How to Hire the Right Recruiter for your HVAC-R or MEP Engineering Business

For any business, having a carefully selected team of management and sales executives that you can rely on is extremely important — especially so in a niche market like HVAC-R or Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing Engineering. As we discussed in our last post, hiring for these highly technical roles can be very difficult, even more so when your hiring efforts span multiple departments and skill sets. Soliciting the help of an experienced recruiter, familiar with your industry, can help you make the right hiring decision.


Hiring mistakes are costly. No firm wants to onboard and train an employee only to discover they are a poor fit and need to be terminated. Hiring the right recruiter for your business can help prevent these expensive mistakes.

But, not all recruitment firms are created equal. Finding the best fit for your needs takes proper preparation – starting with understanding the qualities you are looking for in a recruiter who can source talented HVAC-R and MEP candidates.

Oftentimes it’s recruiters who are accustomed to doing the evaluating, but in this post, we’re turning the tables. Anyone can do a quick google search to find a long list of recruiters willing to take on the task of finding your next hire, but finding the right recruiter for your business takes some thought and careful consideration.

So, when interviewing recruiters, how can you determine if they are the right fit for your company? Here are some of the best questions to ask a potential recruiter.

Industry Experience

Within highly specialized industries, like HVAC-R, Facilities Management, and Mechanical Engineering, or Building Automation, you need a recruiter who understands the niche and has the right relationships. First, in order to be credible with candidates, your recruiter needs to understand the technical aspects of the job – at least at a high level. For example, if your HVAC-R firm specializes in VRF, your recruiter needs to understand what that means and avoid bringing you management candidates who only have experience managing split-system maintenance programs.

Secondly, an effective recruiter needs to know the right people in your niche. That’s hard for a generalist recruiting firm to accomplish. On the other hand, a recruiter who has specialized in MEP for a decade or more is likely to know dozens or prospective candidates for your job. An experienced recruiter will also know other executives in your industry and can easily network to find out which candidates have good reputations.

Lastly, hiring an experienced recruiter who specializes in your niche will save you time. You will not need to bring them up-to-speed on industry terms or explain to them why certain candidates are not the right fit. You will also not need to explain which companies in your market are good places to hire people away from, or which companies to avoid. An experienced recruiter will already know and can actually help you learn more about the employment landscape in your industry.

Candidate Sourcing

When hiring a new recruiter, be sure to ask how they source the candidate that they present to you. An experienced and specialized recruiter will have an existing network of quality candidates to pull from. A recruiting generalist will not have the same network and will probably rely on advertising and job boards.

Let’s face it, anyone, recruiter or not, can post to a job board, post an ad on LinkedIn or use social media for outreach when searching for candidates. Those channels are cluttered with your competitors’ ads as well. And, frankly, the people you want to hire may not be seeing or responding to those ads – because they are not actively searching for a new job.

A specialized recruiter with years of experience in HVAC-R or MEP, will have access to an entirely different network of candidates and have the tools necessary to stand out from the crowd when soliciting candidates for a new position. How the recruiter builds his or her talent pool is crucial to finding the right candidates. When sourcing new candidates for a role, generalized recruitment firms have no choice but to rely on job boards to find candidates. But, a specialist who is dedicated to your niche will have spent many years building a network of talented candidates who they can reach with personalized emails promoting your position.

A specialist will go the extra mile to find quality candidates who are not actively looking for a new job but would be an excellent fit for your company. When interviewing recruiting firms ask for examples of how they have sourced candidates for similar roles in the past. How they answer that question should indicate a deep knowledge of the industry and a wide network of contacts. If they provide only a generic answer – without demonstrating specialized knowledge about how to find candidates in your niche – this is usually a red flag that they are simply going to run ads for you.


Success Rate in Placing Candidates

Numbers don’t lie. When deciding which recruitment firm to hire for your business, don’t be afraid to get down to the nitty-gritty by asking for the figures. Ask questions like “How many candidates have you placed in roles that have stayed with their new firm for over a year?” This question helps you determine the quality of candidates that will be presented to you and helps you assess the recruiter’s talent in finding people who not only have the skill set needed for the role but who also work well within their client’s company culture. A talented and dedicated recruiter weeds out job-hoppers.


When working with a recruiter, you want to be able to connect with them on a personal level and get a good vibe from your interaction. Remember, this person will provide the first impression that many candidates get from your firm. Since they are representing your firm in an intimate way, you’ll want to make sure that they make a good first impression. Your recruiter must be professional, easy to talk with, and knowledgeable about your industry.

Probe your recruiter to get a sense for how transparent and honest they are with you. Are they upfront about their fee expectations? Are they candid about how well they know your industry? If you get the sense that a particular recruiter is exaggerating, misrepresenting their experience, or hiding information, then move on. If you sense this, then your candidate will sense it as well. Don’t let an untrustworthy person represent your firm as a recruiter.


How responsive is the firm you are considering hiring? Does it take days for them to return a call or email? Then this isn’t the right firm for you. Timing is everything when it comes to hiring the right person, and sometimes you and your recruiter need to move fast to secure an in-demand candidate. If your recruitment firm is slow to respond this is often indicative of a firm that is understaffed, spread too thin, or not particularly focussed on your business. If the firm is not responsive to you, how fast are they getting back to candidates? You don’t want great candidates to sour on your company due to a lack of communication. You need to have a frank conversation with your recruiter about your expectations for accessibility and response time. If they are not meeting your expectations, look for a different recruiter.


The final, and possibly most important, item to consider when hiring a recruiter for your firm is reputation. You want a recruiter who is highly regarded in your niche. This will help ensure that you have a good business relationship and that your candidates get a good impression of your firm.

Ideally, ask your colleagues at other companies if they know your recruiter and what opinion they have. The feedback you get from your network is always the most candid and useful. But, failing that, ask your prospective recruiter for references – and check them. An experienced recruiter, who has worked in your niche, should be able to provide very strong references. Ask references how long they have worked with the recruiter. Long-term clients indicate an ability to create mutually beneficial business relationships.

Lastly, don’t forget to check online reviews. These should be predominantly positive. Don’t worry too much if there are one or two bad reviews. As they say, you can’t please everyone! But, do notice the overall theme in the comments and judge if it is positive or negative. If you see something in the reviews that concerns you, ask the recruiter about it. The more you talk with you recruiter candidates about all aspects of their jobs, the better selection you will make.

Finding the Right Recruiter

Hiring a recruiter is one of the most important business decisions you need to make when growing the business, building out your management team, or replacing a key employee. Your recruiter is directly responsible for bringing new talent, skills, and resources into your organization. A strong recruiter understands how to find the qualities in an individual that will make them a successful fit for a role, which in turn decreases your turnover rate, improves morale, and saves your company money in the long-term.

At, we’ve placed hundreds of candidates throughout our 15+ years in business. As specialists in HVAC-R, Facilities Management, Mechanical Engineering, Building Automation, and Energy Conservation Professionals, we are well respected in these industries and have built long-lasting relationships with both businesses and candidates over the years.