Episode 7 – Josh Rock, Nuss Truck Group
With more than 60 years of service and experience with commercial diesel trucks and construction equipment, Nuss Truck & Equipment sets a high standard for the trucking industry. A family-owned and operated business, the company has seen steady growth in products, services, and employees through dedication, hard work, and genuine investment in its customers and the geographical areas it serves.
Over the last few years, Nust Truck has forged through adversity and managed to accelerate hiring at a rapid rate. A critical element of the Nuss Trucking hiring process is building meaningful relationships with candidates and their families.
This episode of The Speed to Hire Show features Josh Rock, Talent Acquisition Manager at Nuss Truck Group.
- [11:04] Understand the pathways candidates can take to reach career goals – Not every candidate will be the best hire for the open role you’re recruiting. But by helping high-potential and passionate candidates map their path, you can build a strong talent pool for future openings.
- [13:42] Pull from diverse skills and experiences to make stronger connections – The best recruiters pull from a variety of experiences and backgrounds to tune in to the best way to build relationships with candidates in the recruiting process.
- [16:18] Deliver quality hires through relationship building – There’s not a one-speed-fits-all recruiting process. You land the best candidates by nurturing them.
- [20:03] Remove unnecessary hurdles for candidates – cut out friction in the hiring process by removing the unknowns for candidates.
- [23:30] Consider the big picture for offer acceptance – It’s not always just the candidate’s decision to accept an offer. Family can be an important influence, so consider more than just pay when candidates are weighing the decision.
- [26:01] Set clear expectations about hiring criteria and goals – Map out the recruiting strategy from identifying the caliber of candidates you need to how that will impact your growth.
JOSH TOLAN: So first of all, Josh, just tell me a little bit about yourself and Nuss Truck.
JOSH ROCK: Yeah. I’m the talent acquisition manager for Nuss Truck & Equipment. We’re a family network heavy-duty dealership group for Mack and Volvo trucks. So we sell service and sell parts and maintain our customers’ vehicles and trucks and help keep the transportation industry rolling.
JOSH TOLAN: Nice. And what’s the makeup of the team over there on the talent acquisition side?
JOSH ROCK: So there’s three of us in HR. There’s the director, Joe Spier. He’s an old customer of mine from back when I was on your side of the table as an HR tech vendor. He was at Burlington Northern Railroad as a regional leader for them. He and I collaborated for many years on recruitment success for them. And then there’s Megan, who is my equivalent on the employee relations benefits side of things. And then there’s me so.
There are really three of us. A trio to do all the hiring, firing, and everything in between.
JOSH TOLAN: Got it. So you’re the main one, then, leading up the recruiting charge. And I think, yeah, we should also preface this by– you and I go way back. I don’t know, what was it, 2012 or 2013 or something the first time we met? And, yeah, you were working for a vendor. Which one was it again?
JOSH ROCK: I was working for a JobDig, which was a recruitment media company out of Minneapolis. They’re still in business today. They go by LinkUp. They did sell off one of the big product lines to Adzuna. So there are a few staff members that were there when I was there that are now Adzuna employees, and they’re doing really well. And certainly, with print and online recruitment advertising, we added radio, TV, social media. Grew into LinkUp, which was a job aggregator, to rival Indeed, we had hoped.
They turned it into GetWork, which was a reader-based corporate career page. I did that for a long time. It was there for about nine years and then went and flipped to this side, became a practitioner and now gets to impact the message, the spend, the engagement of candidates, and bring success to companies.
JOSH TOLAN: What made you make the switch from the vendor side to the practitioner side?
JOSH ROCK: Well, I’d love to say somebody came after me, but, no, I got laid off, unfortunately, like we’re hearing about many of these days. And there weren’t a lot of recruitment advertising companies here in Central Minnesota or Minnesota in general. So instead, I flipped to help my old clients with what they were doing. But instead of being a vendor, do it within their walls, give them back that control in the spend.
One of them that I went to, Saint Cloud Hospital, helped them change off of being reliant on an ad agency. They were with TMP. I said, we could do this in-house and ended that relationship. And they’re still doing it to this day, where they’re doing everything on their own. It’s been working great for them.
