Pity the poor recruiter

February 17, 2020

John Bendel

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“How to Hire More Drivers by Training Recruiters in Sales.”

That was the title of a webinar hosted by Transport Topics in December. I wish I had attended, but I do have a hunch what it was about.

You see, Peg and I once bought a new car. At the dealership, we told the salesman we were just looking. He asked us what color we liked, and we began talking about our favorite TV shows. The next thing we knew, we were in the parking lot holding a wad of papers and a set of keys standing next to a new car in the color we had casually mentioned three hours earlier.

Looking back, it was obvious we had been skillfully walked through a script. It wasn’t a word-for-word script. It was more like a subject-by-subject script.

Professional sales trainers teach these techniques in expensive courses for all kinds of businesses. I had to take one once. I would rather palletize floor-loaded trailers of groceries for a week than ever do that again.

Despite that sales course, I didn’t recognize what was happening at the dealership, so the whole process was a marvel in hindsight – though I’m still not sure how we drove away in a red car.

Is this the kind of sales the driver recruiter seminar was about?

I don’t know. I wasn’t there. But in the full-page ad for the webinar, one bullet point said participants would learn how to “navigate and lead conversations by knowing exactly what to say, resulting in better outcomes.”

Sounds really personal, doesn’t it?

The seminar ad also said, “Understanding the parallel between recruiting and sales is a critical step … with drivers considered as ‘leads’ in a sales ‘funnel.’”

Do you think of yourself as a lead in a funnel?

Despite being trained to “build relationships and establish trust,” that’s how some recruiters perceive you. They have little choice. They’re under serious pressure to produce.

You get the picture from an earlier Transport Topics op-ed in which a recruiting executive trots out another lesson from sales. First you figure out how many drivers you typically have to contact for a single hire.

“Experience will dictate the number of calls and contacts per week each recruiter must complete to get, for example, 10 applications – which might generate five qualified candidates and one actual hire,” the executive explained.

That number becomes, in effect, a quota.

You have to wonder what the number was for Celadon, the big carrier that shut down in December. At one point in 2017, Celadon’s driver turnover was reportedly 174%. If Celadon ran 3,000 drivers, they had to hire 5,220 drivers a year. According to Transport Topics, Celadon wrestled turnover down to 86% by 2018 when the company employed 17 recruiters. By then they only had to hire a mere 2,580 drivers – 152 drivers a year for each recruiter.

Even that number means a lot of phone calls, handholding, and sales pitches. They must have been working around 24/7 in 2017. Maybe by 2018 they got Sundays off.

Again, give me those floor loads.

Worried about driverless trucks? Recruiters have to worry about robot recruiters.

Tech writer Joe Dysart writing in – you guessed it – Transport Topics, reviewed a number of commercial hiring robots, including one called Robot Vera.

“Robot Vera can be embedded on your website to instantly interview people who submit resumes or apply for a job with your trucking company,” Dysart wrote.

Robot Vera uses artificial intelligence or machine learning to train itself in conversation. It does so, said Dysart, “by reading Wikipedia, ‘watching’ TV, and studying help wanted ads and job interview questions.”

Isn’t that what you do when you’re unemployed?

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John Bendel

John Bendel is Land Line’s contributing editor-at-large. A former trucker, former editor at National Lampoon, and longtime truck writer, John is an author, photographer, and freelancer for New York Times. There’s more, but in short, his insight and matchless style of writing makes “Gizmos and Gears” a runaway reader favorite.