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October 21, 2019 4:15 PM, EDT

Perspective: Bringing Aptitude, Attitude to Hiring

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Not too long ago, fleets did very little advertising to attract drivers and technicians; word of mouth was enough. Job applicants walked in, filled out an application and met with the manager. If all the hiring criteria were met, the candidate would be offered a job.

Today, that would be a rare occurrence. Technology has been added to the recruiting process, and prospective employees can fill out applications from any device anywhere in the country.

Kari Beeson

Beeson

The process of completing an application is not all that has changed about the recruiting process. We used to spend time looking at things like the number of years an applicant has been driving, the number of previous jobs they had, how often they changed companies and why. Though these things still are important, the more important question is, “How will this driver contribute to the success of our team?”

To say the recruiting process and hiring criteria has been turned on its head is an understatement, as the driver shortage has forced us to re-evaluate not only how we source candidates, but also who we decide to hire.

Experience still matters. But some fleets have lowered their requirements for the amount of driving experience needed. Years ago it would be commonplace to see 3+ years of driving experience required; today, companies are requiring as little as 3 months of experience.

And some fleets are taking matters into their own hands, creating in-house driver academies to train individuals to become professional drivers.

It also is important to understand what an applicant liked and disliked about their previous employers in order to make better hiring decisions and create a better environment. As it relates to millennials — who have a reputation for changing jobs more frequently than baby boomers or Gen Xers — hiring managers should focus less on how long they remained employed in one place, and place more attention on what made them leave.

But perhaps the biggest change in our recruiting process is that we now put more emphasis on aptitude and attitude.

Aptitude is defined as the natural ability to do something. In the past, if a person did not have a long history of driving, they wouldn’t be considered. The same held true for technicians. Today, if a person demonstrates an aptitude for driving but lacks the requisite experience, it may be worthwhile to invest in extra training and coaching.

Attitude also is important: We need people with a passion for their craft. You can teach someone to drive or to turn a wrench, but it is harder to teach them to show up for work on time, be willing to work once they get there and, most importantly, to love what they do.

Try to find people who are willing to learn and want to grow with your company. One way to do that is by using a behavioral interview model. This involves asking questions that allow the applicant to share how he or she acted in a given situation. The theory behind these types of interviews is that the way someone behaved in the past is a good indicator of how they will behave in the future.

Hiring managers have to be trained in how to properly conduct behavioral interviews; it takes more skill than just reading through a list of questions. These skills include the ability to read a candidate’s body language and interpret how the candidate responds to probing questions. And a behavioral interview will take more time than a traditional interview.

One benefit of hiring for aptitude and attitude is that it actually makes the training process easier, because the new hires absorb things more quickly. They pay more attention because they want to learn and are excited about the job opportunity.

Another benefit of shifting your hiring focus to aptitude and attitude is that once you bring someone on board they are more likely to stay. The behavioral interviews allow you to delve into what makes the applicant tick and what is important to them. You can leverage that knowledge when it comes to training, motivation and incentives.

Using these techniques to attract new candidates does not mean you ignore needed skills, but rather you supplement those hard skills with someone who has shown an ability to learn the skills you need (aptitude) and who has the desire (attitude) to be part of your team.

Kari Beeson is the senior director of recruiting at Transervice Logistics Inc., which provides customized transportation solutions including logistics, dedicated contract carriage, fleet leasing, contract maintenance and material handling equipment leasing and maintenance.

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