Hiring a Rookie Could Offer a Fresh Perspective for Design Firms

Hiring a Rookie Could Offer a Fresh Perspective for Design Firms

Just because someone is new to the kitchen and bath industry doesn't mean design firms should count that person out as a potential employee.

In fact, whether the "newness" comes by virtue of either his/her age or from the fact that he/she is crossing over from another industry, a rookie's inexperience could be an employer's blessing, says Auren Hoffman, chairman of the Stonebrick Group in San Francisco, CA.

Speaking at a seminar at the recent K/BIS in Orlando, FL, Hoffman contends that the benefits of hiring a person with no experience in the kitchen and bath industry has several benefits. That person, Hoffman says, offers a design firm "high potential, high energy and a high work ethic," since he/she would generally be eager to make a mark and, therefore, be willing to put in the time it takes to master the craft.

"Rookies present a 'just-give-me-a-chance' mentality," he adds.

That mentality allows employers to mold an employee into what they need because that employee would not be coming in with preconceived ideas, he explains.

To that end, maintains Hoffman, "rookies see things differently," and can offer up a brilliant idea or two based on their fresh perspective on a new industry. "Sometimes you need to bring fresh eyes to look at process in order to change it," he says.

While training a rookie could be costly since he/she may need more management and greater guidance, the upside is that, overall, a design firm could spend less on a rookie than someone with experience.

"Rookies are less expensive. Their wages are lower. Generally, they will work longer hours. Recruiting costs are lower," says Hoffman. The key is to make finding rookies who are self-reliant and fast-learners a priority in order to keep training costs down, he adds.

Hiring a rookie who is part of Generation X or Y could also be very helpful in terms of technology, Hoffman points out. "The newest rookies grew up on the Internet. They are techno-philes," he says.

Hoffman suggests that design firms could take advantage of these techno-philes and use their skills to help them employ technology and software that could not only streamline their operations, but also give them a competitive edge.


Hoffman suggests that if a design firm does want to take on a rookie, it should do so one at a time, depending on the size of the firm. "For example, if you have 20 employees or fewer, then one at a time should be enough," he advises.

He offers several tips on recruiting and hiring rookies as well as other potential employees:

  • Establish a rigorous interview process. Present rookies, especially fresh-out-of-school rookies, with case studies to determine what they would do in certain work-related situations. Give them a specific problem and ask them how they would solve it to facilitate brainstorming and gain insight into the way they think. Additionally, ask them to do a sales presentation to see if they understand your firm's approach. And, lastly, be sure to challenge them, and ask them why. This will allow you to see if they would fit into your firm, says Hoffman.
  • Set up background checks. A background check that involves not only checking references and past job experiences, but also checking credit history and for a criminal history could guard your firm against misinformation on a resumé and avoid potential problems, explains Hoffman.
  • Try before you buy. Offer a rookie a temporary assignment or an internship position to ascertain his/her work ethic before you hire him/her full-time. Other suggestions include assigning a mentor within your firm to the rookie, and providing required reading and tests to gauge a rookie's progress.

Hoffman further suggests offering incentives for rookies perks they can achieve if they reach the level you need them to reach. He cites offering them more responsibility and creating a mentoring opportunity for them as incentive examples. "If you spend the time and train them right, you could hire another rookie for them to train," notes Hoffman.