Do trucking’s hiring processes need an overhaul?

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Trucking needs workers – lots of them. About 3.5 million folks work as truck drivers right now, give or take a few thousand here or there, with 3.1 million of them commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders.

And those figures don’t begin to include the dispatchers, dock workers, load planners, and maintenance technicians (just to name a few) who are vital to ensuring trucks and trailers can haul a wide assortment of freight to a multitude of destinations.

But does the industry have the right hiring practices in place to ensure it’s hiring the right people? People who want to forge careers in the business of moving freight?

Another perhaps more pertinent question: are the ways in which managers hire new entrants in trucking adequate for the task?

This uncertainty stems in part from broader concerns about hiring practices across the U.S. business community – that maybe the wrong methods are being used to identify workers with the necessary skills.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and Mercer Consulting (a division of the Marsh & McLennan Companies) recently polled about 520 human resource (HR) professionals from a variety of industries and found only one-fifth of them are “fully confident” in their employers’ overall ability to effectively assess the skills of entry-level applicants.

Furthermore, they believe employers are relying on what’s dubbed “longstanding methods of screening entry-level job candidates” even though they have little confidence in the accuracy of some of those very techniques.

According to the SHRM/Mercer survey, most employers use in-person interviews (95%), application reviews (87%), and resume reviews (86%) – despite nearly half of HR professionals having “little or no confidence” in application and resume reviews.

As a result, employers may be missing qualified and talented job candidates who in turn are losing out on opportunities for jobs for which they might be well-qualified, argued Barb Marder, senior partner in Mercer’s Career business

“Since application and resume reviews are typically the first line of screening for job applicants, many candidates never even get to the interview,” she explained in a statement. “For individuals who have historically encountered obstacles to entry-level employment there are even greater barriers in getting past resume and application reviews as these methods are based on subjective evaluations.”

Marder noted that the SHRM/Mercer survey results indicate a need for “new and more effective approaches” to entry-level selection as less than half of the companies polled use selection tests for entry-level hiring (42%), which is considered “one the most accurate predictors of performance,” along with well-constructed interviews.

Few organizations use personality tests (13%), cognitive ability tests (10%), or online simulations (2%) to select entry-level employees – methods supported by some of the strongest empirical research, noted Sameer Gadkaree, senior program officer-employment and joint fund programs at the Joyce Foundation, which helped fund this survey.

“Entry-level hiring is ripe for disruptive change, and companies that incorporate more objective methods with scientific support can reap solid gains,” he explained. “This could benefit both employers and job applicants as more objectivity is incorporated into the hiring process.”

This need for more effective approaches to entry-level hiring also leaves the door open for innovative assessment approaches that take advantage of advanced technologies, such as machine learning algorithms, gamification, and high-fidelity simulations, Gadkaree added; methods that would most likely have a more “positive impact” on the assessment and selection processes for applicants at all job levels going forward.

Career-related internships will also continue to be important gateways to employment for entry-level job applicants, especially as automation replaces low-skilled jobs, the survey determined, as about one-half (47%) of the HR professionals polled indicated that the completion of a career-related internship by an entry-level applicant is “extremely valuable” in determining if the applicant is a “strong candidate.”

Notably, having held a job outside of school is the second most valued experience (39%), suggesting that individuals unable to obtain official internships can still benefit from job experience, according to SHRM/Mercer’s research.

Something to keep in mind as the effort to keep trucking’s ranks fully staffed continues on.

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Trucks at Work: Sean Kilcarr comments on trends affecting the many different strata of the trucking industry.

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