Ace the Auto Job Interview

Engine block repair.

Getting your dream auto-technician job largely depends on how you do at the interview. Preparing just a little can give you a huge advantage when it comes to getting the offer.

Before your next interview, be prepared to:

Answer Open-Ended Questions

"We ask only open-ended questions during the interview process," says Bill Filley, mechanical division director for the Automotive Service Association and owner of Prairie Road Automotive in Eugene, Oregon. An open-ended question is one that requires comments beyond "yes" or "no." For instance, rather than asking, "Do you like to do brake work?" the interviewer will likely ask, "Why do you like or dislike brake work?"

Discuss Your Work History

"If the candidate's work history shows employment in a new shop every three months, that's not good -- unless there is a reasonable explanation," Filley says. Like many shop owners, Filley prefers to see work periods of at least three years with each previous employer. If your work history does not reflect this, be prepared to explain why.

Outline Your Training

Most shops do not consider all training and certification programs to be of equal value. For example, managers of independent garages may consider ASE certification more important than dealerships do.

"We look first at factory-training certifications," says Sam Pines, who manages nine service departments for the Hoffman Auto Group dealerships in Connecticut. "ASE certification is a plus, but we are primarily interested in candidates who have successfully completed [factory training programs]."

Filley also asks candidates for a list of the test equipment with which they are familiar and the training seminars they have attended.

Demonstrate Your Training

Your job interview can quickly turn to a test of what you know and how you would apply that knowledge. This should discourage you from embellishing either your training or experience on the resume or job application during your interview.

For instance, "we've done some testing [in interviews], by putting parts on the table and asking a job candidate to tell us what they each do," says Filley. "We've also asked how they would proceed, once they had found a specific trouble code."

Showcase Your Computer Skills

In addition, you should be prepared to outline your computer skills, including your Internet savvy. "If you can only access information in printed manuals, you are at a real disadvantage," Filley says.

Answer These Questions

Many interviewers will ask you to outline your goals, as well as your strengths and weaknesses. Here are some questions you should be prepared to answer:

  • What do you want to be doing in five years?
  • What is the greatest strength you would bring to this job?
  • What is your greatest weakness?
  • How do you feel about attending training sessions?
  • Why did you decide to join or not join a professional organization?

Ask These Questions

Many interviewers will expect you to ask questions. Here are some things to ask that may help you decide if the job is right for you:

  • How can you keep me busy? (This is especially important in a shop that uses flat-rate or incentive-pay systems.)
  • How good are your service writers in selling maintenance and repair work?
  • What information systems do you use?
  • How long do your technicians typically stay with you?
  • What training opportunities will I find in this shop?
  • What are my avenues for advancement within this organization?

Get the Basics Right

Filley notes that your appearance, grooming and demeanor all count in the interviewing process; they can often say more about you than the words you speak.

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