One of the toughest tasks in managing a dealership is putting the right team together. Here are three hiring practices that I’ve learned and want to share with you. Making an investment in time up front can potentially prevent a lot of difficulties later.

1. You can’t overdo background checks. Before the internet, there was a lot of “blind” hiring. Since there are many questions you can’t legally ask on a job application or in an interview, it was tough to really evaluate the attitude and values of a job candidate.

With the evolution of technology, however, you have more assets at your fingertips than ever before to check on potential hires. Of course, first, contact all of their references. Closely scrutinize their social media posts, which can give you an unguarded view of who they are. Finally, many states have public web-based criminal and civil court records, where you can find out how much legal trouble applicants have been through in their lives. It’s critical that they be checked. 

We took this first step a bit further for one position at the dealership that I managed. We kept hiring retired factory workers for our lot manager position. They’d be adept at operating a forklift, but we needed someone who could organize the lot in a way that was attractive and appealing to potential customers.

It was difficult to find a way to determine someone’s organizational skills during the job interview. Thinking “outside of the box,” I asked our assistant manager to examine their vehicles while the applicants were interviewing with me. I was looking for someone who took pride in how it looked.

After one promising interview, my assistant reported that the applicant had an older truck, but it was completely immaculate. That’s the person we decided to hire and he was perfect for the job.

2. Look for a person who fits your culture as opposed to someone with just the right job experience. I’m hearing this frequently from successful businesses. They’re more concerned that the person has the same values, character traits and communication skills as the people they’ll be working with. If you hire someone who doesn’t fit in with your present staff, you have a recipe for conflict, stress and failure. 

So how do you do that? I think it’s critical to get your department heads and co-workers involved in the interview process. If you hire a new person, and stick them into their work area “cold,” there may be resistance from co-workers who don’t like change. If you involve your staff in the selection process, those who will interact with the position, you’ve done two things. First, you’ve confirmed how much you value the opinions of your existing people. Second, you’ve helped them “buy in” to the new hire, which means they’ll try harder to help that person be successful.

3. Finally, hire only “givers.” I acquired this bit of wisdom from a friend, who owns a successful landscaping company. He boiled it down to a simple truth: there are only two kinds of people in this world, “takers” and “givers.” He said that the takers often cause many of the problems in the dealership. They drag down morale, create conflict and always look for others to blame for difficulties.

He recommended terminating those people immediately because they’ll never help you grow your business and actually make the good people leave. The goal is to surround yourself with a staff of givers, who look out for your business, do more than they’re asked and care about their co-workers. 

My friend never did a job interview without asking the applicant if they were a giver or taker. He told me almost 100% of the time that the answer would be the former, but the truth would come out when they were asked to give examples. He said the givers would easily share many good examples. With takers, there would be a lot of silence followed by painful answers.

Here’s one last thought: Most of you are emerging from a firestorm of seasonal business now. You’ve sold a lot of machines and had a few parts and service issues that may have affected the morale of your staff. With good employees getting tougher to find, now is a good time to reward the folks who have been through the battles with you. Have pizza for everyone, give them a little time off or just invite them into your office and tell them how much they mean to your operation. These acts have negligible cost and amazing long-term impact on their loyalty to you and your business.


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