June 2018

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Hiring Elite Controls Talent

like the “Big Boys” – Part 3
If you want to grow, poaching must become your M.O.

Skip Freeman Skip Freeman,
Senior Technical Recruiter,
BASI Solutions, LLC
(Building Automation and Smart Industry)

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Hiring and retaining top talent is no easy feat, especially for SMBs (small/mid-size business) which is the majority of us in BAS and controls.

Last month we covered the art of the interview. A number of you requested the BAS Skills Interview questions and the Cultural Fit interview questions. Email me at if you would like a set.

The large companies (1000+ employees) have an advantage not only because of their name/brand, but they have “talent acquisition” resources beyond the capability of most small/medium sized businesses.

This is a 4-part series focused on how SMBs can hire elite controls talent like the “big boys,” i.e., like the 1000+ size companies. 

In this issue (June), we will take a look at recruiting (i.e., attracting top talent) against the “big boys.”
Here’s an overview of the series:

•    Part 1 (April 2018) - Objectively determining a candidate’s cultural fit fast
•    Part 2 (May 2018) – The art of interviewing (and example soft-skill questions)
•    Part 3 (June 2018) – Recruiting (i.e., attracting top talent) against the “big boys.”
•    Part 4 (Sept 2018) – Workforce Retention, 2020 and beyond

Recruiting – If you want to grow, poaching must become your M.O.

Last month, according to the BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics), the number of jobs surpassed the number of unemployed people for the first time this century. There are 0.98 unemployed workers for every job.
Based on what I see in the marketplace, it is even tighter for BAS professionals.

If you, as a “small to medium-sized business (SMB)” want to grow, you must shift to a poaching M.O. (modus operandi).

How to make the shift in 10-steps:

Step 1:
Realize top performers already have a job
…probably a pretty good job. Top performers are rarely browsing the job boards. Recognize this and accept it. This is necessary in order for you to implement the next 9-steps.

Step 2:
Target firms.
Identify which firms to target. For the SMB, the large companies are often good targets. Their people are generally well trained (and often are being worked to death.) Question – what is your firm’s work/life balance?

Step 3:
Identify talent at those firms.
Who do you have in your LinkedIn network? What mutual groups are you and top talent in?

Step 4:
Answer this question:
“Why would top talent from another firm quit a perfectly good job and come to work for me?”

Step 5:
Create a vision for the potential candidate.
What is it that they are actually going to do with the skills that you require? What “sexy” projects will they get to work on? What new skills can/will they learn? Is there an opportunity for advancement?

Step 6:
Begin your reach-out campaign. This will generally be a combination of excellent job postings, LinkedIn InMail, email, voicemail, and eventually live conversations.

You or a designated top-level representative in your firm should personally reach out to the talent at your competitor’s firms. If you are uncomfortable doing this, hire a recruiter to do it for you.

Step 7:
Candidate friendly interviewing process.
No, this doesn’t mean an easy interviewing process.
In fact, top talent appreciates a rigorous interview process. BUT your interviewing process must be coordinated and well laid out. Nothing will turn top talent off faster than an interview where either no one knew they were coming or the interviewers are not prepared.

You can request both BAS technical and behavioral (culture-fit) interview questions from us by sending me an email at

Step 7:
We see firms make an offer now in as little as one day. Once an employed person gets a “taste” of what other opportunities may be in the market, they may (and often do) start interviewing elsewhere to compare offers. Speed is imperative if your process has determined you have a good candidate.

Step 8:
The 2-week “fight-zone.”
The fight-zone is the 2-weeks’ notice your candidate of choice gives their current employer. It’s during this time that the infamous counteroffer is made. To inoculate them against the counteroffer, give them the opportunity to be involved in something during those 2-weeks. Is there a brainstorming session for a client? Take a picture of their truck/tools, company car, etc. and send it to them. Have you set up their desk? (And sent them a picture?) Take the candidate and his/her spouse out to dinner. Anything you can do to make the person already feel a part of your team is critical.

Control Solutions, Inc Step 9:
Day 1 thru Week 1 is critical. Do you make them feel welcome? Do you introduce them to the team? Did the team know they were coming? Is their equipment ready? (It will be if you did Step 8.) If the candidate doesn’t feel welcome, he/she will have buyer’s remorse and go back to the company they just left.

Step 10:
What training can you get them into that will expand their skills sets most quickly. And not only vendor training, but investing in the fundamentals of design, programming, IT, protocols, etc. are all ways to show your new hire you care.

In fact, in conjunction with Building Automation Monthly, we offer a 1-year subscription to all Building Automation Monthly BAS courses at no charge for both the hired candidate and the hiring manager. You can request a 10-day free trial by emailing me at


Right now, employed BAS professionals are in the driver’s seat and will be until the next recession.

It takes a mindset shift to recruit successfully in a scarce candidate market versus a candidate surplus market.

Are you ready to make the shift?

One added benefit of a poaching strategy is this…when you poach talent away from a competitor, your firm gets stronger while your competitor gets weaker.                                                                                                                              


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