As part of the recent Ag to Asphalt Day, five human resources specialists from member-companies in the Asphalt Pavement Association of Indiana answered questions from high school students while volunteer crews paved the parking lot at the Indiana FFA Leadership Center. The center benefited from the new parking lot, which it badly needed but couldn’t afford. Students benefited from tips offered by people with years of experience hiring new employees every day. Companies in the asphalt industry benefited from exposure to an untapped audience of quality future workers. Call it a triple win!
The take-away message for would-be employees is likely the same message farmers pass along to people wanting to work on their farms. They’re after quality individuals they can trust. If people will work hard and are trustworthy, they can be trained for whatever the job entails.
Here are six points the pavement industry employers shared when explaining what they look for in prospective employees:
1. You must be willing to work hard. “It’s a lot of hard work in the asphalt industry, no matter what your job is,” said Dennis Hanna, director of human resources for Rieth-Riley Construction Co. Inc. “If you want to work hard, there are jobs in our industry.”
Jobs range from union labor jobs paying $17.50 to $35 per hour plus overtime on weekends to jobs in accounting and quality control to lab technician positions, he says. Somewhat like farming, it’s seasonal, with typically eight to nine months of work followed by a winter break. Many people take unemployment during the off-season. Money paid by companies typically covers health-care benefits for the entire year.
2. Hire for attitude; train for skill. “This is the most ethical organization I have ever been around,” Hanna said. “If you have the right work ethic, we can train you to do the job you need to do.”
3. It’s personality that matters. Randall Walls, director of human resources for Walsh & Kelly, agreed. “We’re looking for personality when we interview people,” he said. “We can teach someone willing to learn anything. The real questions is if you have the type of personality to fit in as a team player in the culture you will work in.”
4. Do you appreciate stability and respect others? “We’re in a very stable industry,” said Chuck Siegel, in human resources for E&B Paving. “We compete against each other for projects, but we respect each other at the same time. We look for possible employees who will fit well into that kind of environment.5
5. Develop a firm handshake. A firm handshake — really? “It’s all part of evaluating someone’s attitude,” Hanna said. “When we go to a college job fair, for example, we may have three minutes to evaluate someone, and the person has three minutes to sell themselves to us. It determines whether their resume goes in the tall stack of those we won’t pursue or the shorter stack of the people we want to talk to again.”
6. Look prospective employers in the eye. “It says a lot if you can look me in the eye and not be wandering off into the distance,” Hanna said. “It also means a lot if you’ve done your homework and know things about my company. It speaks volumes about your attitude and tells me that you are interested.”