You can’t increase productivity without good employees. But how do you start hiring new technicians? What questions do you ask in an interview? We’ve reached out to Nick Ouillette, Service Delivery Manager at recruiting firm Talent Burst, and put together for you a quick guide on how to hire for your field service business. Read all the way through to discover our list of field technician interview questions!
First and foremost, where do you start? Are you planning to simply post your job ad in the local newspaper? A job board at the library? How about trying some of these tips:
1. Where to find good technicians?
If you need to hire technicians but your competitors are snapping up all the good ones, get first dibs on talented prospects while they’re still in school by connecting with local vocational schools.
If you have the resources to groom techs at vocational and technical schools through internships or mentorships, this can be a great way to build a pipeline of talent as your field service business grows.
Make your job ad stand out!
How do you write a technician job ad? First, you have to describe your company and make sure that you let them know it’s a great place to work. Maybe you can’t lure techs with wads of cash, but money isn’t the only thing employees are looking for.
Let’s say a technician is deciding between a high-paying company that has a rep for being a bad place to work and a lower-paying company that employees rave about. There are no guarantees, but the lower-paying business has a pretty good shot at landing that person. Make sure you create a profile on Glassdoor and ask employees (both current and former) to leave a review, so that prospects can check out how great it is to work for you.
Right now you’re probably huffing and saying: “Yeah, making the ‘Top 100 Companies to Work For’ list sounds very easy”. But according to this Huffington Post article, it mostly comes down to simply being nice. Treating employees fairly and helping them with their career growth may seem like a no-brainer to many field service business owners, but you’d be shocked at how many employers don’t even do that.
As a leader, it’s your responsibility to help people build confidence and make them feel like they’re an individual with their own qualities and interests. No one wants to be just a “cog in the machine” or a replaceable object. Managing to build a reputation as a fair employer who wants hard work, but is ready to give back in terms of compassionate management and opportunities to grow, will help you attract the kind of talent you actually need for a successful business.
There are other benefits that trump cold hard cash, too. For example, an article on Truckinginfo says that “offering benefits such as tool allowances, tuition reimbursement, and discount programs can tip the scales in your favor”. Additionally, training, courses, and other educational opportunities have also been shown to improve your employer profile and lower turnover rates. An engaged employee is not an employee looking for another job.
Then there are the little extras that simply make a company a fun place to work like contests, magazine subscriptions, and thank-you notes for a job well done. A friendly office manager, skilled co-workers, top-of-the-line devices, and holiday parties are all great—but these perks won’t help you attract the best technicians if potential hires don’t know about you. That’s where the job ad comes in.
2. How to write a job ad for a field service technician.
First, let’s get the basics down: an ad that’s missing key elements will scare away job-seeking technicians. The Yesware website suggests creating an ad template to make sure you have all the info you need, starting with key questions like these:
What’s the exact job title?
Where is the company located?
Is the job full-time or part-time?
Who is your ideal candidate?
What does your company value?
Who will the technician be working with?
What will the technician’s responsibilities be?
What skills, experience, or abilities, does a potential hire absolutely have to have?
What are some “nice-to-have” abilities that will make someone stand out?
Once you have the facts down, infuse your ad with personality. Big companies tend to write bone-dry ads that sound like 1950s business memos; you can compete for skilled technicians by creating job ads that showcase your business’s values and character. Don’t be afraid to use humor, be extra-transparent about what it’s like to work for your company (“Things can get chaotic at times”), and brag about the work environment (two words: Pizza Fridays).
One issue that is sure to come up is the salary. Some employers will write down a range and add “dependent on experience” while others would rather keep it private as a negotiation advantage. However, experts at Forbes and The Balance Careers agree that transparency is key, especially if you’ve already bragged about how open your company is. List your salary range to ensure that you’re not wasting your own time on candidates who look and sound fantastic, but end up refusing the position because the pay is not what they expected.
You know what else you shouldn’t expect? Your office admin to be marketing writers as well! Save them the time and the trouble by downloading our set of email templates!
3. How to spot red flags on a resume.
Now that you have your resumes coming in, how do you go about sorting them? Nick Ouillette recommends that you look at:
Skills. Do they match this role 100%? Are they 80%? 50%? Are they a ‘firm no’?
Experience level. If you need a technician with five years of experience, how close do they come to that?
Budget. Are you able to get someone who’s only an 80% match, but they’re $500 below your budget—or do you have a perfect fit who’s only a couple of dollars above your budget?
