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The Right Fit

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In a drawer in his office, Jason Boggs has piles and piles of résumés and applications. Year after year, they continue to stack up. And year after year, every single one of those requests for employment—from some of the best-skilled and most qualified industry professionals in the area—stays right there in that drawer.

Boggs hasn’t had a need to pull them out, not since 2007 anyway.

“We haven’t had to hire one person in more than five years,” says Boggs, who took over Boggs Auto Collision Rebuilders in Woodbury, N.J., from his father in 2002.

And, no, the lack of hiring isn’t a sign of a slumping business. (The shop does more than $2 million in sales out of 11,500 square feet.) Instead, Boggs says it all boils down to one simple thing: “We’re able to find the right people for our company, people who aren’t going to leave in six months or a year or two years.”

The simplest way to retain employees, Boggs says, is to hire correctly in the first place. Every employee not only needs to be a fit for their respective jobs, he says, but they also need to be perfect fits for the business and its culture.

Obviously, that’s easier said then done, but Boggs developed a thorough hiring process, one that helped earn his shop the 2008 AkzoNobel Pride Award, a national honor given to one shop that demonstrates “excellence in attracting, developing and retaining employees.”

And Boggs shared that process with FenderBender.

Like Paying a Mortgage

As an internationally renowned human resources speaker and consultant, Mel Kleiman, founder of Humetrics Inc., has worked with major corporations like Domino’s Pizza, Harley-Davidson and Coca-Cola to improve their hiring practices.

Hiring, Kleiman says, is the most important task of any employer. The investment in employees—even at the lowest level—is too significant to overlook, he says.

“Think of hiring an employee at just $10 an hour, and that’s really low for one of your shops; you’re not finding much good help for that price,” Kleiman says. “They work 40 hours a week and about four weeks each month. That’s $1,600 before you even take into account benefits, social security, worker’s comp—anything like that.

“Now, let’s say you purchase a house for $350,000 on a 30-year note. What’s the monthly mortgage payment going to be? That’s right: Just around that $1,600 mark.

“If you were going to go out and buy a $350,000 house tomorrow, how much time, effort, energy and research would you have put into that? A lot, right? So, how much time, effort, energy and research are you doing when you invest in somebody who will cost you the same but could make you much more money than that house will?”

Kleiman says that effective hiring comes down to three main things. The first is that a shop owner needs to know exactly what they want in the employee they’re looking for; they need a specific list. The second thing is to always be looking for good employees, especially when you don’t need to hire someone. That way, you’re always prepared when an opening comes up.

“When you’re only looking at candidates after there’s an opening, it’s like grocery shopping when you’re hungry,” says Kleiman, a big fan of analogies. “When you do that, you’re desperate, and everything starts looking good to you. You get things you didn’t need and you forget about the things you do need.”

The final aspect, Kleiman says, is having a thorough, specific and repeatable hiring process.

The Process

Boggs overhauled his shop’s hiring practices in 2004. As part of AkzoNobel’s Acoat networking group, he began asking other shop owners about their processes. He went to training courses. He read books. He even spent time at the Disney Institute.

From it all, he came away with a six-step process that, so far, has a 100 percent success rate. Every full-time hire made with this process, the last being in 2007, is still with the company and either meeting or exceeding performance expectations, Boggs says. And Boggs also says it is easily repeatable for any shop, regardless of size or turnover rate.

Step 1: Know what you want

Similar to Kleiman’s tip, Boggs begins the hiring process by charting out exactly what he’s looking for in a new employee, focusing mostly on personality traits.

“What we try to do is paint a picture of the type of person we’re looking for,” he says. “We want to find a good fit with the rest of the team and someone who we think will believe in the core values we have as a company. So, if their personality fits that, then we see if they have the skillset or the ability to learn the skillset that we’re hiring for.”

Kleiman suggests pretending you’re writing a letter of recommendation for an employee up for an award for being the best at that position. “Outline all the ways they deserve that award,” he says, “and that list is what you should be looking for.”

Step 2: The résumé machine

Both Boggs and Kleiman say to always accept applications and résumés, and always network outside your shop—with vendors, consultants, etc.—for possible future candidates to be ready for any potential openings.

If it’s still needed to put out an ad for the position, Boggs will do so through many different avenues: online ad sites, classifieds, a local jobber and networking groups. The ad will be similar to the list of traits he wants in his employee, outlined in Step 1.

Then, he goes through all the résumés and applications to start weeding out candidates.

“It can be tough to pinpoint, but it comes down to a general feeling,” he says of looking at a résumé. “You look for consistency, you look for patterns in their work history. You look at what they’ve done and where they’ve done it.”

Boggs also says to pay close attention to references and whether or not they’ve followed up on their submission and show real eagerness to be interviewed.

Step 3: The first interview

Boggs calls this his “meet and greet” with the initial candidates, and he keeps it to about 10 minutes.

“We get to see the person face-to-face. We see if they show up on time, how they present themselves, how they come across,” he says. “That way, generally in 10 minutes, we can know if there’s a strong interest or not a strong interest. If there’s not a strong interest, then we don’t waste a half hour of their time and our time.”

Boggs says to make sure to inform candidates that the first interview will be short. That way, they don’t get alarmed when you say, “Good-bye” after 15 minutes, Boggs says.

One of the first things Boggs likes to ask candidates, whether they’re applying for a technician job or a position sweeping floors, is what types of tools they have at home.

“Even if they’ve never worked in the industry but have a general interest in working on vehicles, they will have some sort of tool collection,” he says. “And if they have no tools at all, it’s generally an indicator to us that they don’t have the passion to work in this industry.”

Step 4: The second interview

After weeding out the initial candidates to a pool of “possibilities,” Boggs sets up a second and much more extensive interview with each candidate. This is much more of a traditional interview and takes around an hour or so, Boggs says.

Boggs tries to start with open-ended questions and allow the candidate to reveal who they really are. Starting with something as simple as “Tell me about your previous job” can lead in a number of meaningful ways and allow you to get a good feel for their experience, attitude and personality, Boggs says.

Kleiman says the most important aspect of interviewing is making sure you maintain control over what’s being discussed and the honesty of answers. Don’t interview off résumés; don’t tell them what you’re looking for until the end; and make them comfortable with the process by outlining how the interview will go before it starts.

Step 5: The ‘personality’ interview

At this point, Boggs says, there should be somewhere between six and 10 candidates left. Boggs likes to have one “interview night” where all the candidates come to the shop at the same time.

“You get to see them a bit when they don’t know you’re really seeing them by having them all wait together briefly before hand,” Boggs says. “You see how they interact with people.”

Then Boggs does a “speed dating” form of interviewing, where each candidate meets briefly with different members of his current staff. This gives his employees a chance to get a feel for each candidate and allows for better input in the decision-making process.

When the candidates meet with Boggs, he administers a short, 15-minute personality test, which he later reviews with each candidate.

At the end of the night, Boggs and his staff convene to discuss the candidates and whittle the pool down to less than three.

Step 6: The final interview

Even if Boggs feels he’s made a decision on the hire at this point, he still does one last interview.

“It’s much more informal,” Boggs says. “I basically want to have a conversation with them. I’ll start by asking something like, ‘How was your weekend?’ or ‘How was your week?’ and just going from there.”

This takes as long as Boggs needs “to be positive about the person,” he says. If there are a couple people left, it gives Boggs a chance to ask any lingering questions and to help distinguish the two candidates.

Normally, that interview will end with a job offer.

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