NEW ORLEANS-Sure. When you first meet them they'll tell you they know what they're doing; they'll always be on time; they're in it for the long haul. But give them a couple of weeks.
Maybe the last person you hired is the best service technician you've ever had. But maybe he doesn't know everything he said he knew; maybe he's a couple of hours late; maybe he's already quit.
Finding good employees has long been the bane of the independent tire dealer. But dealers can improve their chances of finding a good hire by knowing what questions can be asked-legally-to produce insightful answers, according to Bob Losyk, president and CEO of Innovative Training Solutions Inc.
Mr. Losyk, author of the book Managing a Changing Workforce: Achieving Outstanding Service with Today's Employees, conducted a two-part seminar on recruiting, interviewing and hiring employees during the recent National Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association convention in New Orleans.
``We keep hearing that there aren't enough good people out there,'' Mr. Losyk told dealers, ``but they are out there.''
The first step to finding good candidates is creating and implementing a consistent recruitment program similar to a dealership's consumer marketing campaign, he said. Continually advertising for new employees through cable television, newspaper classifieds, on-counter signs or business cards can create a list of prospects even before new employees are needed.
Looking for people outside the industry who have good attitudes and work ethics-salespeople from other fields, for instance-also can help build the recruitment pool.
``Think about why they would want to work for you. Many of you are not letting the world know why you are a good place to work,'' Mr. Losyk said. ``List five things that make you a great place to work and put that in your advertising.''
Surveys suggest today's under-30 work force is interested in a good compensation package, quality of work life, quality of home life and a sense of achievement, he said.
``We need to educate young people to let them know this is an industry that we can make a good living in,'' he said.
Once a marketing campaign is in place, dealers must ensure their employees are accepting job inquiries in a friendly, informative and consistent manner.
``If you don't roll out the red carpet in the interview process, they aren't going to have a good impression of your business,'' he said.
But one of the most crucial hiring steps is the job interview itself, where many interviewers need to hone their skills, according to Mr. Losyk. Interviewers can make horrible mistakes at this stage-including asking questions that give an applicant grounds for a discrimination suit.
More common, however, are minor mistakes that give inaccurate impressions to the applicants, including interviewers who unknowingly talk too much; give out too much information; help applicants' responses; make quick judgments; don't know the job requirements; and are disorganized.
But those problems can be minimized by preparing a list of open-ended interview questions (ones that begin with words or phrases like ``tell me'' and ``describe'') and planning the interview process.
Interviewers should attempt to create a warm, friendly atmosphere to invite more truthful answers and give a good impression of the company. The meeting should be held in a room free from interruptions and obstructions, such as a desk, between the interviewer and the applicant, he said.
Interviews should begin with ``small talk,'' Mr. Losyk stressed, to develop good rapport, while information about the dealership and its operation should be saved until after the interview so applicants can't tailor their answers.
Questions focusing on education, past work experiences, on-the-job behavior and personal reflections, should attempt to determine if an applicant can do the job, will do the job and will fit in with the company.
``A good rule of thumb is that the candidate should be talking at least 75 percent of the time, while you're listening,'' Mr. Losyk said.
Following the interview, the applicant should learn about the company and the job position as well as whether there are additional interviews or tests they need to complete.
``If you are seriously interested in hiring them, ask them one final question concerning their interest in the position. . . . Just like a salesperson, you have to overcome their objections and close the sale,'' Mr. Losyk said.