Hiring for Your Digital Dealership

I always enjoy visiting dealers and sharing best practices for social, mobile and digital marketing.  Often on return visits I’m proud to see the store has made significant progress, using some of the information and advice I shared.  However, there are other times I’ll return to visit dealers who haven’t taken any of the advice, and simply returned to their normal routines.  If I were to point to one single factor that separates the dealerships that make progress, vs. the ones that do not…are of course their people.

Jim Collins got it right in his book Good To Great; it all starts with getting the right people in the right seats on the bus.  Getting the right people on the bus starts with effective recruiting and hiring, and success in the digital world means changing your requirements to attract people who embrace technology.  No matter how many workshops or seminars you send your team to attend, they will never truly “get it” until they embrace, immerse and fall in love with technology.  If you want to have a successful digital dealership, then your team must be made up of digital-loving employees.

My approach on effective hiring is best framed out with three (3) questions:  1) Can they do the job?  2) Are they willing to do the job?  3) Are they coachable?  I look at every potential candidate on these three scales, in that exact order.  Let’s take a look at each one, and techniques you’ll need to be successful with digital candidates.

1) Can they do the job?  This is where we focus not on personality or coachability, but almost purely on skills.  You should start by creating a quick worksheet that spells out what skills are required for all candidates, vs. which ones you are willing to teach.  Once you know your must-have skills, you then start reviewing resumes (or even better, LinkedIn profiles since you get a feel for their digital engagement).  On the resumes you are looking for past experience where they might have gained your required skills.  Next, you will move on to the phone interview, asking them specific questions that will gauge whether they have these skills or not.  Don’t have time for phone interviews?  The truth is, you don’t have time NOT to do them.  How many times have you sat in front of a fresh in-person interview candidate, and realized in 5 minutes they are not a good fit?  Often we want to be courteous and spend 30-45 minutes with the candidate, before dismissing.  Your time would have been much better spent in a phone interview, lasting only 10-15 minutes finding out if they have the skills to move to the next step in the process.  In the phone interview, you want to determine how much knowledge and experience they have in digital marketing.  How computer savvy are they?  Can they effectively use a digital camera?  What do they know about social media? Can they effectively communicate with prospects and customers in the digital world?

2) Are they willing to do the job?  This can take place on either phone or personal interview, and I like to focus on past jobs they’ve had.  Will this be a step forward, or backward?  Why are they making a career change?  Since I know I will invest significantly on training them, how long do I expect them to stay with my store?  Have they shown a successful track record of hard work, strong results, and career growth?  Do they like to read and stay up on current technology?  How fast do they learn, and what recent technology development have they learned that they can share with me?  How do they handle conflict, confrontations, and angry customers?  Are they people and customer oriented?  I want to determine not only are they the right fit for my store, but also is my store the right fit for them?  My goal is to find long-term employees who can start at the entry level, and then grow into higher positions of authority in a flowing career path.  In this stage I truly need to look for organizational fit.

3) Are they coachable?  For this step, the candidate will need to present herself or himself in person, since you need to truly get to know them and their personality.  You should consider getting them out of the dealership and go to lunch or dinner.  You need to see them in both a formal and informal setting.  For coachability, I also like to focus on past relationships with managers.  I need to know why they left a certain position, and to find out if there was a conflict with their manager.  Sometimes this can be hard to pull out of a candidate, since they may instead want to blame it on something else…like the company was downsizing.  My approach is the same as we’re taught in sales training, to remove the objection.  Sometime like, “So if you wouldn’t have been downsized at company ABC, do you still think you would be working there?”  If you get an answer that says, “No, I didn’t always see eye to eye with my boss”, you now have some work to do.  Your goal then becomes to determine was the boss unreasonable, or was your candidate unreasonable?  The last thing you need is an employee who is difficult to coach or manage, since all of the skill in the world won’t outweigh lack of coachability.  You will be spending a lot of time with this person, training them and coaching them, you must have the proper fit and the person should be very likeable.

The lessons for effective recruiting and hiring are difficult to summarize in a few short pages, more properly would fill a large book.  In summary, when bringing on new team members be committed to changing the profile of your dealership adding people who are skilled and knowledgeable in digital technology.  Create your list of must have skills that you are unwilling to train for, and build a solid process for finding capable employees who can help you continue to be successful in today’s digital age.  Happy Hunting!

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