Here are some sights and scenes from one wicked cool tradeshow.
Enter the words “chauffeurs wanted” into Google search and thousands of results appear. You see listings from all of the career sites and from limousine companies that post thousands of job openings nationwide. You are aware of this because you no doubt have placed an ad, or multiple ads, to seek that elusive hire — a qualified, experienced professional chauffeur.
As the economy has turned around and business improved, coupled with competition for drivers from the explosive TNC industry, the search to find chauffeurs and drivers is a non-stop quest for most operators. Even with the lure of guaranteed hourly wages, benefits, signing bonus, and other perks and incentives, it’s a challenge even to find anybody with the credentials, personality and basic skills to be trained as a professional chauffeur.
Casting Wide Nets
Operators are trying anything to lure candidates to apply for positions, knowing they will hire only a few. One strategy operators are using more often is job fairs, not just to find chauffeurs because of the severe shortage, but to fill other vacancies as well.
In the highly competitive Washington, D.C. metro region, finding and filling chauffeur positions is a full-time initiative. Reston Limousine of Sterling, Va., a major operator in the region and ranked No. 13 in the annual LCT Largest Fleet rankings, employs a full-time recruiter to find qualified chauffeurs and drivers.
Company recruiter Mary Radford relies on job fairs as part of her tool kit to find and hire the right people. “We recently held a job fair at a hotel near Washington Dulles International Airport to recruit candidates,” Radford says. “We get people in with no experience who think it’s a job anyone can do — and it’s not. Our primary goal is to find experienced chauffeurs.” In fact, Reston offers a $500 hiring bonus to any chauffeur with three years of experience who comes onboard.
Of course a job fair’s success depends on the marketing effort that gets the word out so people will show up. Placing paid advertisements in newspapers and job boards coupled with posting the fair on Craigslist, your website, and through social media are the go-to marketing sources.
Because job fairs can be feast or famine, the goal is to not only use the normal marketing venues above, but to get as creative as possible to lure people to attend. For example, Radford placed signs near the airport and at two services stations, figuring they would catch the eyes of chauffeurs and other paid drivers making runs.
Try New Things
In addition, Radford advises that to make a job fair succeed, it’s important to keep trying new things to attract people. “Everybody in the office has ideas and I welcome their input. Next time, we are going to place signs in the airport short-term parking lot at Dulles where drivers can see it on their runs, and I’m thinking about doing a fair at a hotel near Reagan Airport. I know people driving through see the signs because they have attended our fairs.”
Luis Rosario, operation manager at Pegasus Worldwide Limousine, Carlstadt, N.J., recently held job fairs seeking chauffeurs following the company winning a major contract. Not finding much success posting ads on job boards coupled with the cost, Rosario said the fairs averaged about 25 to 30 attendees. Out of that, maybe one or two are hired.
Also located in the competitive New York/New Jersey region, Rosario said the fairs are not drawing as well as anticipated. “Maybe out of 15 guys that come, we get two. I know that when some of the bigger companies hold fairs, the average seems to be out of 100 individuals, maybe six end up being hired.” However, one job fair resulted in 12 new hires, although the goal was 25.
In addition to traditional job board advertising, the company also runs a continuous red ticker stream on its website that says, “We Are Hiring.” Located in a multicultural region, the company advertises openings and job fairs in Spanish and Asian newspapers.
Radford and Rosario can quickly weed out people at fairs who lack the necessary qualifications, personality and professionalism to be trained as chauffeurs. “I’ll give somebody a basic geography test to see if they know the back roads to get from Manhattan to Kennedy airport, and they’ll take the George Washington Bridge (the opposite direction), which is an automatic disqualification,” Rosario says.
Adds Radford, “I can move through applicants pretty quickly and sometimes a candidate may not qualify as a chauffeur, but be right for another position in the company. “In fact, one airport shuttle bus driver saw our sign and attended the fair and I loved him.”
Because Radford sees job fairs as a targeted approach to recruiting chauffeurs, she suggests holding them more often. “We held them every other month but I think it can be cost-effective to do them once a month or every six weeks.” Regarding hours, she is cutting back times from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., deciding to end the fairs at 1 p.m. because there is little traffic in the afternoon.
It’s also important to set a professional atmosphere during the fair. “We have a conference room in the hotel set up where people sign in and a waiting area, a place where the interview takes place, and another spot for people to fill out paperwork,” Rosario explains. “It runs smoothly. Job fairs are limited to five hours.
“I’m lucky I have the support of our COO who understands not every recruiting initiative we do is going to be fruitful every single time, but over time, they pay off.”
Tips for a Successful Job Fair
The following tips and suggestions can help your job fair be a success:
• Location: Choose a hotel that is accessible and convenient, preferably in an area where chauffeurs, TNC drivers and other people in the transportation industry are likely to notice your signs.
• Timing: Afternoons tend to be slow, so plan your fair in the morning through lunch time to draw the most traffic. Some operators prefer Saturdays; others during a slow business day such as Tuesday or mid-week rather than weekends when chauffeurs are not so busy.
• Budget: Plan a budget that incorporates all of your advertising and marketing costs, hotel rental, signage and other materials in order to calculate your return on investment.
• Staff: Make sure you have enough staff to manage the event to move people through the sign-in, interview process, filling out paperwork, and answering any questions.
• Marketing: Be creative. Use social media, Craigslist, and your website to lure potential candidates. However, make sure you measure the results for paid job sites and newspaper advertising to get a return on your investment.
Here are some sights and scenes from one wicked cool tradeshow.
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