Experience, personality, driving record and license status are some of the more obvious hiring requirements.
Like an Army general choosing an elite fighting team for a special mission, or the President his cabinet to carry out policies, livery operators need to take special care in hiring chauffeurs for their businesses.
Every operator knows the chauffeur is the personification of his or her company to the public. The overall attitude and performance of the chauffeur is a lasting part of a client’s memory-just as much as vehicle condition, reservations and on- time service. Especially in regard to future referrals and repeat business, it is vital for chauffeurs to represent your company well.
Because of this importance, operators around the nation are establishing formal and informal hiring policies to guide them when choosing a chauffeur. Experience, personality, driving record and license status are some of the more obvious hiring requirements. Age, knowledge of local area and health records are less-thought-of criteria. There are also important differences between hiring an independent contractor vs. an employee. In general, independent contractors must be more aggressive and have a quality insurance record.
For some operators, only two out of every five hires works out. That means 60 percent of your interview and training time is wasted. To help operators make the tough hiring decisions, here are seven key aspects to consider.
Conduct Interview to Judge Personality
If a picture is worth 1,000 words, then a face-to-face interview is worth $1 million. There is no better way for an operator to determine the personal skills of a chauffeur candidate than through a personal interview.
“I don’t ever have anyone over the phone,” says John Thompson, owner of Carey/Huntington Limousine in San Gabriel, CA. “I want them to come in. If a person calls on the phone and asks if I am hiring, I always say, ‘No.’ However, if a personalizes into the office looking for a job, that shows me he is more motivated.”
Thompson has tried running ads in the local newspaper for drivers and found it was a failure. “All we got was a switchboard full of callers asking, ‘“How much do you pay?” he recalls.
Dave Dinwiddie of Avalon Limousine in Culver City, CA, also believes a personal interview is important. “I want to see the person’s personality and professionalism. During an interview, I can deal with the candidate on a personal level,” he says. “I operate a more personalized type of service; consequently, I need to hire an amiable driver.”
Jan Korkames, owner of B-A-Chauffeur, a nationwide chauffeur training program, ranks chauffeur protocol and etiquette as one of the three most important aspects to consider when hiring.
George Jacobs, owner of American Limousine in Chicago, uses strictly independent contractors. Like Thompson, he likes to choose chauffeurs who are motivated enough to solicit his company. “Most drivers find us,” he comments. “We don’t advertise at all.”
Operators list honesty, competence, intelligence, professionalism, common sense, language skills, cleanliness and punctuality as just a few of the personality traits to look for.
Knowledge of Area, Maps Essential
One common-sense trait a chauffeur needs to have is knowledge of the area. A driver needs to know how to read a map. They can’t get lost,” states Thompson. “If the person is new to Los Angeles, I general don’t hire him.” Candidates must also show how they can read a map, exhibit good penmanship and understand English.
Jacobs evens requires new independent contractors to have their own map book and quizzes them on the Chicagoland area.
Consider Candidate’s Health & Safety Record
Korkames recommends checking a chauffeur candidate’s health record. She suggests asking about health problems on the job application. “Look for any ailment that could possibly hurt your business, such as impaired vision, epilepsy, heart disease or back problems,” she says. A chauffer with a bad back can be a risky hire, especially since loading luggage is a routine task for drivers. Operators who go through B-A-Chauffeur to find drivers receive all of the candidate’s driving records and license status.
One effective way Thompson has found to check a driver’s health record is by requiring a Class B driver’s license. In order to hold an active Class B license, a driver has to have a physical examination every two years. If a candidate appears promising, Thompson will require that person to obtain the Class B license. He also asks candidates to provider a Department of Motor Vehicles’ printout of their driving record. The printout cannot be more than two weeks old.
After obtaining that information, Carey/Huntington personnel will pay a small fee to the city for an inspection of the candidate’s police record and also check insurance status. Within three days, the company will usually have enough information to make a decision.
