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Serviceman's Log

Hiring a new technician is never easy

by the Serviceman

Items Covered This Month

• Hiring new staff isn’t easy
• Mainframe madness
• Jeil JPA-1200 PA amplifier

*Dave Thompson, runs PC Anytime in Christchurch, NZ.

In my opinion, service people have a more difficult task when it comes to hiring people than most other employers. If all you need is a bubbly receptionist to meet and greet and cheerily answer the phone, then there are gazillions of suitable candidates. However, if you need someone with the technical abilities of a Mission Impossible team, the sales acumen of an East-End market stall holder, the phone manner of a drive-time radio announcer and the charm of a Latin film star, the pickings are mighty thin.

One of the big problems with advertising for a computer technician is the fact that every male in the country with their own computer/Xbox/PlayStation fancies himself as an expert, as long as he could just get a start in the industry. This sees me dealing with recruiting problems that, for example, hospitals advertising for new brain surgeons wouldn’t have.

No one imagines quitting his or her long-term job as a forklift driver (or whatever) and becoming a brain surgeon overnight but that sort of leap seems perfectly acceptable when I advertise for a computer technician. And while many people may know how to break a computer down and rebuild it, that doesn’t make them a technician; someone who can diagnose and fix tricky hardware and software problems. The number of “I currently drive a forklift but have always wanted to be a computer tech” job applications I get each time I advertise for new staff is staggering. It would be funny if it wasn’t so time-consuming and soul destroying.

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By now you’ve no doubt guessed that that little rant is leading up to something. Well, just recently my sole remaining staff member, who had been with us for three years through the double-whammy of recession and earthquakes, decided he’d had enough. The stress and strain of the quakes, as well as being without his partner who’d left the area a year earlier, had finally become too much.

Losing such a good technician was a real blow and although I knew that the day would inevitably come, it doesn’t make things any easier when it finally does. If a business has six staff, losing someone is not the end of the world. But when your only staff member leaves, it means maximum upheaval.

Not only do you have to cope with the extra workload alone but you also have to go through the aforementioned recruiting process. And when you do finally hire someone, it’s usually followed by weeks (if not months) of hand-holding and in-house systems training, while still coping with your own job and rectifying the inevitable mistakes made by the new employee during those first few weeks.

It starts with the CVs and this time, I had 62 to contend with. For various reasons, about half were obvious rejects from the outset, leaving about 30 to vet.

Once I had decided which applications sounded feasible, I sent out an email containing further details of the job description and the wages offered. About half never replied (suits me!) while the rest either declined the offer or wanted to take it further. The “nays” then got a polite “thank you for applying” letter while the “ayes” were invited to come in for an interview.

Most (but not all) of those who came in were goners the moment they walked through the door. It may come as a surprise to some people but averted eye-contact handshakes, sloppy dressing, old gym-shoes, and not washing or shaving for a week are real turn-offs. A body odour of roll-your-owns, fush and chups (that’s how we Kiwis say it) and cheap booze are certainly not the attributes I look for in a potential employee!

It was my good fortune that one applicant in particular stood out from the rest (who were also very good) and he is now on the payroll and impressing me on a daily basis. Not only am I teaching him the ways of our business and a few tricks of the trade along the way but he is also teaching me some valuable new skills. It’s a win-win situation for both of us.

While in the past I have usually had to do the best with what was available, this time I was spoilt for choice. It seems that the quakes and the earlier recession here in NZ has forced many companies to shed staff and hunker down, so the job market is now flush with well-qualified and eager-to-work candidates.

I feel terrible about not being able to hire every one of the decent prospects but that’s the reality of the workplace. I can at least give one guy a good paying job and in return he helps keep our business afloat. I’d call that a pretty fair deal.

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