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5 Tips for Researching Job Candidates

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These days, Daren Fristoe, a human resources expert, feels business leaders need to put job candidates’ credentials under a microscope. 

“The market right now is so tight in terms of talent,” he says. “You really need to focus on the right person.” 

Fristoe, the president of third-party HR company The Fristoe Group, adds that, given the collision repair industry’s technician shortage, solid shop floor job candidates are in a power position. Plus, making a hiring mistake can deal shop owners a costly financial blow. 

Taking that into consideration, it behooves business leaders to research job candidates in as many ways as possible, beyond looking at resumes.

“The game has changed in terms of identifying candidates and really hiring the right people for your organization,” Fristoe says. “It used to be very driven toward phone calls. … Now, it uses that tool as well as the Internet.

“You have the ability, as an employer, to pull up a candidate on social media, whether it’s on Facebook, or LinkedIn, or any one of the other common platforms now.” 

FenderBender recently spoke with Fristoe and other HR experts to gain their insight on the best ways to research job candidates beyond a simple check of resumes. 

Establish a process. 

In order to research job candidates effectively, business leaders need a clearly defined procedure for doing so, notes Elle Aldridge, the executive vice president of national recruiting firm TalentCare.

An added benefit of establishing a clear process is that it helps hirers stay objective.  

“Make sure you’re building in objective sets—things that are measurable,” Aldridge suggests. Such as “do they have two years of experience, yes or no? Do they have experience with this type of tool, yes or no? Then, you can integrate those objective things into a phone screen or a main interview.”

Creating a quality control checklist can be a valuable element of a business’ hiring process. Creating such a checklist can help hirers avoid costly oversights. By establishing a checklist for researching job candidates, body shop owners can ensure that candidates get questioned about any concerns about their job history, for example. 

Fristoe suggests including the following items on a hiring quality control checklist: 

  • Progression of positions during a candidate’s career
  • Relevant soft skills training
  • Job skills training
  • Communication skills 
  • Personal reference checks
  • Why they left prior jobs 
  • Their professional goals 

He also suggests asking multiple questions that gauge a candidate’s ability to fit within a shop’s staff “chemistry,” such as, “Does this person fit within our culture? Can this person help us grow? And, is this person coachable?”  

Use several elements of social media. 

Social media can help hirers learn countless details about a job prospect’s life. That can be valuable when trying to gauge whether a candidate will fit in with a shop staff.

As such, Fristoe strongly suggests combing over candidates’ pages on social media platforms like LinkedIn and, to an extent, Instagram and Facebook.

However, he also says that hirers like body shop owners should tread carefully when looking at social media sites, lest their research stray into areas that could be considered discriminatory.

“There are a number of things that are a hazard of social media,” Fristoe says. “This is a growing area of employment law, and it’s a challenge right now. The challenge you have is, obviously an employer needs to stay within the rules and not use discriminatory practices to weed out candidates. You want to flesh out who the candidate is on the business side.

“You’ve got to focus on: What [information from social media] are we looking at, and why are we looking at it? Focus on job and professional experience relevance. Also, look for consistency between a resume and a social media profile; maybe one indicates a gap in employment but the other doesn’t.” 

Perform Background Checks. 

Performing criminal checks or motor vehicle records checks are typically inexpensive (often less than $50), and can provide valuable peace of mind for employers. Depending on a job prospect’s potential job responsibilities, the results of such background checks can be key. Think about it: Would you want a technician driving customers’ vehicles with a suspended license? 

Results of a background check can be valuable, for example, “if a candidate had a history of criminal convictions that could affect their performance in the shop, such as theft, vandalism, or assault,” Fristoe notes. “Better safe than sorry. These background checks are typically inexpensive, and response time can be same-day.”

There’s also value in researching candidates by conversing with members of the local chamber of commerce, the Jaycees, or various civic organizations.

“Find out if anyone, anywhere in the marketplace, knows this candidate,” Fristoe says. “And then please tell me: Is this someone we need to pursue, someone we need to interview twice?” 

Perform multiple interviews. 

Aldridge, the TalentCare executive, feels there’s great value in bringing in blue-collar workers like collision repairers for on-site, working interviews. After all, such interviews provide many clear, indisputable answers about a candidate’s weaknesses, and offer an indication of how they might interact with a shop’s staff. 

“Give the applicant the opportunity to show you how they’d perform,” Aldridge suggests. “If they would be required to diagnose a problem and identify a solution, have them do that. If they need to work with particular tools, have them show you how they would use them.”

Most HR experts suggest that body shop owners conduct two job interviews with intriguing candidates, because some interviewees can prepare themselves for a standard, initial interview by memorizing responses to common questions. 

“Second interviews are reserved for roles which require more peoples’ input to decide whether someone is truly a fit,” Aldridge says. So ask “thoughtful questions of the applicant about the role, and the company culture.”

Fristoe feels second interviews offer hirers a great opportunity to truly gauge a job prospect’s personality. 

“It allows the interviewer an opportunity to do a deeper dive,” he explains. Ask candidates “What type of environment works best for you, and why? What types of communication styles do you respond to best? And I’ve always liked [this] question: If you were king or queen for a day, what would you do with our business? 

“This interview allows the candidate to be more relaxed, in a more conversational style, and should yield insight for the hiring manager as to whether this person is someone we want to add to our team.”

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