Kory Ballard talking about hiring and recruiting tips to attract great employees

Finding and hiring good employees is a daunting task for any company. But lately, it’s felt nearly impossible for home service businesses.

With high levels of turnover, no-show candidates, and just a 5% interview-to-hire rate, home service business owners are spending time and resources interviewing, for very little reward.

So, how do you hire engaged employees? How do you make sure your time, effort, and money aren’t wasted?

Kory Ballard, founder and owner of Perficut Site Management and Ballard Inc., has hired a team of 200+ employees. Here, he shares his best hiring and recruiting tips for home service businesses.

Ready to finally find the right employees that stick around? Let’s get started.

Hiring tips for small businesses straight from an expert

Kory Ballard’s expert tips for how to hire the right people, at every stage of the hiring process:

Candidate search 🔍

Here’s what Kory wants you to know when you start your candidate search.

1. Hire from within your team

Before you start looking externally for the right candidate, look at your current team first.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, Kory made a tough hiring decision. Instead of hiring more employees, he considered whether his current team could fill in any gaps.

“We thought, ‘Could we pay our current staff a little bit more, and ask a little more of them and get by with less people?’” Kory said. “2020 forced us to really see if we could get more done with less and talk to our people about being more efficient.”

“When somebody left our company in the past, we would automatically replace them. Now we have a team meeting and we say, ‘Okay, what role did they play? What were their duties and expectations? And can we spread those out?’”

As it turns out, Kory’s business became leaner, more profitable, and they were able to control overtime.

“It’s amazing what people will do when they feel like they’re a part of something, when you communicate, again, outline the goals. We’ve just been able to get more with less.”

READ MORE: How to hire your first employee

2. Reward employees with referral and sign-on bonuses

Kory pays a $500 sign-on bonus for every new employee they hire. The bonus is paid in three increments, as long as the employee doesn’t have any write-ups:

  • 30 days
  • 60 days
  • 90 days

With the competition for workers in Iowa, the signing bonus has given his company an edge in finding workers that will stay.

“We thought about what turnover costs us, what it costs us to recruit, how many interviews we do, the orientation process, going through the manual, giving employees new uniforms and never getting the uniforms back. We asked ourselves, would we pay $500 for a great employee tomorrow? We decided we would.”

“Our employees are our best recruiters.”

Referrals from existing employees is another winning recruitment method that’s helped Kory attract and retain some of his best workers. His referral program pays $300 to any employee that refers someone who stays with the company for at least 90 days.

“Our employees are our best recruiters. They hang out with people that do the same thing—whether it’s working in construction, landscape, or a snow removal business.

Referrals are successful because we try to create an atmosphere where our employees want their friends to work because there’s opportunity and they know they’ll be treated well.”

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3. Market to employees like you market to customers

Kory is a big believer that your hiring and recruiting process starts before you write the job description and put out a job ad.

Kory says a good rule of thumb is to ask yourself: would you work for you? If your answer is ‘no’, then chances are you won’t be attracting the kind of talent you really need.

“What kind of message are you putting out there? How does your company look to other people, even when you’re not hiring?”

“If you see a branded truck pull up to a gas station and it’s falling apart, does that look like a company you’d want to work for? Is it clean? Do your employees look put together? Is it respectable? You have to first put out an image that appeals to candidates, an image that they might be interested in.”

READ MORE: Learn how to build a business where employees want to work

4. Always be recruiting

Many companies will wait until it’s absolutely necessary to start recruiting. Don’t be like them.

Whether it’s by running ads or attending job fairs, a good company will always be on the lookout for quality employees, even when they are fully staffed. In Kory’s case, active recruitment helps his company stay properly staffed at all times. It also makes it easier to eliminate poor performers.

WATCH: Kory Ballard talks hiring and recruiting on Jobber’s IGTV ⏯

“We’re constantly recruiting. The problem is most companies wait until they need people and then they go out and start looking for people. At that point you have a two-week, three-week, sometimes four-week window. And then you’re short-staffed.”

“If you’re not always hiring, it’s likely that you’ll hire the first person that walks through the door and that doesn’t always work,” Kory says.

It’s best to maintain active recruitment so that you’re not scrambling to hire someone at the wrong time.

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5. Make the job ad about them, not you

Your job ads should show what makes your business stand out for your ideal candidate. What are they looking for in a job? What are their wants and needs? When you’ve answered that, look at what your company actually offers and make sure you add that to the job posting so that it’s speaking directly to your ideal candidate.