Then there are definitely other factors, like location. For example, maybe the candidate is a perfect fit with skills, experience, and cost, but they need to relocate. Another factor is gaps. Do they have a two-year gap in their experience, and can they explain it to your satisfaction? Do they work one month on a contract and then jump to another then another, or are they fulfilling six-and 12-month contracts? These factors tie into how you sort the resumes, along with the three above categories.
Pay attention to red flags, however. For Nick, job-hopping is one of the most obvious. “If we have a role that’s a 12-month contract or a permanent role, how likely is it that they’ll want to stay with our company? Hiring an employee is expensive; they won’t be working at full capacity in the first months, and then there’s the equipment cost, uniforms, training, etc. You have to make sure the person you hire will stick around so you can earn back that investment. At the same time, don’t dismiss a candidate based solely on this. Build trust during the interview, and ask them about their reasons.
A second, more immediate red flag that you see is flexibility—the applicant’s ability and willingness to interview. If we request a job interview for next week and they say, ‘Well, I’m not available then’ or ‘I’m available to interview, but only from 12-12:30 on Wednesday’, you can take that two different ways. One is that they’re in demand. The other is that they’re pushing you off because they have another offer. The ball is then in your court to decide if the candidate is worth chasing.
Another thing to look out for is attention to detail—simple things such as spelling errors or disorganised resumes with seven fonts and crazy highlighting. If they’re not showing attention to detail with this, how are they going to be on the job site? However, according to Nick, “if they have the experience—if they fit those three buckets of skills, experience, and budget—it’s not as much of a concern. At the end of the day, you can’t expect a tech to be a graphic artist too.”
4. Should you do a Skype interview?
The answer to this question should pretty much always be yes. You don’t have to think of yourself as a tech-savvy company to ask people to do an online interview first. These are easy to set up and don’t have to take more than 10-15 minutes. They will not screen candidates for skills but more for personality and general attitude.
It’s difficult to get a perfect picture from a resume so you can take this opportunity to ask for clarification (on gaps, for example!) and discuss the company’s expectations. If it turns out that this candidate cannot work on weekends and you need someone more flexible, then you’ve saved yourself and them a few hours by not scheduling a face-to-face meeting.
These interviews are also a great opportunity to discover what candidates are looking for in a new position and if you’re a match. Sure, you have your own list of field technician interview questions, but they most likely have some boxes they need to tick as well. Be sure to always check if they have anything they would like to ask, and be as transparent as possible when answering.
Although brief, this interview shouldn’t be one sided. It’s the beginning of your relationship with them, so make it count!
5. What to ask in a technician job interview?
One mistake some managers make is turning a face-to-face interview into a resume reading session. By the time a potential employee makes it to your office, for an interview, you should already know the facts. Feel free to ask them about specific jobs or positions they’ve held if there’s anything you couldn’t make out from the resume, but, otherwise, take this opportunity to figure out whether they’re both the right technician and the right person for your business.
The truth is you can teach skills, but you can’t teach personality. Your field service technicians are on the front line with customers all day, so it’s essential they can present themselves well, handle difficult customer situations, work independently, troubleshoot common problems, and think on their feet. Asking the right questions during the job interview can help you figure out if a candidate has what it takes—and asking the wrong ones can waste everyone’s time and saddle you with a nightmare employee. (No pressure!)
Position-Specific Field Technician Interview Questions
Position-specific questions let you know whether the candidate has the basic qualifications for the job. For example:
Do you have a clean driving record?
What kind of training or certifications do you have?
What’s the first step you’d take when diagnosing a fault in a customer’s air conditioning unit?
What’s the most common type of HVAC issue you’ve handled?
Already dreading some emails you’ve got to send out? Check these ready-made templates and save yourself some time!
Finding out what motivates candidates and what their goals and ideals are can give you a sneak peek at their future performance, according to Geoff Hoppe in his article 5 Essential Field Technician Interview Questions on the Capterra blog. While this article is for field service job candidates, you can borrow the questions for your own interviews. Motivational questions include:
Describe your ideal day at work.
What does a “job well done” mean for you?
What would a major ‘win’ look like for you?
What did you like best about your last job?
Where would you like to be in the next year (five years, 10 years)?
The way a candidate answers motivational questions can reveal just as much about them as their actual answer. For example, if they can’t find a single positive thing to say about their last job or they need five minutes to come up with an answer to a question, they may not be the right field service technician for you.
