Shorten the hiring cycle

Drivers, even those who want to change jobs, would rather do almost anything instead of talk with recruiters, says Kelly Anderson, president of Impact Transportation Solutions Inc, a driver recruiting consulting firm. Based in Neosho, Missouri, Anderson formed Impact in June 1998 after a career as a driver and recruiter with a large truckload carrier.

The process of hiring drivers starts with a phone call, Anderson says. Nobody can hire a driver until after that driver has made the phone call looking for a job, and that's where advertising comes into play. “Advertising has two primary functions: to catch the driver's eye and to provide a reason for making that all-important phone call,” he says. “A secondary function of advertising is to prequalify the applicants. An advertising campaign that is generating too many phone calls should be changed so that some drivers decide not to call.”

Carriers need to be careful about using advertising to get drivers to eliminate themselves, Anderson says. Used to excess, prequalification in advertising can stop almost all drivers from calling. Some of the phrases in an ad that will stop calls from drivers include things like “good driving record,” “stable work history,” “clean motor vehicle record.” Another thing in an ad that will inhibit calls is listing the hours of operation of the recruiting department, he says.

If an ad contains language like “clean driving record,” drivers won't call because they don't like rejection, Anderson says. People don't like rejection, so they won't call if they have any sense that they might be turned away, he says.

Keep ads short

Good driver recruiting ads are short. The purpose is to catch a driver's attention and initiate a phone call, so don't write a long paragraph of ad copy, Anderson says. Some studies show that quotation marks around the headline will result in 28% more attention for an ad. Experience shows that big, bold, black headline type in an ad will catch a driver's eye, he says.

Find a way to get an ad placed near the front of the newspaper section and at the top of the column, Anderson says. Drivers looking for a job start at the front of the section and work down the column. “If you are Zebra Express, there's a strong likelihood that a potential driver will never get far enough down the column to find the phone number,” he says.

Another important message in advertising concerns potential pay. “Drivers don't care about how much money they might make,” Anderson says. “They want to know how much money they are actually going to make. They don't pay any attention to a statement that pay ranges up to some number. A much more effective ad would show what average drivers earned in the past year at the company.”

Pay is a big topic with drivers, but they don't always keep track of pay compared to work, Anderson says. Drivers are accustomed to thinking of high mileage as the basis of good pay. In some instances, the pay rate for low mileage trips gives drivers more money than high mileage. Carriers need to train drivers to keep track of miles, pay, and expenses so they can analyze what they actually do compared to what they think they have done, he says.

Emphasize core benefits

To attract the best drivers, advertising must emphasize a company's core benefits. For instance, almost all carriers assign drivers to specific tractors and almost all carriers assign drivers to specific fleet managers — nothing special about that, Anderson says. The goal in advertising is to offer a driver something that can't be found everywhere. For instance, some carriers pay 100% of driver health insurance; that's a core benefit. “Some carriers set a mileage goal and if the driver reaches it, the carrier pays 100% of health benefits for the driver's entire family. Now, that's a benefit,” he says.

A lot of carriers are trying to hire immigrants. If a carrier wants to attract immigrants, the business must build a reputation for being immigrant-friendly, Anderson says. For instance, a good place to find immigrants is at the Social Security office, because everybody has to have a Social Security card to get a job. “A lot of new immigrants go into service industries where they will earn an average of $24,000 a year,” he says. “Trucking can offer twice that amount and one of the keys to reaching these potential drivers is to advertise in their local communities in their native language. Find the ethnic churches, because that's one of the first places a new immigrant will go. Another helpful activity is to sponsor local organizations, a Little League team, for instance.”

Immigrants from Eastern Europe can be especially important to trucking, because they have a strong desire to work for themselves. Not only are East Europeans willing to drive trucks for a living, but when they start driving, they are highly likely to buy a truck and become an owner-operator, Anderson says.

Set the hook

Advertising succeeds when it triggers a phone call from a potential driver. When the phone rings in the recruiting department, the person who answers the call should have two goals in mind, Anderson says. The first goal should be to give the caller a reason to stop calling carriers. “The second goal is a little tougher but just as important,” he says. “The recruiter must set the hook, take possession of the driver until the company is absolutely positive the applicant will never qualify for the position. If we don't stop the phone calls and take possession of the applicant, some other carrier will.”

Anderson divides the pool of potential drivers into three groups and gives each an acronym — COC, PGG, and NITL. A COC is “cream of the crop,” the type of driver that every carrier wants. They are safe, courteous, reliable, and stable. PGG stands for “pretty good guy/girl,” an average, qualified driver. Most carriers will take as many of this group as they can find. Not so with an NITL, he says, because that stands for “not in this lifetime.” Drivers in the NITL group have made bad habits and bad decisions into a way of life, and no responsible carrier wants one of these drivers in the fleet.

