How to Hire the Right Driverby Holly Plude - Published: 3/15/2017
There are an abundance of opportunities for drivers to secure a truck driving job in today’s occupational landscape. That means many companies are interviewing and hiring on a regular basis. Yet, hiring and training new staff is an expensive and time-consuming venture. With nearly 115,000 positions becoming available for drivers every year, it's crucial for hiring managers to understand what practices work and how to ensure that their hiring process goes as smoothly as possible.
July 27th: 3 Teens Dead, 1 Injured After Vehicle Slams Into Parked Semi Trailer
July 25th: More Details Emerge In Deadly Smuggling Operation, Truck Driver Could Face Death Penalty
July 23rd: Trucker Arrested After Botched Smuggling Attempt Leaves 9 Dead and Several in Critical Condition
One might wonder how you can make sure you are hiring the right driver. Here are some practical tips to guide you along the way.
Use Current Drivers During the Interview Process
Traditionally, human resources handle the bulk of hiring for companies. And no doubt, they can field out many unqualified candidates. But there is more to the lifestyle of holding a trucking job than just a clean driving record and respectable references. You also need to make sure your candidate is a good fit for the job and the company. The best way to determine if a driver is qualified to, drive, is by having another driver as part of the interview. Human resources can ask all the right questions, but if they have no practical experience they cannot talk the talk, as it were. A potential driver cannot easily bluff their way past a current driver.
More likely to find qualified drivers
Developing a sense of inclusion with current staff
Allows job candidates to have a practical look at day to day operations within the company
Keeping a driver off the road for a day can become costly
Utilize a Practical Skills Interview
Administrative jobs routinely have candidates take skills test to determine the level of knowledge on software, typing speed, filing know-how, etc. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to conclude the you can incorporate a practical skills test as part of your interview process.
Again, you will want someone who is an active truck driver to be part of this interview process. The current driver can cue in on any red flags, or other questionable skill.
You should have the practical skills test include tasks that your current drivers do daily. These may include:
- Accelerating through the gears
- Hooking up air lines
- Hooking/unhooking trailers and/or convertor dollies
- Backing up
Many recruiters within the transportation industry have seen more than their share of drivers who bluffed their way through an interview with HR. Just because someone could obtain a CDL in no way means they are a good driver or that they will be easy on your equipment. Utilizing this interview technique will cut down on hiring individuals who claim they are ready for a trucker job, but aren’t very good at it.
Weed out any candidates who have questionable driving skills
Again, taking a current driver off the road for the day can add up.
Also, you will want to make sure you are covered by your insurance company for this type of testing.
Use a Truck Driving Temp Agency
A successful way to hire a driver with minimal risk is using a temp agency. This allows you to use the driver in the position and determine if they are going to fit in with your company culture.
Opportunity to see the driver in action on the job without the cost of them being an employee.
Training costs money and training a temp is no less expensive. If you train the temp and three weeks in decided they do not work out, you will be out that money.
Have a Panel Interview
A panel interview consists of several current employees from various departments within the organization take part in the interview. A panel interview is not about the skills of the trucker but rather the fit into the company culture. During a panel interview, you can ascertain more about the candidate’s honesty, teamwork, work ethic, and self-confidence level.
The panel will more easily be able to ascertain the candidates fit into the corporate culture.
Cost of taking approximately two hours out of four to six employees day to conduct the interview.
Time in bringing the panel together.
What does a panel interview look like? Four to six individuals with a specific transportation company are handpicked to take part.Ideally, a panel will select employees who can reflect the culture you want to maintain within the company. Perhaps individuals from the marketing department can be present to explain the goals of the specific transportation fleet, and any driver trainers can sit in to explain diligence and consistency on the job.
Specific rules must be in place for the panel and well communicated. A printed or electronic guide to panel interviews should be sent to each panel member at least one week in advance. The guide should include the driver’s resume, notes from the initial telephone interview and/or skills assessment, a list of questions that may be asked and a list of questions that may not be asked, and a scoring template.
The panel may not unanimously agree about the candidate, therefore having a scoring template will be a way to determine the overreaching opinion of the panel. Using a score of 1 to 5, each panel member evaluates the candidate on several categories, as pre-determined by the team.
The panel should meet approximately 15 minutes prior to the actual interview and determine who will lead the panel, who will keep the panel on time, and who will ask which questions. (In some situations, a company will find that letting the interviewee know about a panel interview beforehand is a wise decision.)
The leader of the panel should introduce the panel members and explain the process to ensue. The interview then can proceed. The designated note taker should be diligent about capturing not only the candidate’s words but also their body language and mannerisms. If a question is posed towards a driver involving their level of comfort interacting with customers and they seem to sink in their seat or divert eye contact, it is possible that this particular driver has little experience in the arena of one-on-one conversations or feels inept in their public speaking skills.
Following the completion of the panel interview, the leader should let the candidate know what the next steps are and then escort them out. The panel will then reconvene and compare notes and discuss the candidate’s qualifications, and provide an overreaching decision on whether or not to hire.
Does this seem like a lot of work for a truck driver? Well, it depends on what the driver does for you. If your drivers have a high amount of customer interaction, this can be a useful way to determine a fit for the job. If drivers at a company primarily bump docks, then this might be a bit of overkill.
The Actual Interview Process
The actual interview process can be daunting. Everyone has pat answers for questions such as “What is your biggest strength? What is your greatest weakness?” So, how do you go about asking questions that will draw out the real person sitting across from you?
Questions to Ask
If money were no object, where would you live?
The purpose of this question isn’t to find out their dreams, it is to see how they think on their feet. Also, you can peek into their inner self.
Present them with hypothetical situations. For example, “If you knew a co-worker called in sick to work, but you saw on Facebook that they went to a concert the night before out-of-town and they had no intention of being back until the next day, what would you do with that knowledge?”There are several aspects of this question that will help reveal the candidate’s inner self to you. First, you could ascertain if they are willing to lie for a co-worker. Second, you could see if they would do something similar themselves. Third, you could see if they are attracted to drama or quickly putting others down to make themselves look better.
What job do you want to be doing in three years?
Their answer will allow you to know if they are going to be a job hopper. But also, you can see if they want to grow into a leadership role. However, some folks will simply reply “driving,” meaning that they are looking for consistency in their jobs.
Questions You Cannot Ask
There are quite a few questions you legally cannot ask a job candidate. These include (but are not limited to):
- What is your birthplace?
- What is your native language?
- How long have you lived in the United States?
- What religion are you affiliated with?
- Which religious holidays do you observe?
- How old are you/ What is your birth date?
- How many years do you have until retirement?
- Are you married?
- Do you have children? Do you plan on becoming pregnant?
- Do you smoke, drink alcohol or take recreational drugs?
- What is your height/weight?
- Do you have any handicaps for disabilities?
- What operations or major illnesses have you had?
There are several formulas to successfully fill an open trucker job within a fleet. Don’t leave the matter to chance though. Be proactive and find the formula that works best for your company. After determining what that formula is, document it, but never become complacent. A company should continue to find ways to improve and hone their recruiting process until they are able to hire the right candidates each time!