Worked for a couple of other companies and then landed at one of the largest healthcare companies in Minnesota, Fairview Health, where I was a recruiter there, brought some of those same techniques and talents and changed how they were doing things. And now they’re still going. Today, they’ve got a much more robust team since I left mid-pandemic to come to transportation.
But, yeah, it is a shift going from 36,000 employees to less than 400, but it’s still a blast. I still get to do my stuff every day, do my jam, and have a good time with me and my team.
JOSH TOLAN: That’s awesome, and what a great story. And so tell me about the company. So you’re in transportation. We talked a little bit before the episode kicked off here that you guys didn’t shut down the whole pandemic. So just curious about what that experience has been like. I’m sure the transportation industry, I know, booming for a while there.
JOSH ROCK: It still is. It’s recession-proof, we say. When people were going to work from home and this and that during COVID, trucks still needed to be fixed. Well, I don’t know about you, but I don’t have an overhead crane to pull a semi-trailer engine out of just to make sure that people can continue to get their toilet paper and food products. So we were busy.
We didn’t lay anybody off. We had non-essential staff work from home, like accounting and HR, and some of those. But anybody who could work in the office, we did. We just socially distanced. We made it effective and work. Yeah, we had COVID go through our dealerships. We couldn’t avoid it.
We tried to make sure all of our staff were as safe as they could. But, yeah, we were seeing great highs in our business in all lines, whether it’s service or parts. The only thing that’s really been affected is new truck sales, because of the supply chain issues. Components for new trucks weren’t being made. The factories had been shut down.
But we’re starting to see that starting to come back, and so that’s been a huge impact for us and plus. And we’re obviously seeing great hiring because of some of those efforts.
JOSH TOLAN: Yeah, that’s great. So tell me a little bit about some of the hiring. I know you said you’re about 400 employees now. Is there a target for this year? Or what’s the outlook?
JOSH ROCK: We’re keeping on the gas pedal. Last year, in ’22, we hit a number of records in hiring. Our previous highs were 82 hires in a year. That was 2018, pre-pandemic. We had 103 hires, a number that has never been seen in the history of this organization. And of that, what is really a good number for us was hiring 57 diesel mechanics. Our previous high was 32.
Huge growth in a very struggling area where diesel mechanics are hard to find. We slayed it.
I have been hearing from our competitors and others in the industry that they were struggling to find quality mechanics, and here we are, not only hiring them but hiring them in record numbers. It was a great year for us.
JOSH TOLAN: What can you attribute that to? That’s awesome.
JOSH ROCK: I attribute it a little bit to engagement. Engagement’s a big thing for us, especially a big thing for me, finding a way to correlate and connect with the candidates themselves, whether they’re skilled mechanics that are maybe looking for a change after pandemic recessions, all of those elements that just plague employees. But then also cultivating new talent through partnerships with select schools across the country.
We’ve built a relationship with our OEM partner schools, the manufacturer or schools that have a Mack and Volvo specialized program, but then also our community and technical colleges around the state of Minnesota. We’ve been able to foster a great relationship with instructors, engage the students early and pre-graduation and show them the culture that we have here at Nuss and the tenure that they can have within their career here and been able to land a caliber talent right out of the gate and drive their careers early.
JOSH TOLAN: And is that something that you didn’t see others across the industry doing, or was that a new initiative?
JOSH ROCK: I see some that plug holes. When I came here, I told the leaders, if you want somebody just to plug holes, it’s not for me. So we’ll find you somebody else to do this. I said, when I hire for you, I want to make you better tomorrow than you are today, and the leaders jumped on board. They’re like, yep, great idea.
So we go with each hire lock stepped on that same premise. And so when we’re out there looking at these candidates and talking to the talent, and when we take a step back after an interview and say, “all right, how does this person make us better?” there has to be one factor, at least, or else we don’t move with them. And so by going with that, we see that increase in talent, in that caliber.
Some organizations are willing to plug holes because they need to just get trucks moving. That’s not for us. When you’re a truck owner, you choose to go to the dealership, much like a consumer chooses to go to a dealership like Chevy, Ford, or whatever, for the high caliber and the quality of the work that’s driven. Same thing here in heavy-duty diesel. These trucks are worth a lot of money, and so people want them fixed to a certain caliber so they know that they can be relied upon and help deliver for their businesses.
