Car dealerships offer great career opportunities, but that story seldom is conveyed to prospective employees, says Hireology CEO Adam Robinson.
His company helps dealers get and keep good workers. Among other things, Hireology works with the National Automobile Dealers Assn. on human-capital management and talent-search programs.
In a Wards interview, Robinson talks about surveyed public perceptions (and misperceptions) of dealership work, ways to get that positive story out and the use of effective digital-age hiring practices – particularly in recruiting auto technicians when demand for them outpaces supply.
Here’s an edited version of the interview.
Wards: You tout employment branding. What is that exactly?
Robinson: In the coming years, the difference between dealers who thrive and those who struggle will be their ability to hire and keep the right people. It’s managing the people model to deliver what the consumer wants, and not keeping employees who refuse to change or don’t change fast enough.
It is employment branding. The industry has a recruiting challenge. There’s a technician shortage. There are issues about filling open positions. But there’s a marketing problem. We’re not good at telling the story of automotive retail. Dealers struggle in using the same sources for hiring for the last 20 years. We’re helping them change so they can better build their team.
Wards: What were they doing 20 years ago vs. what they should be doing now?
Robinson: Jobs are products. Like cars, they need to be retailed. So those open technician positions are products. You’ve got to market them to the right applicant pool and do it in a way that creates compelling differentiation. You need to be responsive and deliver great experience with a process that brings these job leads through.
Right now, most dealers spend money on job boards and hope they get leads. Google is in the job search business now; 70% of job searches begin in a search engine. Increasingly it is happening on mobile.
Dealers’ digital assets for retailing their jobs typically are insufficient. We end up paying a “brand tax” because of the perceptions about this industry. We pay it on job boards. We help dealers control and build their employment brand in their digital career site.
Dealerships are seen as tough places to work. We found through a survey we did with Cox Automotive that only one in 100 people would consider working at a car dealership. But nearly 30% said they would work in a hospitality, retail or finance business. Well, what is a dealership? It is all those things.
Wards: Working in the service department and working in the showroom are totally different jobs obviously. Do you approach those differently in talent searches? (Adam Robinson, left)
Robinson: There are different playbooks, but it starts with the employer’s brand. What do you as ABC Motors stand for? You’re competing for talent in a fixed geographic radius. Someone will hire that talented technician. Do you want to be the employer who gets first crack at it or will you be relegated to getting what’s left?
If you look at a lot of “jobs” or ‘careers” sections of dealer websites, they’re pretty murky: the job title, a couple descriptive bullets, “click here to apply.”
Instead, have videos of current staffers talking about their jobs. Show the pay, benefits and career path. Deliver content. That’s more likely to convert a real applicant.
Wards: The auto technician job obviously requires a lot of training. But no real people skills needed, at least not customer-mechanic interactions. That differs a lot from the salesperson whom you want to have strong people skills.
How does a dealer reach out to a prospective auto technician differently than to a potential salesperson?
Robinson: Auto technicians aren’t in the traditional online places job hunters go to. Generally, they don’t have a LinkedIn profile. You have an under-profiled demographic that’s hard to reach. You have to run marketing campaigns to that pool directly. We help dealers identify who may be interested and qualified, reach out directly to them in campaigns and bring them to the dealership’s career site.
What’s different is where you find them. You can market to potential sales hires through campaigns and through search results. It’s different with technicians, one reason being there’s so much more demand than supply. You’ve got to be intentional and proactive going after these pools. Job boards are insufficient for recruiting technicians.
Wards: What is sufficient?
Robinson: Exactly what I described. You have to identify that technician community and email- or text-market your open positions directly to them. It’s essentially the same digital marketing as you do on the consumer side of your business.
Develop direct relationships. Bring the job opportunities to them vs. funding a job ad and hoping people see it. It’s an inversion of the play most dealerships run.
Wards: What form does direct marketing take in hiring?
Robinson: Multiple channels. And it’s got to be done through a great mobile experience.
Wards: But how do you find out who they are in the first place?
Robinson: If the state has auto-technician license and certification data, you can pull lists in certain cases. You can use technology to engineer these lists, based on publicly available profile information. We’re trying to build a data base. We’re building automotive-specific career portals. We have a strategic relationship with the NADA. Its foundation has launched a huge initiative to improve the employment brand of automotive and to tell the story. We can use all these things together to increase the pool of prospective employees.
There’s no one-channel silver bullet. You have to do everything to compete for this available limited pool.
Wards: You mentioned that survey asking people about how they feel about dealership work. Why do you suppose so many people are averse to dealership work?
Robinson: The perception of the industry is reflected in those results. People think dealerships are tough places to work.
By comparison, people working in the hospitality industry are accustomed to working nights and weekends, tough customers and delivering great experience. But the hospitality industry has a good recruiting model. They showcase the properties. They sell the ability to travel. They show it as a glamorous opportunity.
Automotive has great things working for it. We pay more than similar roles in other industries. We’re part of the future of mobility. We’re on the cutting edge of consumer technology. Dealers in most cases are the bedrocks of local communities. This industry in many cases is second to none. But we don’t often tell that story effectively. It’s a job opportunity we undersell.