How NOT To Recruit Owner Operator Drivers (Part 1)

Truck Driver in Semi Truck

Six Tips From Three Experts

It’s no secret that recruiting Owner Operators is harder than ever. By some industry estimates, the total number of Owner Operators in the market is 1/3 what it was just before the recession began in 2008.

Not only that, says CareersInGear.com’s Carol Gibson, Owner Operators are less likely to switch companies now than they were just last year. “Freight’s good for Owner Operators now, so why would they leave—particularly if they’re with companies who took care of them when freight was down?”

Which made me think that now might be a good time to ask a few experts (including yours truly) for specific lessons they’ve learned—either from others, or from experience—in recruiting Owner Operators over the years.

FRANCIS HARE TalkingTruckers.com

1)  Don’t underestimate the challenge. You have to invest more to attract Owner Operators than you do to recruit Company Drivers. Particularly if you’re just now entering the Owner Operator market. That starts with developing a powerful brand message that sets you apart from the competition. A message that’s communicated consistently, from your print and online ads to the “talking points” your recruiters use during telephone interviews.

If your brand isn’t well-established, the only way to overcome that disadvantage in the short term is with a truly superior offer, IE: Significantly higher pay or sign-on bonuses; or maybe an especially competitive Lease Purchase program. And don’t even think about recruiting Owner Operators without a solid referral program.

2)  Don’t change your message in mid-stream. One of the most important reasons to think through your messaging strategy is because it takes time to establish that message in the market.

Common ad-world wisdom holds that someone has to see your message three times before it sinks in—so if you change your message, it’s like starting over from scratch. Particularly with online job boards—where every content change drops you down the queue in maximizing your job posts’ prominence on the web, and frequent changes will pretty much keep you stuck at the back of the line.

Bottom line: Develop a strong selling message and offer. Then give it enough time to start working. And don’t panic if it doesn’t generate immediate results. You’ll only make the situation worse.

JEFF GRAY Randall Reilly

3)  Don’t limit your advertising to one medium. Different generations access information differently. While there’s been a decided movement in spending toward online job boards, Gray notes that the truck driving population is aging. “The youngest Boomers will be 50 by the end of 2014, and studies clearly indicate that older drivers (who are typically not computer savvy) are much more apt to seek job info from print sources.”

4)  Don’t under-spend on your ad budget. Gray notes that when Randall launched the Owner Operator Network in 2011, the company committed a huge investment in search advertising to reach Owner Operators. “And remember,” Gray says, “that was two years ago, when the pool of Owner Operators was larger than it is now.”

CLAIBORNE CROMMELIN Baggett Transportation

5)  Don’t “sell”. More importantly, don’t over-sell. No company is right for every driver, says Commelin—so it’s important to determine first if there’s a good match between a prospect and your company. “If you try to make an opportunity sound better than it really is, or if you try to place a driver in a position he won’t like, you’ll end-up losing that driver. And you’ll probably hurt your reputation in the process.”

6)  Don’t expect to hire drivers on the first call. Hiring Owner Operators is like any business sales cycle, Crommelin notes: It takes multiple contacts. “It’s a process of building a relationship, and mutual trust—and that takes time.” Conversely, Crommelin cautions against hiring drivers who are ready to start work with you immediately. “Whenever we hear from a caller like that, a red flag goes up. And we almost always find-out there’s a good reason we were suspicious in the first place.” 


How NOT To Recruit Owner Operator Drivers (Part 2)

Truck Driver Recruiting: Four Tips For Boosting Referrals

Blogging: The Future Of Online Truck Driver Recruiting?

Recruiting Truck Drivers With Craigslist (And Brand Power)

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How NOT To Recruit Owner Operator Drivers (Part 2)

Truck Driver in Semi TruckSix More Tips From Three More Experts

If there’s one thing I’ve heard at MATS in recent years, it’s that recruiting Owner Operators is tough as it’s ever been. Which shouldn’t surprise anyone. After all, as I noted in my first post on the topic, the total number of Owner Operators in the market is (by some estimates) 1/3 what it was just before the recession began in 2008.

