Tips to Improve Your Hiring Process

The headache of reviewing applications and conducting interviews may make you nostalgic for the days of being a solo operation, but hiring is necessary for growth

Tips to Improve Your Hiring Process

Carter Harkins and Taylor Hill

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Hiring is one of the biggest pain points for plumbing companies. 

How do you find someone who takes the job as seriously as you do? Should you hire for experience or culture fit and attitude? Aren’t the type of employees you really want more likely to start their own businesses than work for someone else? What if you invest in an employee, only to have them leave and start their own company?  

It's enough to make growing companies want to go back to the good ol’ days.

But the truth is, as frustrating and challenging as hiring can be, it's an essential part of the growth process. And if you take off those rose-colored nostalgia glasses and really think about it, those good ol' days weren't as good as you remember them to be. Sure, hiring and HR issues weren't a daily frustration, but you had to do everything yourself. You think you're tired at the end of the day now, but back then? 

While we don't have an easy button or formula to fool-proof the hiring process or take the headache out of it, we do have a few tips that will make things just a bit easier. 

#1 Know your needs before you start looking for a new employee

Before you write up the job description and start taking resumes, consider the type of person you want to hire. What qualities will they have?

Do you want someone who is friendly and outgoing, or can they be more introverted in the role you're hiring for? Do they really need to come to the table with a specific skill set or is a particular mindset more important for success? 

If you aren't sure, it can be helpful to think about your best employees in similar roles. What traits and qualities make them good at what they do? Or, if you've done the work yourself, consider what makes you good at it. 

If you're not good at it and that's why you're looking to hire, what makes you bad at it? What qualities and traits would make you better

Once you know what type of person you're looking for, divide the list into nice-to-have qualities and must-have qualities.

#2 Write a meaningful job ad that stands out and makes it clear who you are and what you're looking for

There are thousands of job ads popping up on places like Indeed, LinkedIn, ZipRecruiter, and other job boards every day. 

Most look the same: They all very lightly describe a boring, faceless company in search of a magical unicorn employee who’s fully trained, experienced, and willing to accept whatever pay is offered.

Most of the job ads out there use the same buzzwords and are so sparse in the branding and personality department that there’s nothing to distinguish one company from another. In fact, some don't say much of anything about the company. 

Yet, business owners are surprised when they receive an onslaught of resumes from people who don't even really understand the job, don’t really care about the company, and aren’t really excited about the work. The fault lies with the job ad.

If you want the right people to come through your hiring funnel, you have to throw up the bat signal. You have to make it obvious who you're looking for. If you're putting up job ads that look just like everyone else's, how will great candidates know you're looking for them and not someone else? If you describe your company the same way everyone else describes theirs, how will they know you're different? How will they know you're the company they should want to work for? 

They won't. So approach your job ad differently. 

When you're writing up your job description and ad, think about what you need to say and how you need to say it to attract the person you want to attract. How can you make it clear:

  • What kind of company you run
  • What the typical day will look like
  • What you expect of your employees
  • What type of career and lifestyle you can provide for someone who works hard and does the job right

How can you make your job ad a bat signal for the perfect candidates? Not necessarily someone with the experience, but someone with the attitude and ability to become one of your best team members? How can you convey your culture, values, and personality through the ad? What can you add to excite them about the possible lifestyle and career path you can provide if they're willing to work hard? How can you carve out what success looks like and what's required to get there, so that they can self-assess and decide if they've got what it takes before they send in a resume?

The bottom line is this: If you want people to thoughtfully apply, you have to thoughtfully advertise. 

#3 Consider the platforms you're advertising on

ZipRecruiter, Craigslist, LinkedIn, Indeed, Facebook … we’re not going to tell you which platforms to use because everyone has an opinion about what works best. You'll need to look at the options, weigh the pros and cons of each platform, and test to see what works best for your business. 

That said, we've had some great luck with Facebook Ads. They're eye-catching, you can still do some targeting, and it's a great way to get in front of people — whether they're actively or passively job searching. 

Another benefit of Facebook Ads is that, if the potential candidate wants to know more about your company, they can do a lot of investigating right there within the platform. That means they can more easily get a feel for what you do, how you do it, and if they'd be a good fit for your company before they apply. 

Another note: When considering which platforms to advertise on, consider if quality or quantity is more important to you. Some job boards and platforms are designed to bring you as many potential candidates as possible. They don't much care how qualified those candidates are or if they're a good fit. They're just aiming for a number. 