Recruiters must have a sense of urgency about finding some COCs and a lot of PGGs, Anderson says. “If that sense of urgency is not there, then we'll find our companies spending a lot of time hiring only the best examples we can find in a pool of the worst applicants available, just skimming the scum,” he says.

Short hiring cycle

Carriers need to convince their recruiting and safety departments to shorten the hiring cycle, Anderson says. That is the time that transpires between the first contact recruiting has with an applicant until the company makes a contingent offer of a job.

“For instance, a new driver — if he's a responsible employee — will give his current carrier two weeks notice that he's leaving,” Anderson says. “He might want to take some vacation and then show up for orientation. That time we cannot control. However, we can control the time between the first phone call and the job offer. That's the hiring cycle, and we need to keep it as short as possible. The longer the hiring cycle becomes, the more likely it is that a company has to hire out of the bottom of the average group.”

The hiring cycle has to be short, because a driver who wants to change jobs will continue looking for a new job until someone gives him a reason to stop, Anderson says. If a good driver has already left the previous carrier, the hiring cycle must be even shorter. Bills don't stop piling up in the mailbox just because a driver doesn't have a job. “If we won't hire a good, but unemployed, driver today, that applicant will keep looking until someone makes an offer,” he says.

Common misconceptions

Recruiters hold a number of misconceptions that lead to longer hiring cycles, Anderson says. In extending the hiring cycle, recruiters have a tendency to say some of the following, he says.

  • I can't get everything I need from a phone application.

  • I can run a DAC and MVR with only verbal authorization.

  • I have to lower my standards to speed up the hiring process.

  • If I make sure I have completed everything on the application, then I'll be certain to hire only the best drivers.

  • If a driver doesn't want to wait until I can give him an answer, then he probably wasn't a quality driver anyway.

Using that first phone call to qualify applicants and jump-start the hiring process is great, Anderson says. However, some federal hiring regulations must be followed. “We must inform driver applicants of their absolute right to see all the background information we received from past employers,” he says. “In addition, we must provide an applicant an opportunity to rebut anything we found during a background check. If a driver requests, in writing, the results of a background check, the carrier has five days to send out that information.”

The way to rely on the telephone for most of the application and still comply with the law as it applies to background reports is get the driver to sign the necessary releases and fax them back to the carrier, Anderson says. Make sure that the driver knows that only two pages are required. “Nothing will make a driver madder than for a carrier to fax out a full 14-page application form that a truckstop will charge $2 a page for,” he says. “Make sure applicants know that the fax bill won't cost much, but make sure to get a signed release. I would never tell a driver that I can't offer a job, because the background report was bad until I had a signed release in hand.”

Anderson has some ways to shorten the hiring cycle and improve the quality of drivers in the fleet. The first step, he says, is to give recruiters a goal. Set those goals every morning in a short meeting before anybody gets to sit down. In that meeting, recruiters should be reminded of the company turnover rate and the number of empty trucks as a target to be filled. The meeting instills a sense of urgency among recruiters.

No voice mail

Somebody has to answer the phone on the first or second ring, Anderson says. “Fleets are spending a lot of money on advertising to make the phone ring,” he says. “If recruiters let the phone ring and roll into voice mail, studies have shown that 64% of callers will hang up instead of leaving a message. The phone line into recruiting has to be answered by a person.”

Anderson says that fleets need to teach recruiters how to take an application on the telephone. The key to qualifying potential drivers on the phone is to make the process into a conversation instead of a checklist. Get the applicant to talk. If it seems as though the applicant qualifies for a job, send out those faxes of the release forms. Start the background checks immediately and get quick approval of the application. Give recruiters a clearly defined set of standards to follow and allow them to make hiring decisions.

All these things will help shorten the hiring cycle. Reducing the time between the first call and the job offer is critical, Anderson says. If the process is not short, it will lower the quality of drivers hired. “The goods ones will take a different job while the slow hiring cycle is in process,” he says.

Once a driver receives a job offer, make sure the driver shows up for orientation, Anderson says. One good way to encourage attendance at orientation is to give the driver a confirmation number, much like a hotel gives out a confirmation with a reservation. “Another way to help ensure attendance at orientation is to start the classes early in the week,” he says. “If a driver fails to show for an orientation class on Tuesday, there's a pretty good bet he was sitting in a different carrier's orientation on Monday.”

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