How to Hire a Painter

Man on ladder painting house.

To everything there is a season and location is everything. They may be clichés, but they’re also true, especially when it comes to hiring a painter. Depending on where you conduct business, ventilation considerations and weather can determine what kind of work gets done, and when. Season and location are also likely to impact when and how to hire a painter. To complicate matters, the construction market is boom or bust (as any contractor knows).

As with many categories of skilled hourly workers, even when things are slow, reliable painters are scarce. Whether you’re looking for someone to manage a crew or a reliable pro to round out your team, chances are you need someone good and you need them yesterday. Following best practices when learning to hire a painter should yield better results in the form of employees who are more productive and stay longer.

Your game plan for hiring a painter should include the fundamental elements of construction sector hiring: a strong job description, probing interview questions, and careful background checks. Other strategies will vary based on whether you’re looking for a site manager or a crew member.

Either way, the following steps should give you a better picture of your applicants:

  1. Craft an effective job description to attract qualified candidates
  2. Don’t forget to also draft a paper job application
  3. Ask revealing interview questions
  4. Check references of top candidates
  5. Be creative and expand your outreach efforts

1. Post a Job Description That Will Catch an Applicant’s Eye

A solid job description for a painter can weed out the weakest applicants and attract top talent in your community, but it requires some prep work. Begin with two to three sentences describing your business and explaining why this is the perfect opportunity for a skilled pro.

Do you have a highly professional workforce and a great reputation? A wide variety of settings from retail to industrial to residential? Will every day on the job present a new opportunity to learn more about the craft? Whatever makes your company stand out needs to be front and center.

Next, describe the duties the job requires and the skills necessary to do it well. Perhaps you’re open to someone new to the trade, as long as they’re hard-working and reliable. If you’re looking for a crew chief, proficiency in both English and Spanish, along with the ability to get along with a wide range of clients, might be desirable. Other soft skills might include an eye for detail and the ability to follow complex instructions.

Include a pay range and benefits. Since hourly rates for union or non-union painters vary by region, you may want to use a fee-based wage tool or Monster’s free salary tool. List benefits such as health insurance, paid sick leave, the latest safety equipment, and opportunities for overtime. End with a call to action, encouraging applicants to apply.

2. Use Your Description to Create an Application

As you strategize how to hire a painter, keep in mind that job applicants may not have a resume, so you’ll need to draft a paper or online application form. Read your job description, select the skills and attributes that are most important to you, and use those to create sections of the application form.

The application should include “yes” or “no” questions, such as whether they have a driver’s license or high school diploma, as well as questions aimed at assessing experience level and skills. You might ask whether they have worked as a professional painter before and in what settings. End it by requesting references, ranging from former clients and coworkers to their most recent supervisor.

3. Ask Direct and Open-Ended Interview Questions

To assess candidates’ range of experience and knowledge of the trade, use behavioral questions that ask what steps the applicant would take to accomplish a task. For example, you might ask how they would obtain information when they run into a technical situation they’ve never handled before.

To assess their experience, you might describe a scenario—for example, a certain size room with certain moisture conditions—and then ask what they would do to paint it.

If you are interviewing for a manager or crew chief position, you might ask how they balance multiple projects with competing deadlines, or how to detect the presence of lead paint and how to deal with it safely. Ask about their management style. How do they manage client expectations or get their coworkers to comply with safety rules?

4. Dig Below the Surface: Reference Checks

The final step in considering how to hire a painter who shows up on time and is ready to work is checking references. You need to make sure they’ll fit in with (and enhance) your existing crew. The answers you get from references should match what the candidate has said about their experience and training.

The first few questions should be easy and open-ended, aimed at building rapport. For example, how do they know the candidate? In what capacity did they work together? What was that working relationship like? How does the candidate handle unexpected challenges?

Toward the end of the reference check, ask why the candidate left or is leaving their current work situation, as well as whether they would ever want to work with this candidate again. Be on the lookout for vague answers as these could indicate an area where the reference does not feel comfortable praising the applicant.

You need to hire a reliable worker who can be trusted in your client’s homes or businesses. So, this final phase of the employment process may be the most important of all.

5. Still Looking? Broaden Your Applicant Pool

In the boom-or-bust world of commercial and residential construction, even a well-crafted job ad may not be enough to attract the best applicants. This is when you may need to challenge your ideas about how to hire a painter. For example, you can attract more job candidates by stating in your job listing that minority and women applicants are encouraged to apply. As a bonus, research indicates that including women on construction teams increases workplace safety.

When local labor markets are tight, word of mouth can be a great recruitment tool. Contact technical schools and ask about recent graduates. Ask your top performers if they know anyone looking for work and offer an incentive if their referred candidate works out.

The Finishing Touch: One Last Tool for Finding the Right Painter for Your Team

Now that you know how to hire a painter, it’s time to dig in and get to work. Sell the next prized addition to your team on why yours is the job they want to apply to and the crew they want to join with a free job posting.