Chicago Automobile Trade Association

Seminar examines practices to recruit, retain best employees

November 22, 2010

Wendi Venable described one dealer’s hiring process thusly: "Run an ad, get ’em in, check for a pulse, hire ’emwatch ’em go in eight weeks." 

Turnover stands as "the unspoken white elephant in the automotive industry," said Venable, national director of the automotive program for Wonderlic, Inc., which helps businesses select and retain employees. Venable and a colleague recently presented a CATA seminar, "Solutions for Your Costly Recruiting and Turnover."


Many businesses operate without a structured hiring process, but Venable said the topic is gaining more attention because of the costs involved. She said that if a 15-person sales staff rotates out every eight weeks, that’s 43 hires annually.  

And every eight weeks, a departure costs $7,600, Venable said, noting the time and expense involved in refilling each position.


Employers often grouse of unqualified candidates, or that the right people simply aren’t answering the company’s ads. But what of those ads? 

Classified ads that bark things like "looking for 10 good people!" or "apply 6-9 p.m., dressed for interview" actually scream of turnover or of a loose operation, said Venable. The ads should be more professional.


"We are famous for setting conditions that contribute to our turnover," said Sarah Person, Venable’s colleague. "The ad says, ‘Auto Sales, $58,000 to $105,000 Your First Year!’ If I’m not making that in a month, I’m gone." 

"Claims that ‘We’ll train anyone with the right attitude!’ also scream of unprofessionalism," Person said. "Anyone can have the right attitude for a one-hour interview. It’s tough to maintain that for 30 days."


"And don’t discuss pay plans—‘$1,000 signing bonus!’—in ads for sales professionals. Signing bonuses are reserved for high-end executives, not sales professionals," Person said. 

She said, "You want to leave the impression that it’s tough to get in to your store, not ‘need four people.’ "


Wonderlic and other recruitment-and-retention firms develop and endorse online applicant tools that help employers find their ideal applicant. Does the employer desire candidates with product knowledge, or who are bilingual, or who will work nights and weekends? Ask those questions online. Candidates without the desirable traits are stopped from continuing the application. The systems cost about $1,000.  

"Use as many tools as you can, and don’t waste time with people uncertain how to dress for an interview," said Venable.


Besides newspaper employment ads, she encourages dealers to consider online strategies, industry magazines, job fairs, placement agencies, and word-of-mouth methods like an employee referral program. 

Wonderlic has developed automated recruiting systems to collect objective information from candidates via the InterentCandiates are measured—"can" he/she (cognitive ability to solve problems), "will" he/she (personality characteristics), and "does" he/she (reliability traits based on past behavior).


The systems also give the business a chance to shine, to present itself as a desirable place to work. As a part of employee benefits, candidates favor companies that indicate they will invest in developing their workforce with training.


"Military people do phenomenally well in the auto industry," especially in sales and service, Venable said, noting their ability to endure conditions of stress, struggle and chaos.


"If I’m from outside the industry, sell me on coming in to ‘help change culture,’ not just ‘sell cars,’ " said Venable.


Updated job descriptions can avoid the potential of an employee quitting over misunderstandings that can range from "That’s not my job" to "I didn’t know I’d have to work Saturdays."


Also important in the interview: The employer should demonstrate to the candidate that the meeting is important enough to stop accepting phone calls or deskingdeals. Set appointments; don’t advertise "any time between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m."



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