“Most business owners will invest more in marketing than they do in recruiting. It’s time to change that. So many job ads list the basics: $14/hour, must have driver’s license, hard-working, reliable, better show up. It’s unexciting. Everybody does that!”

“Whatever you do that is different, show it off. You have to stand out,” Kory advises.

If you’re looking to grow your company, list that in your job ad. If you offer a unique incentive program, show that off. If your team is tight-knit and supportive, let prospective candidates know. Tell candidates why they should want to work at your company right in the job ad.

WATCH: Check out the Hiring and Training Employees panel from Jobber PD Day 2021 ⏯

Application process ✍️

Once you’ve put your business out there, you’ll use the application process to filter out any candidates that won’t fit.

1. Weed out bad fits with a 20-minute screening call

Many home service businesses struggle with getting candidates past the phone screen and interview stage because, let’s face it: manual labor is hard work. You’re also battling an incorrect perception that home service industries are underpaid, and some candidates see service jobs as stepping stone opportunities.

But to help you get past those hiring hurdles, communication and transparency is key.

Kory recommends being upfront about your goals as a company, the opportunities for growth you can offer (or if you can’t offer growth opportunities at the moment, be clear about that, too—you don’t want to mislead candidates).

The initial 20-minute phone screen is when you need to do this. It’s your opportunity to catch any deal-breakers with the candidate, and it’s also how you can get them charged up about joining your company.

“If you’re seasonal, be transparent about that, because being a seasonal business comes at a price. You have to lay people off and replace them every spring, especially when it’s hard to find good people to begin with.”

LEARN MORE: Listen to Kory’s Facebook Live Founder’s Story

2. Ask the right questions early on

Include the need-to-know information in the application process. If you’re looking for someone who must have a driver’s license, add that to the application. This prevents you from interviewing candidates who aren’t able to legally drive when you’re looking for a driver.

Related to the tip above, when you’re honest with candidates during the application process, you should also expect honesty from them.

Kory suggests asking candidates about their hopes, goals, and what they’re really looking for in a job. You might discover they’re looking for something short-term, and that might not be a great fit for the role you’re looking to fill. Or you might find that your candidate is supporting their family and they really need a stable, long-term position.

The earlier you get this information, the better off you’ll be in your hiring process.

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Interview stage hiring tips 🤝

Finally, it’s time to start the interview process. Here’s what hiring tips Kory has to share for the interview process.

1. Make a positive first impression

Kory recommends having a dedicated place you can interview candidates privately. It should be a place that lets you focus on the interview without distractions.

The interview space should also be professional and private. Remember to ask yourself: would you work for you?

“Are you prepared for your interview? Is your office clean and presentable? Is there paperwork all over the place and is the phone ringing off the hook? It doesn’t have to be fancy— people get that mixed up. You get what you put into it.”

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2. Tell your company story

Your potential employees are looking for compensation, there’s no doubt about that. But they’re also looking for purpose and to be part of a winning team.

Kory makes a point of telling his business’ story during the interview process. This helps him get more buy in from the right candidates. “That includes telling them who you are, what you believe in, what your core values are, and do they think that’s a fit for them.

“I always ask myself and other business owners: would you work for you?”

“At the end of the day, there’s a lot of places people can work. We’re looking for people that have the same core values that we have and are looking for a better opportunity than just a paycheck.

If you play the money game, you’re never going to win. Your employees are going to leave when the next company offers them more money.”

Kory focuses on inspiring new employees to see growth within the company. “During the interviews we spend a lot of time talking about our company, our passion, our mission, who we want to be, and we also tell some really cool stories about employees that started in junior roles now lead a team of 30. So, we try to inspire them a little bit.”

“I always ask myself and other business owners: would you work for you?”

READ MORE: 10 questions to ask employees before you hire them

Hiring and recruiting employees that stick around

From writing an engaging job ad to creating an employee referral program, there are lots of things you can do as a small business owner to start hiring the right people.

But above all else, the most important piece of hiring and recruiting advice Kory has to offer is about communication. When you communicate your mission, your goals, and needs with your candidates, you’re more likely to attract great people to join your team.

When you can attract great people, they’re more likely to stay with you in the long run. What are you doing to recruit the best employees? Share your tips in the Jobber Entrepreneurship group.

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Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on Jobber Academy in November 2019. It was updated for accuracy and to meet industry standards in April 2021.