Which is why, more than ever, it’s important to avoid the mistakes that can make or break an Owner Operator’s decision to join your company. And why I received enough responses to one simple question (“What are the common mistakes you’ve either made yourself, or seen others make?”) to fill two posts.

Which leads to our second six tips:

CAROL GIBSON CareersInGear.com

1)  Don’t ask for Social Security Numbers online. In this age of Identity Theft, Gibson notes, people are constantly being warned not to give-out their Social Security numbers—particularly online. “Asking for that information on your job app will automatically run-off a significant percentage of prospects.”

2)  Don’t make your only application a long one. Owner Operators know they’re in great demand. And, Gibson notes, they’re typically pressed for time. “Think about it: If a driver’s looking to make a switch, how likely is he to take the time to fill-out a 10 to 15 page app (much less several), when he can answer a few key questions in a short form?” The point is to facilitate contact, because what you really want to do is get a driver on the phone.

JAMIE ADCOCK Target Media Partners

3)  Don’t focus on pre-qualifying drivers. Too many recruiters, Adcock notes, are pressured to fill seats—rather than focusing on driver-prospect needs. “Retention is just as important to your numbers as recruiting. So by focusing on making quality hires, you’re ultimately building quantity.”

4)  Don’t overlook “the little things”. Again, Owner Operators are busy. So anything you can do to make it easier to switch from their current company—from helping fill-out their paperwork to buying their plates—increases your chances of success. And, it goes without saying, doing the so-called “little things” (like offering annual hire-date recognition and rewards) can make all the difference in retention.

MARTHA HARE Hare Communications

5)  Don’t rush the hiring process. The hiring Life Cycle for an Owner Operator is a relationship-building process that usually takes weeks, even months. Good recruiters understand that, and avoid pushing drivers to make on-the-spot decisions during initial conversations. That tactic scares-off a lot more Owner Operators than it attracts.

6)  Don’t make vague promises. Owner Operators are reflexively skeptical of companies—because nearly every driver will tell you he’s been burned in the past. So be upfront with the details—starting with your advertising. Make your ads and job postings specific—particularly where pay, home time and miles are concerned. And don’t be afraid to admit, during conversation, that your company isn’t perfect. Nobody is. The best Owner Operators know that. They’ll respect you for being honest. And earning a driver’s respect is the first big step toward a successful hire.


How NOT To Recruit Owner Operator Drivers (Part 1)

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5 Tips for Recruiting Great Truck Drivers

Maximize your odds of hiring better truck drivers by looking for the four key qualities that all great employees share: Work ethic. Humility. Integrity. Maturity. (WHIM)

We all know the driver shortage is making it tougher to find any truckers—much less the great ones. But it goes without saying that the best hires are usually the ones you keep the longest. For one reason, because they have the key qualities you want in your drivers.

Noted author and workplace productivity coach & trainer Garrett Miller (and author of Hiring On A WHIM) published an article offering seven tips for identifying the best job candidates. In reviewing that article, five struck me as being relevant for Driver Recruiting. Here’s a summary of those tips:

1) Assess their WORK ethic. Ask candidates to describe their work experience in detail. Listen for signs of motivation, intensity and excitement.

2) Discern their HUMILITY. Ask candidates to describe the last new process they had to learn. Good signs are willingness to ask for help and seek coaching. Ask what they learned from their most humbling moment.

3) Determine their INTEGRITY. Ask candidates about their biggest disappointment or failure, and see if they took the appropriate level of responsibility for it.

4) Evaluate their MATURITY. Ask candidates to talk about one of their greatest regrets. Listen for bitterness or complaining versus maturity.

5) Throw in a Wrench. Knock them off balance to see how they react. After all, what better way to determine how they deal with the “monkey wrenches” they’ll deal with every day on the road?