At American Limousine, Jacobs also runs checks on insurance and motor vehicle records for prospective independent contractors. “I can’t hire anyone of whom the insurance company doesn’t approve,” he says frankly.
Not only does Dinwiddie at Avalon Limousine inspect a chauffeur’s driving record, he also plans to soon require new hires to conform to a drug-testing program. “Our program will abide by the state law and most likely cover new-hire and post-accident testing.”
Past Experience Has Good, Bad Points
Obviously while checking the driving and insurance records, an operator is going to encounter a prospective chauffeurs employment background. Operators differ in their opinion at experienced drivers.
Dinwiddie hires both veterans and tyros. “With inexperienced drivers, I can train them to do things my way. On the other hand, I have to take time to tell them how the business operates and give them a fair understanding of how everything works. I avoid actors and writers. I want career drivers,” he says.
Meanwhile, Avalon’s chauffeurs will often meet drivers from other livery services on jobs and recommend the company. “Out drivers let other drivers know about openings and they will come to us. We don’t actively recruit,” says Dinwiddie.
With either type chauffeur, Avalon has an in-house training program to instruct new hires on office procedures, how to fill out trip sheets, proper radio etiquette, etc. Also, new drivers are placed with experienced chauffeurs for a few days of in-the-field instruction.
Since Jacobs is hiring independent contractors who need a strong work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit, he looks for experienced drivers. He instructs all new drivers in credit card procedures and radio civilities. Most importantly, he trains new independent contractors on the regulations and procedures of O’Hare International Airport. Each new chauffeur rides with an experienced driver through the airport before taking on a solo run.
Thompson also looks for candidates with a different sort of experience. “I hire a lot of guys who are former Federal Express drivers because they know the streets. Also, police and firemen make good sources for chauffeurs because they can also be hired for executive security work;” he says. “A guy who has worked for numerous companies is someone to avoid hiring. You shouldn’t even waste your time training him because it is likely he will leave. My worst luck has come from hiring chauffeurs who previously worked for other livery companies. They balk at certain procedures that are different from their previous employer’s, and they stir up trouble with the existing drivers.”
Like other operators, Carey/ Huntington has new chauffeurs ride with veteran drivers a few times. The experienced driver can evaluate the new trainee. Also, multi-vehicle jobs are well suited for training new drivers. The company always starts new chauffeurs slowly. “I don’t want to lose any clients,” comments Thompson.
Besides actual driving experience, many companies want hires to be a certain age. Younger drivers have a tendency to be restless and consequently have a short tenure. Elderly drivers could have trouble behind the wheel, due to lack of dexterity or bad vision. Federal discrimination laws prohibit a company from hiring strictly by age.
Test For Competence, Understanding
One quick and easy way to check the competence of a chauffeur candidate is to give him a company procedure manual when he fills out an application. Then, when the prospect returns, make him review some pertinent points from the guide. If he is successful, then you know he took the time to read and understand the book.
Aggressiveness Makes For Good Independent Contractor
When hiring independent contractors, operators suggest finding people with an entrepreneurial spirit. “An independent contractor is basically his own company,” says Jacobs. “You don’t have as much control over that person so you need to be sure of his qualifications and abilities before you form a relationship. An independent contractor works strictly on commission so he has to prove he can get around on his own. You can’t pull an independent contractor around by the nose,” he says rhetorically.
Carey/Huntington runs both independent contractors and employees, so Thompson has to be skilled in determining the characteristics for each category. “Although much of the hiring procedures are the same, an independent contractor needs to be more aggressive. They only make money when they are working, while an employee has fixed hours,” he says.
Aggressive chauffeurs who are employees are usually given the opportunity to become independent contractors at the company. “They know they can make a lot more money,” adds Thompson.
Explain Dress Code, Requirements
Hand-in-hand with cleanliness is wardrobe. Operators are advised to ask a candidate to understand and adhere to the company dress code. Chauffeurs should have two sets of proper attire one outfit needs to be dry cleaned at some point and the back-up attire needs to be handy.