And so hiring a caliber talent helps us do that and ensure that for those customers, which is why they choose to come here.
JOSH TOLAN: That’s great. And I love the mindset that you’ve created as well. Obviously, it helps you position yourselves to get really good talent, but it also positions you to have really good buy-in, it sounds like, from your leadership team, which hopefully then results in bigger investments in recruitment spend, but you can justify it. But I love the approach of just thinking about, does this person make us better as an organization, versus we need to hire this person to fill a spot on the roster.
And that’s how the best organizations grow their teams. It’s how they do it in sports, and it’s no different in companies. I know you’re a hockey guy, so I know you can relate to that.
JOSH ROCK: Oh, definitely. I can’t just fill a lineup. I have to fill a lineup with the right people. And every so often, I take a step back with each hiring leader and say, all right, where’s your team at? What can you use? Can you use new talent, like an intern? Can you use new grad talent, or can you only fit skilled, experienced talent? And they’ll tell me. Green, yellow, red, what can they take?
And so that gives me a barometer when I’m going out to a school. I’m heading out to Colorado next week and driving up to Laramie, Wyoming, to visit a specialty school, and I need to know what dealerships can take it so when I’m talking to a student and they say, hey, Josh, I want to live in Roseville, Minnesota, I can say, well, he can’t take a new grad, or he can take three new grads right now. Great.
We align the talent. We align the vision, so that way, if I can’t fit them, we can still make a connection, and bring them in, or I can introduce them to the leader when the timing is right. It’s great to be in alignment with the candidate right out of the gate, good or bad, whether I can hire them or not. Because it may not be a yes today. It could be a yes tomorrow, five years, 10 years from now. So having those stories and having that information really leads us well.
JOSH TOLAN: Yeah, and it’s good transparency to manage expectations for candidates, too, because, also, one, they’ll appreciate that. So maybe there’s not an opportunity today, but maybe there’s one tomorrow. So it’s good for relationship-building. I think there’s a good parallel there with– we talked previously about how you’re a hockey coach. A few different teams you’ve got going on.
So what are some of the similarities or things you bring from coaching? Because I’m hearing it in listening to you talk about your position at work.
JOSH ROCK: Yeah. One of the things that I do a lot away from the office is strategy at hockey. I’ve got a second-year Bantam. He’s 13 years old, an eighth grader. More of a finesse-style player than the grinder, greedy type of style. And so we sit back and we talk a lot about strategy, Xs and Os, where to develop, where can plays go? And so I do that not only with my leaders, I also do it with my candidates.
I had a young man yesterday who sent me his resume. He’s the brother of a current employee. And I looked at his resume, and he had a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies and had worked as a student worker somewhere and worked for a window company and a construction company, nothing even related to a diesel mechanic. And I said, OK, how do I help this kid?
And I said, all right, is this what you want to do? You want to do diesel? Yeah, I really like what my brother is telling me. He says great things about your company. OK. Well, here’s the path that you can get here. You can go to diesel school and get an associate’s degree, or you can try to find a job working for a general repair shop or a fleet somewhere. Those are two ways to get in here, I said, but I can’t necessarily just bringing you on as a diesel tech right now.
I said, another path would be is to come in and inventory or customer service, sales role, in parts, learn the business, use the tuition reimbursement to go back to school. That way you’re not only getting from us now, but we’re giving to you and building upon your career. And so it’s that same idea of strategy. How do I get that person here in the long term if I can’t do it in the short term?
And he’s like, yeah, I appreciate that. He goes, yeah, you can’t hire me today, but you’ve given me the keys to the kingdom to get there. Very much like talking Xs and Os with a 13-year-old about the game. So it’s fun. I enjoy being able to break that down. And the same thing with leaders, talking about overall strategy, because recruitment, for many, can seem like very much transactional process, and it’s not. It’s very relational.
And you have to find a way to relate to all different parties in the process. And so, yeah, it’s kind of fun.
JOSH TOLAN: Yeah. That’s great. And that’s what I see often when talking to recruiters, is oftentimes some of the best recruiters have very similar interests or interest that align with recruiting, but in their personal lives. So for you, it’s coaching, and it’s talking strategy, Xs, and Os. It’s player development. It’s leadership outside of work. And those are the strengths that then you bring into your recruiting process.
