Finding good help

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by Tbarchaser, Nov 17, 2003.

  1. Tbarchaser

    Tbarchaser LawnSite Senior Member
    from Florida
    Posts: 449

    Simple question,
    I need help...I'm buying a third truck and need to find a good helper that would be able to evolve into a crew-leader and be sent out on his own this spring. How do you guys find GOOD help...Paper, Put the word out, or wait a block away from the day labor shop and grab the first guy that walks by with green socks?

    I found a guy I thought would be pretty good, 4 yrs exp knows the ropes. He was supposed to start this morning but no show.
    I called and he was whining about getting kicked out of his apt and having to find a place to live, He said he does not know what he will do for day care, so........:waving: Have a nice life. I know this would be just the start. I don't want to deal with his problems. Everyone has them...I don't want to here it.

    Or will I deal with this with everyone? Should I just go with a Latino workforce? then I wont understand the whining...I can just nod, smile and say get back to work.
     
  2. TLC4Carolina

    TLC4Carolina LawnSite Member
    Posts: 22

    Latino workers are great...most will come in on TIME and don't mind staying late. Sometimes it's hard to find one with a clean driving record, but you just need one guy like that to drive the truck. If you have not looked at the latino workforce that may be your best bet. I have worked with latinos, they are very upbeat and motivated, most took pride in their work aswell.
     
  3. Rustic Goat

    Rustic Goat LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,194

    Ad in paper. Do a real interview, really check out references.
    It's all a crap shoot no matter how you find a new hire though, been there done that many times.
    One of the problems with hiring immigrant workers, or even transplants, you may very well be training your next competition, and showing them your territory at the same time. Many work for someone in the field they want to get into until they've saved enough to go on their own.
    It's amazing what someone that 'says' they can't speak English can learn from watching and listening.
     
  4. GarPA

    GarPA LawnSite Silver Member
    from PA
    Posts: 2,585

    I've found a couple good people thru a temp agency. They do all the screening and you can tell them after a day or so that its not working out. There are some good people out there in temp agencies looking for work. THe temp agency I use is happy if I offer one of them a job. I've also had good luck with local college students....but that wont work for you if you need them full time for like 9 months. I think this issue of finding good help is THE toughest issue we face in this business.
     
  5. Gr grass n Hi tides

    Gr grass n Hi tides LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,020

    I've got a guy that had zero experience, but an aquaintance of mine. I like him because he's honest, motivated, and through conversations over the past couple of years I knew he had good work ethic. So, when I needed help I just approached him and asked if he would like some work. It's worked out great. I pay him well & in exchage I have someone that is dependable.
     
  6. TJLC

    TJLC LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,308

    I use temp angencies when I need extra help. It might not be the best way to go but I like them because they find the person for you and take care of all the legal stuff like ins. Sometimes you actually get a decent worker too. Good luck.
     
  7. AztlanLC

    AztlanLC LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,046

    For some reason I still remember what someone posted long time ago (cant remember name) Quote "whe I put an add in the newspaper I request all aplicants to bring a two pens to the interview, one with red ink and the other with blue, this way I know which ones don't even deserve an interview if they can't follow simple orders it will be real hard for them to complete any task"
    Sorry it might not help to your questions but I tough it was pretty good information if you put a newspaper add.
     
  8. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,842

    This issue has been discussed many times over the years here at LS. But I'll boil it down from you from my experience. I've become real good at finding and hiring winners.

    Where you get them doesn't matter so much. We get our laborers from all over. IMO, word of mouth is usually the best. Especially with hispanic workers. I will usually ask all of my workers if they have any friends looking for work. At least 50% of the time, they do. I just try that guy out on a temporary basis and if he works out cool. If not, no big loss. I told him it was temporary anyway. But my guys know what I expect as far as work ethic and they usually find me very good workers.

    The employment department is a great place to hire as well. Lots of good hard workers there looking for work. And it's free.

    We also use the newspaper from time to time. We always get plenty of calls right away from that.

    The idea behind interviewing is that you need to always be looking for flaws or little clues that tell you about the person, their work ethic, their character, the choices they make in life, etc. And you need to weed people out at every step.

    First step is on the phone. If some guy calls me and says, "Uh...Hey. My name's Jake. Ummm. This lady at the employment department gave me your name and said um maybe you're hiring and I used to mow lawns for my uncle Joe sometimes so I was thinkin' maybe this would work out. By the way, how much does this pay?" ...... There are several clues right there that this guy isn't so bright, isn't very articulate, has skipped around doing menial work, etc. And I am going to try to weed this guy out right here and now, before I even waste time with an interview. I'll start interviewing him right on the spot - on the phone.

    I'll respond, "Ok. Jake. Tell me this. Do you have a valid Drivers License and insurance?" 50% of the time, I'll get a response like, "Oh. You need a drivers license???" And I am like, "Yes, you do. Sorry. Best of luck to you." CLICK!

    For those who say Yes, we move on to other questions, "Tell me a little bit about your last 3 jobs." And often get something like, "A few months back I worked for Miller Construction. But I got laid off.....(Hmmm. Wonder why?)..."and before that I worked for my Uncle Joe who manages this appartment complex and I'd help him out with stuff..." (okay, so you were out of work and Uncle Joe's place was a safe haven for you to hang out, play nintendo, and maybe help mow the lawn once a week. Not to mention it's sad that the only work you could find was via a relative. But go on).... "And before that I was just working at Wendy's. (Wow. Impressive! Sorry, but you're not quite who we're looking for.)

    So I'll respond, "Jake. It's been great talking to you. But I don't want to waste your time. I think we're looking for someone with some more detailed experience with landscaping than what you have. Best of luck to you." CLICK.

