Recruiting Strategies

Effective recruiting is all about information management. If you’re serious about improving your recruiting results, you need to start by consistently tracking information about your efforts, tactics, sources, and candidates. If you haven’t tracked your efforts and the results of those efforts you’ll have a hard time getting approval for any changes in strategy or increases in budgets.

How have you been tracking the results of your recruiting efforts?  We have some ideas you may want to consider:

  • At a minimum, maintain a written record of where or how each applicant first heard about the job opening (regardless of whether you hire them). If most applicants heard about the job through a certain source, expand your use of that source.
  • Preferably, you’ll develop a database (or spreadsheet) to track this information over the period of months or years in order to verify the return on investment in your advertising dollars. This can help justify expanding your budget and experimenting with more expensive options like radio or other “big budget” approaches. (Of course, you could also start using our “E-Driver File” program which has a complete recruiting module built in!)
  • Periodically review the applications of those you hired versus those who did not qualify. What were some of the reasons that you passed on certain driver candidates and followed through on others? It may not seem important, but over time you’ll discover specifics that:
    • enable you to save a lot of time when weeding out candidates that you’d never consider, AND 
    • improve your advertising to slow the flow of unqualified candidates.

Are you tracking past candidates that were not qualified?

  • Tracking candidates that were unqualified in the past may provide a rich resource of candidates that may become qualified within a year or two. This is a long term approach that assumes some candidates may be ready to join your firm at a later date if their MVR records improve, or their age or total years of driving experience will later match your minimum safety criteria. 
  • It takes work to keep in touch with these candidates (they may move around and change their contact information, etc.), but it may help you out when you’re in a pinch. Postcards, emails, simple newsletters about your company’s continued success and growth may entice the candidates to keep in touch with you.

Are you networking with other recruiting, HR, or safety managers outside of your company? 

  • Casual contact with other recruiters, if professionally handled, may turn up rejected candidates that don’t meet their standards, but could work for your team with a little re-training, coaching and probation status, etc.
  • While drivers may trade from one company to another, so do other employees. Hiring a recruiter from another company may bring a fresh approach to recruiting that can jump start your efforts (be aware that some recruiters may have employment contracts that do not permit them to bring their contact list along, and it could be considered stealing company property if they did).

While recruiting traditionally consists of sourcing candidates AND qualification of potential employees and the “on boarding” process, we’ll focus our attention on sourcing strategies.

Sourcing, or attracting potential candidates to your company, typically includes:

  1. Advertising by way of multiple media, such as the Internet, general newspapers, job ad newspapers, professional publications, window advertisements, job centers, and campus graduate recruitment programs; and
  2. Recruiting research, which is the proactive identification of driver candidates who may not respond to job postings and other recruitment advertising methods mentioned above. This research results in a list of prospects who can then be contacted to: solicit their interest in a position at your company; obtain a resume; and get them into the qualification process.

 What advertising have you done in the past and what are you doing now?