I was talking with somebody the other day who right now, he works for a workout program company, like with gyms, all across the country, and before that, he was in military recruitment for 17 or 18 years. And the thing that was interesting is, even though the industries are so different, that he applied a lot of the things from the culture in the military of being a part of something bigger to the recruitment process at the gym, and so I think it’s interesting, these different things, that, while they might be so different, like for you, hockey and recruitment, there are these parallels that help you in your recruitment and these strains that you can pull from.
JOSH ROCK: Yeah. It even goes back to when I was on your side of the table as an HR tech vendor. Being able to relate to non-buyers, the HR professional that you sell to each and every day. I have to sell to non-buyers. I have to sell a vision of what a career could do for somebody within our organization to somebody who doesn’t even know who we are.
I can be in El Paso, Texas, talking to a guy who’s about ready to graduate about coming up here to the Arctic tundra of Minnesota to build their career and invest in their family. You have to be able to be relatable. And it was no different when I was selling recruitment advertising, being from Minnesota, calling a random company in Chattanooga, Tennessee, about what we were doing and have to be relatable to them and what their situation was.
So, yeah, there are so many parallels and ways that you can find a fit, and we do that with talent. They may not fit the box that we need them into, but sometimes we can find an abstract way to make them applicable to what we need to do, give them that vision, and have them join us.
JOSH TOLAN: And that’s what the best talent teams are doing, right? It’s strategic. It’s relationship-driven versus transactional. Fill a seat, move on to the next, and that will end up showing to in your retention numbers, because you’re thinking about it from a more holistic standpoint versus, I’ve got to fill a seat, and that’s kind of it. So, all right, let’s talk about the hiring process a little bit over at the company.
It sounds like you’re running a lot of it yourself. And last year, you made a hundred-plus hires. How do you do that? What’s the hiring process look like end to end? I’m sure it creates a lot of [INAUDIBLE]. You’ve got to hire that many people. It’s a big challenge.
JOSH ROCK: It is. It’s far simpler than my last one at Fairview. There, we were doing 9,000 hiring transactions a year with a staff of 20 recruiters. I go from 20 hires a month as a recruiter on my own seat to maybe 9 or 10 a month, 20 a week. It’s just crazy to see the shift in volume, but the quality still has to be the same.
And that’s how I look at it. I can’t look at the numbers. Because there you had to bring on a number of people because patients hung in the balance. Here, it’s Suzy down the road getting your toilet paper or not, because the truck that delivers it is in our shop. That’s the philosophy there. And so we still have to deliver quality.
And so I break it down. One of the things that I try to do is I try to do the one-call close. The sales guy still comes out in me. I want to land the talent right away, but I do it through the relationship and painting the picture at the very first phone interview. We try to actually simplify the process. Many organizations will go through multiple interview layers. Ours can be as simple as a phone interview with me, an interview with the leader, and an offer is made. It can be that simple.
I’ve done it the same day, where I called a candidate, and I said, hey, you’ve got excellent credentials. Will you be able to come in? They come in that day. We meet with them. I already have their offer ready to go, just in case everything goes well, and they get an offer before they even walk out the door. That’s the exceptional side. That doesn’t happen as often.
It’s something I strive for. That’s the competitiveness in me that comes out when I can do those. But I know, like in sales, time kills all deals, and so if I can reduce the number of hurdles by doing a simple outreach, phone interview, or in-person interview offer, that is much more likely to get the opportunity or get the person to come to us. I know that a majority of the people that I’m hiring in these mechanic positions, which is most of what I spend my time on, they’re working somewhere else.
They’re not unemployed, sitting on the sidelines. They’re working somewhere else, and I have to put out a compelling offer that competes with where they are right now and they’re comfortable where they are right now so they want to come join us. And so those elements can be very easy when we do it often. So where the pause happens or where the sticking points are is making sure that the offer that I’m making is compelling enough to them to make them want to change, whether the pay may be up or down from where they are, benefits may be up or down from where they are, all those elements.
But is it one where they see a future and a victory for them by coming here? So, yeah, it’s a pretty simple process overall. Yeah, I have some sticking points. My ATS gives me heartache from time to time. Some of my tools give me issues from time to time, and some stress, but we found some ways to simplify our technology stack and bring victories.
