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Dealership Hiring: Shift Your People Strategy During Uncertain Times

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on retail automotive dealerships, as well as countless other organizations across industries. A top priority for all business leaders at this time is the health and safety of their people, including their loved ones, employees and customers. At the same time many organizations – including dealerships – have had to drastically change their day-to-day business operations or, in some cases, temporarily halt business. 

Depending on the location, stay-at-home mandates by state and local governments, dealerships have been affected in many different ways. While auto repair and auto parts departments are seen as essential under the stay-at-home mandates, in some states such as California and Illinois, dealership showrooms have had no other option but to temporarily close. 

Given the uncertainty surrounding dealership sales in light of COVID-19, many dealers have had no choice but to lay off employees – at least temporarily – and put hiring on hold. Hireology co-founder and CEO, Adam Robinson, recently spoke with Automotive News and said he expects one-third of U.S. franchised dealership positions to be eliminated or reduced in some way by May 1.

For many dealerships, this crisis is a reminder of another challenging time in the U.S. economy – the 2008 and 2009 recession. But, as Robinson highlighted in an Automotive News op-ed last year, “In looking at the dealers who made it through the recession, a common theme in their resilience is how well these dealers support their employees when business isn’t booming. Those that adopted a people-first strategy weathered the recession[…] No matter the economic conditions, you need good people to support your business. And these talented employees are always going to be in demand.”

While hiring might not be a top priority for your dealership at this time, as you navigate the impact of COVID-19, you can shift your people strategy to ensure your team is set up for success once these uncertain times are behind us. Below, we’ve pulled together some steps you can take to improve the people side of your dealership over time. 

Focus on your employer brand  

Even if your dealership doesn’t have an immediate hiring need, building and maintaining a top-notch employer brand takes time. And your employer brand is ultimately what gets job seekers excited about the possibility of joining your dealership. 

With many industries outside of retail automotive – including travel and hospitality, to name a few – facing unfortunate layoffs as a result COVID-19, job seekers across the country are looking for new opportunities. This might give your team the opportunity to capture the attention of job seekers who might not have otherwise considered working for a dealership.

By taking action to improve your employer brand and position your dealership as an employer of choice, build a pipeline of prospective applicants to have on hand once hiring picks up again. 

Nearly 70 percent of job seekers would reject an offer from a company with a bad employer brand. Ultimately, you need a compelling answer to job seekers’ “What’s in it for me?” question through your employer brand.

As part of your employer brand, your career site should include strong, SEO-friendly job descriptions, defined career paths across departments, employee testimonials, a comprehensive list of benefits and continuous job openings.

When it comes to your job descriptions, while some of your roles might require specific certifications, your team should also highlight preferred competencies, rather than specific required experience. For example, if you’re looking to hire for a sales role down the line, you can highlight the need for applicants who have strong customer service and negotiation skills.

Especially given the fact that many job seekers will likely apply to your open roles from outside industries, this will help ensure you’re not limiting your talent pool to applicants who have direct industry experience. 
>> For additional tips on writing effective job descriptions, read our resource, “The Top 50 Automotive Job Descriptions.

Also make sure to link to your career site in postings on job boards and other channels, as the most engaged job seekers will take the time to read through your employment brand materials before applying. By building and maintaining a strong employment brand and career site, you can attract engaged applicants who are interested in growing their careers with your dealership team.

Even if you’re not hiring right now, building and maintaining a top-notch employer brand takes time. Employees will always be a differentiator for your business and prioritizing your employer brand now, you can set your dealership up for success down the road.

Identify ways to improve your hiring process 

Leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, unemployment was at a historic low, making hiring highly challenging for employers across industries. Because of this, most qualified talent was already employed and once they started the job search, top job seekers were taken off the market quickly. 

Given the competitive hiring market before the pandemic, employers without an  efficient process often lost top talent to competing job opportunities. At Hireology, we’ve coined the term “lost applicant” to refer to this phenomenon. Across Hireology customers, one in five dealership applicants were lost in 2019 simply because they were either never reviewed by a hiring manager or were reviewed too late.

While your dealership’s hiring might be on hold in light of COVID-19, this gives your team the opportunity to take time to assess what has been working with your hiring and key areas for improvement. By taking action to better manage your hiring efforts now, you’ll be ready to secure top talent ahead of the competition once this crisis has passed. 

As you assess whether or not your hiring process is working for your dealership, actionable data can help you make more informed decisions to improve your hiring going into 2020. Hireology customers have access to Insights, actionable Q&A analytics that answer questions such as: How fast am I hiring? Is everyone following my hiring process?

Armed with this data, you can better understand which steps you need to take to make the hiring process more efficient. If the data shows candidates have traditionally been held up in a certain hiring step, for example, you can identify ways to speed up this step – such as tapping into prescreen surveys. And if you notice a certain location or hiring manager tends to skip steps in the hiring process, you can outline ways to hold them accountable to following each step before hiring picks back up. 

Optimize your recruitment budget 

The uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 means organizations across industries are looking to cut discretionary costs and only focus on essential spending as much as possible. And one way your dealership can drive cost savings – both now and in the future – is by understanding and optimizing your recruitment marketing budget

Your dealership tracks, in great detail, which lead sources convert to car sales on a daily basis. This same level of attention and data-based decision making should be applied to the most critical component of a dealership – hiring quality people.

In addition to highlighting ways to improve the hiring process, one of Hireology’s Insights answers the question, “What is my best source of applicants?” and provides clear visibility into the total number of applicants, quality candidates and hires by source. The Insight further provides central visibility into sponsored job board performance, including total sponsored posts purchased, dollars spent, quality applicants sourced, and average cost per quality applicant.

While your dealership might have paused any active recruitment campaigns for now, you can use this time to determine which sources have driven quality applicants and eventual hires –  and those that have not shown the best results. 

Many employers make the mistake of simply purchasing a one-off job board posting each time they have an open role. But by taking this approach, you’ll only reach a limited number of prospective applicants and risk overspending on applicant channels that don’t drive results.

Sources that deliver a high quantity of poor applicants will only waste your dealership’s time and recruitment budget. With a diverse recruitment marketing strategy in place and tapping into data related to your recruitment efforts, your team can expand the reach of your open roles and ensure you’re not only investing in one recruitment channel with limited insight into ROI. 

Nobody can predict how long or to what extent the COVID-19 pandemic will impact individuals’ day-to-day lives and overall business operations. Hireology is here to help you put your best team in place no matter the circumstances – if you have any questions or need assistance, contact your Hireology Customer Success Manager or support@hireology.com.

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