HVAC Engineer Job Description: How to Recruit and Retain the Best
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As the HVAC industry's labor shortage shows no signs of cooling, HVAC companies must strategize now on how to recruit and retain top talent, such as HVAC engineers, to successfully rise above the competition.
According to experts in the HVAC industry, the HVAC technician shortage could spike up to 53 percent by 2025, because of the number of HVAC workers retiring or leaving the field, combined with the projected number of unfilled jobs.
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With fewer people choosing HVAC careers, it remains crucial for companies to attract quality employees with specific skills, such as air conditioning engineers. Follow these tips as you seek to hire and retain the best workers, so you can build your team and grow your HVAC company:
Improve the interview
Hire the right employees
Enhance company culture
Track company success
What does an HVAC engineer do?
HVAC engineers, a category of mechanical engineers, possess a thorough knowledge of climate control systems, related HVAC equipment, and building codes.
A mechanical HVAC engineer, sometimes called an air conditioning engineer, designs, installs, repairs, or maintains building systems to provide optimal temperature and air quality inside the structure. Because of their broad range of mechanical design expertise, they often possess knowledge in electrical and plumbing as well, when associated with air conditioning systems and ventilation systems.
HVAC design engineers perform heating and cooling load calculations and determine airflow requirements, identifying the sizes of air handling units, or chillers and boilers. In new construction, they interpret plans and blueprints and design ductwork and piping systems. Besides technical knowledge, HVAC or air conditioning engineers usually have problem-solving skills as they address equipment or system failures.
Typically, HVAC project engineers have good communication skills as they coordinate projects and communicate with customers. Depending on the position, HVAC project management requires time-management oversight skills to ensure projects remain on budget and meet deadlines.
What is an HVAC engineer job description?
Identifying specific skills and qualifications is essential to creating an HVAC engineer job description for your company.
Job responsibilities vary, depending on whether your company seeks an entry-level engineering technician or a mechanical engineer with several years of work experience. Typical qualifications for a full-time HVAC engineer position include:
High school diploma or equivalent
Bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering
Minimum four years of experience in HVAC systems
Proficiency with design software, such as AutoCad
What is HVAC engineering pay?
Educational statistics show, on average, 52.5 percent of mechanical engineers obtained a bachelor's degree, 22.4 percent earned a master's degree, and less than 10 percent earned an associate's degree as the highest level of education, according to the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers.
Sustain an "always recruiting" mindset
Pay employees for new-hire referrals
To stay one step ahead, HVAC companies must foster a recruiting mindset.
“Unfortunately in our industry, we spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to sell air conditioners and get more customers, but we don’t realize we should be spending the same amount of time marketing to new employees and our existing employees to keep them,” says Tom Howard, ServiceTitan Vice President of Customer Experience and co-founder of the consulting group Blue Collar Profits.
Tommy Mello, host of the Home Service Expert podcast, says business owners in the trades should make recruiting a core business function.
“Some people say, ‘always be closing.’ I say, ‘always be recruiting,’” advises Mello, who pays employees $1,500 for a new-hire referral.
Other home service companies pay employees anywhere from $500 to $2,500 for a referral, depending on the position and how long the new hire stays. Or companies may offer employees bonuses for recruiting new techs with no work experience, then deliver larger payouts each year, based on the new recruit’s continued employment, says Chris Hunter, ServiceTitan’s Director of Customer Relations.
Develop a recruitment plan for your HVAC hiring process and find ways to motivate your employees to recommend top-quality recruits.
“We can retain all of the people we want, but if we’re not attracting new people, we just aren’t going to have the people we need,” Howard says.
Improve the interview
Ask the right questions
Implement a layered interview process
Use the interview to determine which HVAC engineer candidate fits best with your company. Ask the right questions to accurately gauge their knowledge of mechanical, engineering, and plumbing (MEP) systems.
