Lawn care worker by flowerbed

Hiring Lawn Care Workers

Hiring lawn care workers can be challenging.  Then after that process is finally done, we have to start working on training and keeping those employees.  The first step is selecting the right person with the right knowledge and attitude.

Where are all the good potential lawn care employees?  What do you consider a good employee and once you find them, how do you keep them?

As your business grows, you will need to add employees.  While an exciting time in your business, it can also be a big challenge.  First you have to decide what the responsibilities of that person will be. Once you know what their responsibilities will be, you can determine the skill sets they will need to have.  Will they need to be able to sell to customers, able to fix equipment, do complicated math, drive a large vehicle with a trailer, and so on.

Traits To Look For

Of course there are the basic things you will be looking for in a technician.  They will need to have a good driving record and be old enough to apply products.  Applicants will need to be old enough to obtain any licenses needed to do the job.  The will have to have decent writing skills so you or anyone in the office along with customers can read their handwriting. 

Regardless of job, they will need decent math skills. They should be able to figure out how much product to take with them each day. Also, how to mix chemicals at different rates for different containers.  Basic honesty, trustworthiness, and punctuality are of course required.

If you are a small business and this is your first hire you will probably need someone capable of many task.  The same person that has an outgoing sales personality may not be the best person to work on equipment. They may not be detailed enough to get all the production done well each day.  You have to decide your priorities and which skills are the most important. 

If you are doing sales, you need someone that can get the production done and keep things going.  If you are a tech type person, you need someone out there selling their butt off to keep you busy all day and keep that money flowing in.  The paperwork and maintenance and everything else can be divided up and figured out based on experience and skills.

Where Do You Find Employees?

So, where do you start looking for this person?  I would start with an ad on Indeed and a free listing on Craig’s List.   You need to make age (legal age to perform the job), high school graduate or equal, and good driving record and current drivers license minimum requirements.  Prefer that they have at least 1 year experience doing lawn care. 

I usually include something about being able to pass a drug test and background check to weed out some people immediately.  By saying you require a drivers license with a good driving record and may drug test them, you will save yourself tons of time fooling with people that you really wouldn’t want to hire. 

Ask them to send a resume.  This will show they are truly interested and show you if they can put together a simple document. List a pay range on the ad.  Review the other ads from competitors and list a pay range similar to theirs. 

If other business are offering insurance and vacations, you may have to up your pay a little to compete. Perhaps you can find something you are able to offer as a small business that a large business can’t offer.  Flexible schedules would be an example of something you could offer that a big company can’t.

Evaluating Applications

After reading through applications, I suggest checking them out on social media like Facebook.  They may be on linked.in but usually not.  Looking at their Facebook profile, do they look like someone that would represent your company well?   When evaluating the resumes, choose people that have had steady employment and skills you are interested in and have them come in for an interview.  Have them fill out an employee application and ask them a list of questions so that you can get to know them better. 

Hiring Lawn Care Workers: First Interview

Some questions you may want to ask are “How do you handle being told no?”  “If we call the last couple of people you worked for, what will they tell me about you?”  “Where do you see yourself in 3 years?”  “If you could go back and change anything, what would it be?”  These types of questions will tell you a lot about a person. 

I once asked someone what their last employer would say about them and he said “they will tell you that I missed work a lot and was late a lot, but it wasn’t my fault.  I had things I had to do.  Traffic was bad and I kept getting behind school buses, so it wasn’t my fault.  They just weren’t fair to me”.  That told me all I needed to know about that person and I sent him on his way.

We have to remember we are hiring lawn care workers, so we prefer them to have some experience and knowledge. We created a short test to give potential employees.  We had one for a potential office person and one for a potential technician.  For the technician we ask questions about weeds, fertilizer, some math, and some “what would you do if” type scenario questions.  This test has helped us clarify what a candidate really does and doesn’t know before hiring them. 

They may have had experience at another company for a year and still not be able to identify any weeds or do basic math.  We have had several people present themselves as experienced and knowledgeable and the test showed us that they didn’t know the first thing about lawns, weeds, products, or equipment.

Is the candidate in good physical shape?  Have they ever had had an outside job?  In Texas where the summer temperatures are usually in the 90’s or higher in the summer hiring a person that has never worked outside might not be a good choice.  If they play sports or go camping or do other things outdoors it will probably be fine after they have acclimated. 

 If they have never worked outside and their hobbies are playing video games and reading you might have to reconsider your choice. If you hire this person, just make sure they are not scheduled for full days until they are used to working outside in the hot sun all day.

Second Interview

If you have a good feeling about a candidate and they pass any tests you give them, have them come back for a second interview.  Between the first and second interview you can check the candidate out.  You can use an inexpensive service to run a report and check to see if the person you are interested in has any convictions they failed to disclose.  I suggest you have your insurance check their driving record and determine the impact of hiring them on your insurance premiums.

