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Want to Be a Mechanic? 14 Skills Technician Employers Look For

Jun 12, 2020 ·

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All types of technicians are in demand across industries from diesel and auto to welding and collision repair. If you really want to pursue your dream job, you’ll still have to rise above the competition.

We spoke to 14 employers from across the United States about what they look for when they’re hiring. Take note, so you can stand out in an interview and become the next Universal Technical Institute success story.1

1. Ability to Give and Receive Feedback

Lakeitria Luter, Senior Manager of Strategic Sourcing of Service King Collision Repair Centers, says the ability to be receptive to feedback, as well as offer it, are important.

“If a technician sees something is not working, it’s important to feel OK to let that repair planner know so they can make adjustments,” says Lakeitria (11:45). “The whole goal is to take care of our customers and take care of the team.”

Lakeitria adds, “Having the ability to provide feedback, as well as receive it, and to be able to communicate effectively are some key soft skills technicians need to be successful in the industry.”

2. Desire to Constantly Improve

Todd English, vice president of marketing and strategic partnerships of Roush Yates Racing Engines, advises students to take advantage of all opportunities they have — from an internship to advanced training — to advance their skills. He says learning never stops on the job, so showing that initiative before you apply can help you stand out.

“We have graduates who have been here 10 or 15 years, and they’re consistently looking at ways they can continue to improve their skill sets,” says Todd (4:43). “We look for students who come in who have an interest or background in manufacturing and who are looking for ways to continue to develop themselves and learn.”

3. Willingness to Take on New Challenges

As the skilled trades continue to evolve with new technology, that requires technicians to adapt and change along with the industry. Kim Walden, Recruitment Manager of Ag-Pro Companies, a John Deere dealership, echoes that the ability to continue to want to learn, excel and study as new systems are introduced will help diesel technicians find success.

“Having that attitude and desire to learn will make you successful no matter what pieces of equipment are brought to you,” says Kim. “The best part about ag is that you will never work on the same thing every day. You’ll work on a different type of equipment every day, so it gives you lots of challenges. It’s also very interesting.”

4. Perfect (or Near-Perfect) Attendance

Bob Breedlove, Fixed Operations Talent Acquisition Manager of Hendrick Automotive Group, says some of the qualities his company looks for when hiring entry-level technicians are a strong GPA, good communications skills and the desire to grow a career, not just get a job. Bob says he also pays very close attention to class attendance.

“We look for 95% attendance or better,” says Bob. “The reason we do that is, unfortunately, we’re all creatures of habit. If we develop bad habits like not going to class, that carries over into your work life. You’ve got to show up for work.”

5. Positive Attitude

Chad Harrell, also with Hendrick Automotive Group as director of talent acquisition, says in addition to the skills Bob mentioned, a good attitude is very important.

“Maintaining a positive attitude, being a team player and being able to provide that customer service that our customers expect of us as an organization [matter],” says Chad.

6. Drive for Success

Steve Hamre, National Automotive Technician Recruiting Manager of Lithia Motors, says he looks for applicants who have long-term plans for their careers. He values students who know what they want to do, where they want to go and where they want to work.

“I also look for if they’re coachable, and are willing to take that training on and be coached and trained up to that level of master tech,” says Steve.

7. Honorable Principles

Bret Harris, Chief Operating Officer of MMI Industrial and Steel, cites four core values of the company: happy, hungry, hard-working and honorable. The last one is an indicator of whether the candidate will succeed in the long term.

“When we interview, we may go through a series of questions to find out how someone has taken care of past employers,” says Bret (8:20).  “Did they give notice before or did they simply walk out? How did they treat others?”

Bret continues, “We’re going to dig a bit to find out if the people in front of us who want to become part of our family are going to protect our good name by being honorable.”

8. Team Player Mentality

Daulten Stewart, Talent Management Specialist at 4 Wheel Parts, says the company has nine cultural principles that employees try to live by on a daily basis. One that sticks out to him when thinking about hiring technicians is “grit makes great.” The company looks for employees to work hard in a fast-paced retail environment, who don’t mind getting down, getting dirty, and completing the work in a safe and efficient manner.

