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If hiring HVAC technicians tops your to-do list for 2021, you're not alone. HVAC business owners grapple with finding qualified HVAC job candidates in a highly competitive climate, where older workers with experience clearly outnumber younger recruits interested in exploring the HVAC industry as a viable career option.
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Working in the HVAC field offers numerous opportunities for new recruits, as industry experts predict more than 400,000 HVAC job openings in the next 10 years alone. HVAC owners need to fill jobs for HVAC apprentices, HVAC service technicians, HVAC installers, and other HVAC positions such as comfort advisors or sales positions.
Rather than racking up large amounts of debt getting a college degree in a field with few job prospects, consider that the median salary for an HVAC service technician starts at about $47,000 and can quickly grow into six figures—with only a few years of training and on-the-job experience.
"New recruits can start as a tech, learn the business, then go into sales, marketing, or business ownership," says Ann Matheis, Associate Director of Brand Marketing at the Carmel, Ind., offices of Carrier, a leader in the HVAC industry. "There are a ton of opportunities, versus getting a four-year degree.”
At ServiceTitan, we want to help HVAC professionals and other contractors in the skilled trades grow their businesses with highly qualified technicians. We compiled a list of 23 common interview questions to ask potential new hires during an HVAC interview, so you can acquire the best employees for your expanding team.
Use the following HVAC interview questions and answers to make the right hire now, to grow your business in 2021 and beyond.
General HVAC Technician Interview Questions
Why do you want to work in the HVAC industry?
What do you know about our HVAC company?
Why are you looking for a new opportunity?
What previous experience and/or training makes you qualified for this particular HVAC job?
Why did you leave your previous job, and why do you want to work with us?
Do you have a valid driver's license and clean driving record?
Can you email us a list of references?
Common HVAC interview questions that fall in the general category typically cover the soft skills of the trade, such as showing up on time, bringing the right equipment, communicating clearly with customers, and cleaning up after themselves.
It's also a good time to assess an applicant's attitude or personality to determine whether they're a good fit for your company. For Fermin Rivera, a Los Angeles air conditioning contractor who built his company slowly over a period of several years, a qualified candidate not only knows air conditioning systems, but also aligns with the core values of his company, Red Apple Air.
Rivera says mindset often poses the biggest problem. It's either: “What's the least I can do to gain the most amount of money?” or “I want what he has.”
"If we can trigger a different mindset, I think the industry will make better use of the people we have, and also be able to recruit much easier," Rivera says.
Ask these types of questions to assess a candidate's soft skills (and goal mindset):
1. Why do you want to work in the HVAC industry?
Interviewers ask an open-ended question like this to gauge how a job candidate reacts and communicates when put on the spot. Someone who maintains good eye contact and displays confident body language as they answer with a prepared response typically does better than an applicant who avoids eye contact, slouches in the chair, or fumbles through a half-hearted reply.
2. What do you know about our HVAC company?
How did they hear about your company's job opening? Did they research the company before applying or talk to a current employee about possible opportunities? Hiring managers tend to consider applicants more seriously when they clearly demonstrate they've made an effort to learn more by scouring your company website, visiting social media sites, and talking to your current or past employees.
3. Why are you looking for a new opportunity?
Did you leave your previous employers voluntarily? Do you need to make more money? Are you looking to create a better work-home-life balance? It's important to understand a new hire's motivations to determine whether their long-term career goals fit with your company's core values.
4. What previous experience and/or training makes you qualified for this particular HVAC job?
This question often elicits a multi-layered answer with details about previous jobs, education, apprentice training, trade licenses, industry certifications, etc. While applicants often include much of this information on their resume, read between the lines to detect certain skill sets for success in the HVAC industry, such as a strong mathematical ability or propensity for customer service.
5. Why did you leave your previous job, and why do you want to work with us?
HVAC job applicants who recently got fired or routinely leave jobs after only a few months should raise a red flag in the minds of hiring managers. Explore their reasons for leaving to determine whether the same issues could be a problem at your company.
Understand their motivations for wanting to work for you, then use their answers as selling features in future interviews to build a strong pool of HVAC technicians.
6. Do you have a valid driver's license and clean driving record?
Technicians who work on HVAC systems for your company must drive to customers' homes in your company trucks. It's the responsibility of HVAC business owners to buy liability insurance to protect their company, employees, and customers against possible damage. Most insurance companies require HVAC technicians to hold a valid driver's license and clean driving record.