Interview questions should encompass technical training and knowledge of heating, cooling, ventilation, and refrigeration systems. As an HVAC engineer, they should show success in designing and installing HVAC systems. Open-ended and situational questions give applicants the opportunity to showcase their troubleshooting abilities and display creative solutions.
Optimize the interview process by implementing a layered system, so more than one person at your HVAC company interviews applicants.
“Interviews are always going to be with two different teams,” relates Brad Pesek, CFO of McWilliams & Son, who shared tips on a recent episode of ServiceTitan's “Toolbox for the Trades” podcast. “If they do well with the first team, they are passed on to a second round. Four people will have had a ‘touch’ on them before we consider hiring them.”
If your HVAC engineer's responsibilities encompass repair and maintenance of HVAC equipment, determine their proficiency with ServiceTitan's cloud-based HVAC service software to streamline communication between the office and field.
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Hire the right employees
Look for quality character traits
Seek a team player attitude
When it comes to hiring in the HVAC field, quality takes precedence over quantity. Hiring the right people makes your company more successful in the long run, because quality traits influence an employee's work performance and interaction with customers.
Top employees possess skills and exhibit positive traits, such as integrity, dependability, and problem solving. Depending on your HVAC engineer's job duties, you may require strong supervisory skills, especially if they communicate with technicians about project requirements before system installations.
Mechanical engineers need to be detail-oriented as they design systems and estimate costs using job costing software to make sure budget and deadlines remain on track. Most importantly, your employees need to function as a team. When your company hires intentionally, it sets up your team for success.
Enhance company culture
Attract potential employees
A positive company culture isn’t just a buzzword. Creating an upbeat, constructive work environment for employees encourages them to grow as a team.
“It’s really easy for people to feel like they only get talked to at work when something goes wrong, but if they’re doing something well, they rarely hear about it,” Howard says.
To give instant positive feedback, his company used ServiceTitan’s automated text messages to alert the entire sales staff every time someone on the team made a sale. In return, it built camaraderie and healthy competition.
Consider offering incentives such as bonuses or a company-wide competition for prizes to encourage the behavior you want to see. It boosts morale and gives benefits far beyond their paychecks.
Another benefit of a great workplace? Your happy employees will tell others, attracting potential recruits to your company.
“People are attracted to people like them,” says Eddie McFarlane, Vice President of Learning and Development at Haller Enterprises, in a recent ServiceTitan webinar. “They’re probably getting asked at least weekly, ‘Hey, what’s it like over there?’ How incredible would it be to say, ‘It's awesome, man. They just keep out of our way, and we just get to do our job.’”
Facilitate employee success
Set high expectations with rewards
Although HVAC engineers typically are highly trained, offering your employees opportunities to grow proves you're committed to their personal success.
Provide HVAC training to build a strong company foundation and assist employees in reaching the next level. Training employees in specific roles enables your employees to function efficiently as a team and allows you to advance employees from within.
“Everyone is talking about the labor shortage, and it's not going to get any easier, let's face it,” Hunter says. “We're going to have to start finding these people, painting our mission or vision, where we're going, how they fit in, what it means for them, and build the bench.”
Set high expectations, but reward employees with performance pay or other incentives to encourage reaching company goals. When you recognize, measure, and reward whatever behavior you want your team to repeat when performing services for your company, they often do, says Hunter.
For additional HVAC training, consider organizations such as the North American Technician Excellence (NATE), the National Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning Association, the Air Conditioning Contractors of America, and Mechanical Contractors Association of America.
Track HVAC company success
Increase efficiency with ServiceTitan software
Evaluate data and key performance indicators (KPIs)
Before you can measure growth, you need to know where your HVAC company stands.
All-in-one ServiceTitan scheduling software allows your managers to schedule the right tech for the right job at the right time, so you can plan your projects efficiently. Payroll and timesheet software synced with the dispatch board enables you to streamline pay and bonuses, a timesaver for tailored pay structures.
Capture the data you need to track your company's revenue and key performance indicators. ServiceTitan gives you the ability to examine real-time data, from anywhere, enabling you to identify new business opportunities and position your company for growth.