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Commentary: What to consider before you hire entry-level candidates for your logistics business

(Photo credit: Coyote Logistics)

As our economy continues to see growth and the freight recession eases, it’s inevitable that supply chain and logistics companies will look to the recent college graduate market to find their next crop of producers.

This model has proven successful for growth-focused transportation businesses in many cases including Coyote, Echo, Worldwide Express, Enterprise Holdings, Pitney Bowes, etc.

One thing the companies listed have in common beyond hiring recent college grads is the commitment to a culture of training and development. So, while it may sound appealing to adopt a model of hiring less experienced, lower-cost workers, executives and business owners should assess whether or not their organization is equipped to develop college graduates into contributing professionals who can become the future leaders of the organization.

Many years ago as a young person coming out of college, a career in logistics was not an obvious choice for me. In hindsight, it’s been one of the best decisions of my life. When I got out of college I was looking for three things in an employer – training, opportunities for advancement and aggressive earning potential.

I found all three of these things at a company that invested heavily in the training of their sales reps and helped me develop as my career progressed as a result. As a sales rep at Worldwide Express, I went door to door trying to get companies to leave FedEx or UPS and switch their parcel shipping to Airborne Express, which was eventually acquired by DHL.

Taking clients from two of the most recognizable brands on the planet was not easy, but Worldwide Express made us feel like we could be successful. Before Worldwide Express was a mega-broker and known as a top workplace, the company leaders built a foundation of talented, convicted people through an organized training process that still exists today.

The company had a magnificent framework for building talent and has continued to invest in its personnel development, which is the key reason for its continued growth and success. Worldwide’s recipe is simple and has been replicated by other fast-growing logistics companies and is viewed as a model for success. Before you hire that entry-level go-getter, ask yourself, “Is my organization ready for this?”


Before a salesperson hit the street at Worldwide Express he or she first had to go through a rigorous week-long training led by company executives. Many employers rely on trainers to teach new people how to navigate their core responsibilities.

At Worldwide Express, the best-performing salespeople were invited to Dallas to mentor new sales staff at Basic Sales Training along with the CEO, Senior Vice President of Sales and other executive leaders. It was very clear to any new hire at the company that training was critical to success and would be invested in for everyone. Once new hires completed basic sales training, they felt confident that they had a good command of the basic fundamentals and could succeed.

As performance and numbers progressed, individuals were invited back for a series of training that taught higher-level sales and leadership skills. As salespeople moved into management roles, they were brought through equally robust training on how to interview, hire, train and develop their own employees.

I always believed moving up in my career was attainable at Worldwide Express because the training helped me get better and was easily transferred to my local team when I got back. Great training is insightful, informative, invigorating and fun as hell.

Whether a new hire or a seasoned manager, people always came away from a training with more than a few key lessons learned, a sense of pride in the company and some awesome memories. Your company doesn’t have to have a huge budget for training so much as it needs  a commitment to it that is embedded in the company culture.

Opportunity for advancement

Training is helpful and also attracts ambitious, talented people. Opportunity for continued development and advancement are critical factors in retaining top talent as well. Companies like Target and Chick-FIl-A almost exclusively promote from within. For young people looking for a long-term career path, seeing is believing.

When an organization commits to providing excellent upward mobility it’s obvious to candidates and new hires. It’s attractive because personal motivation and ambition are at an all-time high when someone is joining an organization. It’s natural for this enthusiasm to wane as responsibility increases and the rigors of a job wear on people.

This is why it’s so important to bright people to have an opportunity to move up within their own organization. If someone’s enthusiasm is high when they start their first job it’s through the roof when they receive their first promotion.

The great Jack Welch of GE fame had a famous quote from his book Winning: “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”

Giving young people the opportunity to become leaders helps them become more confident. If the company nurtures these people and develops them into leaders, it helps the organization attract and retain even better people.

Promoting from within can become a virtuous cycle but it takes time, commitment and patience. When developing a strategy for attracting and training fresh talent, it’s imperative to also think through how their career(s) may progress through an organization or you will be training the talented leaders who eventually leave for for higher level roles at competitors’ companies.

Ongoing development and mentoring

While training, promotions and compensation are all hugely important, we all know people leave bosses, not jobs. Forbes cites a lack of development opportunities as one of the 6 Reasons Your Best Employees Quit.

Development goes much deeper than coaching, one-on-ones and training. In order to properly develop employees, companies and leaders need to invest in building relationships and credibility with teammates from the first time that a person becomes aware of the company.

Relationship-building starts with the application and interview process. Too often hiring managers fail to get to know a person in favor of only asking tactical, work-related questions. Making sure a candidate is qualified is important but when hiring entry-level people, it’s rare that a candidate has any tangible skills in the field. That’s why it’s critical to learn about the candidates, their story and what motivates them. In most cases, an entry-level candidate’s history is the best predictor of future successes and/or failures. Asking candidates questions about their past relaxes them and helps them feel comfortable in the discussion, allowing the interviewer to see the true character and attitude of a potential hire.  

Once hired, the conversation with these new hires should continue. The goal is to build deep, personal relationships with the people you work with, allowing you to coach them honestly and openly because the lines of communication are already established and trusted.

Avoiding this relationship-building is a common mistake made by many companies and ultimately contributes to weak culture and high turnover. Many times when employees don’t have personal relationships with their manager or company leadership, they leave to seek those bonds elsewhere, leaving the company back at square one.

Addressing employees’ successes and failures in real time helps the employees stay on top of their development progression as well as feeling like they are advancing their skills, which will lead to future opportunities.

Building high performing companies and teams starts with culture. Culture is hard to build and doesn’t happen by accident in most cases.

If your organization’s growth strategy entails entry-level recruitment and talent development, make sure the cultural foundation is solid and that new hires have a clear path to success. Without that, your company will be a line on their resume and your company won’t achieve the results it’s looking for in the years to come.

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Charley Dehoney

Charley Dehoney is a growth-focused executive, consultant, advisor and investor, with more than 15 years of experience at the intersection of transportation technology. He's helped create revenue systems that have supported hundreds of millions of dollars in growth for the businesses he's helped build. Dehoney is currently serving as CEO of Manning's Truck Brokerage, a 50-year-old, private equity-backed logistics company. He lives in Omaha, Nebraska with his beautiful wife and three strapping young sons.