    There are all sorts of other comments like this that will make me very suspicious too. Comments like, "Ok. So I'll come in tomorrow for an interview. Great. Hey, do you know which bus I'd take?" (Doesn't have his own car? And he said he was HOW OLD? Dang. This is a big warning sign. Do I really want this guy depending on the bus every morning? I can forsee all sorts of problems there.)

    or

    "Oh. Tomorrow isn't good. We don't have a babysitter tomorrow for our kid and my girlfriend has to go downtown to meet a friend" (Bad past life decisions, bad priorities, family problems that will lead him missing work frequently, etc.)

    or

    "An Interview? Tomorrow? Sure! Oh, let me get directions. Hold on....HEY! DOES ANYONE HERE HAVE A PENCIL? EXCUSE ME SIR? HELLO?" (Obviously at a payphone pr public phone and didn't think to bring anything to write with)

    or any number of similar things. If I hear stuff like this and enough warning signs like this I'll try to get rid of them before we even get to the interview stage.

    But for those who make it to the interview, I'm watching everything. What did they arrive in? Not that I am descriminating based on their car. But the guy who arrives in his own used 1992 Mazda 626 is probably going to be a LOT more reliable every day than a guy who doesn't have a car and his friend is waiting outside in his car. Or maybe he arrived by bus. Or maybe in an old beater that looks like it's barely running. These things matter and they'll probably add or detract to the person's reliability. I am taking note.

    What are they dressed like? A suit is overdoing it and someone coming to interview with me wearing a suit probably has no clue. On the other hand, dirty jeans and an AC/DC shirt aren't going to cut it either. I don't care how broke you are - everyone can dress appropriately if they just try. What's their hair like? Tatoos? Have they shaved recently? Did they shake my hand? Did they introduce themself? Do they smile? Do they look me in the eye? etc......

    Next, assuming the things above are pretty good (they are dressed good enough and don't look or act too scraggly) then my next objective is to see if they are qualfied. I'll ask them specific questions as to what kind of equipment they've used, their previous jobs, their work ethic, why they think they'd be good at this job, etc. With all of these things, I am looking for clues or reasons to just end the interview and tell them goodbye.

    I'm just looking for all sorts of things. How long have they lasted at their previous 2 or 3 jobs?

    If they pass that part of the interview then I begin asking questions about their life. Now you can't ask specific questions like, "Are you married?" or "Do you go to church" because that's descrimination. But you can ask open ended questions like, "So tell me, what kinds of things do you do in your spare time?" or "Sorry my little son interrrupted us. Do you have kids?" just things like that. I try to get an idea of what their life is like. Are they a single party animal? Are they in a stable married relationship? I don't really care too much if they are married or not. But these things are all just clues for me. And all of the clues fill in the blanks and tell a lot about a person's values, character, work ethic, etc.

    I also ask when they could start. If they are currently employed but tell me that they'll quit that job immediately and begin working for me tomorrow - something's wrong there! Where's their common courtesy for their current employer? No notice? If they're willing to leave him hanging out to dry that's very telling of their character. They'll likely do that to me in a month or two when they find something better.

    Also, I am constantly trying to figure out where this person is in life. Why are they applying for an $8 an hour menial job? There are some legitimate reasons for doing so. Maybe they're young and just don't have too much experience at anything. Maybe they're hispanic and don't speak much english but are willing to work hard and $8 an hour is a lot where they come from. But if a guy is 45 years old, driving a beater, and lives in an appartment, and even after all these years, he's still just barely getting by trying to work at $8 jobs SOMETHING'S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE! This is probably a guy who consistently makes bad choices and has for years and years. Otherwise, he'd be in a better position.

    There are a hundred more tips I could give you. On average (in my experience) - 90% of people born and raised in the U.S. are lazy, unreliable, and won't last long. Immigrant hispanics, on the other hand, are - on average - very hard workers. They show up on time. They usually have their life and family life in order. They don't ***** or try to make up injuries. They WANT to work. EVERY DAY. I'll still interview Americans and give them a shot. But I'll go off of my experience too. And if I got an american guy who is giving me too many warning signs but speaks perfect english vs. some hispanic immigrant who doesn't have such good english but seems like he's got his ducks in a row, I'll hire the latter guy every time.

    I could go on and on but I've already said plenty...... Hopefully something I wrote helps someone reading this.
     
  9. lawnman_scott

    lawnman_scott LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 7,547

    I dont know where in FL you are, but I have found that interviews are almost a waste of time. Now i just try them for a week, and see how it goes. Most are like the guy you talked about, dont show, or show up for a day or so, then need a ride...... It s just a shot in the dark, but eventually you can find a good one. My crew leader now had no experience at all when i hired him, and he has lasted longer than anyone ever.
     
  10. GarPA

    GarPA LawnSite Silver Member
    from PA
    Posts: 2,585

    Jim Lewis...I applaud your thorough and professional interview approach
    However, lets face the facts...what we do is hard work in all kinds of weather. If they in fact can pass your initial screening, and they appear to be in ok shape physically, why they would want to work this hard for 8 to 10 dollars an hour, with virtually no future, is the predicament we're all in.

    I've found the best way to keep the college kids part time and then full time for 4 months is to give them production bonuses for landscape work. For example, I expect, on avg, that each worker bee, installs 1 yard of mulch per hour. At the end of the week, I look at their production results. If they have exceeded the goals I set for them, they get a not- so-small bonus in their paycheck. While money does not motivate employees over the long term, it has worked well for the "kids" I use in spring and summer. 2 of them already asked for jobs next summer...I told them they will have all the work they want..THese 2 guys also do fabulous work...I can leave them on a big mulch/stone install and dont have to come back to the job site multiple times a day to check on things....I will miss them greatly when they get a "real job"
     

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