Company Goes In-Depth on Interview Process to Accurately Assess Candidates’ Compatibility

Radiant Plumbing uses a three-phase interview procedure to ensure a good fit — both for the prospective employee and the company

Company Goes In-Depth on Interview Process to Accurately Assess Candidates’ Compatibility

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When it comes to hiring technicians, Brad Casebier — CEO of Radiant Plumbing and Air Conditioning in Austin, Texas — relies on a general litmus test: Family compatibility.

“My wife, Sarah, and I decided that if we wouldn’t feel comfortable inviting a job candidate to dinner and spending an evening with our family, then it’s not someone we want to hire,” he says.

But how do employers determine that in an interview? While Casebier concedes it’s “tricky,” the company relies on a comprehensive and thorough interview process that helps determine potential employees’ compatibility with Radiant Plumbing’s culture. The process, which includes three interviews, reflects the company’s staunch stance against hiring people just to get a warm body into a truck, Casebier says.

“We have an incredible human resources team that serves as the conscience of the company,” he says. “We have six full-time recruiters that fully understand our culture.”

Michelle Heater, the company’s human resources and recruiting director, says 13,400 people applied for jobs at Radiant Plumbing in 2021 and only 171 of them were hired. That’s one hire for roughly every 78 applications.

“We’re very selective,” she says. “We want to make sure that the people we hire are a good fit — people who will be valuable team members, rather than just filling a position.”

Generally speaking, recruiters look for people with upbeat, positive and optimistic attitudes.

“You can quickly determine if people tend to naturally be upbeat,” Heater says. “We also look at their work history and ask questions that will indicate how they work with teams. We ask them questions like what kind of teams they’ve worked on, what challenges they faced while working with the people on those teams, and what were the biggest team accomplishments.”

Does Heater have a favorite question that tells her a lot about candidates?

“Not really,” she says. “It’s more about painting the whole picture, learning the story of where they’ve come from. Ultimately it’s all about being honest — letting them know that this is a family and it’s their career, so they need to be a good fit for us and we need to be a good fit for them.”

To conduct interviews that really get to the heart of the matter, Heater recommends a book called The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize and Cultivate the Three Essential Virtues, by Patrick Lencioni. The parable-based book recommends hiring people that are humble (they say “we” a lot instead of “I”, for instance), hungry (have good drive and energy and like to learn), and smart (both in terms of technical skills and people skills).

“All our recruiters have read the book,” Heater says. “It’s an easy read and provides good sample interview questions.”

Job candidates undergo three interviews, which Heater says enables recruiters to get a truer sense of people’s compatibility. The first one is a 15- to 20-minute screening interview by phone with a recruiter; the second one lasts about an hour, is done either in person or via a video call with a recruiter, and focuses on the candidate’s job history; and the third, conducted either in person or via a video call with the recruiter and a department manager, involves a deeper dive into the humble/hungry/smart criteria.

“Our interview process is a little longer than most,” Heater says. “But it helps a lot when you get to see a candidate a few times — see if they present the same way each time we meet them. We’re looking for some consistency.”

Sometimes candidates also do a service call ride-along with an experienced technician after the third interview, Heater says.

Overall, the system seems to work well. The company’s overall true retention rate (employees who stay longer than one year) was 72% in 2021. And regarding the 28% of people who left the company, Heater says most leave because of major life changes, not because they’re unhappy working at Radiant Plumbing.

“We’re not perfect,” she says. “But we’re always looking to increase that true retention rate.”

And keep finding employees that can visit the Casebiers for dinner.


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