Top 5 Ways to Hire the Ideal Automotive Technician
By Ted Ings, Executive Director
It’s no secret there’s an industry-wide shortage of automotive technicians. These 5 strategies will help your shop beat the drought by hiring the best in the business.
Firestone Complete Auto Care has a current slogan: “Robots may build cars, but it takes human hands to keep them running right.”
Shop owners and managers know this statement is accurate – but finding those human hands can be tricky.
In 2017, The Automotive Service Association reported 45% of shop owners view lack of technicians as their number one challenge. Qualified individuals are leaving the auto repair business for jobs that are less strenuous and often better paying. It’s common knowledge that there’s an industry-wide auto tech shortage, and if you want to survive, you need to find a way to beat it.
How to recruit rockstar automotive technicians
You can’t just post a help wanted ad anymore. From rinky-dink independent shops to large dealerships, everyone is fighting over qualified technicians. To score a high-quality mechanic, you need special tactics. These 5 strategies will help you find and retain the help you need.
1. Make your shop a place technicians want to be
It’s not all about the money. Like everyone else, automotive technicians wish to be treated with respect. Unfortunately, too many shops treat mechanics like secondhand citizens (grease monkeys, if you will). Service advisors and managers look down on techs instead of treating them like the skilled professionals they are.
And then there are the facilities.
Upfront, everything is sparkling clean. There are snacks and coffee for the customers (and let’s face it, the salespeople, too). The showroom is temperature controlled. Everyone is happy. Head back to the service bay, and it’s a different story. There’s often no heating or cooling, so mechanics boil in the summer and freeze in the winter. The shop is dimly lit and full of clutter. It’s no wonder automotive technicians are leaving in droves for cushy office jobs.
Make your shop a place technicians will want to be. Create a culture where everyone – including technicians – knows they’re a valued member of the team. Let them know they contribute to the shop’s success. Give praise, and occasional rewards if merited. Make the service area as comfortable a possible, with temperature control and good lighting. Ensure it’s kept clean. Maybe even provide the technicians with disposable latex gloves. After all, it’s the little things that matter.
2. Provide technicians with fair pay
Recently, an automotive repair student recounted leaving his position at a repair shop to go work at Taco Bell. His reasoning? The repair facility paid $10 an hour, and he was required to purchase his own tools. On the other hand, Taco Bell paid $12 an hour – and gave him free food!
Being a mechanic – even an entry level lube tech – is hard work. There’s no way an automotive technician should be paid less than a drive-thru cashier. According to Glassdoor, the average automotive technician salary is $37,261 a year. That’s substantially less than the national average of $48,642 recorded in 2016 (that figure has probably gone up by now).
Give these hard working employees what they’re worth. Take a look at your shops budget and see what you can afford.
3. Reconsider your shop’s pay plan
On the outset, a job looks like it’s going to be easy. The labor time calls for only a couple of hours, but then, something goes awry. Maybe the vehicle’s old and rusted, and a part breaks off. Or the diagnostics turn out to be far more complicated than anticipated. As a result, the job takes 5 hours to complete, instead of the two hours listed in the labor guide. But the mechanic still only gets paid for two.
Every auto technician has been in a similar situation – and it’s a drag. It’s also a bummer when an employee shows up for work and get’s paid nothing because there aren’t any customers.
In California, mechanics still get paid an hourly minimum wage for a job, even if it takes longer than book time. Plus, if the auto technician shows up for work, and there isn’t any, he or she is still entitled to half a day’s pay.
Perhaps California is doing it right. Consider offering your technicians a more fair pay rate system – one where they get paid for every hour they’re at the shop.
4. Get out of the shop and network
You can’t sit back and wait for technicians to come to you.
You’ve got to get out there and hustle. Besides posting online help wanted ads, Shop owners and managers should attend job fairs. They should also hand out fliers at automotive technician schools. Plus, it’s not a bad idea to offer free incentives, like an after-school automotive class or paid training. A sign-on bonus helps, too.
5. Provide the latest equipment
Automotive technicians already have to pay for their hand tools. Footing the bill for diagnostic and shop equipment helps keep mechanics happy and productive. It’s a win-win situation.
Implement these automotive technician recruiting strategies at your shop
Finding the right candidate is a lot like dating – if you wait too long, all the good ones will be gone. So, get started immediately by applying these tactics to your employee-hunting process.
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