JOSH TOLAN: Yeah. It sounds like you’ve got a pretty straightforward interview process like you said. Just a couple of steps, really efficient, which is important, because you need the people. You need them fast. You also need to balance quality, like you said. So from an efficiency standpoint, at least what I’m hearing from you, number one, remove unnecessary hurdles in the interview process. Don’t have unnecessary interview steps. It’s just going to drag out the time to hire, but also reduce the friction with decision-making for the candidate.
So for you, it sounds like it’s a couple of things. Of course, the offer. Make it compelling. It’s got to be competitive. That’s the price of admission. Otherwise, they’re not going to make a move, especially somebody that’s already got an existing role. But the other thing that I’m hearing from you, and maybe even more important, is transparency around the vision and what a career path looks like here, and that helps reduce the friction of decision-making because it’s not left up to their interpretation.
So what I gather from you is it’s all about being really transparent with the candidate and building that relationship and that trust, and that’s what then helps you move faster in the hiring process because it removes these unknowns for somebody that could make them waffle on a decision and cost you to lose a candidate or just flat-out lose days or weeks in the process.
JOSH ROCK: Yeah, very much so. One of the ones that I’ve done recently, I had a guy that I was hiring from South Carolina, and he was excited to come up here. He was excited about what we do, the specialty that we offer, and the opportunity to become master-trained and certified. And I said you’re married because he told me. I said, what does your spouse think?
Well, she had some questions. And I said, put her on the phone. And so he’s like, hey, babe, come over here. I’ve got the recruiter from Nuss on the phone. Great. I said, let’s do it. Puts her on speakerphone, and I said, hey. My name is Josh. I’m the recruitment manager here. I said, what do you want to know?
What do you want to know what the area? What do you want to know about the dealership? What can I answer for you? And she asked me a list of questions, and I answered every single one of them. I said, I’d be remiss to ask, what do you do? Are you stay-at-home? Do you have a career? She goes, yeah, I’m a dental hygienist.
I’m like, oh, great. I said, what I’m going to do is I’m going to send you a list of job opportunities in the same area, around where you guys are maybe planning on living. I’ll send them to you, and if you have questions about any employers, let me know. I may have some recruiter friends in mind. Who does that?
JOSH TOLAN: Yeah, that’s epic.
JOSH ROCK: I’ve been doing that for so long in my roles, because when I was in health care, I knew out of the 80% females that I was hiring into these roles, they were likely bringing a significant other of some capacity and asking them, what do they do? And if I’m moving them across the country to a hospital that they have no connection to, helping them build a career– I hired a nurse from Texas, and her husband was a civil engineer.
I connected him with two companies. He landed a job with one of them the same week that we offered his wife. So they moved up here. Both had careers, and had their kids in school. It was fantastic. We’re doing the same thing here at Nuss because I know it’s not a one-person show all the time. And if we can ease that burden for both of them, I’ve got buy-in for two, not just for one, and it makes it that much easier. So sometimes that added investment of time and effort can mean just a huge, huge benefit.
JOSH TOLAN: Yeah, that’s great. I don’t hear a lot of people talk about that. I think a lot of folks just consider the candidate and ask them what’s on their mind. And they may not be ready to say, oh, my significant other is concerned about X, or I’ve got to think about my kid’s situation with Y. And so by listening and asking the right questions, you can get to the root of what’s really maybe causing them some pause.
Because your typical recruiter might say, what is there to even think about? I’m offering them more money. It’s a great opportunity. All these things are so great, and they’re only thinking about them and their company and the offer that they’re giving. And they’re not considering all of the factors that are going into the decision for that individual candidate, and it’s not just a solo-person decision in a lot of cases.
Josh, I look at it like the way that we would hire physicians. The way that physicians are hired is a little bit more white-glove treatment, even though these mechanics, for the most part, they’re not white-glove style, I still give them the same kind of care and consideration as I would a physician because they’re as important to our organization as a physician would be in health care. And that a little extra care and consideration leads us to that greater victory.
Here at Nuss, we are lucky in the fact that the average tenure of a mechanic is 10 to 15 years.
JOSH TOLAN: Wow.
