Interviewing For A Commercial Transport Mechanic

imported_John Whelan - April 18, 2014
Hiring A New Mechanic

We recently hired a new mechanic and I want to share with you the process we went through. The position was for a red seal commercial transport mechanic with a Class 2 driver's licence with air and a commercial vehicle inspection certificate.

We also ask for 5 years experience in the trade. Is this is a tall order? Yes I definitely would say finding a mechanic with all these qualifications is a challenge.

This was the first time I was involved with hiring a new employee so I had to rely on my supervisor who was with me during interviews. He had a lot of experience in this area so I took all the advice I could get from him. He told me not to allow applicants to give one word answers to a question. In other words let them answer in detail instead of a YES or No answer.

The basic format we were going to approach with were some questions that would evaluate the candidate's background, their thoughts on professional matters and handling different situations. Then the mechanic in me thought up some commercial transport technical questions that the applicant could answer at the end of each interview.

This would give us a well rounded evaluation of each job candidate. Some of my questions covered certain specifications one should know during a motor vehicle inspection. If they had any experience in the trade these questions were going to be elementary to them. I will list the questions I presented to the applicants later in this article.

I thought written answers (not multiple choice) would be best and it would give them time to think about their answer. I don't believe verbal questions are appropriate because there needs to be a window of time for the thought process which is part of being a tradesman. There is always thinking going on every day to figure out mechanical need to beat the clock or impress people.

The Short List

I was given the task of picking a handful of job applicants for the short list. The first thing that caught my eye was their experience and background. Another factor was how long they stayed at each of their previous jobs.

Their interests and hobbies is another category I looked at which gave me a rough idea about their personality. There's a difference in personalities when someone enjoys hunting, fishing and camping compared to another who likes jogging, reading and gardening. (my opinion)

I was looking for the right fit in our shop which was a top priority for me. The guys have to get along and work together every day. When there is a personality clash it upsets the whole workplace and I wanted to avoid that situation at all costs.

The present crew I have right now gets along very well. We have a great group of mild mannered mechanics and I'm happy to say there aren't any “wrench throwers” in the shop.

Interview Questions

Asking the right questions really tells the story during an interview and I'm going to list some of them below to give you an idea of what it would be like to sit in on an interview with us. These questions really dig deep into the minds of applicants to provide detailed answers which I found was very helpful with our evaluations.

*Please tell us something about the responsibilities you had in your previous positions?

*What makes you a good candidate for this position?

*Why did you leave your last job or why do you want to leave your present employer?

*Can you describe a situation where some significant form of stress has impacted you on your job and how you dealt with it.

*What community services are you currently or have been involved with? How did you get involved and how much time do you spend on them?

*Tell us about the last time you lost your temper?

*Have you ever been part of a work group in which one or two of the members did not pull their weight? How did you respond?

*Tell us about a time when you and a co-worker had a difference of opinion and describe how you resolved the issue?

*Have you worked with a person you really disliked? How did you approach them?

*Tell us about a time when you and a co-worker had a difference of opinion and describe how you resolved the issue?

*If you are short listed give us some reasons why we should give you special consideration. What makes you one of the people we are looking for?

Commercial Transport Mechanic Questionnaire

At the end of each interview I would hand each applicant a questionnaire. This is a little something I put together to see what they knew about the trade. The questions were very general and it told me if applicants were experienced in the trade. I will share them with you below.

Question One: While performing an MVI and pumping down the air brake system at what pressure should the low air warning system come on?

Question Two: During the same check as question one at what pressure should the maxi brakes apply?

Question Three: What is the maximum push rod stroke allowed for a “Long Stroke” brake chamber?

Question Four: What does “cam rotation” measure when performing an MVI?

Question Five: During an MVI you are draining the air tanks one at a time to check the compressed air reserve. What air valve is this procedure testing?

Question Six: When you apply the brakes the stop lamps are very dim but you notice the back up lamps are illuminated. What could be causing this problem?

Question Seven: On an emission controlled diesel engine what does a “regeneration” do?

Question Eight: How do you perform a “forced regeneration” ?

This was a great way to evaluate the applicants to confirm they were experienced with a background in commercial transport. Then believe it or not the top three on the short list were given links on the internet to fill out a survey on their inner psyche. What came back was graphs and pie charts on each individual telling us more about their leadership levels, objectives and goals. We paid $250.00 for each survey and after reading the results it was worth the cost making our decision easier.

That's it...after all of that we chose our man and have no regrets. He's actually not a commercial transport certified mechanic but a red seal automotive tech with 22 years experience working at a GM dealership. The right fit into our shop was top priority for us. He just satisfied every angle we could think of and there were no objections what so ever.

I'm going to register him into the local college to take an air brake repair course. What will happen is he will slide in to an existing module in progress and complete the air brake portion then he will write the exam. I've been told it will take two to three weeks. Next we will enroll him into the commercial vehicle inspection certification course which takes a Friday night and 2 days over the weekend.

Pretty intense but I strongly believe when you find the right person for your organization they are worth the investment. A positive attitude and gratitude is a great trait to have in an employee and they will pay back ten fold in production and loyalty.

We wanted a mechanic who has skills in analysis and repair in all areas. qualifications and certificates are great but it's the person behind the qualifications that really matters.

Thanks for reading this post and I hope you got something out of it. Please leave a comment below to express your thoughts. Are you looking for a job or looking to hire a commercial transport mechanic? (where you're at right now)has a job board and helps employers find technicians. Check it out along with their other site