The Hire Better Now program was developed by an HVAC contractor over 14 years as he struggled to solve an acute technician hiring problem in his own business. The following article tells the story of how and why this unique program was developed.

How to Attract, Hire and Train Quality HVAC Technicians And Other Employees Too

By Charles J. Brand

When I was in college, my family purchased Hart & Iliff, an oil and energy company located in Sussex County, NJ. Founded in 1889, the company originally sold feed and grain, lumber, coal and heating oil. Over the years it diversified into HVAC installation and service. Since I had little interest in the business, when I graduated from college I went to law school and practiced law. A number of years later my father got sick and passed away. Since my mother was struggling to run the company by herself, it became clear that I either had to get involved in the business or it had to be sold. Before I knew it, I was working full-time at Hart & Iliff. The company had a number of experienced HVAC technicians who were at or near retirement age. By the time I entered the business, one experienced technician had already retired and been replaced by my father, before his death, with a technician who had worked for another company. The problem was how to replace the other experienced technicians as they retired. As I began to learn the business, I quickly discovered that it was very difficult to find good HVAC technicians. I had no clue where to begin or what to do.

I ran newspaper ads, visited technical schools and tried to hire experienced technicians. In each case, I found the process frustrating and unproductive. At one point, I hired an experienced technician who was a recovering alcoholic. I talked to his Alcoholics Anonymous advisor and was assured that he hadn’t had a drink in more than six months. So against the advice of my wife, who is a social worker, I hired this gentleman. Approximately six months later, I got a call at midnight on a Sunday from the local police department, informing me that this technician had been picked up driving a company van while intoxicated. Despite the “I told you so’s” from my wife, I still didn’t learn my lesson. I continued to hire HVAC technicians who had worked for other companies. None of these technicians, including the one hired by my father, were the type of employee I was looking for. For years I tolerated behavior that was totally unacceptable, afraid that if I let a technician go, I wouldn’t be able to replace him. Hart & Iliff developed a reputation as a company in which a technician could do almost anything (short of driving while intoxicated) and get away with it. It was the classic case of the inmates running the asylum.

Eventually I came to the inevitable conclusion that, in general, hiring experienced technicians is not a good idea. If they couldn’t make it in another HVAC company, they wouldn’t make it in my company either. Once I came to this realization, I began to study and analyze the problems associated with finding, hiring and training technicians. My legal training helped because I’m an analytical thinker and I’m very persistent. Over a period of fourteen years, little by little, bit by bit, I developed and refined the details of a program to successfully find, hire and train quality HVAC technicians. As the program began to take shape, we slowly weeded out the marginal employees.

When the first technician was let go, it made a huge difference in the attitude of the other members of the department. First of all, the technician who was fired was a constant complainer. Removing his bad attitude resulted in addition by subtraction. Secondly, it made it clear to the other technicians that if they didn’t shape up, the same thing might happen to them. Even more important is the fact that each time we let an employee go, we were able to replace him with someone appreciably better. Today, Hart & Iliff routinely gets voted as the best HVAC company in the Sussex County, NJ area. (HBN) was formed to make this powerful hiring program available to any company in the HVAC industry who wants to solve their technician hiring problems, once and for all. Over 40 companies have successfully used the program. These companies come from various geographic areas and range in size from very small to extremely large.

The theory of the program is to attract new people to the industry. Applicants are screened to make sure they have superior mechanical aptitude, good people skills and the right character and personality for the job. The HBN team performs the entire hiring process and presents the employer with a number of highly qualified candidates to choose from. Once hired, candidates are trained on an accelerated basis. An outline of the 8 steps of The HireBetterNow Hiring System™ appears below. Any company in the HVAC industry can use these concepts to dramatically improve their overall hiring program.

