Hiring Best Practices

Hiring Best Practices

Hiring Best Practices

Hiring is one of the most difficult challenges that a business owner faces, especially in the tree care world. Despite the frustrations that hiring presents, you can get great employees on your team by setting up a structure for your hiring process. And as you know, better employees will help your company grow which in turn will attract even more all-star employees.


So here are my four Hiring Best Practices that you can use to assemble the best team possible.


1.Initial Paperwork: Job Description, Application and Background Authorization Forms – To get the right person for the job, you must be able to define the work that you want them to do. Having written job descriptions for each position is a critical. The job description can be used to promote the position opening as well. An application for employment that includes authorization forms for background checks, including driving record checks is the second part of the initial paperwork that you should have before you hire someone. Checking the applicant’s references and driving record should be one of the first things you do to assess their potential for employment with your company.


2. Interviews – I recommend that the interview process is done in three steps…


Start with a phone interview with a few predetermined questions. You can find out a lot of great information about the applicant before you spend any more time on them by simple talking to them over the phone first. Two things that you will notice immediately with a phone interview are the punctuality of the applicant and how prepared they are. Do they answer right away or does it go to voicemail? You will be able to tell if they are driving (risky behavior?) or sitting in a quiet area. Ask questions to gauge their devotion to safety and how important it is to them as well as what their past experiences are.


If they pass the initial phone interview, schedule an in-person interview with the hiring manager and one of the potential crew leaders. Having two people in on each interview helps protect your company for any he said/she said arguments that may arise if an individual isn’t hired by your company.


The last interview should be an informal group interview where the applicant gets to meet some of the crew members that they would be working with to learn how their personalities will fit with your current team. The hiring manager and crew leader should not be present during this time so the applicant feels secure to be him or herself. The best way to facilitate this is to have the applicant drive out to a job site for a quick lunch with the crew. It is very obvious who will fit in with your culture and who will not during an informal interview like this.


3. Physical Testing – After the applicant passes each of the interviews, it is time to see if they have the physical skills and capabilities necessary to perform the job. This can include having them do a skills test for knot tying, chainsaw knowledge or a climbing test. Perhaps you want to see their tree ID skills or plant health care knowledge. A driving test with one of your larger trucks and trailers is also a great idea to complete at this stage of the hiring process. Lastly, have the applicant go into your local Occupational Health Clinic for a pre-employment physical or ergonomic assessment. This is imperative step to make sure you are not hiring a Work Comp claim!


One very important thing to note on pre-employment testing is that no matter what skills you test for, make sure they are directly related to the job they will be performing.


4. Post Hire On-Boarding – After the applicant has made it through all of the interviews and pre-employment testing, you must make sure the beginning of their employment goes smoothly. This is the time to establish a fantastic start to their career with your organization. Having a proper new employee training and on-boarding procedure is very important in giving that new team member the best attention right away.


If any of this seems overwhelming remember the goal is to hire the best person possible. I’m sure you have hired someone you shouldn’t have just because you needed another body on your team. Looking back at that, it is usually easy to see how you spent a lot more time and money on that person than you would have if you spent your time finding the right fit for your team. I guarantee you won’t regret starting to implement these best practices into your hiring process the next time you need to add someone.

Written by: Eric Petersen

Personality Testing for Employers

Personality Testing For Employers

How many times have you heard someone say, “I hire for personality not skills”? It’s a common theme amongst many owners and managers even in skilled labor industries like tree care world. So what does that mean and why are they doing it?


The simple response that you will hear is that skills can be taught, personality cannot. I agree with this thought process and want to give you an article devoted to figuring out what personalities you have currently and what type you’d like to build your team around.


Find the Right Tool – Just like using the proper sized saw for a removal job, the first step is to commit to using a tool to help identify key characteristics that you want to see in your team members. There are many personality tests on the market today, however, my favorite one is True Colors. True Colors is a simple personality test that helps highlight how individuals communicate and what they value most which in turn helps create a better team atmosphere within your organization.


