Better Business: Ten Ways to Find Quality Employees

Sep 17, 2009

The old saying “It’s hard to find good help these days” has never been as true as it is today.

Part of the problem lies in the fact that the industry as a whole has been, and will continue to be, a niche industry.

Because of this, some of the support services that naturally grow around a major market have not totally developed.

While there are some technical schools that career-minded individuals can go to learn the skill of automotive repair, these may be limited in scope of instruction and will perhaps not teach everything needed to adequately prepare a technician for working at a fast-paced rod or retail shop. When confronted with these obstacles, it is not always easy to find a staff that is going to represent your business and make it run well.

However, over the years shops have coped with these problems and have learned what tends to work better in terms of finding employees, and while not perfect, these tips do provide a good starting point for your employee hunt.

1. Ask Existing Employees for Referrals.

The first place to start is by simply asking all of your existing employees for names of possible hires. While there may not be much by way of a formalized service sector of personnel pools as mentioned above, the one thing the industry usually does have is a live and active “grapevine.” There is a type of fraternity among those that work in the classic car industry. They often know not only those who are working at nearby shops but often others who are currently not working in the business but would like to get back into it again. One way of encouraging this is to pay a referral fee to any employee who recommends someone who ends up staying with you for a certain period of time, such as six months. What’s $100 or $150 out of your pocket if it helps you find a good employee?

2. Go Through Your Existing Customer Database Looking for Good Candidates.

Over the years it has been discovered that many employees were at one time just a customer of the shop. They were enthusiasts and guys who liked doing things to their cars and enhancing them. They often made large purchases and were part of that core group of customers who really supported the business. (The old adage of 20 percent of the customers is 80 percent of the business.) They eventually decided they wanted to be a part of the industry from the business side and joined the shop’s staff. These types of people already have a leg up on others in that they have an interest in the products and services of the shop and, to some degree, knowledge of them. If they then have the aptitude and other personal characteristics that would make them a good employee they could really work out for you. Of course, the downside is that you would be losing a good customer and sometimes a business is reluctant to hire someone like this for that very reason.

3. Network in the Industry.

Sometimes a good source of possible hires is your manufacturer’s representatives. If they are a good rep they are out and about and are regularly visiting different shops that they do business with. Often they find out about circumstances and situations relating to people in the industry and know about salesmen or technicians who are becoming available for one reason or another. Also, shops get people applying for jobs that they cannot employ for one legitimate reason or another but would often be willing to pass along the prospect’s name to you.

4. Post a “Help Wanted” Sign.

This may seem like an obvious way of looking for employees, but it is often overlooked. Sometimes a person who has had experience in the industry will come into your shop to buy something, and though they may be interested in applying for a job, will not inquire further unless they know you are hiring. By putting a sign in your window or near your checkout area, you are encouraging people to ask about the position. You are spreading the word that you are looking for a few good men (or women.)

5. Keep Your Eyes and Ears Open at Other Businesses.

Another easy way to look for employees is to simply observe others who help or service you in other businesses. You may run into someone who gives you good customer service, seems like a hard worker or otherwise makes a positive impression on you. If you are willing to hire someone without experience and train them from the ground up, you could give them your card and tell them you’d be interested in talking to them about a job.

6. Place an Ad in Local Newspapers.

Employment ads placed in classified sections of newspapers is the old tried-and-true method of finding people. Unfortunately this is usually not a cost-effective way to find employees. Classified ads can be expensive to run and can solicit every Tom, Dick or Harry who wants a job even when the ad specifies the experience that is needed. There is also the chance that the ad will get no response at all. However, even having said all that, in some areas it still is a workable way to get new employees. A lot may have to do with the ad itself and how it is worded, so be sure to be clear when describing what kind of person you are looking for, including education and/or experience levels required.

7. Use Internet Resources and Social Networking Sites.

The Internet is a common venue for job searches and offers, particularly since the employees you hire are usually somewhat computer savvy. Sites such as Monster.com, CareerBuilder.com and Craigslist.org are possible Web sites to place employment ads. To some degree this has taken the place of the traditional print ads in the classifieds of newspapers. Their fees vary from free to somewhat pricey, depending on which site you choose. Don’t forget to consider using social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook to look for employees. Putting the word out on industry message boards can also help spread the message.

8. Put up Hiring Advertisements at Local Colleges.

College students often work part time jobs while they are going to school. If they have knowledge of automotive products, they might be quite interested in working for you. The down side is they would only be part-timers while going to school and may also be using the job merely as a stepping stone to some other career. The upside is they can relate to your younger customers and probably won’t leave for a couple of years or at least until they have finished their classes. Many times, employees who are hired on part-time end up working out and staying at the shop to continue a career in the business even after having finished college.

9. Contact Employment Agencies.

This has sometimes proven to be a good way to find office administrators, bookkeepers and other clerical workers; however, it may not be a good resource to find salespeople or technicians. Employment agencies charge a premium for providing you with the person but the advantage is that if the person doesn’t work out, you can end the working relationship with minimal hassle and the agency can then send you someone else.

10. Consult Training Centers or Trade Schools.

In some parts of the country there are vocational or trade schools that specifically teach mechanical skills. Those that attend must pay tuition and spend several weeks or months going to school. They often have an outplacement program where they do apprenticeships and internships. A person that does this is showing a definite commitment and interest in obtaining a job in the industry. You can find out about these and use them as possible recruitment pools.