We need to hire.
That one sentence can fill many a shop owner or manager with dread. There is way too much to do when it comes to hiring, and you’re already busy enough as it is. You need to cobble together a want ad, put someone in charge of reviewing resumes, and start scheduling interviews. And the interviews! Everyone at your shop has enough work to do already. Do you really need to take time out of their day to make them chat with unqualified strangers?
Well, yes and no. There are some things you can do to make sure the strangers aren’t unqualified at all. Good recruiting tactics are a critical part of keeping your shop afloat, and they shouldn’t be painful to execute. Even better, they’ll help you avoid making a bad hire.
We pulled together seven recruiting tactics from the heavy-duty and white-collar industries to give you a good starting point.
1. Put that job description on the web
We’ve gotten after shop owners to create a website and keep it up to date. Usually we point out that it’s their internet storefront, and that ignoring it will turn away thousands of potential customers. Well, ignoring it will also turn away potential mechanics. Jay Goninen of Find a Wrench emphasizes that millennials in particular are looking for work online, and they’ll land on your website sooner rather than later. We’d like to expand that statement to millennials and Gen-Z, the oldest of whom are just getting into the workforce.
You can also put your job app up on sites like Indeed.com, Monster.com, and even Craigslist (yes, you can still find good opportunities and not just weird stuff on Craigslist). There are also spots like FindAWrench.com, which exists entirely to help mechanics and shops find each other.
We live in an internet-driven world. Your job opp needs to be on it.
2. Respond in a timely fashion
If you ask someone a question, you expect an answer. They might say yes, they might say no, they might roll their eyes or laugh in your face — but they’re going to do something. They aren’t just going to stand there and stare blankly before walking away.
Unfortunately, that’s what a lot of prospective employers in both the automotive world and the white-collar one do to those who apply for work. They may open the email and maybe look at the resume, but they either don’t respond in a timely fashion or they just don’t respond at all. What do you think goes on in the minds of techs who have just applied when they don’t hear a peep out of you for weeks? One, you don’t seem to have your stuff together. Two, you’re rude. Three, maybe you aren’t actually hiring. They will move on.
Don’t be that employer.
In a perfect world, you would respond to everyone who applied — it’s common courtesy. We do know that the world doesn’t always work that way, and that if you’re swamped in applications it’s difficult to respond to all of them.
We propose the following: Set up an email just for receiving resumes. You can type up a polite response and program the email to send it to anyone who applies for one of your jobs. Something like, “Thank you for your interest in Bob’s Shop! We’ll review your resume. If we think you’re a good fit, we’ll get in touch!”
That gives applicants a sense that they’ve been heard, and frees you from respond to everyone.
3. Always be hiring
We’re going to borrow a tactic from a lot of white-collar jobs and suggest you should always be hiring. You never know when business is going to boom, or when someone will get sick and/or leave. The last thing you want to do is be caught with tons of work, too few techs, and no way to get someone into the shop even on a part-time basis.
This means creating a hiring process and sticking to it. Keep an ad up on your website or a small sign out front. Maintain contact with promising prospects and keep a stack of approved resumes nearby that you can riffle through if you need to hire quickly.
4. Form partnerships with schools in the area
Is there a training school near you, or a college that offers training and certification? Make some friends over there; Auto Dealer Today talks about Penske going to the Universal Technical Institute and staffing up while there.
There are benefits to hiring interns or apprentices straight out of school. Most of them aren’t expecting a high rate of pay just yet, and you also have the opportunity to mold them into the kind of tech your shop needs. More than that, though, is the hiring funnel potential. Partnerships with schools often yield a steady number of applicants, or at least a go-to when you’re in a hiring crunch.
If you don’t have friends or colleagues among instructors or office staff, look into the school’s extracurricular activities. Many institutes hold job fairs or open houses, both good opportunities for you to show up with your shop’s information in hand.
5. Be willing to pay for certifications and additional education
We touched on this in our article about morale, but a willingness to finance the continued education of your techs will go a long way in attracting a quality workforce to your shop.
The knee-jerk reaction of too many shop owners is, “Why should I pay for that? They’re just going to take those skills somewhere else. Let them get certified on their own time.”
If you’re viewing your techs as just parts that earn money, you’re doing it wrong. Yes, they are your moneymakers, but they’re also your employees, and believe it or not, the vast majority of employees don’t want to job-hop. People like a sense of security. If you’ve provided a shop that gives them that security, odds are they’ll stick around even if they do score some new certifications.
When a tech gets a new certification, they can up their rate. That means they make more money. If you’re the one who paid for them to receive that training, they will be more inclined to stick around if they’re happy otherwise. That means you make more money. The more valuable their skill set, the more they can earn for themselves and you.
Still, we understand if you’re a little bit nervous about footing the bill either partially or in its entirety. You can protect your shop (and your wallet) by drawing up a simple agreement with the tech or techs in question. The terms of this agreement can vary, but consider paying for a portion of the bill upfront and then covering the rest of it a set amount of time later — say six months or a year. This covers the tech’s training and also ensures some period of future commitment.
6. Make your shop a cool place to work
Money is always part of the hiring equation. Note that we said part. In the Auto Industry Today article above, Lee Harkins of M5 Management Services says that the hyper-focus on earnings wrecks job ads. We’ll go a step further and say it attracts the wrong kind of applicant.
But to much of the population, a job is a lot more than just an income. If you’re spending at least 40 hours a week at a place, you want to be happy there. Many workers are willing to trade the high-end salary for coworkers they enjoy spending time with and the sense of ownership in the company. It works the same way for shop techs; if your crew gets along and you’ve got a friendly culture with plentiful snacks, coffee, and a process through which they can make their voices heard, they’ll have a bigger stake in your shop than a tech just in it for the cash.
When you’re looking at your shop culture and contemplating how to put your ad together, step out of your owner or manager’s shoes for a moment and put yourself in the place of the mechanic you want to hire. What do they want in their workplace?
Once you have that in mind, you know where you need to start when it comes to adjusting your shop climate or creating a great ad.
7. Think over pay plans and benefits
Of course, money is still important, and you want a system in place to ensure your techs get paid. You can read our piece addressing tech compensation here, but start revisiting your own pay rates and benefits as you get a hiring process in order.
That means providing paid time off and good health insurance. If one of your techs is hurt or sick, they need to be able to get to the doctor and take time off to recover without worrying about whether it’s going to plunge them into debt or cost them their job.
Along those same lines, while your techs spend a lot of time at your shop, they need a life outside of work. They have families, friends, and hobbies entirely separate from your shop. Acknowledging this and encouraging them to pursue those things — and giving them the time to do so — will go a long way in building their loyalty towards you.
No one likes hiring under duress. That’s why having a hiring process in place and knowing how to attract high-quality techs is a crucial part of cultivating a steady flow of applicants. By turning yourself into the kind of shop people want to work at and putting your want ads where techs are looking for them, you’ve already taken a step toward building a hiring funnel that will help you score good techs for years to come.