INTERVIEW: John Gibson talks how to land a job in the automotive industry

By J&C Team

John Gibson formed JGA in 1987. The intention of the company was to facilitate better, more informed employment in the automotive industry. Over the last 25 years the company has led the way in transforming the manner in which client assignments are advertised and filled.


Was there a particular event or key moment that inspired the formation of JGA?

JG : It was probably a coming together of minds. Denise (Mrs Gibson) had been on the receiving end of agencies as a client and conversely I had been on the receiving end as a job seeker.

From both perspectives we felt that agencies did no favours for clients or their candidates and, quite frankly, we felt we could fill the shortfalls that were generally accepted as standard practice. These shortfalls were not visiting clients, not interviewing candidates before sending them to interviews, and failing to keep in touch with candidates and clients alike.


We can imagine that potential employees were very enthusiastic about assistance, but what was the initial reaction from the automotive industry, and how has this changed over time?

JG : The initial response was one of amazement. Agencies had not visited clients before to take a proper brief from the client, or to explain the process and the timescales. Many did not even in keep in touch as a courtesy. Clients loved the way we did it.

Previously the whole thing was conducted over the phone, which resulted in no more than a number of unchecked CVs being forwarded with the candidates’ identity hidden. It seems they did this in the hope that one would be right for the job and then they could haggle over the commission fee!

Time has proven that our approach is what clients wanted – transparency, a full understanding of their needs, an “up front” fee agreement and clear details of what we do to earn it.

Today these values still hold true, both in what we do and in regards of discerning employers recognizing the need for a professional recruitment process to be followed. Sadly there are still some who operate by just sending off reams of CVs to companies – often without the knowledge of the candidates – in the hope that one would be right. We would not contemplate such a betrayal of either our candidates trust or our clients investment in finding the best staff available.


In the last 25 years there has been a clear change in perception of the automotive industry employees from being about having a trade and a job towards one of it being about having a profession and a career. Would you say this perception change was a dramatic change, or a view that has evolved over the years?

JG : The motor industry is a wonderful institution, one of the few that progression is almost entirely based on results. Many of today’s senior managers started in modest jobs and roles, and climbed the career ladder on their merits alone.

It is not an industry for philosophers, academics or caretakers. It’s about taking action now and delivering consistent results in a highly competitive business.


There has been a notable increase in employment opportunities in the automotive industry in the last few years. Do you believe the view that one follows a career, rather than simply gets a job, in the industry has stimulated this fact?

JG : The motor business does offer great opportunities for a long term career for those who empathise with its culture. It is a culture of hard work, long hours, hectic and high pressure and, often, requires a bizarre sense of humour. Various car firms have tried to encourage and recruit new graduates into the business and, in our experience, failed due to them not being able to adjust to this culture.

The motor industry is more of an addiction than a job. It is a habit that needs to be constantly fed with new challenges, new opportunities and the ability to adapt and cope with whatever tomorrow may bring, all whilst retaining commercial sanity and a sense of humour.


Related to this, a number of analysts have suggested they expected unprecedented levels of growth in the automotive industry over the next five years. What are your thoughts and feelings on this? Do you foresee continued growth in the industry?

JG : Motor cars are here to stay, life without them would be intolerable. Personal mobility is now accepted as an everyday right.

Growth will come from the diversity of technologies that forever seem to appear on the horizon. Electric cars, driverless cars and environmental issues are relatively new factors in the automotive industry, all requiring new specialties and skills in those working in the field.


The last few years have seen a number of software packages released that claim to be better at selecting potential staff than humans. What, for you, is the single biggest risk people should be wary of when relying on a computer for employment purposes.

JG : Computers are invaluable in the administration of the recruitment process – data retrieval, database searches – and provide for the speedy, accurate and confidential management of clients and candidates. However, the key to good recruitment still lies in the interview process. Validation of CVs and matching the brief for a position given in a face to face meeting is the only way to be certain of getting the right person.

We were the first automotive recruiter to use computerised personality testing as a recruitment aid, but only as a part of our process. In the wrong hands, using computer testing alone as a definitive reason to either employ or not employ someone could be – and indeed has been –  a way to make a very, very expensive mistake.


We understand the high value you place on client confidentiality, but is there any one candidate or company you have assisted which stands out as being truly memorable and giving you a greater than usual level of pride in work well done?

JG : Confidentiality is everything in the recruitment business. It is the hallmark of the businesses integrity for clients and candidates. The mass distribution of candidates details without their consent is commercial suicide for a recruitment business, as it shows their focus is not where it should be.

The internet has changed all our lives beyond our wildest dreams. It is convenient, fast, free and, sadly, easily corrupted. It is all too easy for information that should be kept confidential to be accessed. For this reason I am not a fan of people putting sensitive personal information online due to the dangers of it falling into the wrong hands.

Throughout my career I have been privileged to work with some of the most progressive and successful companies in the industries. In working with leading firms from Britain, Germany, America, Japan and Italy, JGA has been able to help them find the right candidates, and we have gained an even greater understanding of the industry from them in return.

To pick out one memory from the last twenty five or so years would be to do a great disservice to the others, so instead, without names, I would rather share some common principles we found across the leading companies in the field :

  • Whatever is right, is right no matter how many disagree. Whatever is wrong is wrong, no matter how many agree.
  • The man who never made a mistake never made anything.
  • Treat all people as at least your equal.


For those seeking a career or career change, what is the number one, proactive tip you would give to all seeking to be a part of the automotive industry?

JG : Ask if you are addicted enough. Are you prepared to accept long hours, weekend work (often with no extra pay), trips abroad and possibly time away from family and friends?

If you can answer yes, then join in and hang on tight, because you are on your way to a fast ride in a rollercoaster. It’s one that will frequently change direction and has questionable brakes!


And, just as importantly as that, what is the biggest or most common mistake you have experienced that potential candidates should always avoid?

JG :  The most frequent mistake is candidates that present a CV which is, in length and detail, a sequel to War and Peace.

The purpose of a CV is to get an interview, not the job itself. A CV should whet the appetite of the reader and make wanting to arrange a meeting irresistible.


Finally, your work and support of wildlife conservation is as well known as your work in the automotive recruitment industry. How important is it, do you feel, that both companies and employees strike a balance between their career and their personal interests and passions?

JG :  Balance and moderation is the key to everyone’s life in all things they do. Finding this balance has been the goal of mystics and gurus throughout the centuries – I am neither learned or qualified to advise others, only to offer my observations. In my experience, true happiness and true balance is not found in either the High Streets or online, but only in one place – between your ears. It is up to the individual to seek it out.

Wildlife gives me a very simple message. It reinforces to me the absolute sanctity of the life of all creatures and the fundamental premise that we need to preserve life on our planet.


People looking to get into the automotive industry, or seeking to change their career path in it, can contact John Gibson Associates via their webpage,