HR: The Importance of Pounding the Pavement

Even with all the advanced technology available to help MPW human resources associates with the recruiting process, sometimes there’s no substitute for a handshake. “I’m from the school of pounding the pavement,” said Recruiter Juwanna Phillips, who is based at the Volkswagen Village plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

“Social media is a great tool to use, but one thing that never dies is being personable. It’s going out there, meeting people and making friendships,” Phillips said. “It’s knocking on that door and saying, ‘Hi, my name is Juwanna and I work for MPW. Are you looking for employment?’”

Phillips has been a top recruiter—hiring more than 1,000 employees—for MPW since joining the company more than two years ago. She also recruits for the MPW branches at Mercedes-Benz Vans in Lasdon, South Carolina and Plasman in Greer, South Carolina and Fort Payne, Alabama. She appreciates the video technology that enables her to do her job remotely, but she prefers home base. “When I’m doing virtual interviews, it’s like, ‘Oh, I wish I could meet you,’” she said. “But this is the big success, right here at Volkswagen because I’m right here.”

“I have so much respect for Juwanna and the way she approaches her work. Her dedication to helping others shows in how much she genuinely cares about connecting with candidates and making their first experience with MPW positive,” said Human Resources Manager Kaylie Galinis. “She makes a real difference not only at MPW, but also in the Chattanooga community. Her impact always shines through!”

“Juwanna and I have built a fantastic team here at VW. She works tirelessly and is always available to chat,” said Account Manager Daniel Llewellyn. “Her ability to read people and present only the best applicants is really top notch. Juwanna always has such a positive attitude and is always smiling every time I see her.”

Volkswagen is particularly challenging for MPW recruiters because Phillips said she’s hiring for “three different facilities” because MPW contracts for maintenance, recycling waste and for the paint line. “Basically, we’re responsible for every single thing recycled that comes out of the plant,” she said. “We hire employees for three shifts, and we have supervisors who are on each shift.”

For the maintenance facilities, MPW is responsible for hiring technical positions, such as electricians, HVAC specialists, welders and technicians who work alongside Volkswagen employees. “We’re responsible for any project that goes on as far as what Volkswagen asks from us,” Phillips said, adding that the paint line requires very specific skills.

“We hire paint technicians who are basically responsible for cleaning the paint line, going into the paint booths, sweeping, mopping, taking the trash out, pulling up the grates from the ground that have all the chemicals and paint, things of that nature,” Phillips said. “That’s a job where we have to make sure there’s the OSHA standard. If it’s not safe, they can’t run production. So, when we hire technicians for that job, we really have to make sure they are the right people for the position.

“Not everybody can do that job because it’s a physical job. You do a lot of bending, standing, walking, squatting, confined spaces and heights. It’s difficult trying to find those type of people. That’s why I get out in the community and try to find the talent,” Phillips said.

Phillips’ main source of talent for Volkswagen is the local American Job Center, which is a network of employment offices across Tennessee, serving both employers and job seekers. Companies find ideal workers while candidates receive vital career information and services. “At the American Job Center they bring down people with skill sets,” she said. “Someone may have experience in customer service, but can they work with a robot or drive a forklift—things of that nature?”

So, what makes a successful recruiter? Phillips said the main objective is to stay the course. “We keep going; we keep looking for that great employee,” she said. “Is there such a thing? Yes, I believe in it. We can hire someone who looked the part but can’t do the job. That’s why you have to ask the questions. That’s why I like to get the managers involved as well, because the managers get a feel for that person.”

Phillips said it’s nearly impossible to identify a perfect candidate solely by sight. “Someone can come in dressed to the ‘T’ and looking great. He’s dressed for success, but he has to show me first,” she said. “Sometimes we do get people, they have a great presentation and they fit the part, and I’m like, ‘Okay’, but then they get on the floor and it’s like, ‘Nope.’”

This is why Phillips said she’s so passionate about hiring second chance recruits, who may have faced legal or addiction challenges in their pasts but are ready to make a new start. “Their dirty laundry is already on the table. It’s all laid out; that’s my metaphor. You can’t fool me about your past because I already know,” she said.

“I tell people when I hire them, ‘I don’t give out jobs; I give out opportunities.’ It’s up to you what you do with that opportunity,” Phillips said. “It’s up to you to come in here with the right mindset, the work ethic and that great attitude in order to succeed.”

Phillips is also passionate about hiring young recruits, many of whom she will meet at job fairs, and she will directly visit high schools to speak with students who are ready to graduate and looking for direction. In addition, she works with many Chattanooga community leaders in the mayor’s office, she mentors a local basketball team and donates her time to a boys and girls club. “I do a lot. I try my best to get out there,” Phillips said.

Recruiting is just like working for any other MPW department—it’s all about building relationships. “This is a family-owned company. When people share their stories with us and we hire them, they become part of the MPW family,” she said. “Every day, I know what my purpose is as a recruiter. Every day, I know what I’m supposed to do. I take pride in that; I really do. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

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