Guide to the HVAC Technician Interview – Questions & Answers

Connect With HVAC Schools

Even as the Covid-19 pandemic recedes, its effects on the heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) industry are likely to linger for a long time to come. Years of rolling lockdowns and remote work have altered the public perception of home, and comfort is much less a luxury and more a necessity. People are increasingly modernizing their home HVAC systems for better livability, and rising energy prices and climate concerns have brought renewed interest in HVAC systems’ energy efficiency.

“Owners of small HVAC businesses are having a difficult time finding and recruiting qualified, well-experienced, licensed technicians and installers to handle the influx of work they have attained in recent years,” says Brian Sullivan, assistant professor in the Refrigeration/Air Conditioning/Heating Department at the New England Institute of Technology.

There simply aren’t enough HVAC technicians to meet the current demand for their services. Despite having more than 290,000 HVAC technicians in the US, there are still approximately 110,000 unfilled HVAC technician jobs. The problem is exacerbated by demographics: more HVAC technicians are retiring than entering the workforce, leading to a decline of approximately 8 percent of the HVAC workforce per year. Some experts estimate that within five years there will be nearly two jobs available for every HVAC technician.

“Heating, refrigeration, and air conditioning companies are now contacting colleges and technical high schools more than ever that offer HVAC courses to recruit students who may be future technicians,” Sullivan says. “Many companies are also offering additional education and training for the right candidate for a future career in the HVAC industry.”

But a fruitful employer-employee relationship requires more than simply pairing a willing HVAC technician with an available HVAC job. A technician’s personality, expertise, and experience have to match an HVAC business’s goals, needs, and customer base. If matched correctly, business owners can retain top HVAC talent that stays with their company for years; if done poorly, a business can lose both HVAC talent and clients. The same stakes apply to new and aspiring HVAC technicians, as being hired by the right business can mean advancing one’s education as much as their career.

The matching process between an HVAC technician and an HVAC business is critical for all concerned—and it starts during the HVAC technician interview. Read on to learn more about how to prepare for the interview as an HVAC technician and business owner.

How to Prepare for the HVAC Technician Interview

“The candidate should research the company, review the job description, and understand the job’s responsibilities, such as residential vs. commercial work or cooling vs heating,” says Kathleen Dohoney, a career services advisor at the New England Institute of Technology. “Background information via the company website or social media platforms gives the applicant the opportunity to prepare for an informative discussion.”

While the candidate should be studying up on the company with which they’re interviewing, the company should also be doing the same with the candidate. This may take the form of background checks (motor vehicle reports, drug tests, employment history) to ensure the candidate is capable and trustworthy.

HVAC technician interview questions typically fall into the categories of performance questions, behavioral questions, and educational questions.

The Three Most Important Questions in the HVAC Technician Interview

Sullivan and Dohoney have identified the following three questions as particularly important in the HVAC technician interview:

1. What is an area in HVAC that you feel you do well?

While it seems like a simple question, this helps an owner or hiring manager determine whether the candidate has the experience necessary to fulfill the job requirements.

HVAC may be a single acronym, but it’s remarkably wide as a field: an expert technician who does residential heating well is not necessarily the right fit for a business specializing in commercial cooling, for example. But by the same token, a new HVAC graduate with little experience with a knack for commercial cooling could be a great hire.

2. Tell me about a time you did something that did not work. What happened, and how did you go about fixing it?

How someone handles error is a defining characteristic. Something will always go wrong, and an owner or hiring manager will want to know how an HVAC technician will troubleshoot a solution and complete the task at hand.

Honesty is important throughout an HVAC interview, but it’s especially important in a question like this: those who can’t admit fault are waving a big red flag that they will be difficult to work with and lead to potential conflicts with customers later on.

3. What type of customer experience do you have?

HVAC is a complex and technical field that mixes science, technology, and formulae. But it’s also an industry of small to medium-sized businesses that are taking care of a human customer base. Customer relations and customer education are critical components of an HVAC business, and owners or hiring managers will need to be confident that a new technician can handle this side of the business, too.

“The owner or hiring manager needs to be confident that the applicant has the appropriate customer service skills to ensure all clients are treated fairly and respectfully,” Sullivan says. “The applicant should have the ability to answer technical questions in a manner that the customer can understand.”

Performance Questions in the HVAC Technician Interview

The first questions on the HVAC technician interview are likely to be performance-based questions. These questions will help an interviewer determine whether the interviewee can perform the job’s tasks: a driver’s license for a job that requires driving, for example. These questions will also fill in the non-documented parts of an HVAC technician’s personality and experience.

