Recruiting and Retaining Exceptional Automotive Techs (Part 1)
by Rich Diegle, ALLDATA Tech-Assist Team
It’s a common problem that affects many industries – and the
automotive repair industry is certainly not immune. It keeps
business owners and managers up at night. That problem is trying
to hire and retain top-notch, qualified employees. It’s not easy.
Whether you run a high-tech software company or a three-bay
garage in rural America, many of the challenges are the same.
Part one of this two-article series will cover some of the most
productive methods you can use to locate and hire qualified
technicians. In the second installment, we’ll tackle the
difficult challenge of keeping those valuable technicians on your
Become a Recruiter
How many shop owners try to hire the best techs in their area by
putting an ad in a local newspaper or on a job-search website,
then just sit back and wait… and wait… and wait? While this is a
common practice and can occasionally prove productive, this is
not usually an effective method for finding an exceptional
technician. Just like a professional sports team, you need
to become a recruiter and reach out to the those you want to
hire. Many of you have built a successful fantasy football roster
– now it’s time to use that skill and passion to
build your own winning team of professional technicians!
One thing is certain, there is no single way to find great
technicians. Test out different methods and be creative. Some
successful approaches shop owners have used to find top techs
Recruiting programs that include a signing bonus
Referral bonuses offered to employees and customers
Paid on-the-job training programs for technical school and
community college graduates
Participation in job fairs to recruit high school and
community college students
If you always look in the same places, you are always going
to get the same results – so mix it up!
Develop a Winning Interview Process
Don’t rely on just a simple interview to make a “yes” or
“no” decision about hiring someone. Interviews do serve a primary
purpose, however, and that is to separate the “absolutely not”
candidates from the “maybe” candidates. To be effective,
interviews should be well-orchestrated and based on objectivity.
Facts should always win out over emotions or hunches. How a
candidate dresses, their punctuality, hygiene, and demeanor are
all important indicators that can be discovered quickly during an
interview. But, to really gain valuable insight into a potential
employee’s qualifications, you need to develop a reliable
In your quest to create the perfect interview process, start by
defining your expectations and objectives. Being absolutely
certain about the kind of person you’re looking for will help you
quickly screen out candidates who don’t even come close to
matching your needs. Do you need a part-time lube tech or a
full-time diagnostic expert? The hiring criteria will vary based
on the job scope. Have clear, documented job descriptions for
each position in the shop. This will help you in two ways – it
will document clear expectations and define your employee’s
responsibilities, as well as help you create targeted
interview questions for each position.
Let’s talk about the initial interview. During this interview,
ask for explicit details. It is one thing for interviewees to say
that they are “confident” and a “self-starter”, but it’s quite
another for them to be able to prove that they are. Ask direct
questions that will prompt a specific response. Encourage
candidates to relate stories of instances when they performed a
particular task or achieved a specific goal. Here are a few
examples of the kinds of questions to ask help to determine if a
candidate’s skills and attributes will match the needs of your
Why do you want to work here? Try to gauge
the candidate’s enthusiasm for the job. Look for them to site
specific examples of things that attract them to your company
rather than the one down the street. Look for them to
elaborate on their strengths, achievements, and skills and
describe how those attributes make them the right fit for
your job opening.
What is the most difficult situation you have faced
at work? By asking this question, you will find out
what their definition of “difficult” is and whether or not
they can demonstrate a logical approach to problem solving.
Let them relate a tough work situation, how they approached
the problem, and the actions they took to overcome the
problem. Their answers should verify that they are someone
who takes setbacks and frustrations in stride – and has the
skills to create great solutions.
What are your strengths? Answers from
candidates should include why they feel they are a
particularly good fit for the position. They should mention a
few key strengths that are required for the position and
relate how they have successfully demonstrated those skills
in the past. If they offer general answers, keep probing
until you really understand if their strengths are a match
for the position and your shop.
If you want to be certain that a technician has the particular
skills that you are looking for, administer a technical test
either before or after the oral interview. You can develop the
test yourself or have the shop foreman devise it. Again, you want
to know as much as possible about the person you may be hiring.
After you narrow down the interviewees to a list of potential
candidates, use the following checklist in the final stage of
your interview process:
Check references. Speak with former
employers or references to help gain some insight about the
person you are considering for the job. A great way to
determine if a former employer was happy with the candidate
is to ask, “Would you hire them again?” If they would not,
maybe you should pass too.
Check for a valid driver license and obtain a DMV
report. Find out how many points on a license
your insurance company will allow and if they will say
“absolutely not” to someone with a DUI, reckless driving, or
exhibition of speed violation on their record.
Run a background check or pre-employment
screening. Many employers state that their top
hiring concerns are poor quality of candidates. A solid
background screening program can help you maintain compliant
hiring practices and minimize the risk of hiring someone with
a theft or fraud record.
Conduct a drug test. It’s a common practice
these days and no one you want to hire will be offended.
Bait the Hook
If you think a competitive salary is the number one reason
technicians consider going to another shop, you are absolutely
correct. But that’s not the only reason. There are other benefits
and qualities that will entice technicians to join your team
instead of staying with their current employer or choosing
another shop over yours. Flexible schedules, paid training,
comprehensive medical, dental and vision insurance, and room for
advancement are all benefits that will help attract and retain
valuable employees. Here are a few other benefits you may not
have thought of before:
Reputation. Your shop’s reputation is
extremely important. It can play a pivotal role in a
technician’s decision to come to work for you – or even apply
for the job. Does your shop have a revolving door when it
comes to technicians? If you have a high turn-over rate, word
will quickly spread that there’s no job security at your shop
. . . which is a great reason to hire carefully and keep your
Shop environment. Not only should a shop
look professional on the outside, it needs to provide a safe
and professional working environment on the inside. Scanners,
digital oscilloscopes, shop wi-fi, electronically-delivered
OEM repair information, specialty tools, and high-quality
vehicle lifts are all basic equipment for today’s shops.
Even simple things such as provided uniforms, shop
towels, clean shop floors, and employee-only
restrooms can be items on a technician’s mental
checklist when they’re deciding where to park their toolbox.
Parts availability. Having parts available
when they need them is a key component to a technician’s
success. If you are an independent shop, be sure to have
parts delivered numerous times throughout the day to keep the
workflow active. If your technicians are waiting around for
parts, they’re unproductive – and unhappy.
Remember, you are looking for employees that could potentially be
working with you for many years. It may seem like a lot of work
upfront, but taking the time to develop a comprehensive hiring
strategy to hire just the right technicians will pay big
dividends in the long run. It’s worth the investment.
Take this opportunity to check out what ALLDATA has for you in
terms of educating your techs. Requesting a demo of ALLDATA
Training Garage is easy, simply call (888) 853-7309 or click
here to get started.
About the Author
Rich Diegle is a 40-year automotive industry veteran. He is
currently the ALLDATA Tech-Assist Team Supervisor. He has also
held positions as an ASE and Nissan Master automotive technician,
shop owner, instructor, automotive editor, and marketing and
public relations manager.