JOSH ROCK: That’s a long time. And we had just one last summer that retired after 45 years with this organization. That’s unheard of. We don’t see that anymore. And so if we can maintain that 10- to 15-year average tenure, we’re going to have so many victories, and it starts by doing that time and doing that investment and care and consideration. Because it’s a whole family move many times.
JOSH TOLAN: Yep. Yeah, and the retention piece is huge, right? When you have people that are around that long, the knowledge that compounds and how that translates to business results, it’s astronomical. So that’s a great point. And a lot of the things you’re saying are probably big reasons why you were able to hit such great hiring numbers for the past year, like you mentioned, hitting a bunch of those goals, while other competitors or folks in similar industries were struggling to get talent. So that’s great to hear.
And so on the quality piece, one of the things I’m curious about, you’ve got a very quick interview process. You’ve nailed efficiency. You’ve nailed candidate communication. So as far as hiring the right person for the role, phone interview with you, interview with the hiring manager, how do you guys collaborate so you know exactly what you’re looking for? Are you asking any technical questions, or are you evaluating something else before you pass them on?
JOSH ROCK: Yeah, I’m going to look for certain elements of caliber of talent. I’m asking them, what have they worked on? Do they have any master certification or training? Do they have a CDL or DOT inspection certifications? So I’m asking some things that are very simple and tangible.
We do give them a mechanics assessment. It’s not overly arduous. It’s 50 questions, but we get a sense of what they know how to fix. But then whether they’re A-caliber or C-caliber mechanics, no matter who it is, they get partnered with a master mechanic when they come in the door the first day. And so that master mechanic is really going to get a better idea of what they know how to fix.
And so then what we do is, after a couple of weeks, we grade them A, B, or C, and in the end, we look at how many As and how many Bs, how many Cs per dealership did we hire? And then, where do we need to move? And as we’re looking at existing talent, are they A-, B-, or C-caliber talent?
And then we look at, all right, we have too many Cs right now. I need to look at A-caliber talent to hire for this particular dealership. We’re constantly looking at that stuff. And then each year, we give a review back to not only the leaders themselves, but also our executives so they know what we’ve done overall.
I’m very competitive. I’m always looking for A-caliber, but sometimes a leader will risk on a C and build them up to an A through that training, the master certification opportunity, and build our talent along the way. So, yeah, we do ask some questions to get to a better handle of what they may or may not know. We give them an assessment.
So we do some things to gauge that early on, but then we’ll roll the dice. We’ll take an opportunity, and we’ll make somebody better over the long haul.
JOSH TOLAN: Yeah, and then having that benchmarking helps you measure it, so then you know, OK, I’ve got this feedback from the people who are actually working with this person every single day or managing this person. And now I can adjust my hiring process accordingly or adjust my hiring plan because I know I’ve got to get some A people into this location. And then you can, like you said, communicate that to leadership, which showcases everything that you’re doing.
It’s not just, oh, we made 103 hires this year. It’s, we made 103 hires, and after X weeks, their managers have graded them X, Y, Z. So we’ve got X percent A, Y percent B, Z percent C. And so you’re able to really showcase the results more so than just filling seats. Yeah, you guys are doing some awesome stuff, man. I’m impressed, although, I should say, I’m not surprised, knowing you for all these years. But congrats.
JOSH ROCK: Thanks, man.
JOSH TOLAN: It sounds like you’re doing some really cool things.
JOSH ROCK: Yeah. No, it’s been fun. I get to not only do all this every day, but I get to work with a good friend of mine. My boss and I have been buddies for 15 years. Obviously, we had that vendor-customer relationship, and we found a way to make it work for us to collaborate each and every day. So it’s fun. I’ve got to say, I’m blessed.
JOSH TOLAN: Great. Well, Josh, thanks so much. This is awesome I know all the viewers are going to love all your insight. Love what you guys are up to and just really appreciate your time and the friendship from all these years, and hopefully, I can catch you in an event coming soon.
JOSH ROCK: Yeah, look forward to seeing you maybe in Vegas for SHRM23 or maybe UNLEASH, coming up this spring in Vegas. HR tech. There’s a plethora of events that we’ll tend to find each other at.
JOSH TOLAN: Yep, yep. Sounds good. Well, looking forward to crossing paths. And thanks again, Josh.
JOSH ROCK: You got it. Thanks, Josh.