How to Hire and Retain HVAC Technicians in Today’s Competitive Market

How I Staffed an Aggressively Growing HVAC Contracting Company

Whenever I talk to contractors, whether at one of my training seminars or at a conference, one of the first things they ask is how I managed to hire and retain a staff of skilled HVAC technicians sufficient to support the growth of my ductless heat pump installation business from $2 million to over $15 million in revenue.

I get it. Finding and hiring qualified HVAC technicians has become priority number one for HVAC contractors with aggressive growth objectives here in The United States. The high demand and acute shortage of skilled professionals in the field continue to be the limiting factor when it comes to growth.

However, with a strategic approach and an open mindset, HVAC contractors can discover valuable candidates from various backgrounds and retain them through effective training and employee retention programs.

In my online course, How to Find and Hire HVAC Technicians, I will share:

  • Why the increased demand for HVAC professionals?
  • Resources for finding qualified technicians
  • Salary and benefits considerations
  • The application and interview process I used to ensure our successful hiring strategy

Understanding the Demand for HVAC Professionals

As we all know, HVAC techs, both experienced and entry-level, are in high demand due to the rapidly growing market for heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration services, combined with decades of young people choosing career paths outside the construction trades.

This combination of increased demand for skilled technicians, declining numbers of new job candidates, and the aging out of experienced techs have created tremendous competition among contractors for the limited talent pool in every service area.

HVAC Technicians Experience High Levels of Job Satisfaction

From our years of experience in the trade, know that HVAC technicians report a high level of job satisfaction, primarily because of the work flexibility and the freedom to travel between different locations, often working independently. The diversity of challenges and the freshness of not doing the same thing every day is a major contributor to HVAC tech job satisfaction.

Everyone in the industry has recently realized that the HVAC industry is recession-proof, as the demand for HVAC services continues to grow even during challenging times like the recent Covid-19 pandemic.

The Challenge of Hiring HVAC Technicians

Despite the high demand, there is a shortage of qualified HVAC technicians. This shortage is mainly attributed to the rapid technological advancements in the industry, the decline in high school graduates choosing training schools over college, and the retirement of experienced baby boomers. Traditional methods of hiring, such as posting job ads, often yield limited responses from qualified candidates. To address this challenge, contractors must be open to exploring alternative sources of talent and be open to hiring individuals from different backgrounds.

Looking Outside the Box: Finding Hidden Gems

HVAC contractors can widen their hiring pool by considering candidates from various backgrounds who possess transferable skills and mindsets:

  • Electricians
  • Carpenters
  • Plumbers
  • Roofers
  • Solar installers

These are examples of construction trade pros with relevant skills that can be retrained in the HVAC industry.

Veterans transitioning from military service also bring valuable qualities like discipline and a structured work ethic.

Maintenance workers from hospitals, hotels, office buildings, and apartment complexes are also great candidates you might consider for roles in the HVAC industry.

Emphasizing Skills Over Experience

To attract and hire suitable candidates, contractors should prioritize skills over experience. Key skills include:

  • Proven team player
  • Reliability
  • Adaptability
  • Good communication
  • Problem-solving
  • Critical thinking
  • Mechanical aptitude

By valuing these qualities, contractors will engender a culture of innovation, reduce employee turnover, and effectively train candidates who may not have HVAC-specific experience but possess strong foundational skills.

Creating Effective HVAC Job Advertisements

Speaking directly to potential candidates is critical to attracting job seekers who are faced with a wide range of attractive options. When advertising job openings, contractors should tailor their messaging to shine a light on the attributes of your ideal candidate and the working conditions, benefits, and perks that set your company apart from the competition.

Avoid long lists of prerequisites and duties, as they introduce the potential to discourage applicants.

Instead, focus on the candidate’s perspective, highlighting the experience required – or not. Define your ideal candidate in terms of their qualities instead of their skills. Make it clear that on-the-job training is provided, and emphasize your competitive compensation, benefits, sign-on bonuses, and other attractive aspects such as state-of-the-art tools, and new vehicles.

Don’t forget to highlight “soft” benefits like training opportunities, tuition assistance, and the paid holidays you observe. Keeping job descriptions concise and employee-focused will help engage and attract suitable candidates.

Finding and Retaining HVAC Technicians

In addition to standard job advertisements, contractors should explore other avenues, such as referrals and networking, to find potential hires. Implementing a referral program within your company will incentivize employees to recommend qualified friends and family. Reaching out to vendors for referrals and using business cards and trucks as advertising platforms also increases your company’s visibility.

To retain HVAC technicians, contractors should invest in training programs and establish a positive, “above-the-line” workplace culture that emphasizes the value of teamwork, impeccable communication, critical thinking and problem-solving.

If you hire slow and fire fast you will set the tone for acceptable and unacceptable workplace conduct that reinforces the qualities you want in your staff.

How to Find and Hire HVAC Technicians

Hiring and retaining HVAC technicians in today’s competitive market requires HVAC contractors to look deeper into the workforce for non-traditional candidates who possess the potential to be good HVAC technicians.

By emphasizing transferable skills, providing on-the-job training, and creating compelling job advertisements designed to demonstrate your willingness to help a candidate develop their skills in such a way that they can grow and support a family on this lucrative career path.

Contractors with an open mind about their hiring process can find hidden gems who will possess the attributes necessary to succeed in the HVAC industry. Finally, by focusing on employee retention through comprehensive training programs and a positive work environment, you can build a skilled and satisfied HVAC workforce.