7. Can you email us a list of references?
You can assess an applicant's skill set for written communication, as well as the ability to follow directions, by asking them to send references to you by email. You can also gauge how interested they are in the position by how quickly they send their references. Ask them to detail the reference’s relationship to the applicant, how long they’ve known them, and to provide current contact information for each.
Behavioral/Situational Job Interview Questions
Describe a specific HVAC job where you sacrificed safety for speed.
In previous HVAC jobs, did you ever turn an unhappy customer into a satisfied customer?
A customer expresses anger or frustration over a bill. How do you respond?
What safety violations do you see most often, and how would you prevent them?
Here's a specific HVAC job scenario. Explain your process for handling the call.
Behavioral or situational questions give applicants the opportunity for show-and-tell, with more emphasis placed on the "show" part of the equation. Interviewers need to assess an applicant's ability for problem-solving, following safety precautions, and their overall comfort with using technology on the job.
Today's HVAC contractors utilize technology to streamline operational efficiency by deploying laptops, smartphones, mobile tablets, and HVAC field service management software on the job.
"Honing in on the technology side really gets kids interested," says Carrier's Matheis.
It also gives younger recruits a leg up in the HVAC industry, according to longtime HVAC recruiter Mark Oertel.
“One of the advantages these young people have over the existing workforce nearing retirement in heating and air conditioning is they’re very comfortable with technology—with laptops, phones, the internet, and tablets,” Oertel says.
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1. Describe a specific HVAC job where you sacrificed safety for speed.
While posing this question might seem like a trick question—since HVAC safety should never be sacrificed for speed—the types of answers you glean can be very enlightening. An HVAC technician who focuses only on getting the job done fast, so they can move on to the next one, probably needs more safety training and oversight.
2. In previous HVAC jobs, did you ever turn an unhappy customer into a satisfied customer?
Productive and conscientious HVAC techs who go the extra mile play an important role in creating customer satisfaction. Satisfied HVAC clients turn into repeat business, often through simple follow-up calls or word-of-mouth referrals. Techs who listen to customers, clearly explain the process, and educate them about what they need or don't need provide better customer service.
3. A customer expresses anger or frustration over a bill. How do you respond?
How an applicant responds to this question tells you a lot about their personality, attitude, and customer service style. If they simply throw your company under the bus and take no responsibility for what things cost, rather than taking the time to explain the cost of providing professional HVAC services in detail, they're probably not a good fit and will cost you money in lost business and unsatisfied customers.
4. What safety violations do you see most often, and how would you prevent them?
Safety plays a critical role in HVAC, whether it means following proper safety protocols in a customer's home or business, or preventing injury while on the job. Assess an applicant's knowledge for HVAC safety, then use their answers to improve your company's safety training procedures or remove unnecessary rules.
5. Here's a specific HVAC job scenario. Explain your process for handling the call.
HVAC techs like to fix things and work with their hands. Give them a specific repair job and ask them to explain their step-by-step process for diagnosing and fixing the problem. What questions do they ask the homeowner or business owner? What tools do they need? What safety precautions do they take? Does the customer require a follow-up visit?
See how they would perform on the job, from start to finish, to get a clear picture of their strengths–and potential flaws.
Technical Skills Questions
What does BTU/CAV/AHU mean?
What is cooling or heating load, and how do you calculate it?
What are the different ways heat can be lost or gained?
What is relative humidity, saturation point, and the relative humidity at saturation point?
What is the difference between a heat pump, heating, and refrigeration?
A hiring manager can assess an applicant's technical ability and know-how from educational degrees, certifications, and other HVAC training listed on their resumes, but many companies also require a hands-on test to see how much a job candidate knows about ventilation and air conditioning, refrigerants, compressors, and more.
While applicants need some HVAC technical training, many companies prefer to train their own new recruits on the technical aspects of the job, so they learn their own company's best practices and get familiar with their specific equipment or tools.
And, don't forget to ask an applicant if they're comfortable doing sales, says Darius Lyvers, Chief Operating Officer at F.H. Furr Plumbing, Heating, Air Conditioning & Electrical. Techs who naturally sell services with ease help to grow your company faster.
“You’re not just assessing them for technical aptitude and personal abilities; the other side is even more important,” Lyvers says. “You can train a lot of the technical (stuff). Training sales is definitely harder.”
To get a good idea of an applicant's technical skill set, consider asking the following questions:
1. What does BTU/CAV/AHU mean?
Do applicants know what common acronyms stand for and what they mean in the HVAC industry? They need to know them to not only perform the job (technical knowledge), but also to explain the mechanical capabilities and benefits of your company's HVAC systems to customers (experience level and sales).