  • General Newspaper Ads – How are these worded?
    • Besides telling job seekers that you’d like to consider them for employment, your ad should “sell” the job and the company. Give the job seeker a valuable reason to investigate your company. Identify three things that your current drivers see as strong positives for working at your firm – use these in your advertising. 
    • How do you describe the position, the compensation, and the benefits? Is it easy to understand, or more “code-speak” that blends into all the other job ads on that page?
  • Job listing newspapers – Where are these papers placed for distribution? They may not attract CDL drivers if they are placed in grocery stores, but they may work if they are placed in truck stops. Work with the publication sales team to assure that your ad is being placed in the right community of job seekers whose qualifications and interests will be a match for your opening. 
  • Journal ads – driver magazines, trucking magazines and other print media that target drivers or may be read by drivers could be a useful place to announce your intention to hire the best candidates for your team. Specialty magazines that appeal to sportsmen, outdoor activities, and hobbies may be an unusual, but productive, place for your ad if the activities covered in the magazine relate to the activities of an ideal candidate. For example, a firm looking to hire security guards might advertise in a gun magazine to attract candidates that might not otherwise be looking for a job because they are happy where they are right now. 
  • Radio spots – are you working with the radio sales team to tailor your message and make it sound really appealing? It may cost more to hire professional talent to make your spot, but skimping makes the ad ineffective and makes your company seem weak. Picking the right stations and time slots makes a big difference. Ask lots of questions before you sign a contract and try to negotiate for rebates on future advertising based on results. 
  • Job fairs – the organizers of job fairs want you to find candidates so you’ll come back again. They are your ally so use their knowledge to get prepared in advance of a fair. Talk to the organizers about your company’s needs – if they are professionals, they will help you design a short list of questions to cut through unqualified candidates, and the organizer should be willing and able to help steer candidates to your table.
    • Advance advertising about the fair should mention that CDL candidates are sought, and you should negotiate with the organizer to see if there are any rebates, refunds or discounts off of future fairs if you’re unable to get quality candidates during the event. 
    • If you do attend a job fair, take a driver with you so that he or she can relate what a typical day or week is like, how the company operates, etc. Having a current driver (or driver trainer) attend adds credibility and helps candidates form a best possible impression of your firm. 
  • Online recruiting services (specialized for drivers, or generic services like “monster”) – test drive the system as a job seeker before spending any money to register as an employer. If the system is difficult to use or steers candidates towards companies with large advertising banners, your company will be unlikely to draw many candidates from the site. Talk among current drivers to see what sites they like (and why they like each site that they mention).

Take time to call and talk to the people who run the recruiting service. Ask for their advice and ask about success rates for other companies. They are supposed to be experts at what they do – if they are hesitant to share information with you before signing up, you’ll have to wonder whether they’ll be much help after you send them a check.

  • Does your own web site have an application form or a way to solicit driver candidates? Adding a “careers” page is simple and including an online application or “follow up form” can be far less expensive than other advertising methods. It may not draw as many candidates, but not  adding these features simply limit potential candidates from reaching you. 
  • Novel approaches are limited to your creativity (and budget). Maybe you can afford to host a “toll free joke of the day hotline” that starts with a recruiting message for your company. Maybe you could set up a recruiting table at a local truck stop once a month and give out decent quality pens with your recruiting hotline inscribed on the pen. Perhaps you can distribute custom labeled candy bars that encourage drivers to call your recruiting hotline. There’s no limit to the ways you can call attention to your company (but there may be a limit to your budget so plan these “events” carefully and track results!)

Are you actively reaching out to drivers and applicants to get additional names of drivers?

Recruiting research involves actively reaching out to get potential candidate names (it is sometime mockingly called “head hunting”).

It takes a little more work but is essentially free and may get you better job candidates than advertising. After all, the most qualified driver isn’t typically in a job search mode – they’re happy where they are or figure that changing jobs isn’t worth the hassle of re-qualifying.

If you want great candidates, you’re going to have to go chase them down, tackle them and drag them to your company!

Here are some ideas of ways to identify candidates:

  • Start by asking each applicant to list 3-5 names (and contact information) of other drivers that they know and respect as “good drivers”. If they supply only one name and a way to get in touch with that driver, it’s one additional lead for your job opening. Call or email that driver immediately and follow up with them until they say yes or no to sending you a completed application or resume.
  • Ask your current drivers if they have buddies that they’d recommend coming to work for your company. You won’t know how many will provide names until you ask them several times. 
  • If you feel the need to offer a “recruiting bonus” or “reward” to drivers who give you contact names, split the bonus into two parts – one paid after a face to face interview is completed and the second half after the applicant has been qualified and accepted a job. Pay for performance, not promises – after all, your current driver is doing their friend a favor to “get them into” your company and shouldn’t need a reward from you for making an introduction unless it leads to a placement. 
  • Calling ex-employees who voluntarily departed (ie. not terminated for cause) may turn up prospects for re-employment. The follow up shows you miss them and wish they had stayed at your firm. If they are not happy where they ended up, they may come back. This process can take weeks, months and even years, but it’s worth it since your firm will always need “solid” drivers that they can count on. (and these discussions may help you with your “retention” issues at the same time!!!)

