There are few tasks as potentially uncomfortable as a job interview. You’re under the microscope, being needled by one or more members of a company you may or may not be desperate to work for. For truck drivers looking for their first jobs, it can be even more harrowing and confusing.
And while many applicants are bracing themselves for the questions they are going to have to answer, many forget to do the reverse, which is equally important to getting the job and to taking some semblance of command of your job search: what questions should you be asking?
Most of us, especially those of us who are younger, can easily forget that the questions we ask say just as much about us as the ones we answer. Many employers gain more information from that portion of the interview than the part when we are answering questions.
And why not? It is revealing about you which questions you ask. It demonstrates what is important to you as an employee and a person. If you lead with “how much does this position pay?” chances are you are going to be looked at as a money chaser, not a potentially valued employee. You need to be measured in your responses and ask pointed, important questions about the nature of your work.
Here are some questions you should be posing to the companies interviewing you:
What is your policy on home time? When you’re an over-the-road driver, you’re going to be spending a lot of time away from home. It’s only fair for you to know how long you will be home in between. Also, be sure to get a clarification on defining “a day”; for instance, if you are promised two days of home time after a week-long trip, is that two full days, or the remainder of the day after you return to the terminal, then one day after? Some companies will not offer to tell you this information.
Which routes will I be driving? You want to know what your typical routes will look like. This is a common question to ask, and you should be immensely curious about it. You may want to ask this question first.
Am I unloading my own truck in this job? Some companies pay the drivers to load and unload your freight, while others pay people known as “lumpers” to do it for you. Whether or not you are able or willing to do this part of the job is pretty important, and you should know going in whether you’re doing the heavy lifting, or if others are doing it for you.
Will I get a driver manager? For younger drivers, a driver manager can help you adapt to the trucking industry and establish a good relationship with the company. With the ability to answer your questions and offer you training and advice, a driver manager can help you become promoted more quickly, as well as help you handle any issues or concerns you may have.
What type of equipment does the company use? Again, another important question that both answers a question about your potential comfort and productivity, and about the company itself. Are the trucks old? If so, they may be perpetually breaking down and harming your ability to be productive. If they continually spend on new equipment, that may be a good sign. Also, will you have a sleeper on the truck? Will you have an air-ride suspension? When you’re sitting in the truck all day, these are potentially important questions.
Does the company have a slip-seat policy? “Slip-seat” means that when a driver has time off, another driver may take his place driving his route. That means another driver behind the wheel of your truck, which can make some drivers uncomfortable. It’s better to know whether you will be subject to this before you begin.
How much does the company pay? Yes, it’s a question you should ask, even if you shouldn’t ask it first. Ask all of the questions about the job first, then lead into the question of pay. Compare it to average driver pay scales and see where they rank. While you want to be delicate question to ask, it is important to remember that you are a professional and pay should be on your mind at some point. Don’t forget to get information on any bonuses you may receive as well.
What benefits does the company offer? Medical insurance, time off, home time, disability coverage, 401(k) matching; these are all important factors in whether you should accept a job or continue looking for a new one.
To be certain, as a job prospect you are putting yourself in a position to be asking for a job. But don’t discount what you bring to the table in this relationship, and the fact that you will be serving this company every day of your working life while you’re employed there. Be sure you are showing respect to the company, but also demand it in return. A good, solid professional attitude will go a long way in getting you a job.