We are about to start searching for a highly skilled finisher. We already have a finishing department up and running, with good colleagues, nice equipment, plenty of space, air conditioning - we are a nice place to work.
• For the Northeast, what can I expect to pay for a skilled finisher? I like to pay top scale to keep my good people once they are hired.
• Are the best finishers interested in a high end production type environment, or do they tend to want to work in their own shops?
• What kind of interview would you recommend to weed out the duds?
From contributor C:
From what I can see you do very nice work. You definitely need a journeyman technician, someone very skilled in both application and coating technology. Sounds like you're looking for someone who is also a high production finisher, maybe a colorist and a quality control person. Depending on what all of his duties would be, you can usually get someone for between 45,000 to 52,000 if you really want someone first class. Less if their job outline is less, like just being a line finisher. Master finishers will be more and few and far between. Many of the masters do want to work in their own shops, and on just those items they know they can make look like a million dollars - super high end. Although that does not mean they can not do that work in a custom production style - a master can fill all needs in all finish environments. But I see nothing you're doing that warrants someone like that.
What I feel works best is a WI - Working Interview. Everyone nowadays has a pretty decent resume when applying for positions like this, with listed skill levels and accomplishments. You may get taken in by some who do not really have as much experience as they have put on paper. A working interview gives you the chance to see for yourself where their skill level is. It's the only kind I do anymore. I line up a half dozen finish board samples and ask them to reproduce those finishes and note how long it takes and how well they accomplish this. Then I give them pieces to spray and watch how they handle the gun and their results. I continue with pieces that are clear coats, paint and glaze, bleached, toned, fauxed, and anything else I want a finisher to be able to do for me, and then spend the last day in a sit down meeting and go over other areas of concern. I watch his interaction with others and also get feedback from my workers on his personality and skill level and if he is a good fit for the company.
Usually plan on giving a good candidate a week at least to perform these tasks with minimum pay and of course expenses. You will also be responsible for airfare and accommodations if choosing someone outside your area and any other hospitalities you deem fitting - car, meals, etc. In this way you will find the best overall candidate for your company and spend less time doing so than by doing dozens of interviews and having future disappointments in performance after hiring someone that seemed to know what he was talking about.
Contributor G, you and I posted at almost the same time. The finisher would be part of our crew, on our payroll, and eligible for all of our benefits, including health insurance, vacation days, and pension plan. If he or she knows something we don't, we're glad to learn, and vice versa. The right person may end up leading the department. Thanks for your questions.
Has anyone hired or used a finisher from automotive, and do you think they would work? They would have the skill, just maybe not the wood product and process.
I also think contributor C's 45-52,000 is low for the list of qualifications he posted.
As an aside... I also think anybody who gets a job working for the questioner is lucky indeed. From his posts in the Business and Management Forum, he sounds a top level employer. His finishers are among the few employees I know of who post in this forum.
The true art of finishing is not as necessary as it once was. Even in Grand Rapids the head carver for Baker, upon retiring in the late 80's, was only making 12.00 per hour and he was the finest carver I ever knew. Yet that was where his home and family were and the benefits were good, so he spent most of his adult life working there. With finishing in the state it is now, those who have been in the business for a long time just might become a real commodity in the near future and maybe receive our just desserts, for the time and efforts we have applied in learning every area of our craft.
Is this person going to make color design decisions? Is this finish a wiping stain or a dye stain, or both? Is this sample a spray glaze or a wiping glaze? Is this person going to be making your stains? The backs are in these cabinets. Will the spray stain only work, or would a wiping stain work better for getting into the corners? Does this person know what finishes to use in certain situations? Should I coat these stair treads with pre-cat lacquer or should I use a polyurethane? The cherry kitchen is blotchy! What can I do to eliminate this before I start the job? These are decisions that have to be made and can be the difference between being profitable and being profitable before getting sued for inferior work. If your cross trained person or auto paint guy can't answer these questions, then you need to hire a master finisher or wait for your cross trained employee to get about 12 to 20 years of experience to even begin to understand what it's all about.
My experience in owning a wood finishing company is to hire good sprayers. I make all the color design decisions on my own, based on structure design and wood species. I then make the coatings decision on wear and tear. The dye stain or dye stain wipe stain combinations are made on sample boards with finishing schedules. Finishing schedules are needle position, air flow rate, fan position, and the number of passes pertaining to dye stain application. I make the original formula into yields based off of the size of the job. I chose after 20 years of finishing for companies to open my own shop. It's been very rewarding and I enjoy it a lot more now, even when there are problems.