As pointed out earlier, the recruiting effort will succeed if you track your information very well. ANY name you receive should be tracked since their qualifications, age, and experience will continue to change over time. Someone that was not a good candidate three years ago may be perfect for you at this time.

Other proactive recruiting research approaches include: 

  • Contingency Recruiters – in a pinch you may consider hiring an outside consultant to get you the talent you need. They only get paid if they deliver a qualified candidate who actually takes the job, but the fee is often a percentage of the first year’s wages (which may be a lot to gamble if the driver leaves within the first six months on the job).
  • Retained Recruiter Agencies – an often expensive option where you place an agency on retainer to actively recruit long-tenured drivers away from their current positions. Typically these drivers are happy with their current job but may move if there is sufficient cause to switch (i.e. better routes, better equipment, etc.)

These tips and ideas represent only a fraction of what can be done.  We don’t claim to have “all the answers”, but because our client network is so proactive they share ideas back and forth.  You could benefit from being a part of that network, or simply work with your current vendors who merely send you another invoice each year.

NEXT – We’ll list some comments, tips and suggestions we’ve already received from our network of more than 3,800 clients.  Add your positive comments, too.

LATER – We’ll discuss Retention Strategies and how they’re related to success in recruiting.

If you’re serious about helping your drivers stay crash-free, ticket-free, and productive, you should check out our programs and services — had to say it, we need to recruit new clients, too

Driver Recruitment and Retention: A Winning Combination

Attracting “good” drivers and keeping the “best” ones are two challenges that can frustrate managers, but are the keys to success within a fleet operation. Why are these two areas so critical?

Maintaining a stable roster of drivers enables:

  • Dispatchers to move loads without delay, 
  • Sales people to bid for more loads with greater confidence, 
  • Safety managers to better ensure predictable and reasonable results as measured by DOT compliance and accident prevention, 
  • Companies to preserve a greater share of their profit margin as a profit instead of funding expensive qualification activities (i.e. drug tests, MVRs, medicals, etc.)

Additionally, attracting and keeping “professional” drivers directly influence your firm’s results:

  • Drivers are the public face of your company. Drivers interact with customers and shape their opinions of your firm. 
  • There are a lot of folks outside of your company who care about your drivers and how they behave: roadside inspectors, insurance carriers, DOT auditors. 
  • Drivers can get into trouble (i.e. infractions of regulations, crashes, etc.) and in doing so can get you and the management team into trouble, too.

There are many obstacles that keep firms from achieving strong recruiting and retention results:

  • It is difficult to find new, qualified (experienced) drivers who are willing to work long hours at “reasonable” wages (the candidate’s expectations are becoming harder to satisfy) 
  • Many potential drivers have difficulty with speaking and writing the English language which can introduce regulatory compliance and safety issues. 
  • Increased competition between transportation firms for what loads are available are leading some to pay a premium for the best drivers, but that’s also driving up their costs. 
  • Safety departments have a legitimate concern over hiring drivers who may be “at increased risk” of becoming involved in collisions due to prior collisions and moving violations; however, when this interferes with the company’s ability to move loads, it can lead to an internal struggle between managers. 
  • Many companies can’t afford lavish retention programs and anniversary bonus programs that are cash based. 
  • Many top managers don’t support their department or team leaders in practical ways that would enable more creative approaches to recruiting or retention; therefore, line managers become de-motivated to try new things that might actually help.

How can a company overcome these obstacles to find and keep productive drivers?

Jack Welch, CEO of General Electric said; “Business is like a sports team; to win, you have to field the best talent“. Some managers may be reading this and thinking, “Heck, I’d settle for fielding a ‘complete’ team let alone the ‘best’ team“. Don’t give up hope and don’t let your boss paint you into a corner by demanding results with no budget.

There are likely two issues keeping your company from achieving its staffing goals: not enough qualified candidates arriving at your door, and too many veterans leaving your company. Whether we like to admit it or not, these two issues are usually connected to each other — two ends of the same spectrum.  If you’re having trouble with one, you’re likely struggling with the other (maybe it’s not obvious or it’s still “under the radar”)

In the next couple of blog posts, we’ll look at Recruiting Strategies and Retention Strategies.  We’d like to hear from you if you agree/disagree that these two issues are linked and if you have any tips for your peers on improving retention/recruting.

