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Interviewing an Employer #63126
03/07/06 07:55 PM
03/07/06 07:55 PM
BigJohn  Offline OP
Joined: Mar 2004
Posts: 391
Boston, MA
I'm moving to New Mexico in a couple of months, and I'll be looking for work out there. I'm tired of working for jack-leg electrical contractors, so I've come up with a list of things I intend to ask during the interview, which I'm hoping will give me a better idea of what a company is like and what their priorities are.

The questions concerning safety
  • What is your policy on working equipment hot? AND Is it a problem that I do not do hot work?
  • Do you have a lock-out/tag-out program?
  • Do you have hard-hats and safety-glasses?
  • Do you have hot-gloves?
  • (Assuming service work)-Do you pay for travel time?
  • Do you have a 401k?
  • How many people are in your company?
  • What's the ratio of journey-men to apprentices/helpers?
  • Do you generally use more PVC or EMT?
  • Do you have a prefered method for trimming-out receptacles?
  • Does each service-truck/journeyman have a code-book?
  • If mounting a disconnect for a residential heat-pump, how would you like to see the wires brought into that disconnect?
The reasoning behind some of these questions should be pretty obvious. I think how a company answers the questions concerning safety will tell me a lot about how much they value their workers.

Some of these questions are sort of neutral: "How do you trim-out receptacles?" While I don't see any problem at all with daisy-chaining receptacles, I personally believe that pig-tailing is a better quality install. If the company says they prefer pig-tailing, that suggests they might be willing to take more time to ensure a higher level of quality.

EMT VS. PVC, same thing. While PVC definitely works, I believe EMT/RMC is generally the better install.

The answer I'm looking for concering the exterior disconnects: At a minimum, put a nipple on the back of the disco. to protect the NM-B from water were it exits the exterior wall. Then pack duct-seal around the nipple to seal the hole in the wall, and/or run a heavy bead of silicone on the back of the disconnect to prevent water from getting into the hole. This type of question tells me how much the contractor cares about the details of the install and parts that aren't strictly "electrical."

While I'd welcome any input, I'd especially like to hear from those of you who run your own company: If you had someone ask you these types of questions, how would you react?

Do you think I expect too much of an employer? Is it realistic that I will find people who agree with a lot of these principles?

What important questions do you think I'm forgetting?

I'd appreciate some input.


[This message has been edited by BigJohn (edited 03-07-2006).]

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Re: Interviewing an Employer #63127
03/07/06 08:16 PM
03/07/06 08:16 PM
mahlere  Offline
Joined: Nov 2005
Posts: 507
New Jersey
Big John, I applaud you for looking for a good contractor to work for. Here are some questions you should ask of yourself (or a good employer should ask of you)

Service Related
1) Are you willing to handle emergency calls after hours and on weekends?
2) Do you write thorough invoices - including all material and labor used on a job.
3) Are your invoices legible - so the girl in the office doesn't spend 10 min/inv trying to figure out what you wrote
4) Are you computer literate?
5) Can you improvise? or do you only know one way to install things.

1) How much are you worth?
2) How much do you have to generate to cover your salary, overhead and make a profit
(For this last question, figure that labor -including burden- should be no more than 30% of gross sales. Material should be approx 15%)

(IE- you are worth $25/hr, burden is approx 18%, so your total cost is $25*1.18=$29.50/hr. You should generate $98.33/hr min.)

Are you willing to work hard enough on a new install to generate that money?

3) How do you feel about call backs due to a technicians mistake? should the tech get full hourly pay to redo something?

4) What special skills do you bring? Can you work with EMT? upto what size? CDL?

5) Are you willing to come in for 4-8 hrs/month on your time for in shop training?

There are a ton of questions for both sides. I think you are heading in the right direction. Just realize that it is a two way street. Give to get. A good employer understands that.

I will admit that a pet peeve of mine is the code book. I have met too few technicians that actually look in the code book, let alone understand it, to warrant us buying one for each truck. I prefer the technicians purchase their own handbook. What I provide is the unlimited teaching via phone and in the field (Tech support you might say)

I do agree with the Hot, LO/TO questions though. In 95% of the cases, the power can be shut down without any problems. The other 5% should be done by trained technicians.