2. What is cooling or heating load, and how do you calculate it?
The HVAC load calculation shows you the exact amount of BTUs a certain space requires for sufficient heating and cooling. It identifies the square footage of the room to determine the capacity—BTUs per hour—needed to reach the desired indoor temperature. Use ServiceTitan's HVAC Load Calculator to easily know which factors to consider.
3. What are the different ways heat can be lost or gained?
Customers interested in saving energy need to know this when considering good-better-and-best options for heating efficiency. New recruits should be able to explain how heat can be lost or gained through:
Conduction—energy transferred by direct contact
Convection—energy transferred by the mass motion of molecules
Radiation—energy transferred by electromagnetic radiation
4. What is relative humidity, saturation point, and the relative humidity at saturation point?
These terms matter when trying to explain to customers how different air conditioning systems work more efficiently than others.
Relative humidity—the percentage of humidity inside a building
Saturation point (dew point)—A system reaches this when the air holds its maximum amount of water vapor, and it increases as the temperature increases. When air reaches its saturation point, any decrease in temperature results in water condensation.
Relative humidity at saturation point—100 percent
5. What is the difference between a heat pump, heating, and refrigeration?
Heating and refrigeration require moving heat from one location to another. Both involve a heat pump or a motor that transfers heat energy from a source. Heat pumps pump heat in both directions—from the inside to the outside (cooling) and from the outside to the inside (heating). Air conditioners and refrigerators do not add cool air to indoor spaces, they actually subtract heat from the air. Does your recruit truly understand the science and math behind the HVAC systems you’re repairing, selling, and installing?
Technology and Tools Questions
How do you view mobile technology and its role in the future of the HVAC industry?
What is your experience with using mobile technology on the job?
After diagnosing the problem, what tools have you used to explain options to a customer?
While interviewing HVAC candidates, ask about previous, on-the-job experience with CRM technology and other tools. Today’s HVAC techs utilize field service technology to increase efficiencies, enhance communication, and grow ticket sizes.
Use the opportunity to learn about the candidate’s experience, ask about specific tools and software, and understand their views on how technology enhances the workplace.
1. How do you view mobile technology and its role in the future of the HVAC industry?
HVAC contractors increasingly use technology to streamline business operations and boost technician efficiency. How an HVAC applicant responds to this question tells you a lot about their knowledge of current technology and the latest trends. If your business currently uses HVAC software, asking about technological skills can help you determine whether the candidate is a good fit.
2. What is your experience with using mobile technology on the job?
This question helps you understand a candidate’s previous experience, as well as their level of comfort using technology in the field. It’s also a good indicator of the amount of training the candidate requires. HVAC techs typically communicate with dispatch, provide estimates, and collect payments from their mobile devices.
3. After diagnosing the problem, what tools have you used to explain options to a customer?
While in the field, HVAC techs must clearly describe the problem and all applicable solutions. Modern HVAC software helps techs present varying levels of service, such as good-better-and-best, so customers can understand their options and make informed decisions. A lack of experience shouldn’t automatically disqualify a candidate, it just means you’ll need to provide additional training.
You’ll likely realize new recruits not only have experience using technology, many want to work for a forward-thinking company. With ServiceTitan’s cloud-based CRM technology, technicians can present service levels via a digital pricebook, quickly generate good-better-best invoices, accept payment from the field, and much more.
Payroll Questions to Ask in an HVAC Interview
What are your wage expectations?
Have you ever worked for a company that uses performance-based pay?
What are your expectations for bonuses or SPIFs?
Most applicants don't feel comfortable asking about pay, but salary expectations matter a great deal when considering one job applicant over another. As the laws of supply and demand drive salaries up, HVAC business owners need to be prepared to pay market-competitive salaries and offer enticing benefits to attract new talent and reduce costly turnover rates.
For instance, if your company offers performance pay versus hourly rates, new recruits need to understand how your commission and bonus structure works. If you expect HVAC techs to sell more services on every call, be sure to make that clear.
Some simple payroll questions include:
1. What are your wage expectations?
2. Have you ever worked for a company that uses performance-based pay?
3. What are your expectations for bonuses or SPIFs?
In a highly competitive job market, it's important to weed out the window shoppers from the serious HVAC job candidates. Asking the right questions from the get-go can help you find new recruits worth investing your time and money in, who will stick around and grow alongside your HVAC company.
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