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by Dave Druzynski
Somewhere out there is the perfect candidate for your job opening, but finding that person can be a challenge. How much thought and time do you put into your hiring process? Many dealers still have a “give ’em a shot for 90 days” mentality, believing that if a new hire doesn’t work out, they’re no worse off.
Nothing could be further from the truth. According to the latest NADA Workforce Study, the average turnover rate for sales professionals in dealerships is 80 percent. High turnover affects morale, gross and customer retention.
Many factors contribute to turnover, and the lack of a good hiring process is just one of them. Fine tuning this process might not solve all your problems, but it’s a good place to start.
1) Prepare for Interviews
I’ve talked to many hiring managers who admit the first time they ever looked at a candidate’s resume was when they sat down for the interview. If you can’t take the time to prepare for an interview, you have only yourself to blame when you make a bad hire!
Review a candidate’s resume in advance. It’s important to look for discrepancies such as gaps in employment or a job description that doesn’t match the job title, so you can ask the candidate about it during the job interview. For example, if a candidate says she left one company for a better job opportunity somewhere else, but there’s a three-month employment gap in her resume between those two jobs, that’s a red flag you want to ask about.
Another reason to prepare in advance is so that during the interview, you can observe the job candidate’s behaviors. If you are nose down in a resume the whole time you may miss important body language cues that can suggest whether a candidate is lying to you.
Remember that a job interview is a two-way process. The candidate is trying to sell his or her skills to you, but this is also your opportunity to sell your dealership. After all, your perfect candidate is probably not sitting at home, unemployed and desperate for a job. Your perfect job candidate is probably employed elsewhere, looking for a better opportunity. So be prepared to explain why it’s better to work for your dealership than any other dealership.
2) Use Structured Interview Scripts
Before the interview, write down the questions you plan to ask. First, make a list of the skills, abilities and character traits required to successfully do the job. Then create questions designed to discover whether the candidate has that trait or skill. For example, one skill required for salespeople is persistence. Ask a question such as “How many times do you think it’s appropriate to call and email someone who has submitted a lead on our website?”
You also want to ask a mix of behavioral questions and situational questions designed to reveal the skills and traits you are looking for. Make sure your questions are open-ended so the candidate has to give a detailed answer, rather than a “yes” or “no” response.
Behavioral questions are designed to encourage the candidate to share stories from their past experience that reveal a behavior you’re looking for. Examples include: Describe a time you disagreed with a supervisor; describe a time that you showed initiative; tell me about a time when you had to act in a leadership capacity. If candidates have a hard time coming up with an answer, or skirt your question, don’t let them off the hook!
Situational questions present a “what if” scenario to the job candidate, and are designed to reveal how the candidate will react in different situations. Examples include: What would you do if a customer is being difficult; what would you do if you heard a coworker lying to a customer?
Last but not least, you want to ask questions to find out whether the candidate is a good cultural fit. One of my favorites is “I want you to think back to a time when you were successful in a position. Tell me about that company and environment. What did you like about it? Why were you successful there?” Let’s say the candidate says his favorite thing about his previous job was that he had a flexible work schedule. If your dealership does not offer flexible work schedules, then you probably don’t want to hire that candidate because they won’t fit into your culture.
3) Interview and Hire by Committee
I always recommend having more than one hiring manager in an interview. My senior software development manager likes to sit in while I interview software developers. It gives him a chance to observe the candidate’s behavior in a way that he can’t while he is doing the interviewing himself. Occasionally he’ll throw in some follow-up questions, but we jokingly refer to this as our Penn and Teller routine.
If you’re hiring a service writer, have the general manager sit in on the service manager’s interviews. If there’s a hiring manager in your dealership who is a great judge of character, have them sit in on as many interviews as possible, even if the job opening is not in their department.
In addition to interviewing by committee, I recommend hiring by committee. At Auto/Mate our job candidates go through several interviews with several hiring managers from different departments. We require a unanimous decision on all hires, which means that even if three out of four managers like a candidate but one manager does not, we won’t hire that person. It may sound harsh but we rarely hire someone who is not a good cultural fit.
A formal hiring process allows you to identify and hire the best job candidates, which helps to reduce employee turnover. Of course, a hiring process is just one part of an equation that includes ramping up your recruiting efforts and focusing on workplace culture so you can keep your employees happy.