Recruiting tradesmen and tradeswomen has never been more challenging. U.S. industrial companies in manufacturing, transportation, energy, equipment, construction, and trades services find themselves in the difficult position that there is significant demand for their products and services, but they don’t have the tradesmen and tradeswomen they need to thrive and grow.
So how can industrial companies recruit tradesmen effectively in this environment, whether it is for mechanics, machinists, welders, assemblers, equipment operators, electricians, HVAC technicians, shop helpers, and many other tradesmen positions? Xemplar Tradesmen Recruiting offers these 10 tips based on our team’s decades of experience on how to recruit tradesmen and tradeswomen in this challenging labor market.
To recruit tradesmen you and your team need to know the resources you have available to spend per hire. These funds will possibly go towards sign-on bonuses, recruiting services, online job boards, or various other ways that you can effectively attract and close the best talent.
So how much should you budget? A starting point is to understand the value that a new tradesman will bring to your organization and then use some much smaller portion of that to source that new hire. In our article “How Much Is A New Tradesman Worth?” we coach business leaders on how to calculate the incremental dollar value of adding an additional tradesperson to your team. The dollar amount is generally very high and quickly reveals to managers that new “growth employees” are worth a pretty penny.
No matter how much your business is willing to dedicate to recruiting tradesmen talent, having that number clearly defined as a specific budget item will allow your team to prioritize their recruiting efforts and effectively achieve your company’s hiring goals.
Many industrial businesses struggle to fill jobs because the positions themselves are not attractive or competitive in the market. When was the last time that you researched the current pay levels or benefit packages of your competition? Do they offer tool programs, take-home service vehicles, incentives for achieving team and individual goals, paid health benefits, etc.? Is your schedule flexible enough, where a tradesman with children might be able to take a kid to the doctor or meet with teachers when they need to?
Being aware of the current market for talent will enable your business to pay a fair wage and offer “good enough” benefits and then get really creative beyond that providing the best possible work culture/environment in your area.
Remember that money means a lot, but it isn’t everything. Companies that care attract tradesmen who care (and the opposite is also true). It pays to take the point-of-view of your tradesmen candidates and think about why they should come to work for you. Start with the individual job and then think more broadly about your company and what makes it an attractive (or unattractive) place to work.
One of the biggest problems holding industrial companies back from hiring great tradesmen and tradeswomen is their hesitancy to train up new employees. We’ve all heard the nightmare stories about years invested in workers just to have those workers leave, but a company that is unwilling and unable to train tradesmen is at a severe disadvantage. It means that a company is only able to bring on a certain level of experience and skill and it drastically reduces the pool of candidates that is available to them.
As in Tip #2, if employees are leaving you after they have been trained, the first step is to examine why. Are you not paying enough? Are there not enough long-term opportunities at your company? Asking these questions will allow you to make adjustments to your business and create an environment where tradesmen will want to spend a significant chunk of their careers.
If you can create a career track at your company from entry-level tradesman up to highly-skilled tradesman, you will both ease the pressure on your team to recruit highly-skilled tradesmen and create a more supportive and rewarding work environment where tradesmen are willing to commit to your business for years to come.
We all know that the majority of marketing happens online these days. Whether it’s on mobile devices or desktop computers, the Internet is where tradesmen and tradeswomen are sniffing around potential employers and getting a sense of how attractive or unattractive they are. Being a good company or good employer is only useful and powerful as a recruiting tool if you promote it actively.
It’s important to have a website that communicates the quality of your business to your customers, but remember that it should do the same thing to your potential employee candidates. Make sure that the career section of your website (if you have one) is compelling. Again, take the perspective of an interested tradesman or tradeswoman. Are you inspired by your own website or turned off?
Additionally, take advantage of online company reviews on websites like Google, Yelp, or Glassdoor to highlight the quality of your company. These websites are where tradesmen will judge whether it’s worth even applying to your job listings. Ask your current employees (and customers) to fill out reviews on these sites? Yes, you are always bound to get some negative reviews as well, but if you are proactively encouraging real reviews and you are genuinely taking care of your people (and customers), the good reviews will far exceed the bad ones.
The other place where job marketing is happening today is word-of-mouth, which these days means everything from “word-of-mouth” to “word-of-text.” It still matters greatly what one tradesman says to another tradesman about the various employers in a certain region. Reputation matters and a good one can be a powerful tool that can be proactively exploited to your tradesmen recruiting benefit.
Candidate referrals from your existing employees are incredibly valuable. Establishing referral bonuses can provide a powerful incentive to bring tradesmen and tradeswomen buddies to the company. Bonuses can be in the form of money, vacation days, tools, or other rewards. Many businesses create a culture of referrals, not by offering money, but just by asking and encouraging referrals whenever possible and recognizing employees who do so.
Online job boards are generally where your future tradesmen and tradeswomen are starting their search. It’s also where all of your competitors are advertising their jobs as well, which makes it a pretty crowded place to be posting positions. So should you give up and not bother? Definitely not. You just need to advertise jobs better.