Driver-Management Communications Plans (Part 2)

Part Two – Translating Ideas into Practical Steps

I’d imagine that everyone has some form of communication plan that they practice with their drivers. Even if the plan is informal and limited to essential messages, I believe that minor changes could help attain better results. There are a series of “diagnostic questions” that can be asked to help uncover areas that need attention.

The first question is; “How much of your company’s dreams (aka “Goals” or “Expectations”) are shared with drivers?For instance, do you routinely share your company’s:

  • Mission Statement
  • Safety, Quality, Business Goals
  • General Expectations & Disappointments (in the company’s results, not individual driver performance)

 If drivers don’t know your company goals/expectations, they can hardly be expected to help you achieve them by doing anything more than their specific job duties (i.e. merely driving from point A to point B). 

For instance, if your quality team is struggling to reduce shipper complaints, drivers need to understand why that’s important and how they can directly help achieve the goal. Keeping them updated on improvements is one way to involve them further and to recognize their assistance.

The second question is directed at dispatchers, supervisors and administration personnel who deal with drivers on a daily basis. That question is; “How would you complete the following sentence: ‘If there was one thing I wish my drivers would do to help our company, it would be…’” It’s important to stress “our company” and not let them change the sentence to “how can they help ME” (which could be an additional diagnostic question). I am always amazed at how staff members complete that sentence.  In most cases, it uncovers some of the issues that cause tension or friction between “management” and “drivers”.  Equally amazing is the discussion that follows my question; “How many times and how many ways have you mentioned this to the drivers so that they understand how their help would help the company succeed?

The third diagnostic question for the management team is; “Do you know your driver’s expectations or goals?” If you’re assuming you know, you may be sabotaging your results.

The best way to address this is to make the time to talk with drivers one-on-one. A survey may provide a quicker result, but it is impersonal and could mask their real interests. It will take time to get drivers to open up, but it can make a tremendous difference in results.

One way to get your drivers to open up is to ask them to complete the following sentence; “If there was one thing I wish the management team would realize it would be…” Variations work equally well (i.e. “If there were one thing the company could do to really help me be more productive, it would be…” etc.)

As you collect information from drivers you’ll want to see if there are similarities or “shared dreams/concerns/hopes”. When you find patterns, it will help you to address these common concerns openly and with urgency.

Finally, the manner in which drivers relate their expectations and past disappointments will help surface any communication failures or gaps: are they angry and upset or depressed and defeated? If they are expressing anger and frustration, an apology may be part of getting them to listen to your message (i.e. I am sorry that you feel so frustrated, and let me assure you that we are listening). If they are depressed, they may need reassurance to believe that “this time will actually be different”.

Ways to Listen & Be Heard

Getting insight into your company’s perceptions and the driver’s perceptions gives you something to do and talk about that really matters. Structuring opportunities to discuss these issues and attempt to improve operations can be a big task.  

The question you must answer to yourself is; “Am I really better off NOT knowing what’s going on with my drivers, or is the potential reward worth putting in the effort needed to carry off this plan?”  Be honest with yourself – if you’re not going to carry through, you may be better off not starting a plan that will further disappoint your drivers.

Some tips from our clients on getting started:

  • The best communication is face to face, but may not be practical unless the message is URGENT. Scheduling meetings with drivers may be part of the plan, but don’t waste anyone’s time by being ill-prepared.
  • The Orientation/On-Boarding process may present an opportunity to communicate the company mission and goals. It’s also a time to ask questions about their concerns starting at a new company and what they would have changed (if they could have) about their last job.  Just remember, a new hire’s concerns may be very different than those expressed by a driver who has been with your firm for ten or twenty years.
  • Safety training sessions are focused on training, but there may be an opportunity at the start of the session to have a senior manager make introductions and reinforce the company goals and how things are progressing. This can be done in ten minutes or less.
  • Some companies start with a small group of drivers as an informal “committee” to test these ideas and get feedback without involving all drivers initially. Of course, it would be important to set clear expectations that the “group” isn’t setting policy (i.e. acting as management team) but merely offering recommendations
  • Sometimes communication is used to “maintain” relationships: to build on existing messages; to build consistency in message (repeat, repeat, repeat); and to catch message “errors” (misperceptions, misunderstandings) before they spread out to the entire team.
  • Scheduled letter to drivers about progress towards goals (dream fulfillment)
  • Take time to solicit feedback and actually consider the feedback when provided (be sincere). The time you put into listening will encourage drivers.

