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Hire and Retain the Best Drivers with Competency Based Interviews

Is there a driver shortage or is there a competency shortage?

Shortage or no shortage, hiring and retaining the best drivers happens when you properly interview candidates. Ask the right questions, seek the best answers, while validating competencies.

Many carriers hire anyone with a class 1 license, clean driving record and a heartbeat. While that may fill vacancies, it's not likely to be the best choice for your company. Candidates can look great on paper and still not be adequate.

First, eliminate lame interview questions

It’s challenging to predict the success of every prospective employee. However, properly assessing and interviewing candidates will save employers in the long run. It will increase retention, reduce costs and improve the overall status quo and culture of the organization. It also helps to ensure the right employees are interviewing applicants. I cannot stress this enough.

In both my professional and personal experience, I have noticed a trend of pointless interview questions. Ones that are outdated and provide little, to no benefit, in assessing candidate’s eligibility.

Unnecessary questions include:

• Tell me about yourself

• Why do you want to work as a truck driver?

• What is your greatest strength or weakness?

While icebreakers are a great way to start an interview, they don’t need be impractical. In fact, the right opening question can provide key insights into the candidates fit within the organization. Baseless questions like the ones above, aren’t usually answered honestly. Why does Joe want the job? He needs to feed his family. Greatest weakness? “Being too hard on myself” or “being a workaholic”. Bologna at it’s finest. See what I am getting at?

Questions should be strategic, engaging and role specific. They are open ended and provide candidates the ability to truly explain and showcase their competence or behaviors.

Good Driver interview questions:

• Tell me a story about one of your greatest driving accomplishments. Could be a time you went above and beyond, endured or overcame challenging weather, etc.

• What information is required of drivers when filling out paper/e-logs? What are common errors or potential violations that could be done by a driver filling out an e-log?

• What was one of your longest hauls? How did you stay alert and awake during this time?

Why use behavioral or situational interviewing in your process?

Behavioral interviewing is built on the belief that past behaviors are the best predictors of future conduct. It can also assess how someone would react in situations they may have not previously been exposed to. It’s a method used to gather evidence from candidates while focusing on competencies as opposed to only skills or education.

Behavioral questions typically focus on common workplace challenges and demonstrate candidates’ behaviors, or soft skill abilities.

Examples of competencies

• Problem solving, judgement, reason

• Decision making

• Communication, customer service, teamwork

• Awareness, perception

• Attention to detail, planning, daily log and documentation

• Safety and emergency preparedness/management

Each role has required competencies, skills and education. And while all three can be learned (skills, education and competencies), being educated or developing a skill doesn’t necessarily mean someone is competent. For example, having a driver training certificate and being skilled at timely deliveries, does not mean the driver is competent in safety, or risk management. In short, the Driver was involved in a variety of preventable, health and safety events.

Employers should develop the following:

1. Define key competencies, skills and education for all roles

2. Interview for key competencies with behavioural questions


Role: Truck Driver

Competency: Safety and risk management/preparedness

Behavioral questions tailored to safety and risk management/preparedness:

• Tell me about a time you almost lost concentration on the road. What happened and how did you stay focused?

• Explain a time you monitored or detected a problem while driving. How did you respond?

• Describe a time you planned and prepared your trip for the weather. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough and you had to make a judgement call.

• You get into a minor vehicle accident. Nobody is hurt but there is damage to the other big rig. What do you do?

Essentially, you put candidates on the spot and get live answers that help you better asses Driver’s capabilities. Ask the right questions and thou shall find the best Drivers.


Hire and retain quality Drivers with better interviewing and assessment processes. Aka. Behavioral and competency methods.

For further insights or assistance, do not hesitate to reach out.

Learn more about Oriana Kolonksy by following her on LinkedIn


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