Written By Don Archer Connect with him on Facebook

I’ve made some horrible hiring decisions in the past. I once hired a young man who was born and bred into the towing business. I mean…he must have caused his mother considerable pain during the birthing process because I swear he was born with a recovery chain wrapped around his neck. He was a great tow truck operator, he knew how to recover most anything, but he had one flaw, and unfortunately, it was one I couldn’t abide by. He didn’t know how to control his anger.

Early on, it became apparent that he didn’t work well with others, but it didn’t come to a head until I lost a good customer because of it.

Since that time, I try to be a little more discerning. Take Terry, for example. Looking like he just rolled out of bed, Terry wandered into my office one day, looking for a job. I handed him an application and a pen and asked that he fill it out in the break room. They say first impressions are crucial in getting what you want. Well, Terry must have wanted to remain unemployed because as he took the items from my hand, I noticed he was wearing flip-flops.

Unfortunately, many would-be tow truck operators don’t understand what employers are looking for when hiring. The problem isn’t that they’re stupid or that they lack the necessary skills to be good operators. It’s just that an employer doesn’t have time to start from square 1. To be employable in any opportunity, you must place yourself in the position of the employer. Put on your boss-hat, try a little introspection, and ask yourself three questions.

  1. What qualities do I have that a boss might be looking for?
  2. When applying for a job, what first impressions will I make when I walk in the door?
  3. If I owned the business, would I want me showing up to take care of my customers?

There are other questions you could ask but let’s deal with these three. The qualities a towing company owner or hiring manager is looking for start out quite simple. Are you presentable? Do you take pride in your appearance, or did you show up to the interview wearing your prized SlipKnot t-shirt? Or worse, flip-flops?

Many potential new-hires harm their chances from the outset by assuming that the clothes don’t make the man or the woman, and wear what they would if they were going over to a friend’s house to play Halo 3. I believe this is because many assume the position that: “If they can’t take me as I am, then I don’t want the job.” And that’s good because you’re alerting your would-be employer to the fact that you’re immature and believe that you’re deserving of some sort of street-cred respect.  If you’re more concerned with yourself than serving the employer’s needs, guess what? You’re not going to get the job.

But let’s now assume that you’ve gotten past all that. You’ve dressed reasonably, in jeans without holes and a clean button-down shirt that’s tucked in. You have the same amount of holes in your head that you were born with, and your tattoos are concealed. You’re showered and look like you would if you were going on a date, minus the cowboy hat and 6-inch silver-plated belt buckle. You walk in the door, and it begins. First, know that the interview process starts as soon as you open the door.  Actually, before that. As soon as you call the number that wasn’t included in the Help-Wanted listing that plainly stated: NO-CALLS-APPLY IN PERSON, you’re being assessed.

So as you walk in the door to greet the boss or hiring manager, you need to be assertive but subservient. You want to give the impression that you want the job, but if you come across as too desirous, you’ll be seen as a rube.

You must understand what a tow-boss is looking for. He wants someone who’s pliable but, at the same time, has confidence.

Pliability refers to a person’s ability to learn and adjust. Can this person be taught? Will this person listen to me when I tell them something?  Confidence has to do with a person’s ability to think on their feet and look within themselves when something outside the norm happens.

The towing business is full of unknown quantities. A tow truck operator can be taught how to hook up a car, they can be taught how to throw a set of dollies, and they can be instructed on the proper way to use a winch to extract a vehicle from a ditch. But try as they might, there’s no way a trainer can engage a new-hire in every scenario they’ll encounter while on the roads. Confidence, not cockiness, tells the boss that you’re a good gamble.

And if you look at it from the boss’s perspective, every new-hire is a gamble.

He’s required to pay you during the training process, knowing full well that there’s no guarantee you’ll work out. And just your being there is an opportunity cost. Meaning he’s invested resources and time in you that he’s not investing in someone else. So if you don’t work out, he’ll be required to start the hiring process all over again.  So while you’re working on that introspection, ask yourself what you can do to alleviate the boss’s apprehensions when making a hiring decision.

Here are a few pointers

  • Be realistic and not over-the-top. Many times I’ll have an applicant walk in the door and say, “I’ve wanted to be a tow truck driver all my life.” And each time I’ve hired that person, they were gone in less than three months. Youth and exuberance are great, but only if they can be corralled and focused.
  • Be flexible. Part of understanding what the hiring manager is looking for is knowing how the business works. Towing is a needs-based business which means there will be times when you’re not scheduled that you’ll be needed. If you can work just about any time, there’s a higher chance of getting the job. But if you say, “I can only work 14 hours per month, and it’s got to be cash because I’ll lose my disability.” You’re probably not going to get the job.
  • Be trainable. There’s a fine line you must adhere to here. If, when you apply, you’re lacking confidence, you’ll most likely be smiled at and waved on. But if you assume that you know everything, the hiring manager may, himself, assume that you’re untrainable. One of the biggest and most avoidable expenses towing companies have is damages. Most damages are caused by inexperienced operators who thought they knew the correct way to do something but caused damage because they didn’t listen while being trained.
  • Be the ideal employee. The ideal employee shows up 10 minutes before he’s scheduled. He answers his phone and returns texts promptly. He’s available to help out after hours and fill in where others leave off. During lull periods, he’s constantly training himself, asking questions, and working on things that he hasn’t quite mastered. He’ll sweep the shop, clean his truck, change oil, replace brakes, and basically help out wherever there’s a need. He does this not because he’s a suck-up but because he values his job and understands his employer’s plight.

Why do I refer to it as an employer’s plight? A plight is a sticky situation, and finding the right person for the job can be tough at times. An employer must interview, hire, and retain quality employees to service customers so that sufficient revenue for sustaining those employees is generated. It’s a chicken and egg type of quandary. If he hires the wrong people, people who cause him to lose customers, he’ll have less revenue with which to pay employees. With less revenue to pay employees, he’ll be unable to retain quality help. And if he doesn’t have sufficient help to service customers, customers will look elsewhere for his services.

So if, from the beginning, you understand what an employer is looking for and can be a valuable asset, you’ll stand a greater chance of getting hired.