Hope this helps a little

Re: Interviewing an Employer #63128
03/07/06 08:27 PM
03/07/06 08:27 PM
resqcapt19  Offline
Joined: Nov 2000
Posts: 2,148
5) Are you willing to come in for 4-8 hrs/month on your time for in shop training?

If the employer would require that, I think that you would have a federal labor law violation.

Re: Interviewing an Employer #63129
03/07/06 09:26 PM
03/07/06 09:26 PM
e57  Offline
Joined: May 2003
Posts: 2,876
Don, I think that is ditto on this one too...
3) How do you feel about call backs due to a technicians mistake? should the tech get full hourly pay to redo something?

That one would have to be negotiated along with the profit sharing plan... Otherwise its a cut in hourly wage at the descretion of the employer. Hearing that for the first time would be the last you hear from me. Not that I make a lot of mistakes, it's part of the cost of doing buiisiness, not a penalty out of my morgage payments.

Anyway, BigJohn,
I asked simular questions of my new employer for the same reasons. Employment is a relationship like any other. You wouldn't marry the first girl you met would you? So the answer is, no, I don't think it is too much to ask. You need to find that relationship thats right for you.

However, I would caution about how to phrase some of the questions, as not to sound like a premidonna. (I'll admit that I'm a little bit of one.) I would make the workmanship questions into statements about quality, and your commitment to it. And judge thier reaction to them, rather than putting someone who hasn't been in the field in ages about something he/she hasn't done in some time. Thats who'll prohably be interviewing you anyway...

Last time I looked for a job, (4 months ago) I used a new method of screening who I even applied to. And I think it worked well, you might want to try it out...

  • Find the largest GC's in the area, and ask who does their work...
  • Find out who is doing the highest end/high dollar projects, and ask who does their work...
  • Check associations, and manufacturers for contractor listings in the area. (Many of the fly by nighters would be too lazy to get involved...)
  • Check the license board for violations against anyone before you send a resume. (I found companies with expired licenses, and no workmens comp. with ads in the paper...)

Those type of things will let you know who is on the upper-end of the food chain - so to speak.

Happy hunting....

Mark Heller
"Well - I oughta....." -Jackie Gleason
Re: Interviewing an Employer #63130
03/07/06 09:47 PM
03/07/06 09:47 PM
mahlere  Offline
Joined: Nov 2005
Posts: 507
New Jersey
not trying to get into labor laws, they vary too much from state to state.

the shop training wouldn't have to be mandatory. our's isn't. but would you take the opportunity to learn more on your own time? or would you require someone to pay you? this goes a long way to showing a potential employer how serious you are about your career and getting better at it.

As for call backs, wouldn't that mess up be a "penalty to the companies mortgage payment"
In general, most contractors are not able to get paid for call backs. We all eat them though. If you have an employee that has a bunch of call backs, what do you do? Fire them? That's the easy answer.

The point of my response is that it is a two way street.

Re: Interviewing an Employer #63131
03/07/06 09:54 PM
03/07/06 09:54 PM
renosteinke  Offline
Cat Servant
Joined: Jan 2005
Posts: 5,316
Blue Collar Country
The army has a saying that applies here:

"Time spent on reconnaisance is seldom wasted."

Before you "drop & run," I strongly suggest you make a visit there. Plan on at least a week. During that week you should be able to get an idea of the "lay of the land;" that is, the sort of work available, local practices that may differ from what you are accustomed to, who the local players are, etc.

When you first arrive (to stay), your first steps should be to aquire local credentials, get copies of local codes and PoCo rules, and the like. If you can qualify for a contractors' license- get one! Even if you do not plan on opening your own shop, it will show you're serious.
If you're a union member- well, that's what Union hall is there for. If you're not, you'll have to find out who the other contractors are.
Your best bet will be to spend a "busy season" working for a large contractor. While there, your co-workers will be a fountain of information as to other jobs, other contractors- and what their plans are when the seasonal layoffs begin. The "layoff time" is an opportune time to link up with one of the better outfits...and your rep during the busy season will go before you!
(Two of the best outfits I've worked for called me -unsolicited- after I was laid off for the season. While both were fully legit -one had a bond limit right up there with Donald Trump- both were small shops that were neither members of trade groups, nor were they in the phone book).

Good luck, and good hunting!

