How to make the WRONG impression

Publish Date: 
Mar 19, 2013
By Dave Koshollek

WE ALL KNOW first impressions run deep, but do we realize impressions can include our personal vehicle? Like a calling card, in this business our personal vehicle says a lot about our character and talent. Our personal ride can further our careers or put obstacles in our path.

Here’s an example: During my years at MMI, I interviewed hundreds of techs looking to fill instructor positions. Many applied from out of state, so I first performed phone interviews that included questions to help me form a picture of attitude, character and experience. If the phone conversation went well, the next step was an in-person interview.

I remember doing a phone interview with a guy who had an extraordinary background in motorcycle mechanics. I looked forward to meeting him and expected the onsite interview to go well, which it did. The obstacle appeared when he insisted on driving me to lunch to celebrate what he thought was a job “in the bag.” What caused me to do a 180 was the condition of his van.

From the outside it appeared a little worn, which wasn’t an issue. After all, being a wrench-twister barely earned you fame and almost never fortune. It was the interior — which was chaos from front to rear. It was filled with clothes, parts, tools, food and camping gear. I was taken aback and worried that I might be hiring someone who would apply similar disregard and disorganization in our school environment. I wanted instructors who would be a model of professionalism, not a poster child for disaster. I didn’t hire that guy due to the condition of his vehicle.

Out of curiosity I followed his career via the motorcycle tabloids, and I have to admit he earned a solid reputation for his mechanical expertise.

You may think I screwed up by not hiring him, but what would you do? His calling card said “chaos and potential catastrophe.” Like any employer, during an interview I was hyper-sensitive to red flags. The condition of that guy’s personal vehicle triggered my inner alarm. It’s interesting, though, that his life could have been completely different if he hadn’t insisted on driving me to our destination. I think the lesson is, if you aren’t proud of your ride, hide it.

Years ago I was working as a commissioned tech alongside four others. We all wanted customers who tipped, and we preferred to wrench on bikes in superb condition.

There was a wealthy doctor who owned a meticulous and highly accessorized Gold Wing. His first visit to our dealership resulted in another tech getting the work. I was up for the repair order, so I griped to my service manager about the override. He informed me that the doctor picked “Tech X” based on inspecting our shop area. The doc felt Tech X looked the most professional and he wanted the best tech for his bike. I was pissed at first, but had to confront reality when I did the comparison myself. Tech X wore a uniform (which he purchased) and I wore dirty T-shirts and jeans. (Continued)