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Every organization wants the same thing: to hire the best of the best. With more experienced truck drivers retiring, and entry-level drivers coming in, I’ve heard from countless recruiters that there simply aren’t many great drivers out there to hire.

But maybe it’s more than that. Maybe it’s not that there are few qualified drivers, but the kind of conversations we’re having with recruits, and how we’re approaching our early points of contact with them.

When it comes to hiring great drivers for your fleet, recruiters are generally the first human point of contact and make the first impression with applicants. How a recruiter presents themselves in that moment tells a driver a lot about the company. You’ve got to nail it, or they may move on.

To that end, finding the right people is more about conversations than a list of DOT regulations. Throughout the recruiting process, it’s important to talk to candidates as people, build relationships, see what makes them tick and understand whether they align with your company’s core values.

Let’s dig deeper into that.

It's about people, not checklists.

Picture the best driver in your company: the person who is easy to get along with, who shares your company’s values and whose personality is reflective of your culture. You’re looking for people like them, so that’s what you need to find out about your candidates.

While there are regulatory standards that need to be met during the hiring cycle, it’s actually the way a recruiter talks to drivers that matters most. Skills can be taught and qualifications can be obtained, but values generally come ingrained in a person. So, you’ve got to draw those out in order to determine a great fit.

First and foremost, is this the right person? If so, the rest can usually be taken care of.

Personalize your recruiting approach.

At the end of a long day full of phone calls, optimism can become scarce. You can get tired and somewhat perfunctory with your conversations. I get it. Repetition can be exhausting. But it’s crucial to work past that fatigue and put your best foot forward on each initial phone call – and at every candidate touchpoint thereafter.

Personalization is a great way to be engaging at every point of contact. Make each call to a candidate unique, personal and genuine. Mirror a potential candidate’s language and body language to help them feel comfortable. That will help you connect with them quickly to determine if they’re cut from the same cloth as your “best driver” example.

Do your best to understand the driver and what motivates them. Ask applicants what gaps might arise in their paperwork and have open and honest conversation about it while also being mindful of human resource policies and procedures. Inquire why they left their last employer and what that last employer could have done to keep them.

These types of questions will improve the applicant’s overall experience while also helping you uncover what each of your potential drivers wants at the end of the day. Through recruiting, hiring and onboarding, you should continue to build the relationship in a positive and consistent way.

This type of direct, honest, and human connection will set you apart from other fleets in the never-ending competition for top drivers. It’ll also help you identify the people who are the best fit for your team.

Make it frictionless for them and for you.

Another key part of hiring great drivers is to make the recruiting process as frictionless as possible. Personalization doesn’t only come down to how you communicate, but also the technology you use to communicate. Whether it’s by email, text, phone, Zoom, WhatsApp – you name it – communicating how the candidate prefers to communicate makes the process easy for them. This will open up honest communication, which will in turn help you understand them better.

If you’re super busy (which you probably are) consider using an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to organize and simplify your recruiting and onboarding processes, and to free up more time to make deeper candidate connections.

By listening more than you talk, communicating on their terms, and freeing up time to really connect with potential drivers, you can get an accurate understanding of who they are, their personal values, and what they’re looking for in an employer.

How to hire and retain the best drivers:

1. Focus on conversations, not checklists and regulations.
2. Think of the best driver in your company and try to find people like them.
3. Values can’t be taught. Skills can. Ensure your candidate’s values match your fleet’s.
4. Make every conversation personalized and genuine to uncover what makes them tick.
5. Communicate with candidates using their preferred technology.
6. Listen more than you talk so you can learn what your candidate is looking for.
7. Consider implementing an ATS to free up time to truly connect with candidates.

To wrap it all up…

In the end, people work for people, not companies. So be human, while also being mindful of HR policies and procedures. Set yourself up for success right from the first contact by having genuine conversations, and maintain that real connection over the long term.

That will help you find great drivers, hire them, and keep them too.