“Magic Words That Sell:” The Do’s and Don’ts of Driver Recruitment Success with Phil Jones

Does this scenario sound familiar to you? A driver candidate contacts you, the recruiter. He or she requests information on the current opportunities you have available, and you respond by answering their questions and sending them the job description. Then, all you get is crickets. The prospect disappears, and you are left wondering what went wrong.

In today’s driver recruitment landscape, recruiters must begin to think more like salespeople. Unfortunately, as author and speaker Phil M. Jones explains, the way we currently communicate with driver prospects needs a serious overhaul. In fact, the structures of our current conversations with potential driver candidates actually make us into “sales prevention officers.” So, what can we do to create meaningful dialogues with driver candidates that lead to successful job placements?

Shift from a Transactional Exchange of Information to a Relational Conversation

As outlined above, the usual conversation with a prospect is set up as a transaction. They request information, and you send it. They either get back to you, or more often than not, they don’t. According to Jones, when recruiters are asked a question about possible opportunities, their response should be to answer the question with a new question, intended to stimulate the conversation and drive it forward.

Don’t answer tough questions with vague answers

If a candidate calls to inquire about pay, don’t give a vague answer like, “We are competitive with the industry standard.” The next words out of the recruiter’s mouth are then typically, “What kind of pay are you looking for?” Jones calls this exchange, “Giving an evasive answer followed by a defensive question.” That does not sound like a recipe for a successful interaction.

Do flip the question

Instead, Jones recommends that, when confronted with the standard pay inquiry, recruiters should consider flipping the question. Rather than simply providing an answer to the question asked, dig deeper. Ask the candidate:

  •       For what job?
  •       With what level of experience?
  •       With what type of benefits?

This same rule applies when you are contacted by job candidates via email, Facebook messenger, or other digital platforms. Instead of replying to an inquiry with a job description info dump, aim for shorter conversations where you ask questions and receive answers back and forth.

Now you are engaged in a conversation rather than a transactional exchange of information. According to Jones, “Questions lead to conversations, conversations lead to relationships, relationships lead to opportunities, and opportunities create sales.”

Anticipate and Prepare to Overcome Objections

Do create a “script”

As recruiters begin to shift perspective regarding interactions with candidates, Jones recommends that it is helpful to brainstorm a list of obstacles or objections that may come up in these conversations.  As you and your team review this list of what Jones terms “roadblocks and checkpoints,” you will need to work backward to create a kind of script from which to work as calls come in. You can then create different versions of the script that could be applied to a wide variety of candidates and situations.

Jones provides the example of a driver who says that coming home to his own bed each night is non-negotiable. This is a fairly common desire for many drivers. If you and you team are prepared for this or any other major objection or “deal breaker,” you can find a way around it. Ask questions like:

  • What is it about over-the-road driving that you don’t like?
  • In what case would you consider OTR driving?

Jones points out that often a non-negotiable is really a preference. By finding out more about the reasons behind the objection, recruiters can pair candidates with jobs that are a perfect fit, even though the presence of a non-negotiable might have made it a role the candidate would not normally have considered.   Phil used an example in which he says that he is not willing to fly on a certain day of the week. However, he has flown on that day multiple times this year because the opportunity was good enough to overcome his preference. You might be surprised that a drivers need for home daily might really mean that the driver just needs to be home on certain days so he or she can make it to a child’s athletic event.

Don’t go in unprepared

Don’t try to come up with the right answers on the spot. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

Reconsider Your Role

Do remember what you are really selling:

A luxury car salesman isn’t really selling just a car—he is really selling the experience of driving that car, the romance of the open road, the feeling of being pampered by the amenities of a high-quality vehicle. In the same way, recruiters are not just selling the job, they are selling that particular job in that specific organization. In essence, recruiters are really workplace experience salespeople.

Don’t become the stereotype

It is also important to consider that even though recruiters should think more like salespeople, they must avoid the associated negative stereotypes of the salesperson as manipulative, dishonest, and pushy. The role of recruiter also carries with it an element of matchmaking—finding the right job for the right person at the right time. You are a listener to the speaker, and a guide to the seeker. According to Jones, the phrase that should drive your recruitment strategy is this: “Because you said X, I think Y is the right role for you.” This one phrase has the potential to boost your recruitment and retention success.  You need to listen well enough so that you have earned the right to make the recommendation.

Set Expectations

Do be transparent

Setting the proper expectations as a candidate prepares to begin the new job is the first step towards better driver retention. It’s important to be up front about any potentially negative characteristics of the organization because if people know what to expect going in, they are better prepared to deal with the problem if and when it arises. Transparency has the added benefit of having the capacity to build trust between recruiter and candidate.

Don’t deal in absolutes

If you go in saying “Company X never experiences equipment failures” or “Company Y always gets drivers home for the weekend” you are already setting yourself up for failure. It would be better to say, “Company X has a reputation for low equipment failures” or “Company Y leads the industry in home time.” Speaking in absolute terms like “always” and “never” lessens your credibility in the eyes of the driver candidate.

Shift the Finish Line

Don’t celebrate too early

Jones cautions against patting yourself on the back as soon as the candidate starts the new job. In fact, the proper time to celebrate a new candidate placement is actually several months down the line, once the new job “honeymoon” is well and truly over. Four months in, how does the candidate feel about the job? Are they happy and satisfied, or ready to leave? Staying in touch with placed candidates will not only make them feel valued, it will also make you a better recruiter.

Do become a story collector

As you continue your relationships with placed candidates, find out their stories. You can then use these stories as a credible point-of-reference with future job candidates. Instead of presenting a list of facts to get new candidates to consider a job, you now have stories to share from other drivers in similar situations. As Jones puts it, “A fact will tell, a story will sell.”

Confront Problems Head-On

Do own up and empathize

When a placed driver inevitably comes back to you with a problem related to the new job, it is important to empathize with the person first. As Jones puts it, “Sometimes that person just needs to hear, ‘I’m sorry. That really sucks!’” Once you have made sure the candidate feels heard, then you can come in with some facts to create perspective. Finally, you should ask what is currently being done to solve the problem. In this way, you have diffused a head-to-head situation and moved yourself into a side-by-side relationship with the candidate, working together to solve the issue.

Don’t get defensive

The number one way to stoke the rage of an angry or upset person is to get defensive and refuse to admit there is a problem. It’s the nature of our imperfect world that things are bound to go wrong. A mishandled issue is only compounded, but if problems are well-managed, it actually strengthens relationships and creates opportunities.

Jones demonstrates that an inquisitive and conversational approach to driver recruitment will work to better engage the top candidates that all carriers are searching for.  To find out more about Phil Jones and his “Magic Words that Sell,” contact him via his website, or check out his many books, available on Amazon.

To listen to the full podcast and get all the details go to any of the following links:


If you are interested in an in person training with Phil Jones, go to recruitersalestraining.com.  He will be leading a workshop January 16-17 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

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