Topics to Cover?

Once you’ve invested the time to talk with your drivers and learned about their concerns, dreams and goals, you’ll have plenty to talk about. The key is to maintain a balance between talking about your goals (the company’s needs and concerns) and the hopes of the drivers.

Some of the most common topics we’ve heard that combine the concerns of both the company and the drivers:

  • Learning from losses to prevent future ones – expressing compassion towards driver welfare, and highlighting concerns about company costs/disruptions
  • Learning from customer complaints — drivers don’t want to be held responsible for anything out of their control so sharing feedback may lead to creative solutions and ways to satisfy customers. C
  • Compliance with regulations – it is everyone’s responsibility to do their part to comply with DOT, but sometimes each group forgets how they have to work together to schedule medical reviews in a timely fashion, or how roadside inspections are driving the company’s BASICs under CSA.
  • Achieving annual revenue goal – the company must grow to be able to grant raises in rates to drivers, but drivers often hold the key to attracting/retaining profitable customers
  • Upgrading fleet equipment – better equipment can cut maintenance and fuel costs, but drivers may need to help “make things work” with the older equipment before the company can upgrade.


Implementing a communications plan isn’t necessarily about publishing a company newsletter or emailing updates to drivers once a quarter (although those may become part of a larger plan).

A communications plan that helps you achieve goals starts with asking questions and sharing expectations. The plan comes into full effect when both groups decide to work together to achieve these goals by working together, and sharing progress updates on a regular basis.

Remember to keep communications clear and to the point. No one has a lot of time to write or read lengthy articles, and it’s important to “keep it simple” – make the point and move on.

Your drivers represent a tremendous resource. They can help your firm achieve its goals or merely collect a check. You have to decide whether to enlist their help to grow your business.

SafetyFirst Systems, LLC specializes in driver/fleet safety issues.  We work with more than 75 insurance providers and most of the Nation’s top fleet operations in a wide range of industries.  We provide monthly driver training packages to our clients and help them reduce their unsafe driving metrics in a measurable, tangible way.  Call or email us to learn how we can help your fleet, too! 1-888-603-6987 or (“Contact Us” button).

Driver-Management Communication Plans (Part 1)

Business results, crash rates, turnover, tenure (loyalty), and attitudes can be directly affected by how we communicate with drivers and what message we choose to take to them. Even more importantly, their willingness to “step up” and help our companies meet the challenge may be dictated by how well and how sincerely we listen to them.

CoachingThese interpersonal “soft skills” often get pushed to the side in the urgency of completing schedules, making inspections and completing audits. Merely meeting the technical requirements of managing drivers can only get us so far towards our goal of an effective operation.

When fleets practice a communication plan with their drivers (crews / job site teams, etc.) on a consistent basis, they can recognize benefits like:

  • increased loyalty (tenure)
  • decreased turnover
  • better cooperation between drivers and dispatchers or supervisors
  • the potential to convert “whine-ers” into “winners” by changing their attitudes or perceptions

There’s little doubt that trying to make a driver feel like he or she is part of a larger team is a good idea.

Large_Trucks_Cover_Front-300x287While researching this article, I contacted several of our largest clients to ask how they communicate with their drivers. I wanted to learn what they think is important to influence favorable driver retention and what they felt was important to include in a driver communication plan. I also expected that they face the greatest challenges since they have a large number of drivers in many locations (complicating their communication plan), but that they would also have a greater pool of resources available to them. What I learned from them could apply to fleet operations of any size.

