John Perez Looks to Hire the Technicians of Tomorrow

"NASCAR Tech and all of the UTI campuses have been an important pipeline for all of our dealerships in all of our markets in finding talented technicians."

At Sonic Automotive, John Perez is in charge of looking for and expanding the company’s reach in hiring new employees. His focus is on finding technicians for the many positions that need to be filled at their 107 different locations across 13 different states.

When John meets with students, his first question for them is why they want to be a technician. There are the hard skills that any good tech needs, but what’s also important is talent, which goes a bit deeper than knowing everything by the book. John looks for this, which he sees as their potential to be dedicated to and inspired by their jobs every day.

“If I see them light up, I know that’s someone that I want to talk to further. We can teach them everything else. It’s the more intangible things like being a good teammate, understanding their importance in the dealership and most importantly, having a passion for what they do.”

When he first started in this position two-and-a-half years ago, the relationship with campuses such as UTI were just in their beginning stages. After his first round of hiring students he knew he needed to help facilitate growing these bonds between Sonic Automotive and the tech schools. He realized to find the right talent for their growing tech needs he needed to find them early on, while they were still students. He needed to go straight to the source.

“We started showing up at UTI job fairs, but I knew that we needed to be more than just a booth at a career fair. I wanted to interact with students, so we started doing open houses. We did mock interviews with students to give them the experience, and we went to as many campuses as we could.”

To further reach out to students, Sonic started an apprenticeship program at its Texas locations. They offered this exclusively to UTI graduates of the Manufacturer Specific Advanced Training (MSAT) programs to try and attract those students who had taken the initiative to excel in their studies. Out of that program they’ve hired 78 new employees from Universal Technical Institute. Now they’re ready to extend this apprenticeship program to the rest of the Sonic Automotive locations.

They have a number of sources for new employees, with NASCAR Technical Institute in Mooresville, North Carolina also being a great source of new employees.

“NASCAR Tech and all of the UTI campuses have been an important pipeline for all of our dealerships in all of our markets in finding talented technicians. This grows more important every year.”

For those students who don’t know where to begin in a job search, John thinks they need to start early, months before they graduate. They need to know what they want in their future career and what they want out of who they work for.

“Go to job fairs. Start talking to companies like Sonic Automotive six or seven months before you’re done. Start getting an idea of what it is you want in a company. Learn their cultures. You’re interviewing them in the same way they’re interviewing you.”

John sees a demand for more techs as their business continues to grow. He’s interviewed many potential candidates to work at Sonic Automotive. He looks to those graduates with the drive and those who realize that the road to success isn’t only about what you know – but how much you love the career you’ve chosen. For him enthusiasm goes a long way and it’s not anything that can be learned, but is a part of who you are and what you can be.


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