Skills testing during the hiring process can help determine whether your new hire will be a great fit or a waste of time and resources.
Technicians – like many other professionals – can often look good on paper, though their actual skill set can be sub-par and disappointing once they reach the shop floor.
“One of the things I’ve learned is that there is a ton of literature out there to teach people how to be interviewees,” says Mike Davidson, owner of Parkway Automotive in Little Rock, Ark., and a coach with Elite Worldwide. “People know what to say to get hired.”
Davidson has worked to develop a system to eliminate any guesswork and ensure their new hire fits harmoniously with the team. Using a written or hands-on test during the hiring process can help an employer identify whether the technician has the skill level to be successful, if they will need additional training, as well as if the position is the best fit for their skill-set.
Worth the Time and Effort?
Bill Greeno, owner of Quality Automotive and Smog in Truckee, Calif. believes that many shop owners waste valuable time and resources by hiring inadequate technicians based on first impressions during their first interview.
“There are a lot of people out there who will say anything to get hired.” says Greeno. “They’ll lie if they have to. A lot of people don’t even consider it lying because, ‘Of course I’m going to say whatever I need to say to get the job.’”
Thus, it seems the only way to make sure the Technician has the abilities that they say is to put them through a testing process.
Tests for Techs
Mike Haley, a team leader with the Automotive Training Institute helps shops to create aptitude tests for technicians. Haley recommends ‘working interviews’ which comprise of a shop owner setting up a car with a problem, give the candidate the necessary tools, and set a time limit to find the issue.
“I think what better way to figure out how they work than actually watch them work? You want to look at how they went about finding the problem, did they take the right steps, were they in the right area.” Says Haley.
Testing areas can vary depending on position but Haley recommends the following:
A Level Techs – Diagnostic skills, Wiring schematics
B Level Techs – Bolt-on aptitude
C Level Techs – Maintenance items
If a vehicle isn’t available in-shop for testing, you can instead conduct verbal tests by asking open-ended questions. In the final step of Davidson’s hiring process, he has his candidates go out and meet with staff members one-on-one in their bays.
“All of my staff have been trained to ask them questions that can help me determine their skill level,” says Davidson. “They’ll ask technical questions or what-would-you-do-in-this-situation questions that they can’t bluff their way through. Then we meet together and decide who will be offered the job.”
This testing allows Davidson a quick way to assess if the candidate will be a good fit for the shop, as well as allowing existing staff members to get to know candidates and weigh in with their thoughts/opinions.
Passing the Service Advisor test
Regarding the hiring of Service Adviors, both Davidson and Greeno recommend testing personality strengths. The Service Advisor must be able to communicate and get along well with others, so Greeno has candidates take a “Strengths Finder” multiple choice quiz that introduces 34 dominant personality ‘themes’. He then uses the tests to compare the responses from each candidate and identify if they fit with their existing Service Advisors.
“There are particular strengths that just don’t play well with others and aren’t adaptable,”says Greeno. “To work in a small group of people, you have to be adaptable.”
Identifying Training Needs
Haley cautions against relying exclusively on skills testing for new hires alone.
“One of the pitfalls I see shops fall into is putting a tremendous amount of weight on just that aspect of it,” says Haley. “Sometimes they won’t even consider someone they normally would hire. You don’t know what to do at that point because you like that person but they didn’t score very well.”
Haley believes their scores should be viewed as part of a greater picture. For example, sometimes a technician’s skills are a better match for another position in the shop. Rather than letting the technician go, he could be moved to a different department.
Finally, Haley says that skill testing could also be used to identify training needs. Shop operating procedures can differ – techs may just need more time to get up to speed in a new facility. Doing the testing up front allows you to identify the strengths and weaknesses of a Technician, thus saving time by dealing with any quality or training issues up front.