for the long haul.

Improving the Application Process

The first hurdle to finding employees is grabbing their attention in a crowded environment. That begins with where you post job openings and the language you use in your job ads.

Jessica Multhauf, ALINITI
Jessica Multhauf, ALINITI

While LinkedIn may be the top platform for professional recruiting, that doesn't make it the best spot to reach FM candidates, said Jessica Multhauf, Director of Talent Solutions for human resources company ALINITI. She recommended posting positions on industry-specific job boards, job boards and social media.

“ZipRecruiter, Indeed and Facebook are some of the top sources for external hourly hires,” she said.

If you don’t have an employee referral program, now’s the time to start one. Research shows that referred candidates are more likely to receive and accept an offer and stay with a company longer. Networking with local colleges, career centers, tech schools and nonprofits with job readiness programs can also be a good way to identify potential employees or interns, Multhauf adds.

How you present your role, and the ease of your application process, can also give you a hiring advantage. Consider these steps to improve your recruiting process:

  • Write the best job ad. Your job posting doesn't have to cover every single task or requirement for the role. Instead, identify the most important job duties and candidate attributes you want. Be specific enough so that you don’t wind up with a cook applying for an HVAC job, Scheesley said, but not so specific that you chase away otherwise competent candidates. And considering that 54% of job candidates turn down a job once they learn how much it pays, it’s a good idea to post a pay range in your job ad to avoid wasting anyone’s time.

  • Highlight your perks. A job ad shouldn’t just be about what you’re looking for, but why someone would want to work for your organization. Mention company perks such as a friendly culture, flexible schedules, benefits and opportunities for growth.

  • Simplify the application process. Applying for a job in your organization should be easy and straightforward. It also should be mobile-friendly. Many of the employees you want to reach will expect to apply for a job on their phones, Multhauf said. The ability to send job updates or answer candidate questions by text message is also key, she added.

  • Lean on technology. Using an applicant tracking system (ATS) can help streamline the hiring process, manage candidate communication and build a pool of potential candidates for your next job opening, Multhauf said. “The data collected can provide insights into the best source of hire and identify bottlenecks within your current recruitment process,” she added.

To hone your recruiting and hiring knowledge, check out webinars and content on LinkedIn or through organizations such as the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

Hire for Attitude, Train for Skills

In an ideal world, you would hire a new employee from a group of candidates with skills and backgrounds that are a near-perfect match for your job role. However, that’s not likely in a tight hiring market where finding skilled labor can be challenging.

And while technical skills are still paramount, hiring people with attributes that make them good employees is essential. Important non-technical abilities can include areas such as reliability, accountability, teamwork, problem-solving, decision making and customer service, Multhauf said.

To uncover strengths in these areas, she recommended asking interview questions such as:

  • Tell me about a time when it was necessary to admit to others that you had made a mistake. How did you handle it?

  • Tell me about a time when you worked in a job when expectations weren’t clear, or you didn’t have the resources to do your job properly. What did you do in this situation?

  • Give me an example of your ability to communicate effectively and build relationships with people regardless of cultural differences?

  • Give me an example of a problem you just couldn’t solve at work. What did you do?

  • How much of your decision-making is based strictly on data? What other input do you use for making decisions?

  • Describe a time when you were under pressure at work to meet a deadline or target. How did the stress affect your decision-making process?

  • Tell me about the most difficult customer situation you have ever handled. What did you do, and what was the outcome?

Scheesley typically structures his job interviews the same way: five minutes sharing details about the company and the role; 10 minutes asking candidates about their technical skills; and 45 minutes asking the candidates questions related to the three qualities he believes are most important in an employee: attitude, aptitude and attendance.

“I tell [candidates], ‘If you can learn, if you can progress, if you can apply one thing you learned over here and apply it to this over here, if you have good attendance and you have a good attitude, you will do very well,” he said. “Often businesses and companies and managers get tied up with, ‘Can you do the job?’ That's the wrong question to ask. [It should be], ‘Do you have the potential to do the job?”

Some of the top technicians Scheesley has ever worked with were not the ones with the most skills or experience when he hired them.

“We had to develop, train and spend time with them. We invested in their potential,” he said. “And from that, they became the best technicians.”

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