Hire the Heart

Shot of colleagues celebrating during a meeting in a modern office

By Ashlee Hofberger

I hear so many owners say, “I just can’t find good people.” My question back is always, “What do you mean by “˜good people?'” In response, I usually hear something to the tune of, “At this point, I’d settle for anyone that shows up.” Why?

Why as business owners should we have to settle for just anyone who can manage to get to work? Shouldn’t that be an unspoken rule? One of the few things in this business climate that we should still expect unequivocally is that our employees will “˜show up.’

Good employees have heart

But maybe we aren’t looking for the right things in our candidates. Instead of looking for “good employees” that check the boxes, we should be asking “˜do they have a background in the industry, do they have the certifications, did they show up for the interview?’ We should be looking for the “goodness” in people instead.

Do they have a heart for helping others? Restoration is hard, the days are long, and the work is dirty. For an employee to last, they must believe that day in and day out they are helping someone deal with a loss.

Do they care about their coworkers? Employees that care about their coworkers show up on time and give their all. Why? Because if they are late or if they slack, they let down people they care about.

Are they leaders? No, not everyone you hire will be a department manager, but everyone you hire should have general leadership qualities. Each of your team members, no matter their rank, should want to be an example to those around them of what excellence looks like. They should always be willing to help because that’s what leaders do.

Yes, it would be great if all our candidates came with certifications and three years of experience. But you can teach the experience and you can pay for the certifications. An employee that wants to be part of your team, wants to do the job right, and really cares if the company succeeds—that is priceless.

Look for candidates that have longevity in their previous jobs. Job hoppers as I’ve dubbed them are people who have had more than three jobs in a two-year period, and they rarely make good employees. Candidates that complain about their current manager or every previous job they’ve had don’t make good employees either.

The best hires are the ones that show up slightly early for the interview, are dressed one level above the position they are interviewing for and come prepared with a list of questions for you. During the interview process, you want candidates that are engaged in conversation. They should be excited to share their work experience and intrigued about becoming part of your team.

Hire for core values

This sounds great to most leaders, but how can you get those kinds of people to apply? Just like anything else, you recruit for them—you recruit for the heart, not for the skill set. It starts with building a solid company, defining your core values, and outlining your mission and vision statement.

Core values should be 3-5 nonnegotiable standards for your team. Then, with these defined, you should weave these core values into as much of the job description as possible. When you call the candidates for the interview, mention the company’s mission. When you sit down for the interview, go over the core values, define what each one means for your team, and ask, “Which one of these resonates with you the most?”

If they give you some halfway answer—move on. They are not the right fit for you. Core values are either something that people connect with, or they’re not. If the candidate doesn’t connect with them, it’s okay, they are just not the right employee for your team. When you go over your company’s vision for the future, ask the candidate, “How do you see yourself fitting into this?” You want the person who has imagined what it’s like to be part of your team and who has wanted to work at a place that helps people recover and pave a path back to normalcy. If they haven’t given that any thought, you won’t want them on your team.

Retaining new hires

Once you hire the ideal candidate, you need to be able to keep them. Remember, you likely hired a less experienced person counting on their “heart” to carry them. This method of hiring will work, so long as your company invests in training them and growing their skillset. People with “heart” like clear expectations. Make sure that learning milestones are defined and frequently discussed.

Employees that are learning a new skill and possibly an entirely new industry will need constant feedback. I don’t mean a pat on the back and a “well done” spoken in their direction as you head out the door. I mean weekly scheduled meetings with their direct manager to answer the questions that matter to them. “What’s going well? What needs work? What’s next?” It’s always the “what’s next” that keeps the employee energized.

They need to know what they are working towards and why. As you’re reading this, I’m sure the dollar signs are rolling around in your head. Your managers’ time is expensive, paying for certifications is costly, and tracking so many things is time-consuming. Yes, yes, it is.

However, employee turnover is more expensive. For the average technician, turnover costs about $12,000. Retaining the right employees will add to your bottom line. When you build the right team, they are well worth the investment.


Ashlee Hofberger, with First Onsite Property Restoration, began her career in the restoration industry in 2010, cofounded what would be the largest restoration company on the Gulf Coast in 2012, and received her SHRM-CP designation in 2020. Hofberger then received her SHRM Talent Acquisition Specialty Credential in 2021 and became an Emergenetics Certified Associate in 2022. She can be reached at [email protected].

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