“Today, our applicant flow is even higher than it was before April 15, 2013. In fact, it is the highest it has ever been at Pilot Flying J.” – Robert Byington, Senior Manager of Talent Acquisition and Administration, Pilot Flying J

Robert Byington, Senior Manager of Talent Acquisition
and Administration, Pilot Flying J 

Robert Byington has worked in human resource management for more than 13 years. The Senior Manager of Talent Acquisition and Administration at Pilot Flying J discusses the company’s medical benefits, what he looks for when he’s recruiting new team members and how the federal investigation has impacted hiring.

Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get into this business?
I started college with a major in aviation and realized two years later that there were not a lot of opportunities in that field. I switched my major to Business Management and after graduation, entered the restaurant business working in operations and recruiting restaurant managers. During my business travels, I regularly purchased fuel at Pilot Flying J. Since I repeatedly stopped at the same location, I became friends with the Pilot employees and the General Manager, who kept suggesting to me that I join the Pilot Flying J team. He convinced me to speak with his Regional Manager. They were both very persistent. I decided to pursue the opportunity, and after six months of working in Operations at Pilot Flying J, they asked me to move to the corporate office in Knoxville, Tenn., to run all recruiting operations.  

What do you find rewarding about this business?
There are so many things that I find rewarding about this business. Pilot Flying J services over a million customers every single day. It’s rewarding to know that by supplying fuel for so many trucks, we help move goods and services across the country. In essence, we help keep the economy moving.

As an HR leader, one of my greatest satisfactions is seeing the team members we hire succeed. We have a very team-oriented atmosphere here. I enjoy watching our employees work hard and be rewarded for their dedication, passion and boundless energy. We are always looking for great people to fill positions due to the continual growth of the company.  

Most of us know Pilot Flying J as a convenience store or an interstate stop, but it’s a very big company. Tell us about that. How many locations do you have? How many people work for Pilot Flying J?
We are a huge organization. Pilot Flying J is not merely a travel center stop or a convenience store, but it’s a large retail and food operation. Our Travel Centers match big-box stores in retail revenue and food service sales. We are so much more than just a convenience store.

We have 650 locations across the United States and Canada, and more than 24,000 employees.

Most of the news about the company lately has been about the federal investigation. Put that in perspective for us. How is it impacting morale and recruitment?
The first 60 days were really tough. There were a lot of questions and a great deal of uncertainty. People were concerned about the stability of our organization. Initially, our applicant flow dropped off and some applicants that were in the interview process decided to discontinue their candidacy.

However, after candidates became more informed about the issues surrounding the investigation, they realized that the vast majority of our team members have always done the right thing and continue to do so.

Today, our applicant flow is even higher than it was before April 15, 2013. In fact, it is the highest it has ever been at Pilot Flying J. Because we have kept the lines of communication open, and continue to update our employees, customers and the general public about our progress, it has helped us tremendously from a recruiting standpoint. New recruits recognize that we are a great company.

How do you recruit new candidates and what do you look for in a candidate?
Our recruiters utilize a number of diverse resources including one-on-one job fairs, job boards and referrals. We are also growing our visibility via social media, and connecting with candidates on sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

We look for candidates with high energy, enthusiasm and drive. We also look for people who have a passion for customer service since everything we do surrounds our customers. Our motto at Pilot Flying J is, “If you’re not taking care of the customer, be sure you are taking care of someone who is.”

Health insurance is top of mind for a lot of people right now. Tell us a little about your benefits program.
Our benefits program has always given us an advantage from a recruiting standpoint. Dave Parmly operates our benefits program and has done an amazing job of being extremely competitive with most major organizations in the United States. Dave has a high focus on employee health. It’s always been a real asset for us when we’re recruiting talent.

We believe that a healthy employee is much more capable of delivering on our customers’ expectations for fast, friendly service with respectful interactions in a positive environment.

Over the past four years, Pilot Flying J has covered all preventive services at zero cost to members including annual exams, wellness check-ups for women, and child immunizations. Some of our vision and dental plans are as low as five dollars a week. It’s definitely an added benefit that helps us recruit and keep good talent.

Another advantage is that we offer medical benefits to part time team members – something that is extremely rare in the retail industry. In addition, as the tenure of an employee grows with us, we increase our contribution to their health benefits.