Re: Interviewing an Employer #63132
03/07/06 10:12 PM
03/07/06 10:12 PM
Surfinsparky  Offline
Joined: Jul 2005
Posts: 73
merritt island fl usa
I never get to turn the power off.To tell you the truth I am geting pretty sick of it too.Of course I work for a hospital.When I am working for myself I de-energize things much more frequently.Not paying a guy for "manadatory traing" is b.s.If you offer shop training as a benefit not a requirement that is totally different.My thoughts on call backs is sometimes poo poo happens.I am sure most employers can tell there good electricians from there bad ones.Big John take a quick look at some of the employee's and see if they appear happy.That will be a good indication for ya or you could try one of staffing companies to get a fell for some of the contractors.Good Luck

Re: Interviewing an Employer #63133
03/09/06 08:25 AM
03/09/06 08:25 AM
MikeK3145  Offline
Joined: Sep 2005
Posts: 39
Plainfield, Il
"Unpaid" and "voluntary" can run into some gray areas of the law. Where it becomes a problem is if an employment decision is based on attendance at those "voluntary" meetings. Six months from now business slows down and the company needs to lay someone off. "You know Joe Smith? That guy never comes to training meetings. I'm not sure he's serious about learning his trade. Maybe we ought to let him go." Or Joe, Bill, and Steve are let go (just because their mediocre electricians). They get to talking and they realize that none of them attended those "voluntary" training classes (which is rather likely). Then Bill remembers an ad he saw on late night TV about lawyers who help people. All of a sudden the company is spending ten grand trying to prove that Joe, Bill, and Steve were just lousy electricians.

My gut reaction is that any time you have hourly employees you need to pay them for every hour worked, even if it's just a meeting. It is a two way street and "good" employees will want to learn more about their craft even if their not getting paid. But it does show that the employer is serious about training.

Re: Interviewing an Employer #63134
03/09/06 08:48 AM
03/09/06 08:48 AM
mahlere  Offline
Joined: Nov 2005
Posts: 507
New Jersey
I agree with you Mike. My point was actually quite simple, it just became convoluded in my post. If you want to work for a good employer who gives you the things that you want (good pay, benefits, 401k, etc) what are you going to bring to the table and give the employer?

Remember, no employer out there (i don't care how big) can afford to give you anything. Everything they do give you is based on what you generate for them. Without you generating revenue, they can't pay their bills. Simple as that.

Employers can only give you a chance to earn those items that you want. Simply a conduit.

And as for lawyers, you can be sued for anything. Simple fact is, if we have voluntary training every week. Five guys come, 5 guys don't.

The five that come, presumably will become better at what they do for us. (sales, installations, troubleshooting, learn new techniques, code review, learn Data, etc)

The 5 that don't continue doing what they are doing, and not learning anything new. They move to the bottom of the ladder.

And yes, if we slow down, they may be the first to go. Not because they didn't show up to the training, but because they are becoming obsolete in the industry.

Now, if one of those 5 go to a different training source and continues to grow, he's not going anywhere. He's continuing to make himself valuable to me. I don't care if he comes to the shop training or not.

So, it's not about the employee giving anything. It's about the employee bettering himself to help the company grow. To offer more opportunities to the employee. It's a full circle.

If i am a 2-3 man shop, I might not be able to afford to pay everyone to come in for a couple of hours a month. But if they come in and I can teach them new things. We can get into new niches and grow the company. Then they will have more opportunities within the company (management, etc) And eventually, we can probably get to a fully paid in-house apprenticeship.

But I can tell you this - the union apprenticeship requires shooling several nights a week. The apprentices are not paid for it.

How does a company go from a 1 man shop to a 100 man shop? By finding employees who can see the vision, have the qualifications needed and understand that they are going to be a big part of the larger company. So they give to get. They help the company grow.

That's all i'm getting at.

Re: Interviewing an Employer #63135
03/09/06 09:54 AM
03/09/06 09:54 AM
Trumpy  Offline

Joined: Jul 2002
Posts: 8,260
SI,New Zealand
Hang on a second John.
Most of the interviews I've been to, ask what can you offer the company, not what can the company offer you.

In every company, expect to start down the ladder. [Linked Image]

[This message has been edited by Trumpy (edited 03-09-2006).]

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