Hiring right takes time and effort and provides the key to success. At GCA Services Group, Inc., we’ve developed procedures to make the hiring process both efficient and effective.

While there are general requirements that cover the basics of any grounds-related position, GCA prefers to create a job description that meets the objectives of the specific position. When we advertise for the position, we put out an overview of it to include the essential functions of the job. For those responding to that with a serious inquiry, we supply the complete description.

If GCA is preparing to bid on a new project, we start the process of selecting a grounds manager for that position. We could move all the way through the interview process, but would not hire the individual without locking in the contract. Some clients will ask that the grounds manager be identified as a prerequisite to awarding a contract; other clients ask all those bidding to submit a typical job description for that position.

Starting the process

  • We work closely with our human resources department. They provide great support and keep us updated on legal requirements and company policies as related to the interview and hiring processes.
  • Much of our work is with school districts and universities, and we do have to conduct pre-employment drug testing and background checks on everyone. We make this known prior to the interview. If a person doesn’t want to submit to it, they can stop the process at that point with no questions asked.
  • GCA does believe in promoting from within. Even if an assistant grounds manager is not 100 percent ready to become a manager, if we think we can help get them to that point, we will give them the opportunity. We do have managers in place who have proven their ability to train assistants to step up to the next level. If we find a candidate that has the potential to advance, we might place them as an assistant with one of those managers to groom them for the next level.
  • In a perfect world, we would hire a manager first and have them take part in the hiring process, including the interview, for the other positions. We want them to learn the GCA hiring procedures and be able to conduct their own interviews effectively. If we have not yet selected a grounds manager, or if we’re starting a new project or contract, the GCA director or assistant director of grounds management will interview the candidates for all of the positions.
  • The grounds manager is responsible for all aspects of managing their account, including the supervision of their staff. Like most companies, GCA has a 90-day introductory period in which the employee is evaluated for continued employment. The grounds manager has the authority to exercise that option.


  • We review the resumes, and those that don’t match the job description are filed for future reference, as some may be qualified for a similar position at the same level, or for a different position.
  • While reviewing resumes, we look closely at the candidate’s education level, field of study, work history, job responsibilities and outside interests. Other things to consider are format, chronological flow and errors or misspellings. We believe those types of things speak to the candidate’s attention to detail and preparation. At some point we will also get a list of references from the candidate.

Interview process

  • We expect the candidates to dress for the job for which they are interviewing. Promptness is critical, arriving even one minute late sets a bad precedent. During the interview, we observe body language, as there’s a difference between being nervous and being ill at ease or unable to sit still and concentrate. Eye contact is important.
  • Some questions are open-ended, enabling the candidate to express themselves. We look at both the content of the information they provide and the thought process used to deliver that information. We evaluate their communication skills as well, gauging their ability to be clear and concise in their answers.
  • Some questions are designed to provoke more thought than others, and the goal is to see how the candidate responds to potentially challenging situations that they will inevitably encounter on the job. This also provides some insight into the candidate’s ability to make factual decisions rather than emotional decisions.
  • We also give the candidate an open forum to ask any questions about the company, the facility and performance expectations.
  • If we have the opportunity, there is also a tour of the facility. Ideally, that would include the athletic fields and other areas of the grounds under the management contract. When a site visit is not possible, a walk-through of the lawn and landscape area of any other property should provide some questions related to the plants or equipment operation that will reveal additional information. We look as much for the analytical process as the correct answer.
  • We conduct the preliminary interview by phone if necessary to narrow the field of qualified applicants for a position, but we don’t hire someone on that alone. We require at least one in-person interview.
  • After the interviews are completed, the interviewer will compare the information about each candidate and make a preliminary determination on who to hire. Generally, another individual within our organization will also review the data. If the two decisions differ, determining factors will be discussed. The final decision will be made by the GCA grounds manager for that facility, and grounds manager position selections will be made by the director or assistant director of grounds management. After a decision has been reached, all candidates are notified accordingly.

George Bernardon, CSFM, is director of grounds management for GCA Services, Inc.