To Hire or Not to Hire: Finding a Good Employee

Mar 29, 2010

In part one of this two-part series, I wrote about the factors to consider when you’re in the market for a new auto trimmer. It’s important to have a hiring plan in place, even if you are not ready to grow your business right now.

Once you decide to hire someone, you’re going to be looking not only for technical ability but also whether you and your employees will get along with the candidate and whether the candidate can interact with customers well. If you often deal with customers who are well-off and are spending a lot of money with you, such as those who want show-car interiors, you want the best employees you can find to interact with them.

The first step is to create a process to review candidates. Define what kind of employee you need. Do you need someone full-time? Part-time? What can you pay for, given that you’ll have to pony up for payroll taxes and workman’s comp insurance? Do you want someone with experience and all the baggage that goes with that or an entry-level individual who you can groom into a solid employee?

Next, create a job description. What skills do you expect candidates to possess? Do they need only cut-and-sew skills or possibly other skills, too, such as interior fabrication or even metal fabrication?

So how do you find this person? You need to go where the enthusiasts and craftspeople are. You’ve got a few options. First, attend local car shows and cruise-ins on a regular basis. This is definitely the place to meet enthusiasts and people with some do-it-yourself skills (if you’re looking for an entry-level employee).

Second, keep an eye on other businesses like yours. If any of them go under, there are likely to be some skilled people out of work to consider hiring.

Third, join the chamber of commerce and other local business associations to network with owners of businesses that employ people with cut-and-sew skills, such as furniture factories, textile companies, boat builders, even tailors. If any of those businesses are laying people off, there will be skilled people looking for work that you could recruit.

There are also trade schools out there (WyoTech, for example) that you can contact, but it’s best to only go this route if you want an entry-level employee. The best way to deal with students is to offer them a full-time paid internship at a lower wage for a set duration, for example over the summer.

Once you’ve found someone you’d like to hire, you will need to bring them in for a couple of formal interviews. Ask them to bring a resume and to put together a portfolio of their work that includes photos or even a seat cover, so you can get a feel for the type of work they can produce.

Ask for employer and customer references, if at all possible. If you’re hiring someone with experience, you want to know what customers think of their work-that’s whose opinion you ultimately have to worry about. Ask them how they would tackle specific upholstery problems that you believe someone at their skill level should be able to solve.

Also ask them a few tough technical questions that require them to demonstrate problem-solving. Asking candidates about challenges they have run into, and how they worked through them, is one way to make this process less formal.

It is also a good idea to conduct a background check on anyone that you are seriously considering hiring. There are plenty of businesses that will conduct background checks for a low, one-time fee.

Lastly, if you’re hiring for a long-term rather than a seasonal position, give the individual some reasons why they should want to work for you. What do you offer that they can’t get elsewhere, beyond a place to use their cut-and-sew skills? What kind of career path are they looking at?

Right now there are a lot of people who are willing to work hard to make ends meet. The trick is finding people with an aptitude for cut-and-sew work who have the right attitude toward work.