Why Are You Hiring Your Competitors’ Trash – by Gannon Mahaffay

If you hire experienced people, you are really hiring your competitors’ trash. I know, you don’t believe me, but I can prove it. Every pest control business owner wants to hire the perfectly qualified person for whatever job is open, which typically means the candidate has done the job before, for someone else – the competition. When you hire the so called “perfect person” from the competition, you are hiring their thrown out trash. Here’s why. Let’s say you just lost your service manager, so you are in need of his replacement. You are looking for someone who has previous service management experience. someone who has ran routes before. Somebody who understands how to properly use chemical & equipment and how to train and motivate technicians, right? It seems perfectly logical. But in reality, this is a recipe for disaster!


This strategy is a disaster because you’re making an incorrect assumption, that your competitor will let a truly great service manager leave. Imagine this: Jennifer is your 10-year experienced office manager. She is truly an exceptional employee. The office would probably fall apart without Jennifer. One day, Jennifer walks into your office and says,


I love working here. You are the best boss I could ever ask for. I always figured I would retire from here. I don’t want you to take this as a shake down, but ABCD pest control company offered me a job for $2.00 more per hour. Normally, I would have said no, but my boy is sick, and we really need the money. I just wanted to say thanks for everything you have done and let you know I will be leaving in two weeks.


What would you do? Most people would pay Jennifer $2.00 more per hour rather that have their office fall apart. You lose a lot if Jennifer go’s away. You lose 10 years of experience and competence. You lose 10 years of training. You lose Jennifer’s relationships with staff, clients and vendors. So, what do you do? This is an obvious answer. You hang on to Jennifer for dear life! Guess what, so would your competitors! You’re crazy if you believe the person you are interviewing is one of these great employees. The fact that the employee is sitting in front of you means that the “please don’t leave, Jennifer…” conversation did not happen with their boss. So most likely, you are talking to someone that your competitor did not try to keep… (their trash, plain and simple).


I realize there are exceptions to my story. Everyone has had one: a failed business owner, a competitor going out of business, a competitor’s cash flow issues that wouldn’t allow a raise, etc. I will take all of the truly indispensable employees I can get from my competitors’ bad luck or bad choices. However, these circumstances are the exception, not the rule. Pretending these rare circumstances will repeat over and over is not a good plan.  

Ninja Kick

Are you using your gut instinct to hire because you have faith in yourself, or because you are being lazy?  I will give you the benefit of the doubt and say it is because of the confidence you have in your instincts.  You can trust your gut but trust your testing methods more.

 There is an old saying: Every employee looks like a movie star on paper.  Many potential employees are much better at putting on a show during the interview than they are at performing their job.  As far as I can tell, the ability to super-size or fluff up a resume and talk well during an interview has little to do with future job performance.

  There is an exception I can live with though… It makes sense to go outside the company for a high-level person of specific talent, like a branch manager, particularly if your company is growing fast.  Fast growth may exceed a company’s ability to cultivate talent from within, which creates a need to buy talent. However, if you buy talent you better be willing to pay well, or you will surely be hiring trash!  You should stick to the hire aptitude plan for entry level people.


Situational Example:

Mario had an awful time hiring quality technicians. He could only pay around $12 an hour and remain profitable, and therefore he was forced to play from a workforce with marginal skills. Eventually Mario realized that hiring people with experience was simply hiring the trash of his competitors. Instead, Mario focused on hiring people with aptitude for the technician positions and then teaching them the specifics of the job. Mario used an aptitude test specifically designed for technicians. He also did this for his inspectors and office personnel as well and they had their own specifically designed tests.  Mario now says that his staff is the best ever, and because he can hire fewer experienced people at the entry level, Mario’s average wage per employee is $1.47 per hour less than before adopting this strategy.

Action Solution:

I firmly believe that you should completely give up on the hope of hiring industry experienced people and start with inexperienced, high aptitude employees instead. Once you have identified the high aptitude people, train them to handle the specifics of the pest control industry. Aptitude is discovered by testing, so stop using your gut to hire. It is not the best way to go and is usually inaccurate when it comes to hiring.

Every business, not just the pest-control business has positions where pre-employment testing could result in better hires, but the appropriate personnel at many businesses do not even realize the abundance of testing mechanisms that already exist. I’m consistently hearing the complaint that someone is sloppy or not detail oriented, but this issue can easily be avoided by giving a secretarial skills test to every applicant. This test very rarely will give you a false positive because a sloppy person simply cannot pass the test. So, bad candidates never qualify for the position and you never have an employee who makes a mess of things. Personality profiling, like DISC or Myers-Briggs, can help you weed out people who would have a difficult time succeeding in certain positions. Also, don’t forget to drug test the candidates you want to hire. Drug-free employees tend to be much more trustworthy and dependable. If you cannot find a ready-made aptitude test, create one yourself. Think of the skills and traits needed to perform well on the job and create a test.


Here are some examples of the types of tests that you might consider deploying:

  • Detail oriented: DISC or secretarial skills test… Great for all candidates.
  • Salesmanship: there are a wide variety of test to measure sales ability. Obviously for your inspectors and inside sales teams. These test range in cost from $10-$250 each.
  • Customer service abilities: customer service online tests. For everyone.
  • Computer skills: online testing services that test general skills or specific program skills. Good for office and management positions.
  • Assembly skill: this would be a mechanical aptitude test. These tests are good for technicians.


2nd Ninja Kick

I frequently ask pest control business owners, how many of your best employees did you steal from the competition? The answer is almost always none. The bottom line is that most, if not all, of your superstars came from the tried and true method of the cream of the rising to the top. Hard-working people with high degrees of aptitude rise to the top. Hire these people, not your competitors’ trash, and then train the daylights out of them so the cream can rise even faster. The cream of your current employees probably rose in spite of your lack of training. Imagine how fast cream can rise with good training.



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