Welcome to the final post in the HVAC technician interview questions blog series.
In earlier posts, we have seen a list of common HVAC interview questions and technical and skill-oriented questions for hiring an HVAC technician. If you haven’t looked at them yet, go here to find the first and the second blogs in this series. We would like to wrap up the series with scenario-based and role-specific questions to ask an HVAC technician in an interview.
Scenario-based interview questions
Scenario-based interview techniques allow you to ask “what if” questions and get a sense of how a candidate might respond in a given situation. The way these questions are answered gives you insight into the sort of behavior you can expect from the applicant when under pressure. Their answers can also reveal more personal aspects about themselves, such as their values and how they might prioritize when things are not going as expected.
As a recruiter, using scenario-based questions can help you assess if a candidate is up to the task and will be able to manage the role's responsibilities. The answers given by your HVAC candidates are important when determining how well they will fit the position and how they are likely to deal with complex situations.
1. Describe a situation where you faced conflicts at a job site, and how did you handle it?
Sooner or later, conflict at a job site is bound to happen. So what happens next? Your service technicians are the face of the company, and how they work with customers and other technicians is an important consideration. This question allows the tech an opportunity to showcase their interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence by telling you in their own words what has happened in their past and how they resolved the issue.
What was it? Did it catch them off guard or were they able to see it coming? Were they able to de-escalate the issue, and did they learn anything important in the process? A candidate's answer can tell you not just about them as a person, but you can also gain a sense of their personality.
2. Can you tell us an example of when you resolved a conflict with your manager?
These questions will give you an idea of whether a candidate dealt with conflict well and avoided adverse outcomes. Conflict can’t always be avoided, but how it is approached can significantly impact how it is resolved. The power differential between manager and subordinate can complicate things, but it does not necessarily make things impossible. There are people who handle conflict well, and these are the ones you want on your team. Being able to approach a manager when things are
3. Have you ever experienced a situation where you prioritize your efficiency without considering safety?
Your priority needs to be avoiding safety hazards; your company’s reputation depends on it. So it is worth asking if your applicant has ever been in a position where they chose to—or were told to—prioritize job completion over safety. What was that situation, and how did they feel about it? It is possible that the tech is coming to you from a company that wanted them to perform unsafely, which made them uncomfortable.
It is also possible that tech has identified places where small time savings can be made, making job completion more efficient. However, they should be able to explain why this is still safe. Best practices exist for a reason, so a tech with the level of theoretical and practical knowledge to have found a shortcut should be able to articulate why this approach is not problematic. A tech who can not explain why a process is still safe or has found a way to save significant amounts of time is probably taking unnecessary risks.
4. Your customer gives negative feedback. How do you respond to it?
Customer experience is what your reputation is based on, so listening to what customers are saying and really hearing them is important. As your representative on the front line, a technician is in a position to be the first to hear when a customer is dissatisfied. Negative feedback is most people's least favorite kind, but it is still important. And how your technicians handle these situations is critical to mitigating damage before things go too far.
Listen carefully to how a candidate answers this question. Is their answer courteous? Do you think it is likely to lead to a successful de-escalation and fix the issue for a dissatisfied customer? Negative feedback will happen. It is only a question of time and if the technician who receives it can handle it gracefully.
5. Can you describe a situation where you failed, and what was your takeaway?
Everyone fails eventually. It might be because of miscommunication or not understanding considerations unique to a situation. Failure happens. What is most important is being able to assess what happened and learn from the experience—identify where things went wrong and what can be done differently in the future.
Failure itself is not as big a problem as an inability to learn from failure. When asking a candidate to describe a failure, what is most important is what they took away from the experience. A candidate who can learn—and help others to learn when things go wrong is a valuable addition to your team. So keep your eye out for people who are self-aware and able to learn from mistakes and missteps.
Role-specific questions are nothing but more specific questions based on the nature of the role you are interviewing for. Asking these questions helps determine if a candidate has the theoretical knowledge and practical skills needed to perform the role successfully. The candidate’s responses are an important indicator of if they have an appropriate mindset for completing tasks efficiently and in alignment with your company's goals and values.
1. In your previous experience, did you face any work-related challenges in the field?
Field service technicians need to be resourceful and resilient. Projects can go awry when working in the field, and being flexible enough to deal with unexpected issues is an important trait for succeeding as a field service technician long-term. However, what one person finds trivial, another may find challenging.
