Finding and Hiring Your First Technician

Finding qualified technicians is extremely difficult. Ideally, you want somebody who has intimate knowledge about your platform, owns their own tools, has comparable work standards and ethics, is young and excited, only wants $10/hour, and has 20 years of experience. Hate to break it to you, but that person doesn’t exist. No one will ever be as driven to succeed as yourself.

Many small business owners fool themselves into believing they can just hire somebody, put them to work, and expect perfect quality every time. Truth is, it takes a lot of time and effort to manage just one employee.

It is your business and you have built it from the ground up. Your next step is to build a team you can trust and rely on to move your business forward.


Get yourself ready

As mentioned in our previous blog post, the first step in hiring an employee is preparing yourself and your shop for the extra set of hands. This means having a clear understanding of the workflow steps, a catalog of tasks with estimated times, a way to delegate tasks & track their time, and clear roles & responsibilities laid out. We created our My Shop Assist software to handle the task list and delegating work to the technicians. The other steps are on you to perfect.

Of the 6 steps in the Workflow Process blog post, the new technician will only be responsible for #4: Working the Job. This means that you will be burdened with more customer inquiries, parts orders, bills, invoices, and evaluation of the work to do.

Simply put: you will have more overhead responsibilities of running the business and less time to spend working on cars. Your role at the shop will shift from mechanic to manager.

Work space

You will need to set aside a work space for the new technician. If you are like most small shops, you may only have 1 lift that you normally use. That won’t work when there are two people wrenching on cars at the same time.

Ensure that the space is laid out to accommodate another lift, another person, their tools, shelves for parts, and space to work. Don’t force your new technician to work on the ground with jack stands and then expect them to be efficient.

Write the job description

You will need to provide a detailed list of roles, responsibilities, and expectations for your future employee. This means things like; hours of operation, employee conduct (cell phone use, smoking, personal hygiene, etc.), tool requirements, job duties, trial period, pay raise evaluation, and industry experience.

To help you out with this process, below is a general list that we put together.

  • Looking for performance automotive technician to be a part of our team at the greatest mustang shop in the Midwest!
  • Work hours from 9am to 6pm with 1-hour break for lunch.
  • Dress code: close-toed shoes, sturdy pants or shorts, and clean t-shirts are required.
  • Smoking in designated areas only and cigarette butts must be properly disposed of.
  • You are required to have basic hand tools including 8mm-19mm sockets and wrenches, screw drivers, and pliers.
  • You will be installing aftermarket parts and performing scheduled maintenance each day.
  • Experience in the aftermarket industry is preferred but not required. Professional mechanic experience is also preferred but not required.
  • There will be a 30-day evaluation period where your work ethic, ability to follow orders, and performance will be measured. After the 30-day period is over, you will either be released from the job or offered a full-time position.
  • Pay is $XX.XX per hour and is evaluated for a raise after 6 months. You will be measured on how quickly you perform the work and how few mistakes were made. After the first 6 months, evaluations will be made each year.

With this job description in hand, you can begin reaching out to find that person.

Where to look

Trade Schools

Just like with any formal education, graduating proves that the student is able to learn and their grades reflect that ability. It does not mean that they will be able to wire up a MoTeC ECU or rebuild a dogbox transmission.

You need to be looking for motivated and enthusiastic individuals who earned good grades and high attendance records. This is the best indication about them as an employee as you are going to get.

It will be up to you to train and inform them about your specific platform. Do not expect them to know how to do everything and be prepared to show them particular installs several times to ensure proficiency.

It will also be on your shoulders to actively seek out these specific potential technicians. Make a visit to the trade school and speak with the placement department. Tell them exactly what you are looking for and see if they have any applicable candidates. If they do not, ask them where else to try.

We have interviewed the founder of SAMTech on our podcast and recommend them if you run a machine shop. It is an established business with an excellent track record of teaching qualified machinist. But, their students are in high demand, so don’t expect to hire a quality machinist at a bargain hourly rate. Again, talk with them and see if any of their students fit your needs.

Facebook Post

Facebook is the farthest-reaching platform you will have to attract possible technicians. But, it is also very broad and open to anybody. This feature has been so widespread that Facebook even added a “Publish a Job Post” option for your page.

Ask them to fill out a simple questionnaire that you create (similar to the one posted above in the Job Description section) and email it back to you. If you do not get a well-thought-out response, you can immediately eliminate that candidate.

Customers or friends

You are in the automotive industry every day at your job. You may know somebody who is looking to start or change careers and may be a good fit at your shop.

Your customer base is a good place to start. If you have tuned a guy’s car several times over the years and never have any mechanical issues with it, he may be a candidate as an employee.

Same goes for your friends. If you were always wrenching with a buddy in your garage and now have your own shop, maybe that friend would be interested in helping out in a more formal setting as an employee.

Never hurts to ask them if they would be interested in a job.

Mechanics from another shop

Now, we are not advocating poaching technicians from fellow shops, whether they are in the same industry or not. But, we are saying that it may be OK to hire a technician who was let go from another shop.

