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Hiring the Right People Part 1: Define Your Culture

One of the biggest challenges for dealers is where to even begin the search for your future employees. You will want to consider using unique venues and one of the first places to go when you are looking for new employees is at your own dealership.

For instance, don’t overlook recruiting through your website and store. Adding a “current openings” section on your website is an inexpensive way to post job openings and descriptions. Plus, you never know when you could have a trusted customer walk into your dealership looking for a job. By having signs in your dealership (perhaps right on the parts counter) you may find that one of your regular customers could be a great addition to your team.

Word-of-mouth is one of the most effective ways to find new people for your dealership. Don’t be afraid to use your company’s social media site to post job openings. Encourage your customers to “share” your job positing on their own Facebook pages. Another place to post job ads is at your local coffee shop or cafe. Many times, just having a flyer on their bulletin board that says your dealership is hiring and instructing them to visit your website for more information may be just what you need.


You know how this works — a business owner, neighbor or friend may see the sign and encourage someone they know to check out the job. You never know who may be in the job market. Let your family and friends know that you are looking to fill a position. They may have just talked to a friend who is looking for the same job you are hiring for. Don’t underestimate the connections you already have in place and the network of contacts that are right in your own backyard.

I preach over and over again about the importance of using to look for techs. Most people who are looking for jobs today do not pick up a newspaper to look for jobs; they are online looking at Craigslist. There are some online companies, like “ZipRecruiter” or “Indeed” who will post your job opening to some of the major job sites giving you a place to keep candidates organized.

I encourage you to develop relationships with some of the instructors in your local tech schools if you have them in your area. I have found that if you have a good relationship with them, they can refer those students who would fit well in your dealership. One thing to not overlook are your local colleges. Depending on what position you are hiring for, you can find college students who are looking for part-time jobs. Then, if they are a good fit for your business, you can grow them into a full-time role in your dealership.

You’ve done your planning, and know what you want and expect. You’ve placed an ad, perhaps posted the job online, or informed others that you are looking, and received phone calls or e-mails from interested people. Now, it’s time to start interviewing potential employees. As you begin the interview process, don’t rush to hire the first person that meets your needs. Take your time to find the person who will be an excellent fit.

Interviewing Candidates

The interview is your chance to find out everything you can about your future employee. As you ponder possible questions, keep in mind that past behavior predicts future performance. The questions should focus on what the candidate has done in the past, not what that person would do in the future. For example, instead of asking a potential parts person, “What do you say to customers who think your parts prices are too high?” you should say, “Tell me about a time when a customer complained about a price being too high and how you handled it?”

Studies have shown that in asking this type of behavioral question (using past performance to predict future performance), you can increase your chances of hiring the right person by more than 60%. While interviewing, your goal is to find out how people actually behave rather than their promise of how they will behave. We have all hired people who gave good answers and sounded impressive and later found out it doesn’t mean they can do what they say. Most of the service techs you will interview believe they are the best and can turn out 8 billable hours each day.

By using behavioral questions, you can get a good picture of how potential hires will fit into your shop. A traditional interview at a traditional dealership might go as follows:

  • What type of experience do you have?
  • Why are you looking to work for a new dealership?
  • Why would you want to work for us?
  • What do you know about our company?
  • What do you like to do in your spare time?

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These questions aren’t bad and will definitely help you to find out more about a person, but they limit the information you will glean from that person to predict future performance. Keep in mind that if this is a person who has been interviewing at other dealerships, the person is going to have a good idea of the questions that you may ask and should be able to give you great answers. So, even if the person answers them well, what does it really mean? Is the person a great candidate or just really good at answering the same old questions every dealer asks? After asking these traditional questions, you still have very little real information about how the candidate would behave in the real-life pressure cooker of a shop during season.

Using behavioral questions, you get a much more accurate picture of a person’s true character and abilities. Remember again, behavioral questioning is effective because it examines the past behavior, which gives us the best indicator of a potential employee’s future behavior. For example, if conducting an interview and wanting to find out about how a candidate handles pressure, you might ask, “Do you feel that you work well under the pressure of a busy shop?” A job candidate would typically respond, “Sure, that’s just a part of the business we are in.”

However, converting the same traditional question into a behavioral-based question, you could say, “Tell me about a time when you got irritated or frustrated while working on equipment. How did you let it get to that point?” Do you see the difference? By asking the behavioral-based question, it allows you to get an answer that has some depth to it and it gives you a more accurate reading of who your candidate is and how he will really react under the pressure of the season.

It is important to work with your managers to define the behavioral competencies they are looking for in the right employee to fill their position. By doing this, you can be more focused with recruiting. Once you know the behavioral competencies you want, you can then structure your interview questions to learn more about the potential candidate. You’ll then find it easier to select the right staff members for your business.

Hiring the right person for your dealership is a process that is well worth the time and effort you invest. I encourage you to get actively involved in the process and take the time to do it right. After 15 years of working with dealers, I would say that well over half of the problems of the average dealer are employee-related. As owners, we hurry to hire the first person that walks in the door and can fog a mirror. You have to stop the insanity and take the time to do it right.

Keep in mind that the average employee will stay with you for about 5 years. If you invest an average of $30,000 per year in the employee’s salary — plus another $10,000 annually in taxes, unemployment, worker’s compensation and other miscellaneous fees — you will have invested more than $200,000 in that employee. As an owner, if you were going to invest $200,000 in a piece of equipment that you were going to use in your business, you would spend some time evaluating it, talk to people who used it, and do some heavy research. If you would invest that much time and effort learning about a piece of equipment, don’t you think that you should apply the same due diligence for a potential employee?