FEATURE OF THE WEEK: Face-to-face – Master the art of interviewing job candidates

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Face-to-face job interviews are among your most effective recruiting tools. Before a candidate takes the wheel for a road test, you have the opportunity to read personalities, confirm qualifications, and gauge a potential employee’s fit with your business.

In fact, they’re so important that you should conduct two of them.

The first should serve the role of a screening interview, suggests Ed Ewanochko, a transportation consultant with Marsh Canada. That’s when you can ensure a candidate has a valid commercial licence, meets basic job qualifications, and can provide you with related documents such as a driver’s abstract.

The second interview should follow reference checks, and be used to probe behavioral characteristics that emerge during related discussions.

If possible, also have at least two people conducting interviews, to take advantage of their different perspectives.

Recruiters should arm themselves with a written script of open-ended questions, to ensure that no issues are overlooked, to initiate answers involving more than a simple “yes” or “no”, and to avoid any wording that could run afoul of human rights or privacy rules. Keep in mind that every question should be associated with a demand of the job.

And ask candidates to offer specific examples rather than dealing in hypothetical situations. “Can you describe your most challenging trip that lasted over X days? Tell me how you dealt with the challenges?” will lead to an answer that is more telling than “How would you handle a long trip?”

The question “What has been your best experience in the trucking industry?” will offer you a sense of what a candidate values, adds Michael Noble, vice-president of human resources at Unique Personnel, a Toronto-based recruiting service. That will help you determine a fit with your business, and identify issues that will help retain those that you hire.

You can assume that a candidate will offer the best-possible appearance for an interview, so you might want to question the suitability of someone who shows up with greasy clothes and demonstrating poor personal hygiene.

Poor hygiene often translates into a lack of care for company equipment, adds Rick Viventi, director of safety with Arrow Transportation Systems in Kamloops, B.C.

You don’t want to penalize a candidate who had a bad experience with a bad employer, but you’ll want to be wary of someone who bad-mouths every company for which they’ve ever worked. That might be a sign of a worker who won’t take responsibility for his own actions.

Recruiters should be as honest as possible when describing the demands of a job, Viventi says. Candidates who know about the realities of specific working environments — such as delays associated with oft-flooding roads — may be less likely to quit in the first few months on the job, he adds.

A complete job description based on the essential skills profile compiled by the Canadian Trucking Human Resources Council will also lead to questions that ask candidates about their ability to perform every job-related task.

You’ll want to take notes during the interview, so you can recall the conversation after a candidate leaves. A numeric scoring system will also help you compare multiple candidates in a detached way, and you’ll be able to assign a weight to each quality sought in a driver. If you’re willing to train newer drivers, for example, experience may not be as crucial as another attribute.

But don’t begin assigning grades until after the interview is over. This is the time to listen.

The Canadian Trucking Human Resources Council (CTHRC) is an incorporated non-profit organization with a volunteer Board of Directors that is representative of stakeholders from the Canadian trucking industry. With the conviction that the best human resources skills and practices are essential to the attainment of excellence by the Canadian trucking industry, the mission of the Council is “to assist the Canadian trucking industry to recruit, train and retain the human resources needed to meet current and long-term requirements”. For more information, go to www.cthrc.com.

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Truck News is Canada's leading trucking newspaper - news and information for trucking companies, owner/operators, truck drivers and logistics professionals working in the Canadian trucking industry.

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