Better online job advertising starts with research on your competitors’ job posts on job boards such as Indeed and ZipRecruiter. Very few industrial companies take this step, but you should actually search for your own positions using the keywords that your tradesmen candidates would use. As an example, you might search: “Diesel Mechanic Houston Texas.” Hundreds of job openings will come up, but, again, look through the eyes of your tradesmen. Which of those jobs is attractive and why? How can you make your job ads catch the eye of a tradesman candidate? Can you talk about your company culture? Your pay? Your benefits? Don’t be afraid to share actual details of the position. It’s better to provide more details and filter out the people who would never be interested in the position than lure people into a job they’ll never want and waste everyone’s time.
Job posting is a process of experimentation. Don’t be afraid to try one approach for two weeks and then try something new and compare the number of quality applicants you received for a certain post or strategy.
If there is one gem of extraordinary wisdom on this list, this is it. Companies that both depend on highly skilled tradesmen and are succeeding and growing in the current competitive environment are always hiring. These companies do not just launch a search for a tradesman or tradeswoman when they have a need. They have job ads always posted and they know the exact criteria for a great tradesperson within their business. That way, they can recognize great talent when it happens to become available and take advantage of that opportunity.
The logic is pretty simple. The chances of being able to recruit an outstanding tradesman the moment you have a need are statistically low. The chances of being able to recruit an outstanding tradesman over the course of a year or several months are very high. Drop your best fishing lure in the water, pull it behind the boat, and you’ll be surprised to see what you’ll catch.
Can all industrial businesses take an “always hiring” approach? Yes, they can. It may appear easiest for a larger company or one that has a great deal of business flexibility to always be hiring, but any business that is able to effectively evaluate the quality of its existing trades employees should be able to assess whether it makes sense to bring on a certain caliber of tradesman candidate if he or she appears at your door (and possibly consider letting another one go if he or she is underperforming).
Industrial hiring managers sometimes set stringent criteria for hiring that quickly slams the door on the vast majority of tradesmen in the market. In most cases, it has to do with work history and whether a tradesman or tradeswoman has had too many jobs during the last decade. Past work tenure is our firm’s first and most important criteria for screening candidates, but there is a story behind every tradesman’s resume and work history. If a candidate appears to have the requisite skills to perform the job, it is often worth digging deeper and reaching out to the tradesman or tradeswoman to understand the context of a job shift or career move. While “job-hopping” can become an ugly and unfortunate habit, great tradesmen sometimes struggle to find the right work environment where they can thrive. Distinguishing between the two takes an open mind and some willingness to listen to the full story.
In terms of policy, the majority of industrial companies these days have been willing to take a fresh look at company-wide criminal background policies to allow for candidates that may have made mistakes in their past but have proven over time that they are now dependable and have righted their way. If you haven’t done the same, it may be time.
Being “open-minded” doesn’t mean lowering your standards. It does mean knowing what matters in a candidate and what will make them successful at your company. The more your team can articulate the key characteristics of a great tradesman in your business, the better.
This tip is often easier said than done, but recruiting tradesmen requires a level of engagement and responsiveness that cannot be faked. Tradesmen are not risk-takers. Their time is money and they are generally not willing to look too long when it’s time to make a change. The employer that is willing to move quickly and fast-track a tradesman interview process is at a tremendous advantage.
Hustling applies to responding to resumes, which sometimes end up in a stack on the hiring manager’s desk. Hustling means performing initial phone pre-screening of candidates and taking the opportunity to introduce the candidate to the company. Hustling also means adapting as necessary to accommodate the scheduling needs of quality tradesmen. Top tradesmen are often still working somewhere else while they are searching for a new job. This fact means that they are juggling their existing work schedule with their job hunt. Be flexible and willing to interview and meet before or after work hours so that you can get the first shake at landing great talent.
As discussed in Tip #1, a little analysis quickly shows how valuable tradesmen and tradeswomen are to industrial businesses. We know hiring managers are unbelievably busy and rarely have the time necessary to fully commit to adequate enough tradesmen recruiting. Internal recruiting departments are asked daily to work miracles and source tradesmen at the drop of a hat, while they are also expected to fill all the other positions needed within the organization.
An industrial recruiting firm, like Xemplar Tradesmen Recruiting, with specific expertise in tradesmen recruiting, can be the perfect, affordable solution to the challenge of how to recruit tradesmen for your business.
What is the key to choosing an effective industrial recruiting partner? Ensure that your tradesmen recruiting partner, working as an extension of your business, has the experience and technical knowledge to be able to engage high-quality tradesmen candidates, speak their technical language, present your business well, and accurately assess candidates fit with your team. The benefit? An expert third-party recruiter can potentially provide the horsepower needed to be screening, marketing, hustling, and always hiring to find the high-value tradesmen you need to succeed.
Xemplar Tradesmen Recruiting is a specialty industrial recruiting company focused on the permanent placement of machinists, welders, technicians, mechanics, fabricators, electricians, precision assemblers, quality inspectors, and related positions. We match top trades professionals with best-in-class industrial employers and reduce cost-per-hire through a service proven to be 2x-plus more effective than temp-to-hire staffing. Headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, Xemplar Tradesmen Recruiting provides nationwide support to its clients’ locations. Learn more about Xemplar Tradesmen Recruiting here.