It Starts With the Interview: How to Identify the Future Leaders of Your Company


Jessica Brant
August 20, 2019
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For Windy City Equipment Services CEO Josh Zolin, maintaining his HVAC company’s status as one of Inc. 5000’s fastest-growing businesses involved first tapping into a scarce talent pool created by the skilled trades gap. As he points out in his book Blue Is the New White:

People don’t talk enough about the skilled trades as a career option, with the result that not enough people pursue the trades. Across nearly all skilled labor industries, there isn’t enough talent for the jobs that need to be done. 

With pickings already slim, finding the right talent is difficult enough. That’s why making the most of the interview process is so crucial to identifying and retaining qualified talent suited specifically for your company. Keeping an interview checklist — here is a downloadable checklist to get you started — is an organized way of identifying leadership traits in job candidates early on, and filtering out the ones that may not be a long-term fit. 

Hiring and firing are key elements of running a business, but knowing the best way to do both is essential.

Pre-Interview: What to Look for in a Job Candidate 

Going into the interview, you should already have an idea of what kind of traits you are looking for in your future employee. There are many identifiable traits that great leaders possess, but humility is one of the most important. 

Many home service companies fail to recognize the importance of hiring character over ability. While ability and skill level are absolutely necessary to executing a job correctly, hiring a candidate with humility often promises teachability. As Zolin put it in a recently recorded interview with Pointman:

It’s one of the things we focus on in the interview process, because if you have a great character, a great personality, but you’re hard-headed and you think you’re the best at what you do, you’re not going to learn anything.” - Josh Zolin

Candidates with humility are willing to grow — and in the right ways — with your company. Because they’re invested in their career development, they’re more likely to stick around for the long haul. This is one way to prevent quick turnover.

HVAC business owner and author Josh Zolin says the skilled trades are a path to success. Discover why, and learn his approach to hiring, in a Pointman interview. 

During the Interview: Asking Questions That Reveal Character 

During the interview, you want to ask questions that reveal as much of the candidate’s character as possible. After all, these potential employees are going to be servicing your community and representing your business. For Zolin, a detailed line of questioning helped him find candidates who were teachable:

Here's a suggested line of questioning to draw out the leaders from the crowd:

1. Why did they enter the trades? 

While we all have bills to pay and mouths to feed, money can’t be the sole motivator driving your candidate’s success or interest in a position. You want someone who cares about the future of your business and their role within it. So be sure to ask questions that will offer explanations as to why a candidate decided to enter their line of work.

Pursue candidates who can identify opportunities when available, put in the hard work after seizing those opportunities and can appreciate opportunities to grow within your company. These candidates may also seek to fulfill multiple purposes or roles within your business. Doing so demonstrates persistence and foresight, and those are the people you want backing your business.

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2. How do they define success? 

Everyone defines success differently. Success to your candidate could mean living comfortably. It could also simply mean getting better at what they do every day. How a candidate answers the success question is another way to discover their character. 

3. How well do they adapt to changing environments?

Oftentimes those working in the home service industry do not know the problem until they arrive on the job site. Ask your candidate to give examples of times when they have gone into a job prepared to handle it one way and then had to rewire that thinking due to the reality of the situation. This can reveal humility of character and also demonstrates their adaptability to a changing work environment. Plus, if you add or switch field service management software at any point, you need an employee who can learn to adapt to using this new technology.

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Post-Interview: Questions to Ask Yourself 

How your candidate speaks to you may indicate how they will speak to your customers and other employees. Make note of these observations, and also reflect on a few questions post-interview: 

  • Did the conversation feel natural or rushed? 
  • Did your candidate add value to the conversation and how? 
  • Did your candidate appear fully present when listening to you? 
  • Did your candidate ask thoughtful questions pertaining to your business?

Remember, an organized and effective interview process lays the groundwork for obtaining and retaining qualified talent.

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