Auto Shop Coaching Blog

How to Know If You Made a Bad Hire

“For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”H.L. Menken

In 2004, Sony released the hit movie 50 First Dates starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. Sandler’s character “Henry” meets Barrymore’s character “Lucy” in a restaurant while having breakfast and is instantly drawn to her. After years of searching, he believes he finally found the right girl.

But there’s one slight problem. Lucy suffers from short term memory loss and can’t remember anything that happened from the previous day. As a result, every date is like the first date. Even though Harry says the same things each day, Lucy is always hearing it for the first time.

Does your recent experience with your latest hire feel like “50 First Days?” Each day you talk about making exit appointments but it’s like she’s hearing it for the first time. Each day you review the courtesy check process, but it’s like he’s hearing it for the first time.

Each day, you talk about collecting email addresses, but it’s like they’re hearing it for the first time. Like Henry, you initially felt like you found the right one, but now you feel like every day is their first day.

It’s possible that you’ve made a bad hire. But how can you know for sure? Studies show that a bad hire can cost a shop as much as six times the employee’s salary, so the sooner you find out the better!

As you read on you will learn the “head, heart, hands” evaluation method that can help you answer this question.

Ideas to grow your businessDo you need more hiring or employee evaluation techniques? Discover valuable, easy-to-implement tips and strategies in ATI’s shop owner events. Register today at


Years ago, I worked as a corporate trainer for a national automotive service corporation. One of the classes I facilitated was phone training.

At the end of each session, the students had to demonstrate via role play that they knew how to answer the phones and follow the phone outline. The role plays were then graded on a scale of 0-100.

I remember one student named “Jeff” who was my best student. He passed the final exercise with a perfect score of 100%. In the following weeks Jeff, my star student, went back to his location and failed his next three phone shops! 

Every day was like his first day when it came to executing the phone process. His manager “Jim” blamed training as the issue and wanted to send him back through my sessions again. I disagreed because Jeff demonstrated through the role plays that he knew what to do.

When evaluating whether it’s a head issue, the question is “Does your employee know what to do?” If the employee can demonstrate the task, then the answer is yes. If, after repeated training and follow up, he’s still unable to do it, then it’s possible that you have hired someone who doesn’t have the aptitude for the job.

Therefore, I recommend creating random role plays for those tasks that aren’t getting executed even though you keep telling them to do it. In other words: “When it feels like their first day, it’s time to role play!”


Back when I was a store manager, I had a meeting with my team to discuss the courtesy check process. I went through all the information as to why it was good for the car, the customer, and the company. I also reviewed how they could make more money.

I felt like the message was clear until one of my technicians interrupted me mid-sentence with the following statement: “Yeah Eric, I hear all that, but what’s really in it for me to fill out these courtesy checks?” To which I replied: “You get the benefit of continuing to work here!”

After that, I never had another issue with his courtesy checks! I had addressed the following heart question: “Does your employee know why he is doing it?” In other words, what is their motivation to perform the task?

Studies show that people are motivated by either approach or avoidance when it comes to their behavior. Approach means that doing the task will help them to approach something they want.

For example, completing the courtesy check will help your tech to make more money. Someone who is motivated by avoidance is looking to avoid the consequences of not performing the task. The technician at my meeting was looking to avoid termination which motivated him to execute.

What if you’ve addressed the head issue, the benefits, the consequences, and it still feels like their first day? In this case, it’s possible that the person has a limiting belief that they are unwilling to overcome. This is the most common heart issue that I encounter, and it’s a sure sign that you have made a bad hire.


When I think about the hands issue, I’m reminded of another situation I encountered back when I was a corporate trainer. Myself and several other company executives were sent out to Northern New Jersey because a disgruntled employee at a troubled location had filed a grievance with the local labor union.

I was sure that the disgruntled employee had either a head or a heart issue. I was planning to provide training and then follow up with the location manager to ensure that he was providing the right levels of motivation. What I found, took me by surprise.

The union drive, which made national news, was started because of a tire technician who didn’t have the right tool to perform flat repairs. He kept telling his manager but his requests went ignored. He knew what to do (head), why he should do it (heart), but lacked the right tool to do the job (hands).

Here’s the hand question: “Does your employee have the necessary tools and resources to do the job?” For example, if you are coaching your technician on productivity and you believe he has a hands issue, a great question to ask is: “what do you need from me to help you improve your productivity?”

If he says, “I need you to get the lift fixed in bay number three”, you know you have a hands issue. If your new “B” tech knows what to do, why he’s doing it, has the right tools, but still averages 5 billed hours during a 40-hour workweek, you just made a bad hire!


So, there you have it. If every day feels like your employees first day, check the head, heart, and hands before concluding that you’ve made a bad hire. If you follow this formula, it won’t take 50 first dates to know the difference between Mr. Right and Mr. Right Now!

At ATI, we focus on teaching and coaching shop owners on best practices to get the most out of your automotive repair business. Want to learn more? Find an ATI shop owner event near you.

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Eric, the Accountability Coach, is an Executive Coach at ATI and has coached since 2009. Eric came to ATI having managed over 60 different automotive repair facilities and having supervised over 500 employees at a given time. He loves seeing members progress beyond what they thought was possible and improve their shop to the point where they can leave for weeks at a time and come back to a business that's better than when they left.