Typical performance-based questions in the HVAC technician interview include:

  1. What makes you a good fit for this job?
  2. Why did you leave your previous job?
  3. Are you comfortable working in a physically challenging environment?
  4. Can you tell me about your experiences working in a team?
  5. What motivates you to work in HVAC?

Behavioral Questions in the HVAC Technician Interview

Behavioral questions are meant to judge how an HVAC technician will act in different scenarios. These scenarios can be either technical or personal in nature. Business owners and hiring managers are looking to learn how an HVAC technician will practice their education and training with customers and colleagues.

HVAC technicians will often need to enter people’s homes and are entrusted with a high degree of liability. These behavioral questions can be a way of moving past rehearsed answers.

Typical behavioral questions in the HVAC technician interview include:

  1. What are some of the most common safety violations you see in HVAC installation or repair, and how do you address them?
  2. Can you tell me about a situation where you’ve sacrificed speed for safety?
  3. How would you respond to a customer who asked you about the environmental impact of their HVAC systems?
  4. Can you tell me about a situation where you turned an angry customer into a satisfied one?
  5. Tell me about a time you did something that did not work. What happened, and how did you go about fixing it?

Educational Questions in the HVAC Technician Interview

The educational questions are likely to be the place that recent graduates and new HVAC technicians feel most comfortable. These questions are designed to test an HVAC technician’s education and knowledge of the systems and processes with which they’ll work.

While a new HVAC technician may be eager to demonstrate just how much they know, it’s best to keep things short and informative. Brevity shows confidence. Furthermore, a business owner or hiring manager will want to understand how a technician would answer a customer’s questions.

Typical educational questions in the HVAC technician interview include:

  1. What do the acronyms AHU, BTU, and VAV stand for?
  2. What are the ways in which heat can be lost or gained?
  3. How does a heat pump differ from an air conditioning unit, and what additional components must be added for an air conditioner to function as a heat pump?
  4. What brands are you comfortable working with?
  5. How do you stay up to date with developments in the HVAC industry?

Questions to Ask Business Owners in the HVAC Technician Interview

At the end of an interview, often, the business owner or hiring manager will allow the HVAC technician to ask questions. This is a chance both to learn more about the position as well as demonstrate an understanding of the HVAC field itself. Both Sullivan and Dohoney identify the following questions as particularly helpful:

  1. Would I be assisting on service calls and installations or working independently?
  2. What tools or equipment would I be required to bring to the job, and what types of PPE should I have with me?
  3. May I tour the installation shop, the service shop, the office, or the service vehicles?

HVAC technicians can also use this section of the interview to reveal more about their interests and ambitions. Asking detailed questions about how a company utilizes mobile tech, cloud applications, and/or energy-efficient systems could be a way of differentiating oneself both in the interview and within the business as a whole.

Final Notes for the HVAC Technician Interview

Each interview is different, and the questions and answers should change each time. HVAC technicians should also update their resumes and tailor them to each company. The extra time spent by the technician is extra time saved by the person interviewing them and will be appreciated.

“Don’t enter information into an online job board and then print it out,” Dohoney says. “This is confusing and contains irrelevant information. The resume should be tailored to the HVAC industry, including licenses, training, and certifications.”

Sullivan and Dohoney both comment on the importance of professionalism and setting a positive tone for the interview. For new HVAC technicians, this means dressing neatly, showing up to the interview up to 15 minutes early, keeping one’s phone on silent, and not speaking negatively about past employers or coworkers.

“Stress the importance of being on time and that you understand the service industry is not always an 8-5 workday,” Sullivan says. “There may be times when overtime will be needed to complete the job.”

It is possible to both rigorously prepare for a job interview and to be honest and candid in that interview. HVAC technicians should strive for such a balance, as should their potential employers. As much as HVAC technicians are applying to do a job, they’re also applying to work with a company of other people, and personality and respect go a long way.

“Begin and end the interview with a firm handshake and thank the owner/hiring manager for their time and the opportunity to join their company,” says Sullivan.

Matt Zbrog

Matt Zbrog is a writer and researcher from Southern California. He's been living abroad since 2016. Long spells in Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, and Latin America have made the global mindset a core tenet of his perspective. From conceptual art in Los Angeles, to NGO work on the front lines of Eastern Ukraine, to counterculture protests in the Southern Caucasus, Matt's writing subjects are all over the map, and so is he.

Related posts

hvac-project-manager-240x240

November 01, 2022

The title of HVAC project manager can mean different things depending on the hiring party. In most cases, an HVAC project manager is someone with...(more)

scholarships-200x200

October 21, 2022

Various apprenticeships and trade, technical, and degree programs offer training. Not surprisingly, completing an accredited HVAC program can make it easier to find lucrative employment,...(more)