When Mike Davidson started his first day on the job at a car dealership in Arkansas, the business owner asked him to stand aside and watch him fully detail a GMC S15 pickup truck.
It was a cold day in November, and 19-year-old Davidson recalls the owner demonstrating exactly how he wanted the job completed. That experience, which he refers to as “Wash the Truck,” has stayed with Davidson his entire career. Not only does the industry veteran ensure he gives his employees a clear understanding of his expectations while on the job, but he also takes the time to hire employees who fit the culture of his business.
Davidson, president of the American Skilled Labor Association and owner of Parkway Automotive in Little Rock, AR, recently spoke to shop owners and managers at an AkzoNobel Acoat Selected performance group meeting held in September in San Diego, CA, about how to improve their interviewing process. The presentation was part of the company’s early bird training sessions offered during the week-long event, which was attended by more than 200 body shop representatives, distributors, AkzoNobel employees and guests. Held twice a year, the performance group gives shops the opportunity to take time away from working in their business to work on their business.
During his presentation, titled “Hiring for Keeps,” he shared examples of what he learned over his 35-year career in the automotive industry, as well as the specific hiring process he developed after setting out to discover how he could improve the way he hired staff.
Part of this was based on his learnings from Leadership IQ, an organization that focuses on leadership training. After reading books and completing video training over a one-year period, he found that one of the common themes with successful companies, such as Southwest Airlines and Chick-fil-A, was the similarity in the employees’ attitudes, no matter where they were located across the country. As a result, he incorporated what he had learned and put it into practice at his business.
“No matter who we are as business owners, hiring the right people makes a big difference with the internal customers---our employees. We hire people for what they know; we fire them for who they are!” he said. “Some people, no matter how hard you try, just don’t fit the job.”
The key, according to Davidson, is to hire employees who fit your culture rather than hiring someone primarily based on their skills.
“I believe the people you hire are the people who are going to create consistency within your organization,” said Davidson. “Consistency creates your brand.”
Although having excellent skills is very important, he also recommends owners/managers determine if prospective employees have the ability to get along with staff, understand the company’s strategy and structure, and share the same values.
“If you have someone working on a customer’s car who doesn’t share your values, he or she is going to take shortcuts you don’t want, and is going to put out a product that you don’t want to be put out. Every time,” he said.
Davidson discussed the interviewing techniques he uses on a regular basis.
“You have to have a process in place and you have to have a system that will help you determine if the person is the right person for your organization,” he said.
By altering the traditional interviewing method and listening to an interviewee’s answers, Davidson said it’s easier to discover if a person is the best fit for the business.
He advised shops to eliminate what he referred to as “hypothetical” questions. Some of the examples he shared included: “What song best describes your work ethic,” “What kitchen utensil would you be,” and “How would you rate me as an interviewer from a scale of 1 to 10?”
“None of these questions help determine who the person really is,” said Davidson. “Questions should have different responses from different candidates. If the answers are the same for everyone, you have the wrong question.”
Other questions to be avoided include those that lead the interviewee on how to answer them. For example, rather than asking someone to talk about a time he or she had to adapt to a difficult situation, he recommended asking about a time the person was in a difficult situation.
“Then, pause and give them an opportunity to think and let them answer the question,” he said.
Davidson said the ultimate goal is to ask questions that reveal what every business should be looking for---a high performer.
“There are two types of people who walk into an interview---the problem-bringers and the problem-solvers,” explained Davidson. “Your job is to decide which one of those people is sitting in front of you.”
He classified them as low performers and high performers.
He described a low performer as someone who will hear a problem and do nothing more, whereas a high performer will offer a solution to the problem at hand. To tell the difference between the two, Davidson said that shop owners and managers need to change the way they listen during a job interview.