Friday 23 February 2007

How we recruit our handymen

A customer e-mailed me the other day, asking how we recruited our handymen. I ended up writing quite a detailed response, which I thought might be worth sharing here, so here you go:

From: James Baker
Sent: 22 February 2007 12:54
To: 'Bruce Greig'

Hi Bruce,

We use your services a lot for our clients and I wanted to say a huge thanks for the level of service you provide – we particularly like your new website and blog. It is very refreshing to use a company who are prompt, efficient and professional. I was at a client’s the other day and it was very interesting to see one of your guys work – I was very impressed. It made me curious though as I watched to understand how you recruit your handyman – after all you are not seeking a specialist but how do you find someone who is capable all round and how do you actually check they can do what they say (do you advertise for them – what backgrounds are they from, etc) – do they have a practical test? It is a question which many of our clients want to know – I think they want to feel reassured by the level of competency.

Please keep up the great level of service - look forward to hearing your comments.

Kind regards


James Baker
your life uk Ltd

From: Bruce Greig []
Sent: 22 February 2007 18:03
To: 'James Baker'
Subject: RE:


Most of our applications arrive speculatively, after people have downloaded the app form off the website. We sometimes advertise on Gumtree, but only very rarely. Applicants go through a process as follows: application form, interview (with some practical tests), trial day, probation period. About 90% of applicants fail the application form / interview stage. About 50% of trial dayees get offered a job, and after that we nearly always keep them. It is rare to lose someone during their probation period, we usually have got it right by then. So overall, we reject about 95% of applicants, so you can be confident the remaining 5% are pretty good.

Not sure which handyman you saw, but lots of our guys are retired / semi-retired professionals. We have a surveyor, an RAF pilot, a couple of policeman, an ex-Army chopper pilot (joining soon), an aeronautical engineer, a KPMG consultant, etc. We rarely hire people with a specialist "trade" experience, we find they don't really fit in with our culture and lack the communication skills / problem-solving ability which we value very highly.

Who was the client where you saw our handyman? I'd like to pass your feedback on to the handyman who was there, if I may.

Regards, Bruce Greig
Managing Director
0800handyman - Professional Handyman Service
T: 0800HANDYMAN (0800 426 396)

From: James Baker
Sent: 23 February 2007 08:49
To: 'Bruce Greig'
Subject: RE:

Hi Bruce

Many thanks for your response.

It is interesting and encouraging to understand that you have such a thorough process. I am still curious though – are the people you employ just good DIY’s – ie – when you do a plumbing or electrical job – have they had previous experience – do you give them training – how do you know they are competent in that area. As you said many of the backgrounds like the police, etc is not somewhere they would have learnt the skill. I really like the idea though that their communication skills are a priority. The other question a lot of clients often ask me is what are you allowed to do for plumbing and electrical work – what do the regs allow you to do.

The handyman I met I think was Robert – South African



From: Bruce Greig []
Sent: 23 February 2007 14:44
To: 'James Baker'
Subject: RE:


Yes, most of our applicants' experience is "DIY" in that they have a lifetime of rebuilding their own homes a few times over, doing work for their friends and family, etc., but those that we employ I would describe as more than "just good DIYers". We need them to be excellent handymen, simple as that, that is what we look for. We know they are excellent handymen by the end of the application process, especially the trial day. Even if we can't test every skill in one day, we can tell a lot from the tasks we do set them, how they handle the tools, how they approach the task, how they talk about what they are doing, and so on. And of course we also see how they relate to the customer, to the handyman assessing them, to the guys in the office when they show up for the trial, how they talk about their hopes and aspirations for the job, why they want the job, etc. etc.

Regarding training: we do a "masterclass" at our monthly staff meeting, where another handyman will present on a particular task or subject or tool that they are expert on, or where they have recently learned something new, and pass this on to the rest of the team.

Regarding plumbing and electrics: well, they are just part of the skill-set we look for. There is nothing intrinsically more difficult about fitting a tap vs, say, changing a sash cord. Householders are more wary of these areas because (I suppose) they perceive the consequences of a mistake to be more costly / severe than the consequences of a mistake in other areas. But you don't have to be a specialist plumber to know enough about plumbing to expertly replace a tap, or service a WC. You do need to be a specialist plumber to design and install a central heating system; or to service a boiler; or to work with gas. But those are not tasks we do, for that reason.

Ditto electrics: you need a good understanding of electrics to change a light fitting on a loop-in circuit, but you don't need to be a specialist electrician. You do need to be a specialist electrician to understand and diagnose an intermittent fault; or to select and install the correct gauge of cable to supply a new cooker.

Regarding regulations, we fortunately live in a very lightly-regulated country, possibly the most lightly regulated country in the developed world (contrary to what you might think from reading the Daily Mail or Torygraph), certainly much less so than the USA or mainland Europe. There are only really two areas of our work which are governed by specific regulations: Part P of the building regs, which places some restrictions on what electrical work a non-qualified electrician can undertake (basically, you can't do any new wiring unless you are accredited by the NICEIC; but replacing things -- lights, switches, fans, etc. -- is not covered at all by Part P. See below for more detail); and Gas Safety Regs which place a blanket ban on anyone working on gas unless they are CORGI registered. This is in complete contrast to the (supposed home of free-market enterprise) USA where most states would require you to have a plumbing/electrician licence to advertise your services as a plumber/electrician, and likewise with mainland Europe.



Part P: specifically lists a set of tasks, defined as "Minor Works" for which you do not need NICEIC accreditation. Main Minor Works are: replacing fittings (lights, switches, etc.); replacing a single circuit damaged by fire or rodents; adding a spur socket (except in kitchen). We actually set our own threshold well below that of Part P, mainly to make it really easy for our handymen and office staff to explain / understand what we can and can't do. So, we could (as far as Part P is concerned) add spur sockets in living areas, for example. But we choose not to, so that we can have a simple "no new wiring" policy: that is much easier for everyone to understand, explain, and adhere to than going through the whole Part P (which, even the Minor Works section, gets pretty complex). The full document is here if you are interested:


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