Steven Cesare, Ph.D.


A promising business owner from Colorado called me the other day to discuss his company’s anticipated staffing plans. While qualified Laborers, Foremen, and Irrigators are always in need, the business owner has wisely decided to hire a Maintenance Manager, thereby enabling him to assign operational work to that Department Head, consequently allowing the business owner to redirect his executive-level focus onto the organization’s internal systems, growth curve, and external value.

Seeking administrative confidence, the business owner asked if I had any recommended interview questions to address this upcoming job search. Building upon the 3-Legged Stool model presented during last week’s Tuesdays with Steve posting, here are the basic Maintenance Manager interview questions I routinely share with business owners.

1) Business Acumen

a) What is the formula to calculate Gross Margin?
b) When you look at a P&L, what are first three numbers you examine?
c) What is the desired Gross Margin percentage for Maintenance contract work?
d) What is your current Maintenance crews’ Hourly Average Wage?
e) What is the standard burden rate on all hourly Maintenance labor?
f) What is the current monthly Revenue Per Employee rate for your Maintenance crews?
g) Describe your experience in developing a Maintenance Department budget?
h) What are the three most significant controllable costs for a Maintenance Department?
i) What are your primary methods for filling current Maintenance Department staffing vacancies?
j) What are the three primary steps you routinely take to ensure that all Maintenance contract work is completed on time and within budget?

2) Technical Ability

a) What is the largest Maintenance portfolio you have managed and how did you add value to it?
b) Describe your approach to develop and implement an effective landscape Maintenance plan.
c) What does sustainable landscape Maintenance mean to you?
d) What five key components do you incorporate into your New Job Start Up protocol?
e) Tell me about the most recent time you identified and resolved a landscape Maintenance problem before it became urgent.
f) What are the top three current operational trends in the green industry that are aimed at improving landscape Maintenance effectiveness?
g) What are the top four items that customers always want from their Maintenance provider?
h) From 0-100, what is the expected level of job quality for a Maintenance job, without relying on any overtime labor?
i) What are the top five operational steps you take to build an effective safety culture?
j) In terms of Maintenance production rates, how many square feet does a 21” Toro mow in one hour?

3) Interpersonal Skill

a) How often do you communicate with your Maintenance clients to ensure contract retention?
b) What mode of communication do most Maintenance clients prefer?
c) Describe the process you take when reprimanding an employee?
d) Tell me about the last time you handled an irate Maintenance client.
e) What steps do you take to motivate your Maintenance employees to achieve business goals?
f) How do you instill the Company culture and core values to your Maintenance employees?
g) What steps do you take to build a cohesive, efficient Maintenance Department?
h) Tell me about the most recent example where you resolved a stressful interpersonal conflict.
i) What would you do if your top Foreman told you that if you do not give him a $4.00/hour pay raise today, he will leave the company and take seven employees and a large portion of his current Maintenance clients with him to his new employer?
j) Tell me about the most recent example when a client made a service request of your team that was not part of the original Maintenance contract, and how you handled it.

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Steve Cesare Ph.D.

has more than 25 years of Human Resources experience. Prior to joining The Harvest Group, Steve worked with Bemus Landscape, Jack in the Box, the County of San Diego, Citicorp, and NASA. Steve earned his Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Old Dominion University, and has authored 68 human resources journal articles. As a member of The Harvest Group, Steve’s areas of expertise include: staffing, legal compliance, wage and hour issues, training, and employee safety.  Read Steve's full bio.