It’s pretty simple, really: The best drivers love what they do. Miller’s tips are a helpful system for separating the drivers who merely say they love their work from the ones who really do. At the same time, when you emphasize the importance of the qualities mentioned above in your recruiting efforts, you’re positioning your company as the kind of quality organization that quality drivers want to join.

Click on the following link to read Garrett’s article, 7 Tips for Hiring Great Employees, in its entirety.

National Carriers’ Elite Solution To Truck Driver Recruiting & Retention
How Not To Recruit Owner Operator Drivers (Part 1)
Truck Driver Recruiting: Speaking To The Wives


How To Competitively Recruit Truck Drivers Without Appearing Negative

Illustration: Truth and Lie

When you’re competing for top talent, and you offer clear advantages over competitors, you can exploit those advantages if you do it diplomatically.

Columnist Kris Dunn has written an intriguing article for Fistful of Talent that offers five handy tips for negatively recruiting without appearing negative. Two of those tips weren’t particularly relevant to truck driver recruiting, so I didn’t include them in this post. Here are highlights from the original piece:

To Negatively Recruit means you share interesting information about your competition with a candidate to increase your chance of closing. Here are [3 of the 5] Ways to Negatively Recruit a candidate without looking like scum:

1. Be honest about your own company’s shortcomings as you compare and contrast. Don’t just talk bad about the other companies. Let the competition win a round or two. But make sure you win the final round, and make sure it’s a round that really matters to the candidate.

2. Use public information to help candidates view the competition with eyes wide open.

3. Ask questions about the next career step for a driver if they join your competitor.


Point 1 is by far the most important one to remember. In my own New Business efforts, I’m never shy about commenting on competitors—for a few reasons:

1) I like and respect the majority of agencies I’ve competed against over the years—and the fact that I’m willing to say genuinely nice things about them strengthens the credibility of any negative observations I might share. And, I believe, demonstrates the fact that I’m ultimately interested in what’s best for a prospective client.

2) There are still areas where I believe my firm offers advantages over any shop—whether it’s a better value for the money, or a stronger focus on bottom-line results.

3) I never say anything about competitors I couldn’t comfortably defend if it got back to them.

Regarding Dunn’s Point 2, Consider this: If one of your competitors recently lost a large account which could lead to layoffs, or has a reputation for mistreating drivers, your candidates should know what they could be getting themselves into. You’d want to know if you were them. Just remember to be diplomatic about sharing that information.

Finally, Dunn’s Point 3 is an excellent way to help candidates envision themselves being happily employed with your company for a long time. And isn’t that what we’d like to achieve with all our hires?


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Blogging: The Future Of Online Truck Driver Recruiting?

fishingFive Reasons You Should Add Content Marketing To Your Mix

If you’re wondering, “What is Content Marketing?”, guess what: You’re reading it right now. Don’t misunderstand: It is very much my goal to provide readers with valuable recruiting advice and ideas. But I also hope this blog establishes my credibility with recruiters who are in the market for a good ad agency.

So why would you add Content Marketing to your recruiting mix? More importantly, how would you do it? The simple answer to the second question is: Start blogging. Publish stories highlighting issues related to your company that prospective drivers consider important.

Now, here are five reasons why you should consider Content Marketing:

1) To increase your website’s Search Engine Rankings.
In 2013, Google changed its Search Algorithm to handle more complex queries; a change that affected 90% of all searches.

The key point you should take away from the new algorithm is: It’s tailor-made for Content Marketing. So if your blog posts contain content that’s relevant to what drivers want from a job, those posts should eventually start showing-up in their online searches.

Let’s use this blog as an example of how Content Marketing works for me: Run a Google search on the phrase Recruiting Truck Drivers Through Referrals. NOW: How many of your top unpaid results are Talking Truckers stories? I asked contacts in Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina to do just that. For most, the top three or four unpaid results were Talking Truckers posts. In one search, it produced the top seven unpaid results. Imagine what kind of impact that search-power could have on your recruiting.