Asking this question gives you an opportunity to get on the same page as your applicant and see the work day as they do. What they did not find challenging might surprise you just as much as what they did—and this is important information when deciding where on your team someone will fit in. Knowing what they do (and do not) find challenging can give you some insight into where they will be best able to support your team as a whole and maintain overall productivity for the team.
2. Do you think technology can boost your efficiency?
A candidate’s awareness of technology can be telling. Not simply that it exists, but how do they personally relate to it? Do they understand the purpose it is supposed to serve and if it actually meets that end? HVAC technicians today are likely to work with mobile apps as part of their daily workflow.
Real-time updates to job status and immediate access to timesheets are but two areas mobile technology have helped to change the industry. But not every company has implemented it well. And the candidate you are interviewing may have direct experience with poor implementation. Talking to them about this experience gives you an opportunity to explore if they are likely to be reticent to adopt your systems or if they will take to them eagerly—relieved that you have done it better.
3. How do you calculate estimates and invoices?
Technology is great, but sometimes it fails. And that means doing things manually. Making sure that your applicants have a handle on basic math is important, and while this question asks about invoicing in particular, it will also give you insight into their ability to calculate other things in general.
In the field, there will be times that doing a rough calculation is called for—and most of the time, it will be something that no one has bothered to code an app for. Being willing to use the technical solutions that you provide is great. But being able to calculate things manually—if only to get a rough idea—is invaluable.
4. How familiar are you with handling computers?
While HVAC businesses may have been slow to adopt some of the newer technologies, most people are already comfortable working with computers—this is great—it means prospective technicians probably have the base-level skills you want. But, it is still worth asking about people’s familiarity and comfort.
If someone you are interviewing is weak in this area, they can still be qualified from a certification and education standpoint. In this case, consider providing additional training to bring them up to speed. Learning how to manage work orders and job scheduling from a mobile app is significantly easier than learning how an HVAC system works—investing extra time in an applicant short on computer skills may be better in the long run than ruling them out too early.
5. Are you able to work independently with minimal supervision?
Interestingly, sometimes working well as part of a team means working well in isolation. The ability to take unclear instructions and puzzle out what was meant or refine the instructions for other techs—so they don’t have to check back with a manager—is invaluable.
Asking how a candidate relates to independent work gives you an idea as to what working conditions they will find optimal, what situations are workable, and under what conditions the applicant might flounder. It is not always necessary to eliminate a candidate from consideration because they need some supervision or access to a second opinion.
However, knowing about this possibility is important if you are to make an informed decision regarding where they fit on your team and how their talents can best be utilized.
6. What are the qualities you expect from your managers/supervisors?
Interpersonal qualities like responsiveness and approachability are certainly at the top of the list when it comes to professional relationships between subordinates and direct reports. But we should also recognize that professional background can be a factor in successful management.
Expecting their supervisor to spend some time in the field and have personal experience with what their techs are doing is not unusual. A supervisor with no experience as a field technician may be seen as an outsider by those under them. While this does not disqualify them as a supervisor, it could make relating to their team harder.
Asking your potential technicians what personal qualities and professional background makes for good supervisors give you clues not only to how well they will fit in the current team but also to important considerations when choosing to hire a supervisor or promote an existing technician.
7. What qualities are needed to meet customer expectations and get positive customer satisfaction?
Asking what an applicant thinks is necessary to deliver a satisfying customer service experience can be telling. At the very least, you become more aware of where you are in alignment with the candidate about customer service and where you part ways. More than that, however, by listening to what your applicant says and how they say it, you can assess their abilities to speak on the spot about issues of belief and expectation—and potentially to speak diplomatically on them.
Diplomacy is a valuable skill for technicians in the field who may have to deal with customers who feel their expectations were not met or have a different understanding of the job. Do not underestimate the value of this. HVAC technicians are your frontline employees and are in the best position to de-escalate and do damage control when a customer service experience goes awry.
There is a lot to consider when interviewing for a new HVAC technician. You probably don't want to ask every candidate every question in our series—there are simply too many. But we hope we have given you questions—and reasoning—to think about. Keeping these in your back pocket can help you stay flexible in an interview and give you something to pull out when appropriate.
Finding the right HVAC technician is not easy, but once you have successfully recruited them, they can be a valuable asset to your company. The right technician will help define your company culture and become a valuable resource for newer technicians as they grow and mature.
Keep an eye on your hires. Review their performance with periodic KPI reports and provide skills training and professional development opportunities. Make sure they are familiar with available productivity tools and are in a position to maximize their efficiency. A new employee is an investment, so always keep in mind that an HVAC technician wisely chosen today may end up being tomorrow's supervisor or manager.