How to hire great people to do really hard work – an interview with Max Maher (ep 63)

Show notes from Sweaty Startup Podcast episode 63.

An interview with Max Maher! The first episode with Max (ep 44) was a huge success and has been the most popular episode so far on the show. He has hired hundreds of labor employees in the past so on this episode we talk about how to find good people to do really hard work.


Its a numbers game. He needs hundreds of applicants to hire a handful of quality people.

He utilizes Indeed, Craigslist and in-person recruiting to get these applicants. The quality is generally low on Indeed and Craigslist but that doesn’t mean it can’t work you just have to look hard for the good candidates.

In person recruiting has been huge for Max. His strategy is to either stand in high traffic areas like outside of gyms or to hand out business cards while going about his every day life. Restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations etc.

The great thing about this is that the first meeting is sort of like an undercover interview because you can get a good feel for their personality and attitude.

Hire for personality and train for skill. Hiring people with only experience in your industry really limits your candidate pool and you end up having to hire subpar people. And personality and their people skills is the important part of what makes a good employee.

Max prefers to hire inexperienced people and groom them with tight training procedures vs hiring only experienced people. You can’t teach someone to be a nice person.

Approaching someone in person can be awkward. You just have to do whatever it takes and make it happen. The easiest way to do it is not put the pressure on them. Instead of asking them if they are looking for a job say “Do you know anyone looking for a job?” That takes the pressure off and strikes their interest if they are indeed looking for a new opportunity. They’ll sometimes even begin to sell themselves on the job.

Don’t be afraid to ask someone who already has a job. They may be comfortable where they’re at but if a new opportunity arises they might just jump at that.

Max has 30 movers at his largest location. He has 9 crews. The best guys tend to stick around. The lower level guys end up turning over quickly.

He recently documented an effort he did to hire 6 movers. He got 140 applicants. 40 showed up for interviews. Made 6 hires. Its a numbers game!

He was able to choose the stand outs! The cost per hire was north of $100 before training.

Getting people to show up to interviews is tough. Sometimes 80% wouldn’t show up. He found that having them call and schedule a time increased people showing up by 2x. The first time he ever did interviews he had 13 scheduled and only 2 showed up. It blew his mind! Office positions 70% of people show up.

How do you organize the interview?

He goes off of general guidelines and it is not structured. He tries to have a general conversation. At the end of the interview he asks himself the following question on each candidate:

  • Is this someone who I’d be fine with having a beer with? THE BEER TEST
  • Would I trust them in my home?
  • Would I trust them around my family?

Those questions automatically weed out anyone who isn’t excellent. The ones that are on the fence hardly ever work out and they become problems and headaches.

What traits do you look for?

People who have hobbies are generally more passionate and interesting and they make good employees. Generally being outgoing and friendly is helpful but sometimes people who are shy can be good too!

What advice would you give on training?

Sit down and write out a step by step process as if you were trying to get a 7 year old to do it. Max has a 2 hour training video system that his employees watch. From there they do a few hours of hands on training on wrapping furniture. Then he’d put them on an experienced crew for 2 weeks getting feedback all the time.

Explaining WHY is important when telling someone to do something. They retain it better and it clicks better with them.

He constantly evaluates the employees. Getting feedback from crew leaders and also calling customers directly to get reports on how things went can teach you a lot!

How can you trust your quality control?

Keep an eye on it from the beginning and stop letting things slip. On the job checkups. Surprise checks on crews. Balance it in the right way and give a lot of compliments as well!

How do you retain employees? Is it about compensation?

He thinks it starts with hiring. Only hiring “non-ass holes” makes a big difference. It makes everyone have more fun and they enjoy each other’s company. Respect your employees! If you can do this pay doesn’t matter as much but Max still tries to pay above the average wage to get top applicants.

Max agrees with Nick’s point that you should train employees to answer their own questions but also thinks having an open line of communication is critical. Not necessarily telling them what to do but why to do it!

When an employee doesn’t show what do you do?

He had a no call no show this morning. His first step is always why did it happen? Don’t make any conclusions until you know the reasoning and have spoken to the employee.

Nick remembers texting employees the night before work and it was a miserable work environment for employees and management not scheduling out far enough. The better you can communicate the easier it is for everyone!

How do you deal with inconsistent schedules and unreliable work in the early days?

It’s all about convincing them to join your mission and get behind growing the company. You have to sell them and keep them excited in the early days so it’s a lot about the relationship you build with those employees.

Any parting thoughts?

It’s all about hiring great people. It’s not about the skills. Its about the personality and the quality of the individual! Its a level playing field and your competitors are up against the same thing. Nick adds that a sales and marketing approach to attracting great people to work for your company is a must. Doing the things that are hard to scale and your competitors aren’t doing to find quality people!

You can find Max on his YouTube Channel!

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About Me

I started the Sweaty Startup in December of 2018 because I believe the Shark Tank and Tech Crunch culture is ruining the real spirit of low-risk entrepreneurship.