Attention Job Seekers: Invest in the Long Game

Have you ever thought you nailed a job interview only to find you didn’t get the position? How could it be? You said all the right things, the interviewer seemed to love you, and you have all the correct certifications! The answer might be that the industry needs value, and if you have relied exclusively on your resume, then you may have failed to express what value you bring to the table.

As a highly-specialized construction firm, we are constantly seeking good talent. We are an electrical contractor that specializes in low voltage systems installations. Therefore, some certifications are required, and in some cases, other licensing is preferred. It is currently an employees’ market given the demand in our company’s geographies for the skilled trades, in conjunction with a growing shortage in supply of tradespeople. Combine this with the rising cost-of-living in these locations, the economics is fairly straightforward  – wages are rising, and the highest bidder wins.

But are you worth the investment?

Experience and credentials certainly help get an interview, but we have successfully shifted our focus to that of hiring for attitude. As the saying goes, we can train to the technical side of the business, but we cannot train a good attitude. We have experienced the challenges of trying to chase the wage rate or trying to get the most certified or licensed person we can find. In fact, during our branch’s first year, we hired 52 employees only to end up with a crew of 15 by the end of the year. Not only was employee turnover turbulence in the already challenging tasks of building new customer relationships and providing a quality product, but costs were extraordinary.


These were hiring decisions based exclusively on skill-sets and wages, and they were poor investments in our future. As an organization, we faced similar challenges in other branches, and we knew that something needed to change. So, in 2015 we launched a dedicated recruiting effort to hire strictly based on positive, proactive, leadership-minded attitudes…and it worked! We found people who were willing to start as helpers at entry-level wages, even if they had certifications. We found other people who had professional experience in other industries as managers, and who didn’t necessarily know our trade, but knew how to lead people.  We tracked their performance, provided feedback, sponsored training programs and licensing, and invested many resources into their technical and professional development.


As a result, turnover decreased dramatically, company culture became more cohesive and inviting, customer relationships have grown, and the quality of our product has improved. Likewise, many of these individuals have seen their careers prosper with the company as it has grown. Those who were most willing to invest their time and risk potentially losing-out on higher earnings elsewhere found that they were also the first in line for promotions and new opportunities as the company has evolved. We invested in them, and they invested in us. This is the long-game approach, and it is a win-win.

If you are asked the question in an interview – What is your value? Be very careful how you answer. Any response including wage expectations most likely does not answer the question. What do you bring to the company that we don’t already have? What do you add to the position that isn’t required, but might be preferred? How do you go above and beyond what is expected? How well do you lead people, and how well do you follow?  If you come prepared to answer these questions, honestly and openly, you are one step closer to landing a job. However, be prepared to follow through, as these are the answers which sway your potential employer’s decision.

As a skilled tradesperson in a high demand market, you have intrinsic value in your training alone. But, that value is only worth as much as your willingness to invest in your employer. Leveraging your credentials or switching employers for a small raise is short-sighted. It might pay better now, but your time is limited because you have commoditized yourself based on dollar value alone. Don’t sell yourself short. Be willing to invest in the long game, and that is the attitude that employers like us will recruit.