The second principle Daulten says the company really looks for is “players compete, and teams win.” He says (4:55), “That’s a big thing for us, and that’s why we like recruiting from schools like UTI. We know students at UTI are getting that training as far as working on a team.”

Daulten continues, “We rely on all our technicians to work together. Our schedules are quite busy in all of our shops across the country, so we need to make sure we’re bringing people into our organization that understand the importance of teamwork and collaboration.”

9. Gratitude & Persistence

If you really want to land a job at a specific employer, Cody Hansen has some advice for you. Cody’s the Fixed Operations Director at Harley-Davidson of Florida and is a graduate of Motorcycle Mechanics Institute. He says following up after interviews can help you stand out.

“Following up with an email or phone call with whoever that hiring manager is and thanking them for taking your résumé and trying to talk to them is a big thing,” says Cody. “It’s easy for these things to get lost in the shuffle but if you stay persistent, those tend to be the people who get picked first because they’re persistent.”

Cody says that’s the kind of willingness his company wants to see on the job.

10. Eagerness to Learn

Chad Estle, Lead Recruiter for the truck service side of TravelCenters of America, says because the trucking industry will continue to change and get more advanced and more computer-driven, it’s important for technicians to be ready to learn at all times.

“You as an individual and the company you work for have to make a conscious effort to study technology,” says Chad. “You have to be prepared to want to continue to advance. You have to basically be willing to admit that you don’t know everything because none of us do.”

11. Confidence

Brian Brooks, the Peterbilt Technician Institute (PTI) Program Manager of Peterbilt Motors Company, says when UTI graduates are offered a seat in the PTI program, Peterbilt is looking for what he calls “the three A’s.” First is attitude. Be humble. Knowing there’s so much to learn, learn as much as you can as early as you can. Apply that knowledge to every repair order.

The second is attendance. Be dependable. Show up to work on time every day. Be the first to arrive at your shift and the last one to leave.

The third quality is aptitude. “Be confident in the skills that you have,” says Brian. “You’re going to be required to troubleshoot, diagnose and solve customer issues. These are the same attributes our dealers tell us they’re looking for in an entry-level technician.”

12. Communication Skills

Brad Jordan, U.S. Recruiting Manager of Crown Equipment Corporation, says soft skills like communication are critical for future mechanics.

“Yes, you might work in a shop. You might have a service writer that handles customer concerns and issues,” says Brad. “But I always preach that everyone is your customer.”

Brad continues, “Communication skills will continue to be critical as far as student success and mechanic success. They will only be limited by communication or their soft skills.”

13. Passion for the Craft

Craig Kendall, Recruiting Manager of the Pete Store — a chain of 16 Peterbilt dealerships from Massachusetts to Georgia — says revealing your passion for the industry can impress employers. Even when you’re looking for an entry-level position and you don’t have much professional experience, any type of work you’ve done on your craft can help you stand out.

“We like to see some experience,” says Craig. “You may not have worked on Peterbilt trucks before but if you’ve worked on lawnmowers, go-karts, Weed eaters, farm tractors, construction equipment, boats, aircraft, we like to see that.”

14. Honesty & Humility

Some final soft skills to cultivate if you want a career as a technician are honesty and humility. Be honest on your résumé and during your interview.

It’s OK to not know everything. As long as you’re coachable, that’s what matters, says Bill Mappes, Operations Manager of the Dallas and Fort Worth locations of Convoy Servicing Company Thermo King of Dallas.

“Some things I would recommend to a recent graduate when they’re looking for work is don’t get discouraged, be yourself and make sure you’re willing to learn,” says Bill. “You may not know all the answers right now. As an employer, we don’t expect you to.”

Bill continues, “But you need to be willing to apply yourself, and willing to learn and spend the time trying to get better and improve and make more of yourself.”

Learn How to Convey Skills Like These in an Interview & On a Résumé

If you’re ready to start interviewing with employers, UTI can help you with mock interviews and résumé help. Our Career Services team can:

  • Connect you with relevant job opportunities
  • Help you network with employers
  • Assist you with your résumé
  • Provide coaching for interviews

    Fill out the form on this page to get Career Services assistance.

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