  1. The Position Clarifier™
    A ship at sea needs to have a destination in order to properly plot its course. Likewise, in order to find the correct person for a job an employer needs to develop a clear picture of exactly what the job responsibilities are. The HBN team has extensive discussions with each client to define the job responsibilities and geographic limitations for each new hire.
  2. The Ideal Candidate™
    Once the job responsibilities are clarified, it is relatively easy to identify the traits needed by an employee to perform that job in a good or excellent manner. By clearly defining the type of person you are looking for, it becomes much easier to find them. From discussions with our client we generate a detailed description of the ideal candidate for the job. This description serves as a blueprint for each hiring.
  3. The Attraction Formula™
    Average employment ads talk about the job. Great employment ads talk about the person rather than the job. By describing the traits of the ideal candidate for the job, we can attract applicants who have superior mechanical ability, good people skills and a good attitude and work ethic.If you have ever tried hiring HVAC technicians, you know that running an ad such as “Wanted-Experienced HVAC technician” just doesn’t work.
  4. The Hourglass Technique™
    Like a funnel, an hour glass is wide at the top and narrow at the bottom. Our objective is to attract, screen and assess a large volume of candidates. The more applicants at the top of the hour glass, the higher the quality of the applicants when we get to the bottom. This is one of the key components of a successful hiring program. HBN screens applicants to assess aptitude in the following areas:- Mechanical ability - Intelligence - Reading Comprehension - Detailed Personality Profile
  5. The Reference Analyzer™
    One of the most important assessment tools which are available to an employer is to obtain references from previous employers. The reason is because, good employees tend to always be good employees and poor employees tend to be always poor employees. In today’s litigious society it is often difficult to get employment references. The best way to obtain employment references is to have the applicant rate themselves and then ask the previous employer to agree or disagree with that rating. With this unique Reference Verification System we are able to obtain employment references at least 80% of the time. Our objective is to find good people, with mechanical aptitude, who have the desire and potential to be good HVAC technicians.
  6. The Interviewing Formula™
    Most companies make hiring decisions based primarily on a personal interview with the applicant. Studies show that applicants who interview well don’t always make good employees. What we really want is to find applicants who are good at doing the job, not good at getting the job. For this reason, proper testing, screening and valid employment references are an essential component of an effective hiring program. Although interviews, by themselves, are not the best way to hire employees, they do play a useful role in the hiring process. HBN conducts two sets of interviews prior to the final hiring decision.
  7. The Final Decision™
    Having the correct employees is probably the most important function of the management of any company. Employees with the wrong attitude can impact customer loyalty. One study estimates that when a customer stops doing business with a company, 70% of the time it is caused by the indifference of an employee. In today’s competitive environment, no company can afford to lose customers. A report from ADP, the largest payroll processor in the world, states that, “the direct and indirect cost of employee turnover is 1.5 times the annual salary of that open position.” If we assume that the average HVAC technician makes $50,000 per year, what ADP is saying is that the cost of replacing that technician is at least $75,000. Therefore, the hiring decision should be taken very seriously. Our program generates a number of highly qualified applicants to present to the employer for their consideration. When making a final decision about whom to hire, test results, prior work history and personal interviews are all taken into consideration. Before actually hiring an employee, a complete background check is performed. While you might think that all the testing, screening and interviewing will discourage applicants, just the opposite is true. Paradoxically, the more difficult you make it to get the job, the more people want it.
  8. The Mutual Commitment™
    Over the years, people have asked, “What happens if you train a new technician and he leaves?” The answer is always the same, “What happens if you don’t train him and he stays?” If you want to run a high quality HVAC company, it is imperative that new technicians be properly trained. We recommend a mix of in-house training and a powerful online program. Proper training insures that all technicians in your company become industry certified. All new employees are required to sign a reimbursement agreement and participate in a program that obligates the trainee to make a significant commitment to the profession and the company. This program ensures that the employer receives an appropriate return on their training investment. By hiring candidates with superior attitudes, people skills and mechanical aptitude, and by training them properly, you can make them productive HVAC technicians in a surprisingly short period of time.

The HireBetterNow Hiring System™ was originally formed to deal with an acute technician hiring problem. However, in discussions with companies around the country, it became clear that there is a need for this type of program for employees in other phases of the HVAC business. Therefore, the program was expanded to cover other employees including drivers, office/support staff, and management personnel. The quality of all employees hired using the Hire Better Now Program is guaranteed or your money back.

The HireBetterNow Hiring System™ allows you to take back control of your company from your employees. Every business has to live with a certain amount of employee turnover. For a business owner/manager, it is an empowering to know that if an employee does leave, that there is a proven method of replacing them. The program also allows employers the latitude to replace marginal employees and upgrade the quality of their workforce. As your employee mix improves, so does the tenor of the organization and the operation of the entire business.

Charles J. Brand is a Principal in He can be reached at 877-808-4877 or via email at