A person’s technical credentials will only tell you if they’re capable of getting the job done, but their work ethic is what guarantees they will do it, and, not only that, but do it to the best of their abilities. Someone who describes a “job well done” as going above and beyond to provide the customer with a great experience is the kind of person you want on your team: motivated, eager to learn, and customer-oriented. Like we mentioned before, these are not qualities you can teach someone; it has to come from them.
In their article, Workable suggests asking questions that reveal the candidate’s personality and how they would handle various situations in the field. Behavioral questions include:
Tell me about a time when you dealt with an angry customer. How did you handle their complaints?
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far as a field service technician, and how did you handle it?
What new skills would you like to learn as a field service technician?
Listen carefully to the answers. For example, does the candidate sound excited about the idea of learning new skills? Are they open to being trained on your team’s tools and procedures? Do they handle customer conflict well? Can they deal with problems in the field without having to ask for help? These are the kinds of things that will ensure you have a smooth working relationship. Keep in mind that it’s very difficult to create long-term, reliable external motivation.
Sure, you can play carrot & stick and dangle a bonus or a pay cut, but that only works short-term and will create a culture of financial incentives that can backfire, either by becoming too costly or because people don’t handle financial threats very well. Imagine if you had to function while constantly under negative pressure like that. Would you deliver your best work?
Intrinsic motivation is the way to go and this is something you have to identify during the interview. Candidates who are naturally motivated by the fact that they want to be the best version of themselves are the most valuable.
Hiring employees is time-consuming and expensive, and it stinks when it quickly becomes clear that your newest hire won’t work out.
“We can blame eighty-nine percent of hiring failures on a poor cultural fit”, says Erika Andersen of Forbes. Asking curveball questions during the technician’s interview can help head off this problem by revealing whether the candidate will connect with your company culture. Some oddball examples:
What’s the first thing you should do in a zombie apocalypse?
What’s something you believe that no one else agrees with you on?
Would you rather fight one horse-sized duck, or 100 duck-sized horses? (Whole Foods interviewers ask this question, according to Glassdoor.)
Their answers to these curveball field technician interview questions—and also the way they react when they’re hit with weirdo queries like these—will show whether they have the confidence, humor, or smarts to make it as an employee in your business.
6. List of field technician interview questions.
Feel free to add your preferred questions. However, if you’re looking for a standard interview when you’re hiring for your field service business, then this is a great start:
Tell me a bit about yourself.
I have your resume here but I’d like you to walk me through your work experience. What was your favorite job until now?
What kind of training or certifications do you have?
Now, let’s talk about how you deal with jobs. What’s the first step you take when diagnosing a fault in a customer’s furnace?
What’s the most common type of issue you’ve handled?
What do you consider to be a “job well done” in this situation?
If you’re faced with a problem that you don’t know how to solve, what do you do?
Tell me about a time when you dealt with an angry customer. How did you handle their complaints?
What new skills would you like to learn as a field service tech?
If you had to fight a Transformer and you could take one tool from your van, what would it be and why?
7. Don’t forget to sell the job, too.
A great field tech, who has both technical skills and a good personality is not going to stay unemployed for long. Consider the talent shortage the industry is dealing with, chances are this is also an interview for you. So, don’t hold back on selling the job if you have a good feeling about the candidate in front of you.
Benefits and financials are all great to present as an incentive here, but try to go deeper and paint a clear picture of the kind of company you’re running and what are your plans for the future. If the candidate is really looking for a long-term job, they’ll be glad to hear of how you’ve started the company, and where you plan on taking it next.
At the same time, give them an idea of what their working week could look like, the teambuilding activities you organize, or any other business culture information. After the interview is over, send them an email, even if they didn’t get the job, in the end. Oftentimes, hiring managers have a tendency to play power games with candidates and send off arrogant vibes, but this only alienates good candidates.
You never know, maybe this job position didn’t work out now, but they could be a good option for something opening up in the future. Don’t burn your bridges!
Speaking of emails…
You might think those aren’t your specialty and you’d probably be right. But the way you and your employees communicate, on behalf of the company, is all part of the brand image you’re projecting, so you want to make sure it’s all positive.
To give you a head-start, we’ve collect 10 of the most common templates field service businesses need, and made them available to you with a single click below:
Hi! I'm Cristina Maria
And I want to bring next-level strategies to the field service industry. When I'm not working on the best tips to grow your business, I'm on the lookout for a sci-fi novel to beat The Foundation.