How Any Organization Can Adopt the ‘Car Test’ to Improve Their Hiring Practices

Article main image
Feb 20, 2017

A few years ago, our company was going through some growing pains. We were getting bigger, and the need for employees with a diversified work style was becoming more important than ever. We were a small company at the time, maybe a dozen employees or so.

I remember getting a call from one of our clients who was lamenting my decision to change their account manager up. “He was steady and reliable, no frills” said the disgruntled client. “We need that kind of work style. He was our minivan.”

A few weeks later I received a call from another client who felt like their account could use a shot of adrenaline. “Our account team is getting too predictable,” the client told me. “We need someone who can go zero to 60 in no time, kind of like a Porsche.”

And so, the N6A Car Test was born.

From that day forward, the “Car Test” has been an integral part of our hiring process. We have used the “Car Test” to make important decisions both at the employee vetting stage and to staff client accounts after an employee has been hired.

We have it in our personality surveys before we hire any employee. In addition to a myriad of other questions, we ask all candidates in their personality survey before joining N6A “what car best describes your work style?”

We give candidates a whole menu of choices along with descriptions for each.

Are you a Mercedes? If so, there’s a premium for you, but you believe the quality pays off in the end.

Perhaps you’re a Cadillac Escalade? If this was your answer, you’re the boss of the road, dictating traffic patterns and making all other cars bow down to you.

Perhaps you’re a Tesla? If so, you consider yourself the car of the future, and are asking for us to invest in you for what you can bring tomorrow, not today.

Or perhaps you’re the understated type? If so, chances are you answered Ford Fusion, which was the Edmund’s Car of the Year but nobody really knew that.

The list goes on. In my experience, you want all of these cars in your organization. In fact, any organization that recruits the same type of “car” is flat and one that is lacking innovation. This will always stunt your ability to scale over time. All of these pieces complement each other nicely, and working in unison, you can build an incredibly dynamic and versatile team with each of these car types.

The trick is knowing where each one fits within the org chart, and which pieces complement each other at the right time. Here are a few specific situations where we applied the “Car Test” and it paid dividends in our hiring process:

  1. Put the Porsche and Minivan in the same show room: I distinctly remember one occasion when we had two job openings we were interviewing for simultaneously. On one hand, we were desperately in need of a high-octane talent that could move fast for our clients (“The Porsche”). However, we also needed someone who was a low-risk hire; i.e. low maintenance, safe, and reliable. With this in mind we went to our “Car Test” playbook and decided to hire both. It was one of the best decisions we ever made. The Porsche candidate came in and immediately gave us the energy we were looking for. The Minivan candidate came in and proved to be a steady and reliable resource, stabilizing many client accounts. The best part: the Minivan picked up some tips from the Porsche, and the Porsche learned a ton from the Minivan.
  2. Approach the Car Test with situational analysis: Truth is, there really is no right and wrong answer when it comes to the “Car Test” approach. I’ve seen first-hand dozens of car types come through our doors over the years, and all have proven to make our organization stronger in their own right. It all comes down to situational analysis; i.e. who do I hire and when do I hire them? This is where I’ll look at the “Car Test” as an important tool. Look across your organization, understand the needs and the situation, and use that as a tool to hire the right employees at the right time. A snow-friendly SUV can be a great asset, but chances are you’re not going to need it on a sunny summer day. Likewise, a drop top convertible can be terrific, but you’re probably not going to take it for a spin in the middle of a snowy winter. It’s all about knowing which car is the most useful to you in the moment.
  3. The entry-level vs. manager-level perspective: the first thing we’ll look at on the “Car Test” is the experience level of the candidate. This will give you a glimpse into the perspective of the candidate and the opinion they have of themselves. You can draw some very interesting conclusions from this data. I personally have no problem with a candidate describing themselves as a Mercedes (i.e. “there’s a premium to drive me”), but I would prefer for the Mercedes to be higher up on our org chart. If you’re an entry-level candidate, I’d much rather see you self-describing yourself as an investment for the future or someone who is fully prepared to do the grunt work for starters. As I look at the “Car Test, the Mercedes candidate is an advantage at the manager-level, but a handicap at the entry level.
  4. Don’t be afraid to “lease” cars: once candidates have been hired, the “Car Test” can be your greatest asset when it comes to sharing resources. Look at the cars you have at your disposal and don’t be afraid to hand them off to customer service teams that could benefit from that car in the moment. We view the cars in our company as interchangeable. If one client is in a pinch and needs a Porsche, chances are you have someone who matches that description somewhere in your organization. Go find the Porsche and don’t be afraid to “loan” that person to the client that is in desperate need. This will improve your customer service levels, give clients an appreciation for the diversity of skill sets and work styles you have in your company, and it will make your internal team better at the same time.

I look around our company today and feel very fortunate to have dozens of car types, all pulling in the same direction toward one common road, and making us better at the same time.

I leave you with a glimpse of our N6A Car Test. Which car are you?

  1. Cadillac Escalade: boss of the road. Calls all the shots, respected by all ages, dictates the rules and traffic patterns, expected to turn heads as others will follow.
  2. Dodge Minivan: steady, reliable, unassuming. No frills, but you know you can depend on it to get you from point A to point B safely, securely and consistently.
  3. Ford Fusion: Edmunds 2015 Car of the Year. And bet you had no idea!
  4. Mercedes: there’s a premium to drive it, but the quality and performance will be worth it in the end.
  5. Mini Cooper: a little quirky and stands out on the road.
  6. Porsche: zero to 60 in no time. Requires lots of maintenance and upkeep. But fun as heck while it lasts.
  7. Tesla: car of the future. Invest now and get ahead of the crowd. Might not see many on the road today, but just wait until tomorrow!
Get articles like this
in your inbox
The longest running and most trusted source of information serving talent acquisition professionals.