Dear Jayme,

I keep hiring lousy employees. Where are all the good people? How come I can't seem to hire them?



Dear Clint,

The good ones are out there, but they won't fall in your lap just because you're cute. Like any scarce commodity, finding them takes some effort.

Employees are leveraged investments just like your vehicles and equipment. You invest in them with the expectation that they'll produce a reasonable return.

When you invest $50,000 in a new truck, you probably shop around and think long and hard before signing the check. A $30/hour employee who stays for five years, however, is a $300,000 investment. How much research are you putting into that?

You wouldn't spend $300,000 on a piece of equipment without collecting a lot of data, asking lots of questions and minimizing the risk, but many contractors do exactly that by hiring under pressure, taking whatever warm body is available and/or not gathering a lot of data about the employee before they hire.

The more you invest up front in defining what you want, sourcing solid candidates and screening them carefully, the more likely you'll hire the good ones. More work for you in the short run? You bet. Huge payoff in the long run? Absolutely!

Here's what to do:

Create a detailed job description- What results are expected from this position? How are these measured? What actions/duties must be performed to create those results?

Define the "Ideal Candidate"- What skills, experience and training are required to get the results you require? Specify required attitudes, too.


Find the candidates- Where's your ideal employee working today? How can you reach him? Ads, agencies, trades schools and union halls are a few. (Hint: the best employees come from your network of friends, suppliers, subs, etc.).

Gather basic information- Use job applications. Standard forms are available or make your own. Make sure these forms collect the data you need from your "Ideal Candidate" requirements, and require three references.

Screen- Using their applications or resumes, compare the candidates' qualifications and experience to your standards for the "Ideal Candidate." Pick the top three.

Interview the top three- Determine how closely each of the three candidates matches the "Ideal Candidate" requirements. Have your questions prepared and use a form to note your findings. Spend a half hour minimum, uninterrupted, in a private office (not an informal bull session at the donut shop).

Pick your winner and a backup- If they're all losers, stop and start over. It's better to limp along shorthanded than make a bad hire.


Check references on the winner- This is critical. Have your questions prepared ahead and don't be shy. You're getting ready to invest $300,000.

Do drug/criminal/credit screens on the winner- They're cheap and can uncover all sorts of nasty things you wouldn't want in your business.

If everything comes back clear,

Make your offer- Know the market rate and don't nickel and dime. If you're hiring the best, plan to pay them well.

This looks like a lot of work, but hiring great people isn't rocket science, and we teach contractors how to do it every day. If you learn the process and follow it, it's pretty simple. It's also much less effort and expense than constantly hiring and rehiring weirdos and slackers.

A great hiring process produces great hires. Let your competitors hire your rejects.

P.S. Any idea on how much it costs you when that $30/hour employee quits or gets fired? About $14,000. Shocked? A bit nauseated? Good. Now get busy, hire only the very best, and start putting that money back in your pocket.


Jayme Dill Broudy



Construction Business Owner, September 2006