Jaime Adams, director of HR at Baltimore’s Electric Motor Repair Company, on working closely with the service leaders to hire the next generation of techs with the perfect mix of personality and tech-savviness. From the forthcoming issue of Field Service, a quarterly print magazine from Field Service Digital and ServiceMax. Check out the next issue in early November 2016. 

Jaime Adams, Electric Motor Repair Company

Jaime Adams

There was a time when the household appliances most people now take for granted — toasters, irons and the like — were repaired, not replaced. When the Electric Motor Repair Company started in 1927, that’s what it did. But times change. Appliances get cheaper. And over the decades, the Baltimore-based company began servicing commercial kitchens and refrigeration systems. Today it has more than 100 technicians servicing 4,000 customers at schools, hospitals and restaurants throughout the Mid-Atlantic. Field Service Digital spoke with Jaime Adams, director of HR at Electric Motor Repair Company since 2008, on what she looks for when hiring technicians.

How often do you talk to the service side of the business to figure out what sorts of skills and people they need?

Jaime Adams: I try to meet with the managers as often as possible. Weekly I check in to see if they’re looking for people — most of our needs are for technicians. The hardest thing is finding people who are qualified. Out of 200 resumes I looked at today, I think I forwarded four.

Wow, why only four?

People apply with either no experience or experience in something totally unrelated. Every employee goes through a training program here, but we’re not able to just train people who are completely green.

Is that a challenge when trying to hire younger worker who are just starting out?

That’s definitely a challenge. It’s kind of like, my generation, we were always taught education, education, education, and trade was not important. People didn’t really want to get their hands dirty … People don’t realize that it’s great money. You work your way up and you learn a trade.

The hardest thing is finding people who are qualified. Out of 200 resumes I looked at today, I think I forwarded four.

We’ve tried to look into dealing with local trade schools to catch people who have an interest in that. But then the challenge we have with our managers is they want someone who can go right in the truck and start running calls, whereas kids coming right out of school need to be trained.

So you clearly look to hire people with experience, but do kids coming right out of school have a shot at being hired and learning the trade?

That has happened. It takes about two years. If we have the time, we’ll definitely take on an apprentice-type person. In that situation, you’re able to mold someone into the technician you’d like. We’re all about investing in our people.

Where generally do your new hires come from? What are your strategies for finding them?

One very successful way is word of mouth. We have a referral bonus program. We also use CareerBuilder and Indeed. I’ve often thought social media is a big thing — that’s our next endeavor to tap into, whether it’s pulling people in through Facebook somehow, or using LinkedIn. My only concern is whether people who are out there and interested in repairing stuff are the same people who are online and looking at LinkedIn.

What is a specific hiring challenge you have as you’re judging candidates?

When you’re reading resumes you see people’s qualifications, but you can’t get a feel for their personality. We’re very big on our culture here. We have a family-oriented culture. We go over our code of conduct and our service pledge. You could get the strongest technician and then you realize they’re not going to be the best at customer service. We want our technicians to not only fix equipment but to work well with people.

ABOUT Andrew Zaleski

Avatar photoAndrew Zaleski is a Philadelphia-based journalist who contributes regularly to Fortune and CNBC. He has also written for The Atlantic, Popular Science, Politico Magazine, Backchannel, and elsewhere. @ajzaleski