A large motor coach fleet with over 300 drivers said;

  • “…the quality of the front line supervisory team is essential to the recruitment and retention of drivers. Drivers want to be treated with Dignity & Respect with consideration of their skills. Many “old line” dispatchers can not make “the transition”
  • The other thing we all must do better is forget about taking care of the constant whine-ers. As management we can fall into the trap of spending 90% of our time on the 10% of the employees who are never happy. By doing so we ignore the best people and forget to recognize them.

An arborist with thousands of drivers said;

  • “…It’s all about focus and not wasting the employee’s time with a bunch of stuff that doesn’t matter. Tell them what matters.”
  • “The big question is…what is that?”

One of our key contacts within the insurance industry had recently worked for one of the largest private fleets in the USA. She offered the following comments:

  • “Communication with drivers can be challenging and I have found, to be effective, you need to do it frequently by multiple methods.”
  • “Periodic meetings – should have some type of recognition for drivers that perform well or made some type of improvement, give drivers updates and provide a brief time for drivers to ask questions. At subsequent meetings, management should have addressed these questions, or be able to give a status of previously submitted suggestions.”

Other clients stressed the need to ensure drivers “feel the love” – that their supervisors and dispatchers “value” the contribution being made by the driver’s consistent job performance. Some of the ideas included: placing notes on drivers windshields for them to find when picking up their equipment, or placing a letter for each day that they are on the road in separate envelops (so that they get a fresh message each morning). Most of our clients stressed that it was important to demonstrate a simple sincerity in exchanging suggestions, concerns and ideas.

The Real Challenge

Drivers are largely isolated from the rest of the company due to the nature of their work. Even those who report to a specific location to start their day, spend the remainder of it on their own.

An author once remarked; “Isolation is a dream killer”. If we substitute the word “goal” for “dream”, it would be easy to see how letting drivers feel isolated could minimize their contributions to revenue, safety or other business goals. At the same time, if managers never attempt to understand what their driver’s goals or dreams may be, the drivers will continue to feel isolated even with an aggressive communication plan.


Every company talks “at” their drivers, but does the “communication plan” extend beyond sending instructions? Tommy Lasorda, the major league baseball coach, once said; “I motivate players through: communication, being honest with them, having them respect and appreciate my ability and my help.” Tommy’s quote didn’t end at clear communications “to” the players, it completes a thought by developing his player’s trust in him by helping them and by demonstrating his abilities to them. He didn’t demand their respect and trust, he took time to earn it.

It can be very difficult to “break the ice” with drivers. They tend to be fiercely independent and “love the freedom of the road”. Is this a defense mechanism for dealing with being alone most of their days? Every driver I’ve ever met loves to talk, complain, or “give suggestions”. I have to wonder whether it’s their intent to incessantly talk or a psychological cry to want to be heard.

My suspicions have been formed from meeting with many commercial fleets to conduct driver training sessions while employed in the insurance industry. Immediately following the training session, I’d be swarmed with drivers asking me to carry messages back to their management team (who were standing less then fifty feet away). Most of these messages focused on trying to improve conditions or make managers aware of perceived injustices. As an “outsider” from the insurance company, they confided that I would be “listened to” by their management team (clearly demonstrating their belief that they would not be heard by their own managers).


A colleague who continues to consult with fleets through his insurance career reminded me of these meetings with the following story. He participated in a driver’s annual dinner and business meeting:

  • “Like many companies, they are struggling with turnover. However, one branch has had essentially zero turnover, with very high driver morale.
  • At the annual meeting; “…driver after driver, as they received their years-of-service awards, pointed to the branch manager…and they all said the same thing.”
  • They said; “…when they go into his office with a question, problem, or concern, they feel they are the most important and most respected person in the world.”

That manager made time to listen to their dreams, concerns, frustrations, and, in turn, he earned the right to get them to listen to his (the company’s). All I’m suggesting is that “communication” will require some key listening along with talking.

Dennis Hall, an Olympian said; “If I teach them nothing else, they will learn about teamwork, we do not leave anyone alone. If we don’t do it together, we don’t do itDoes your management team “leave anyone alone” or do you “do it together” with your drivers as a team?

Check out PART TWO of this discussion.  If you’re looking for practical ways to increase the two-way communication, please check out our client networking group on LinkedIn.

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