Often times, the shop who previously employed that technician was not fully equipped to handle the extra work capacity (see blog post about preparing yourself). This means that technician may be perfectly capable of performing quality work but just needs the right type of management and guidance.

They will already be accustomed to performance work and have a full box of tools. All you need to do is evaluate their compatibility for your situation. So, don’t be afraid to hire a person because they didn’t work out at another shop.

Interviewing process

The résumé explains their skills and background, but the interview teaches you what type of person they are. Once you have narrowed down your pool of applicants, you should bring each person in for a formal interview.

If they are available, schedule a specific time for them to arrive such as 11:30. Plan on showing them around the shop and explaining the position. Make sure you talk to the candidate about your expectations of them, and if they believe they are fair, adequate, and achievable. Go over your roles and responsibilities for the position with them one by one so you both know what’s to be expected. There should be no surprises to the candidate or you when they get started. Give them a chance to ask you questions and see if they have any suggestions for you.

Then, treat them to lunch. This is an informal setting where you can further explore their character. Make friendly conversation to better understand if they will be a good fit. During the informal interview, you are trying to determine if you can get along with the person and if they can get along with you. Also, if they didn’t show up on time, they are probably not punctual and will be late for work.

Plan for one of these “shop tour and lunch” interviews each day for however many candidates you have. Then, make your selection of the best applicant and coordinate a start date with them. It is also common courtesy to call or email the other applicants and let them know they didn’t get the position.

Getting the technician going

Once you have made your selection after the interview process, it will be up to you to fill out all the necessary paperwork to add them to your payroll.

It is advised to draft a document detailing the evaluation period. This document will allow you to let the employee go without any legal ramifications if they didn’t meet your expectations. While we cannot provide you any legal guidance in this matter, a business lawyer will be able to draft up the document for you.

Prepare yourself for the most inefficient month ever. This is because you will be spending most of your time teaching and demonstrating your expectations. Do not just assume the technicians knows how to do everything. Remember, when you hired a technician, your role changed from owner to manager.

First day

On the technician’s first day, help them get setup and show them where all the specialty tools are located. Explain your processes in detail and go over any information about the building they may need to know.

Try to have a couple basic install tasks lined up for them. This includes things like cat-back exhaust install, installing new brake pads, oil change, etc. You just want to provide them with a handful of tasks that will get them accustomed to your shop. Make sure they follow the process you outlined for them.

You will be hand holding them through the entire first day. The goal is to teach them how you like to work and what your expectations are of them. Everything they touch will need a quality check and inspection before it is given back to the customer. Do not simply tell them a list of things to do and then go in the office. That comes later – much later.

First week

Continue to assign tasks to the technician and meticulously watch over their installations with quality control checks. Make sure they clean up the work space after each car is done. Ensure their tools are cleaned before they leave. Take some time to talk with them at the end of each day to ensure they are getting up to speed on your operations. Who knows, they might even have suggestions for you!

You are there to help and watch over the technician. It may feel like babysitting and micromanaging, and that’s because it is! You are using this time to evaluate their future at YOUR business. Make sure they are a good fit and can complete the work in a timely manner.

At the end of the week, go over their performance numbers. In My Shop Assist, you can run the Employee Service Report for Work Completed to see how many hours of labor were billed to customers in that time period. Don’t expect them to be 100% efficient. But, they should be at least 50% efficient. Communicate this with the technician so they understand how your business operates and what you expect out of them. They need to know that they should be at least 80% efficient (or some other number) to justify their employment.

We warned you this would be your most inefficient month ever and this is why: you will be spending a lot of time teaching & helping and not much time generating income.

First month

By the end of the first month, your employee should be accustomed to your schedule and expectations. You have been evaluating their performance each week and slowly weening them off your assistance.

You still need to check all of their work (quality control checks are not ever a bad thing to do) and you will still need to walk them through any installs they have not performed. This ensures they do it properly and as quickly as possible.

Don’t just lay out a pile of parts and say “install these.” You need to discuss the build with them, come up with a plan for which installs to do first, and give guidance about doing each the quickest way possible.

If their efficiency numbers are rising and approaching a reasonable expectation, have been showing up on time, have been cleaning their work space, and their attitude is still enthusiastic, you can formally offer them a full-time position.

If those things aren’t being met to your standards, you can cordially let them know that it isn’t working out. Then you can go back and begin the process all over again! That’s why the application and interview process is so important to get right, spending 30 days training someone that might work out is very expensive.

Final thoughts

Hiring your first employee is the single largest percentage increase in labor capacity you will ever do. That is why it is so important to make as few mistakes as possible along the way. We hope that this post will shed some light on the process.

We want you to realize the goal of growing the business isn’t to increase revenue, but increase profits. If another technician does not put more money in your pocket, it was not a good idea to hire them.

It is up to you to ensure that conditions are right before bringing on another employee. Streamline your operations and maximize profits with the resources you currently have. THEN bring on another person to grow the business.

If you would like help improving operations at your shop, please check out our My Shop Assist website for more information about our project management software.


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