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management cullen october 2023

How to Best Interview Fleet Personnel

The hiring process for any job involves some dancing on the part of the employer and the applicant. Depending on the savvy and experience of the job seeker, the footwork gets most intense when the discussion moves to compensation, which covers everything from wages to health benefits to overtime rates and paid time off.

The dance is more subtle at the start of the hiring process; it’s akin to two chess players taking stock of each other in their early moves. Of course, the goal for the employer should be to hire the best person for the job within the budget set for filling that position. But all the while, the employer should also ensure that the applicant knows that they are not getting into the ring for nine rounds but rather being invited to try out to join a winning team.

Navigating this fraught process requires a road map. And that is what well-thought-out, tailored-to-the-job interview questions are meant to provide. Couple those with a professional, respectful demeanor toward applicants, and it’s far more likely a fleet will hire personnel who fit well within the organization and will become successful long-term employees.

The Greatest Challenge
Most of the critical fleet positions that utilities seek candidates to fill fall into the realm of shop operations. Given the technician shortage across all of trucking and many other industries, it is securing new mechanical/technical talent that looms largest for fleets of all types. On the other hand, the general principles of effectively interviewing techs also apply to hiring other staff, from administrative to executive. After all, whether the employee works in the office or the shop, their mission is to help operate the safest, most efficient fleet possible.

When talking to techs or other workers, you need to know what you are looking for before you can ask candidates how they will fit that bill. To get there, AssetWorks (, a Wayne, Pennsylvania-based provider of fleet management solutions, recommends using the interview process to zero in on who has the six key traits of a high-quality technician (i.e., diagnostic skills, experience, desire to learn, resourcefulness, work ethic and tech savvy).

A utility fleet manager could put this approach to work by developing questions that will shine a light on how closely candidates mirror these top-notch traits. Following are some examples.

1. Diagnostic Skills
Mechanics must be able to quickly diagnose the root cause of a problem. To enable that, techs should have access to fleet software on the shop floor. Therefore, a key question for applicants is to ask them to discuss their expertise in diagnostics and their experience working with shop software and other technology.

2. Experience
Exactly how experienced is the applicant? Have they worked on the types of specialized truck and trailer equipment used by electric utilities? How many vehicle systems are they already trained on, such as electrical, fuel, braking and powertrain (including electric)?

3. Desire to Learn
What is the technician’s thinking on continuing their education? With the rapid advancements in truck technology, including the advent of electric drive and automated systems, techs who are not open to further developing their skills are at great risk of falling behind their peers.

Also be sure to inquire about any professional certifications they have earned, such as through ASE. According to AssetWorks, “Not all technicians will be certified, but those who are offer security by ensuring they are qualified to complete repairs correctly. Technicians can receive an ASE [certification] every five years to keep their knowledge up to date.”

4. Resourcefulness
Even experienced technicians can get stumped by service requests now and then. The question here is, what steps would they take if they were at a loss about how to move forward? Who would they reach out to for assistance? If their response includes asking you about the shop hierarchy and whether the fleet has a formal mentorship program, that’s likely a clue to their resourcefulness.

5. Work Ethic
In many ways, techs are the tip of the spear. They are charged with the responsibility of releasing service equipment only when it has been properly maintained and repaired so that it operates correctly and safely. Techs must also be productive to keep downtime to a minimum. During the interview, ask them how they respond to pressure without losing their edge. When needed, can they multitask to keep the flow going? Are they passionate about maintenance – or about any other type of job the applicant may be seeking, from shop to office?

6. Tech Savvy

The best techs are smart and savvy. Given that, does the applicant grasp the importance of implementing new vehicle and service technology? Can they leverage technology to cut downtime while also ensuring quality repairs are done and maintenance schedules are adhered to? You might also ask what technology they would like to see in your shops.

Just as there are no right or wrong answers to questions designed to elicit information, there isn’t one set of interview questions that will give managers all the answers they seek to make the best hiring decisions possible. Write the questions you want for the answers you need.

About the Author: David Cullen is an award-winning journalist who specializes in covering the trucking industry. Based in Connecticut, he writes for several business publications.


David Cullen

David Cullen is an award-winning journalist who specializes in covering the trucking industry. Based in Connecticut, he writes for several business publications.