I first was introduced to the True Colors system while attending a Leadership Workshop for the ISA a few years ago. All of the participants at the workshop took the short test and were split up into groups based on our colors. It was incredible to see how accurate the simple test was at identifying our core personalities. Throughout the workshop, we wore nametags that had our primary color listed. It helped all of us communicate much better and understand where the other party was coming from when discussing certain topics. Because I found it so powerful, I brought it back to the Wisconsin Arborist Association to do with our Board Members and internally for my team at my agency. Knowing how others communicate has been a tremendous help to accomplishing any of our goals.


Test Your Current Staff – Once you choose which tool you will use, have your current employees take the profile and discuss the results with each of them individually. What did you learn about your top performers? Are there common traits amongst the best within your team? What skills does your team lack as a whole? Learning from these tests will help you identify what type of person you want to hire next. It also can help you recognize if you have someone in the wrong role. Perhaps, one of your production climbers would be better suited as a sales person because of their personality. Or maybe the opposite, a person on the sales team would be better fit for technical work like consulting or plant health care. Understanding who you have on your team and how they interact with others is an enormous benefit to you as the leader of the organization.


Use with Interviewees – Lastly, when you are looking to bring in someone to your team, have them take the same test that the rest of the team has. Make sure that their personality will fit the position that they are applying for. Too often in the tree care industry, owner’s hire anybody with a pulse and a driver’s license. This will only do one thing; set up the business and new employee for future pain and trouble when personalities clash and internal issues arise that would have been prevented if they were never hired.


Getting the right person on your team is difficult to do, however, using personality tests can be a great tool for you. And because there always seems to be a shortage of potential employees, check out our article on the 5 Hiring Hotspots to get some ideas on how to start recruiting top notch talent.


Written by: Eric Petersen

5 Hiring Hot Spots

5 Hiring Hot Spots

Written by Eric Petersen, CIC


We all want to have the very best employees, yet the most common question that I get asked is, “where are these people?” So, in my never-ending quest to help the tree care industry advance, I want to share my top 5 hiring hot spots as well as two websites that provide a ton of information for you to use when recruiting your next new hire.


Military Veteran Groups – There are numerous non-profit groups that have been established to help Veterans re-enter the workforce. Vets typically have exemplary work ethics and a desire to accomplish the goals for your team. Ask around your local community to find the most active group in your area or look into one of these organizations;

Hire Heros USA
Recruit Military
Department of Labor

Local High Schools – While you won’t find a seasoned arborist still attending high school, engaging with the youth within your community will give you the best chance at hiring the next rising star within the industry. Your local high school probably has a career center or department that helps introduce industries and careers to the students. Reach out to those schools and develop a relationship so they know who you are and what type of career you can offer.

College Career Fairs – In my home state of Wisconsin, we are very fortunate to have multiple tech colleges and universities that offer programs in Urban Forestry and Arboriculture. These are gold mines for top notch employees, who upon graduating typically have a number of job offers right away. If you do not have a local college that has a specific degree within the tree care industry that is just fine, college graduates from other fields have been struggling with finding a profession they enjoy for decades. Being present gives you a chance to sell your company and the industry to them.

State Workforce Development Job Fairs – Every state has a Workforce Development Department who host job fairs for local employers. This can be a great place to pick up an unexpected employee. Plus as an added bonus, some states have programs available that will help pay for the training of an employee hired through one of these job fairs.

Create a Sector Partnership – This last hiring hot spot takes more time and coordination along with help from others to accomplish, but when implemented successfully, it can have a tremendous impact on your local tree care market. We are currently working on setting one of these up in the Milwaukee area where a number of local tree care companies are partnering with a local non-profit and technical colleges to structure a short term training and recruiting program to help provide more qualified, ready to work arborists in the area. If you are interested in getting one of these started in your area, ask TCIA for some guidance.


Before you begin to utilize any of my 5 hiring hot spots, you must be prepared to talk about your company and the industry when you meet a potential employee. If you haven’t checked out the TCIA’s Outside careers website yet, do so right away! This site is loaded with great content and videos explaining what your industry is all about and why someone should enter it.

Another fantastic resource is from ISA. Their Career Paths in Arboriculture shows all of the different possible career paths that an individual can take within this industry. Click on any of boxes to get an easy to read flyer on that position – perfect for handing out to prospective employees!

Legendary football coach, Don Shula, may have said it best: “The one thing that I know is that you win with good people.” So what are you waiting for? Create a plan to find these good people and go get them on your team!