From Pads to People: My Journey as a Brake Industry Recruiter

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In automotive recruitment, few sectors are as unique and challenging as the brake industry. Early in my career, I spent several years at Akebono Brake Corporation, where I learned about brake parts, manufacturing, and how to hire lots of talented people. But during my time there, one thing was clear: finding and recruiting top brake expertise was no easy task.

When my journey led me to a career in executive search in 2012, I decided to focus my efforts on the brake industry. I thought If I had a tough time finding the best brake talent in the industry, I was pretty sure other companies were, too. I also realized that from all my years working with recruiters as an HR professional, I rarely encountered one with deep brake industry knowledge and expertise. And so it began.

For the last 12+ years, I have met and worked with some of the industry’s best and brightest professionals and clients. From years of building Hagman Search, here are some observations and things I have learned along the way.

Cost Versus Value: The Eternal Tug-of-War

The first lesson I learned in this journey is the delicate balance between cost and value. Brake companies, constantly grappling with the need to stay profitable, often view recruiter fees with skepticism. It’s a tightrope walk, convincing them that the right talent is worth the investment. This challenge has been a masterclass in negotiation, teaching me the art of presenting a compelling case that aligns with their financial goals and vision.

The Diverse Spectrum of Hiring Managers

Every hiring manager I’ve encountered has their own unique approach, shaped by their experiences and the specific needs of their company. Some are like meticulous engineers, seeking precision in every answer. Others take a holistic view, looking for a cultural fit above all else. Adapting to each style has been an exercise in versatility and has taught me the importance of customizing my approach to each individual’s preferences and expectations.

A great example is an engineering candidate I once presented to a client for a brake development position. The candidate bombed the interview. The hiring manager had no chemistry with the individual and felt the person lacked the drive, the knowledge, and the skills needed for the job. I presented the same candidate for a nearly identical position later on, and they knocked it out of the park, received an offer, and have been promoted multiple times since then.

Candidate Expectations: A Multi-Lane Highway

Today’s candidates are more selective than ever. They’re not just looking for a job; they’re looking for a career pathway, a work-life balance, and opportunities to innovate. Catering to these diverse expectations requires deep understanding and empathy. It’s about matching not just skills but aspirations and corporate cultures.

Don’t even get me started on remote work. I have worked with a lot of companies in the Detroit, MI area, and about ten years ago, the most frequent question asked from candidates was the salary. The second was location. Candidates would literally make decisions based on how far the office was from their home. Today, the number one question is still compensation. The second is, “how many days a week do I have to go into the office?”.

Also, candidates won’t relocate…ever. Zero, zilch, nada. Okay, I won’t say never, but today, the willingness to move for a job is simply not there. There are too many opportunities locally or personal factors involved.

Navigating Through HR and Direct Hiring Managers

Working with HR departments is vastly different from dealing directly with hiring managers. HR’s approach is often more process-driven, requiring a thorough understanding of protocols and policies. In contrast, CEOs, executives, and other hiring managers typically focus on how a candidate fits into their immediate team dynamics. Learning to navigate both these worlds has been crucial in finding the right talent for the right role.

Market Misconceptions: Educating and Informing

When I began my career in executive search, I spent a lot of time trying to research news and companies in the brake segment. A surprising discovery was how fragmented the industry was and the general lack of information and insights available to brake industry professionals. This gap has offered me a unique opportunity to educate and inform not just about the recruitment process but also about the evolving trends and demands of the market. It’s about being more than a recruiter; it’s about being a consultant and advisor. If only I could create a global platform where everyone could stay informed on all things braking, that would be awesome. E’hem…if you are not already, subscribe to our weekly emails here.

The Technological Evolution and Its Impact

The brake industry is not immune to the rapid pace of technological advancement. The rise of electric vehicles and the increasing focus on sustainability have revolutionized the sector. Staying ahead of these trends, understanding how they impact talent needs, and finding individuals who are not just skilled but also adaptable and forward-thinking have become a crucial part of the recruitment process.

The Global Landscape: Recruiting Without Borders

Another dimension of my role has been navigating the global landscape of the brake industry. With companies expanding worldwide, finding talent that understands and adapts to different cultural and regulatory environments is essential. This aspect of the job has taught me the nuances of international recruitment – from understanding diverse work cultures to complying with various employment laws.

More Than Just Recruitment

Recruiting in the brake industry is a journey of constant learning and adaptation. It’s about striking a balance between the technical requirements of the job and the human aspects of the recruitment process. Each day brings new challenges, but also the satisfaction of knowing that the work we do has a direct impact on the safety and efficiency of vehicles on the road. It’s a responsibility and a privilege that continues to drive me forward in this exciting and ever-evolving field.

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Brian Hagman
Brian Hagman

Brian Hagman is founder of Hagman Media, with platforms including The BRAKE Report, The EV Report, and Self Drive News. Brian is also President of Hagman Search, a specialized recruiting firm supporting organizations in the Braking, eMobility, and Automated Driving segments.