I knew a man that bought a lawn care business and had arranged with a young man he knew to run the business for him.  Right before opening up the business the new owner found out that having that young man on his insurance would cost him an additional $5,000 per year for insurance on his company vehicle.  It basically doubled the cost because the young man had 2 DUI convictions and some tickets.  He had to let the young man go and hire someone else before he even opened his business.

When you bring someone in for a second interview, have someone else also talk to them if possible.  It is good to have two opinions.  Did they dress well both times?  Were they on time for both appointments? Just the fact that they showed up for the first and then the second interview puts them head and shoulders above a lot of other candidates. 

 If you are sure they are the one you are looking for, then make them an offer.  Be up front about any advantages or disadvantages about working for you company.  If you are going to give them holidays and vacation pay, tell them. 

If you don’t have any insurance benefits and they won’t get paid for holidays for two years, then tell them.  You should inform them if you have a no smoking policy or other policy that you think might be a problem.  If you don’t allow cell phone use all day, you might want to inform them.  I was hiring an office person and mentioned a no cell phone policy and she said she wouldn’t be able to work for us if she couldn’t have her phone on and next to her at all times. 

It may have been a deal breaker for someone else, but it turned out that she had a special needs child and have to be accessible at all times in case of emergency.  We made an exception for her and hired her and it all worked out but it was good that it was worked out in the hiring stage.

If you aren’t 100% sure, have them come in again for a third time and put them through a few tests.  Ask them to ride along with you to look at some lawns, ask them to do some simple things on the computer if they will be expected to use the computer.

Laws Limiting Questions You Can Ask

If you are not familiar with the latest HR laws, you should review the laws concerning what you can and can’t ask a candidate.  I was with someone once that I was coaching and he wanted me to sit in while he interviewed a candidate.  He had been a teacher most of his life, so I asked him if he knew what he could and couldn’t legally ask someone in an interview and he said he knew the law. 

When the candidate showed up he begin to ask “how old are you, are you married, do you have any kids, and have you ever filed any disability claims?”  I couldn’t believe it.  It was like he was reading a list of questions you can’t ask.  He might as well gone ahead and asked what religion and political party they were.  You do not want to violate any HR laws, so read up on those if you don’t the acceptable questions you can ask.

Examples of Questions You Can Not Ask

Not Permitted: Do you own your own home or rent? Who do you live with? How are you related to the people you live with?

Permitted: How long have you been at your current address? What is your current address? What was your previous address and how long did you live
there?

Not Permitted: Age. What year were you born? When did you graduate high school?

Not Permitted: Arrest Record. Only if it is directly related to the job or in states where it is illegal to ask. (i.e.,they have not been convicted yet so could be innocent).

Not Permitted: Availability. Directly asking about weekend work could be seen as a proxy question for religious observance. Also, questions about evening work or child arrangements can impact females who have childcare responsibilities. Asking if they own a car could be seen as racially discriminatory unless it is a requirement of the job.

Permitted: Availability. What days and shifts can you work?  Are there shifts you cannot work? Are there responsibiities that you have that could make it difficult for you to travel for work? Do you have a reliable way of getting to work?

Regardless of whter you are hiring lawn care workers, office people, salespeople, etc, these laws apply to everyone in the US regardless of job. As you can tell, it is important how you word your questions.  Most people are not there to try to trick you into asking questions that can get you in trouble.  I did experience a person in a wheel chair wanting a position on a landscape crew that I beleive was just fishing for something they could use against the company. Just be careful and review full lists of questions if you are not familiar with the law.

Where to Find Employees

If your ads on Indeed.com and Craigs list don’t provide the candidates you are looking for, you may have to become proactive.  I have been with people that followed around competitors trucks and watched their employees work and then asked them to come in and apply for a job with them. 

Go in your local big box store like Lowe’s and Home Depot and watch the people in there doing their jobs.  Are they polite and helpful?  Do they seem to know their job?  Many of these big box stores do not pay well and you can take advantage of that.  You can go in those stores and shop for employees.

On Indeed.com, you can search resume’s and look for people that may not have seen your ad or have stopped looking for a job.  You can contact them and see if they are interested in coming in to talk about a job.

Post on your Facebook page, both business and personal that you are hiring.  People will refer their friends to you.

I have seen lawn care businesses be successful using “We are hiring” metallic banners on their vehicles.  These are fairly inexpensive and handy to have.  You just put the metallic banner saying you are hiring and a phone number on your vehicles and take them off when the job is filled.

You may want to try a hiring agency that will put out the ads, do the interviews, check the references, narrow down the candidates, then present you with the top 3 choices. This isn’t cheap, but neither are running ads on Indeed for along time and spending so much time on hiring when you need to be out selling lawn care programs.

Conclusion

To review, there is no one sure way to find the right employee.  It will take looking in several places and spending time with candidates asking questions and getting to know them to determine if they are the right fit.  At some point you have to make your best determination and offer your best candidate a job.  You will then need to shift to trying to keep your new employee happy so that they don’t leave you and force you back to the beginning of the hunt again.

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