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Before my brothers and I became enlightened about staffing (meaning we got our teeth kicked in so many times we eventually woke up), we used to rely on the tried-and-true method of hiring people using the “Mirror Test.”

That’s the name my brother, Marty, came up with for this intricate hiring process. Simply put, we waited until someone quit or we got disgusted enough to finally suck it up and fire them. It left us desperate. Hence, we’d hire pretty much anyone who walked through the door, breathed in the mirror — and could fog it!

One good trait my brothers and I share: We learn from our mistakes. We’ve fallen into a ton of holes along the way, but we got out of them and agreed not to do it again because it really hurts. And more holes are out there we don’t even know about yet.

One big hole we sought to fix was a “revolving door” when it came to employees. To do this, we dedicated ourselves to getting out in front of the Staffing Parade instead of continually getting run over by it. Let me tell you, constantly getting run over really hurts.

It’s why we became proactive vs. reactive when it came to always recruiting, hiring, orienting, training and retaining employees. We actually adopted the attitude for all these things. It beats the alternative — the Mirror Test.


A never-ending process

OK, I know some of you are thinking you have dedicated staff that would lie down in the middle of the road for you. And if so, you’re truly blessed. But for the rest of us (and that probably means you, too, if you’re honest with yourself), staffing has to be a never-ending process.

That’s because your staff is always getting on and off the staffing train, which is a metaphor for your company. We just don’t know who will ride the train all the way with us, who will come on board, who will jump off and who we’ll push from the moving train.

One thing to count on: This train doesn’t stand still for long.

Right staffing is a moving train because:

  • People quit;
  • People get fired;
  • People get promoted;
  • People get hurt;
  • People get sick;
  • People move; and
  • People die.

You might be thinking, “I don’t need any more staff. I need more calls to make money.” To that, I say: “Great staff always makes you money. They find ways to help you maximize every opportunity to make money.” I work with companies with staff who will go on their own time and ring doorbells to introduce themselves to people and put a face to their company.

I know the staff you keep around because you believe you must, despite the fact that their unwillingness, laziness, inefficiency or even surliness will lose you money over time.

The thing folks miss is just because you are always recruiting doesn’t mean you have to hire anyone. Suppose a great candidate came in to your shop today, you mean to tell me there aren’t a couple of knuckleheads you’ve been dying to get rid of? But you lacked the guts to let them go because you didn’t have anyone to replace them.

Once you’ve accepted you need to always be recruiting willing people, the next step is to follow a solid and repeatable hiring process. One key step is creating the testing you’re going to put each candidate through.

Years ago, my company didn’t have any testing of any kind other than the Mirror Test. But that changed when we decided to get proactive about staffing. We got serious about testing applicants at all positions. It was born out of our frustration from finding out the applicants, who told us in interviews they could pretty much do any and all the work we do, lied. We only found out the new help couldn’t perform when they actually got in the field or to their desks. By then, it was too late.

That’s why we created a simple set of tests for hiring at each position at our company. We gave a special focus to testing for techs on the trades we did — oil heating, gas heating, cooling and plumbing. The written test for each was not designed to be a doctorate final but rather a way to see what candidates  knew when it came to the trades we did. We had our own “weakest” techs take a mostly multiple choice test just to see how they’d do before we ever asked a new recruit to do it. We also made it a timed test.


The reason is many people struggle with reading today and they really struggle when they’re put under pressure. The other reason we made all our testing timed was if candidates were going to fall apart, we knew they were likely to have an even bigger meltdown when they got in front of our tough customers. Yes, our warm and understanding clients from New York could be just a little demanding at times.

The written test was something we pulled right out of our own manual. Anyone who paid attention in trade school or actually worked in the field could have passed it.

This one step elevated our recruiting and hiring process and the staff got better. But, we did much more when it came to testing and I’ll have more to share about the secrets and the science of recruiting, hiring, orienting, training and retaining, so stay tuned.