2) To build relationships with your prospects.
If your blog starts generating strong search rankings, and your content provides real value to the drivers who read it, you’re building the kind of relationships that can lead to quality hires.

3) To strengthen bonds with your existing drivers.
That’s assuming, of course, your drivers read the posts. If they’re not, you need to work on the content.

4) To strengthen your company brand.
Enough said? If not, see article links below.

5) To echo themes and messages in your Paid advertising.
Make no mistake: Your best job boards will still be an important part of your marketing mix. However, executed properly, a Content Marketing campaign can become an increasingly significant part of that mix.

We’ve been publishing this blog for Baggett since June, 2014—then promoting their posts on Baggett’s Facebook page. On average, those stories are reaching about 6000 targeted viewers a week. Imagine what that kind of positive reach could do for your recruiting program.


What’s Brand Got To Do With Truck Driver Recruiting? Everything.
Driver Recruiting Ads Should Focus On What Matters To Truckers
When Online Complaints Impact Your Truck Driver Recruiting
Improve Truck Driver Recruiting by Surveying Your Drivers

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What’s YOUR Favorite Truck Stop?

This week, we got to wondering if there was any online consensus regarding the best truck stops in America. So we conducted a lengthy search, which yielded any number of different Top Ten lists. The truck stops below are the six which showed-up on just about every list we found online.

great truck stops

So do you have a favorite truck stop? We welcome your comments!



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A Truck Driver Recruiting Solution With Staying Power.

walletThe Next Big Thing May Be A Lot Smaller (And Older) Than You Think.

We’ve dedicated a lot of space in Talking Truckers to the relative merits of Print vs. Interactive media. And while we agree that online and mobile solutions are increasingly important (and effective) in reaching drivers in today’s recruiting marketplace, we’re still convinced the most effective media mix includes both.

Which brings us to a third option that’s often under the radar in media buying conversations—and yet, it’s inspired as much long-term loyalty among carriers as any option we’ve used for our clients over the years: Pocket Card Networks (PCN).

“We’ve been with Pocket Cards for 8 years, and they have consistently out-performed magazines by a margin of 3 to 1,” says Quality Distribution’s Manager of Driver Services Pat French. CalArk’s Director of Recruiting Mary Cundiff concurs. “We’ve been a partner with them since 2008, and consider them one of our better outlets for hires.”

It’s no secret that 2013 was a tough year for traditional print publications—in part because the market simply couldn’t sustain the sheer number of books in print. And yet, notes Ken Schaffer, who co-founded PCN 12 years ago, “2013 was on of our best years to date.”

One big reason for PCN’s effectiveness is its simplicity. “Like the name says, our cards—which are distributed in over 708 locations and 46 states—literally fit in a driver’s pocket. Or in their wallet. Because of that, drivers tend to keep our cards longer than they would a digest-size publication—much less the link to an online job posting.

“In fact,” Schaffer continues, “we routinely hear from clients who’ve made hires from cards we’d placed for them three to six months earlier.”

Next to Staying Power, PCN’s biggest advantage over, say, Job Boards is Brand Messaging. Chris Eisenhauer of Triple Crown Services—who’s been with PCN since 2005—agrees: “We use Pocket Cared Networks because they provide us great branding.” At the same time, he also likes PCN’s convenience factor. “It’s a unique avenue to reach drivers who may not pick up other recruiting material.”

All that said, even Schaffer will tell you that PCN’s results aren’t what they used to be. “Six years ago we were generating up to 1,200 driver calls a month for carriers. Those days are gone. But with fewer drivers in the market and more carriers fighting for drivers, those days are gone for everybody.”

The best media mix is still a media mix. And as any veteran recruiter can tell you, sometimes it’s the little things that mean most to drivers.

Towne Air Takes Driver Recruiting Into The Here And Now
Go Mobile To Recruit Truck Drivers (Part One of Two)
In Truck Driver Recruiting, Print Advertising Is Alive And Well.


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