Fits the profile

Fits the profile

Columns - Industry Voices

Employers need to take advantage of every possible tool they can find to give them a leg up in the hiring process.

August 4, 2014
Jim Huston
Industry News Jim Huston

Jim Huston

In today’s competitive labor market, employers need to take advantage of every possible tool they can find to give them a leg up in the hiring process. Here’s one that my clients find useful.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been profiling for decades. Essentially, the crime scene investigator analyzes the scene of the crime, gathers pertinent data and works backward to the perpetrator of the crime.

Turning this process around, if you want to hire an irrigation service technician, you would first identify the personality and behavioral traits that are desired in such a person. You would want them to be organized, a problem solver, methodical and thorough. Interestingly, irrigation service technicians fit a profile fairly well. Let me give you a specific example.

The process.

A number of years ago, Mike Warden, president and CEO of Gardenshop Nursery and Landscape in Sparks, Nev., had more commercial installation business than he could handle. He told me he could double his production volume overnight if he had five more crew leaders. He was thinking of utilizing some of his irrigation service technicians as crew leaders.

As I reflected on conversations with many other CEOs and their experiences in similar situations, I realized that placing a good irrigation service technician into a crew leader position would probably not work long term. That’s what I told Mike.

He’d be putting a square peg in a round hole. For a short period, it might work. However, long term, no one would be happy and his converted technicians would probably eventually quit and move on.

The profile of a good irrigation service technician is very different than that of a crew leader. Service technicians need to be meticulous. They also need to enjoy figuring out a technical problem and implementing a solution. Needless to say, this person must be thorough and analysis-driven. The challenge of racing against the clock or a deadline does not turn their crank, so to speak.

On the other hand, good commercial installation crew leaders are thorough but deadline-driven. They’re like a quarterback running the two-minute drill in a tied ball game.

Production is their main emphasis as they race against the clock. The service technician is more like a place kicker, lining up the ball, checking the wind, etc. He has all the time he needs to make one kick but he has to get it right – the first time.

Think of it this way: Would you want your bookkeeper to be your primary sales person or marketing manager? Probably not. Nor would you normally want someone who is good at sales or marketing to do your bookkeeping.

If your company is doing more than $3.5 million in sales, you probably need a controller. Because I’ve worked with more than a hundred such companies, I already know what the successful person in that position looks like. This position is usually filled by a woman who is very neat, organized and thorough.

She also loves working with numbers, is financially responsible, punctual, has excellent written and verbal communication skills and maintains a schedule. She is also very good managing four to five people, probably has an accounting degree, presents herself well, is loyal and is more a manager than an entrepreneur.

While in the U.S. Marine Corps, I worked with snipers. They make for a strange group. You might describe them more by what they are not instead of what they are. Individuals fitting the classic sniper profile are not the life of the party, over-the-top spontaneous, impulsive, garrulous, chain-smokers, stand-up comedians, etc.

Mark Wahlberg’s character, Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Bob Lee Swagger, in the 2007 film “Shooter” is an excellent example of someone who fits this profile. Master Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Beckett, portrayed by Tom Berenger in the 1993 film “Sniper,” is another excellent example of the classic sniper profile.

The big picture.

An accurate profile for a particular job position doesn’t give you all of the small details about that person or position. Rather, it provides a larger, more general framework for consideration. It’s the big picture, the 50,000-foot view. It’s not foolproof and, of course, some individuals who are successful at a particular position will break the mold.

The takeaway.

Using a profiling technique can help you hire square pegs for square holes and round ones for round ones. Unfortunately, it’s an undeveloped area for the green industry. Profiles for the various green industry positions are not readily available.

I’ve included a profile section in my new book, “Job Descriptions for Green Industry Professionals” to be available this fall. Profiling doesn’t guarantee that the FBI catches their man every time. Nor will it prove 100 percent accurate for you in your hiring methods.

However, it should help improve your odds of finding the right people and building a strong team. And in today’s competitive labor market, any improvement is a welcome one.


JIM HUSTON runs J.R. Huston Consulting, a green industry consulting firm. See; mail