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When Hiring, Patience Pays Off

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Have you ever had that gut feeling that the decision you are about to make is all wrong? I had that gut feeling a few years back during an interview with a technician, but ignored it—a big mistake on my part. 

Here’s what happened: We were down a technician and, like most shops, we went into crisis-hire mode. We put ads in the local newspapers, posted the position on Craigslist, and spoke to anyone and everyone to see if they knew of a tech who was looking for work. All of this was in hopes that eventually a tech would come along who may be a good fit. And it happened. A tech, I’ll call him Misery, walked into the shop looking to apply.

At first glance his resume looked impressive; an ASE Master Tech with 20 years of experience. Then I noticed on the application that his last job as a tech was three years ago. When I questioned him on this he replied, “The boss made promises he didn’t keep. And it got to a point where it was affecting my health.” I asked him to please go on. He said, “It was like he put a gun to my head to get the work out. He was always on my back. So I quit.” 

I decided to change the subject and ask him about things other than automotive. “Can you tell me about your life outside the automotive world?” Misery replied, “Well, for the past two years I’ve been working with a local masonry company, but that’s not working out. I just broke up with my fiancée, that didn’t work out either. Right now, I’m getting my life in order.”

At that point, the red flags were flying, and you must be saying to yourself, “Joe, I hope you didn’t hire this guy.” Well, I did. My gut was telling me “no,” my heart was saying, “Give this guy a chance.” Another big mistake. 

Staff GraphicAt the end of his first day, I asked Misery to meet me in the manager’s office to see how the day went. I was not prepared for what happened next. He told us that he was having a hard time adjusting, he doesn’t want to work on big jobs like engines and transmissions, and does not want to be fed oil changes all day either. Misery went on and on about shop conditions, complaining about everything.  

We should have cut ties at that point, but we didn’t. I told my manager to give it time. Let Misery adjust. I felt confident that once he learned who we are as a company, he would see the light.  

Ten days later my manager informed me that Misery does not want to work on a particular car, claiming that it was a “rust bucket,” and that we should have never taken the car in.  

I asked Misery to come to my office during his lunch break. At around noon, he stepped into my office, sat down and began his rant: “This is the worst day of my life. I have to work on an old piece of garbage, a rust bucket that we should have never brought in. And, let me tell you, your people are a bunch of clowns that disrespect you and your company. This is not the workplace you sold me on, Joe.” I felt myself getting sucked into his drama and scheduled a meeting with my manager. 

After hearing my manager’s side, things began to fall into place. Misery’s negative attitude toward his work and life in general was the real problem, a problem too complex for us to solve. He complained about everyone and isolated himself from the other technicians. No one wanted to work with him. I asked my manager what he wanted to do. He told me he wanted to fire Misery. And we did. It was the first right decision in this entire fiasco. 

I learned a few valuable lessons from this ordeal. First, I should have paid better attention to all of the red flags from the very beginning. Hiring people is an emotional event. We tend to hurry the process, mainly because we so desperately need to fill a void in the shop. From this experience, we now take our time hiring and pay attention to the flags that are telling us, “Don’t hire this person.” We also started an ongoing recruiting process to create a pipeline of potential candidates. 

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from all of this is that people are essentially who they are. And sometimes there’s nothing you can do to bring out in them what’s not there to begin with. 

Joe Marconi has more than three decades of experience in the automotive repair industry. He is the owner of Osceola Garage in Baldwin Place, N.Y., a business development coach for Elite Worldwide and co-founder of autoshopowner.com. Reach him at jmarconi@ratchetandwrench.com

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