#4 Review resumes and cover letters, then narrow down your list of candidates for an interview

Once you get some resumes and cover letters in, it's time for the consideration phase. This is where you'll want to set aside some time to comb resumes and cover letters for the traits, qualities, attitudes, and experience you're looking for. 

Get your list of must-haves and nice-to-haves out again and create a tally system. The best candidates may not be obvious because they may not have experience in your industry. Take the time to look deeper. Traits like curiosity, determination, and people skills are traits that carry over, industry to industry.

Once you've tallied up candidates and settled on a few great potential hires, it's time to prep for interviews. But before we get into that, a quick note on cover letters.

Some companies don't allow cover letters to be submitted with resumes. That’s a mistake. Your next amazing employee may not have any experience in your field. He or she may not be coming down a traditional career path. They may not look like the perfect fit on a resume. Resumes are very limited. They don't allow much room for personality. Even if you want to get creative, most resume writing companies will tell you not to because some companies use resume review platforms that will kick out resumes for the slightest alteration in design or formatting, etc. 

So welcome and allow candidates to submit cover letters. They give candidates an opportunity to tell you why they want the job and to explain how their qualities, traits, and experiences make them a great choice (even if they have no prior experience in plumbing). They allow candidates to connect the dots for you. 

For example, someone who spent the past five years waiting tables at one of the busiest restaurants in town might not have the resume you’re looking for, but they may have learned a lot about sales and reading people in those five years. They might be a pro at speaking to customers and putting them at ease. And those traits, qualities, and learned behaviors could make for a great sales tech. 

#5 Prepare interview questions that will help you identify if applicants are qualified for the position and give you a feel for their personality and strengths

There are all kinds of resources out there for coming up with interview questions. You can even find questions around specific types of roles or qualities. One resource you might find helpful is the Behavioral Interview Questions Generator

Using this tool, simply select the skills/traits/qualities you're looking to assess in a potential candidate and hit generate. The tool will spit out a host of questions you can ask around those skills, traits, and qualities. That way, you can get a feel for where the candidate falls.  

One word of caution: Don't be dense. We've heard of business owners asking candidates to do weird things during interviews in order to test if someone is a follower or a questioner. The idea is to weed out people who will question them on the job. But think that all the way through. Do you really want to hire people who just do what they're told? Will those be the best problem solvers out in the field? How will they know what to do in unique situations if you're not there to tell them? 

One of the biggest benefits of hiring is that you have the opportunity to bring smart people with different perspectives into your company. People who can see things you might overlook or discover better ways of doing things. If you only hire “yes” men, your company will never be better than you are.

#6 Interview and offer

Once you've selected your potential candidates and prepped your interview questions, it's time to do the interviews. 

Be open and personable. Also remember that what you're seeing in front of you is not the person's best. Even if they're prepared, chances are, they're nervous. Try to break the tension and set them at ease so that you get a more honest impression. 

As you (hopefully) did in the job ad, go over what makes your company unique. Explain to them what you do, what a typical day looks like, who you serve, what you expect, what your culture is like, where you're going as a company, and the role this new hire will play in getting you there. 

Be as clear as you can and be perceptive. Look for your must-haves. Assess how the candidates handle themselves. Assess their tone, their curiosity, their personality. If they’re applying for a customer-facing role, consider how your customers will assess them. 

If they check the must-have boxes and you have a gut feeling they'll be a good fit, make an offer. If they don't, thank them for their time and move onto the next.

No matter what, be respectful of each candidate and let them know when you've made your decision. A lot of business owners get so caught up in filling a seat on their team that they only consider the time they’re spending on hiring. They forget that each candidate is putting themselves out there as well.You don't know what's going on in the lives of each candidate. They may have seen your job ad at the end of a 10-hour workday and decided that — exhausted as they were — they would respond to your job ad before heading to bed.They may have had to take time off work or have someone else pick up the kids in order to interview with you. 

The point is, you're not the only one making sacrifices. So be respectful to each candidate, even if they're not the right person for the job. 

About the Authors

Carter Harkins and Taylor Hill are the co-founders of Spark Marketer, a Nashville, Tennessee-based digital marketing company that works primarily with service businesses. They're also co-authors of the book, Blue Collar Proud: 10 Principles for Building a Kickass Business You Love. Both regularly speak at service industry trade shows and conferences across the nation. Visit or


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