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Tackling car retail recruitment with a targeted approach, a guest opinion

Neil Smith, operations director, Imperial Cars

It’s hardly brand new information that the automotive retail sector is experiencing a widespread shortfall of skills.

The shift to digital and the advanced technologies, now standard on most of the vehicles on our roads, makes it even more challenging for dealers to find and retain the right people.

We believe this is down to a series of factors, such as:

●             Outdated advertising and recruitment techniques

●             Lack of opportunities and career progression

●             Limited training

●             Non-competitive packages and benefits

It also doesn’t help that the industry is perceived by newcomers as an old-fashioned, low-skilled, male-dominated trade, where there is still a great deal of resistance towards digital.

First things first: quit paper recruitment ads.

They simply cost too much and are rarely able to produce any tangible, quantifiable results. Use online recruitment portals of the likes of Glassdoor, InAutomotive, and Monster instead.

Support that with targeted paid Facebook recruitment ads aimed at specific job roles, skill sets or experience, making sure you’re narrowing down the location to a set radius around the dealerships you’re recruiting for.

Make recruitment a full time job.

We’ve recently employed a recruitment officer, who’s responsible for sourcing good quality candidates for all the different areas of the business.

This role encompasses everything from advertising, getting the applications in, screening and arranging single or group interviews.

It will then be sales managers who interview for their own sales staff, service managers who interview for their own service staff, and directors who interview for senior management.

All other department heads are responsible for interviewing for their own staff, however this is all coordinated and managed by the recruitment officer.

Look out for transferable skills.

As far as sales roles are concerned, we don’t exclusively consider only candidates with previous motor trade sales experience. It’s simply not a defining factor anymore.

We actively look for people in similar retail jobs who are used to the same working hours. Specifically, we’d recommend looking for people who’ve worked in:

●             Restaurants

●             Pubs

●             Mobile phone sales

●             Other customer facing retail outlets where people are used to dealing with customers face to face.

We believe a candidate who’s a good people person, understands how to build rapport and comes across well in the interview, should be chosen over someone without those traits but with previous industry experience.

Attractive benefits help retention 

Recruitment is a costly business, so working to consistently improve retention is key. Benefits aren’t everything there is to a job, but a competitive package definitely helps.

Sales people, for example, tend to move around the industry quite a lot. Providing them with incentives like a company car, discounted servicing and free MOTs for  those with their own cars, is a good starting point, but other perks like the end of year Christmas Awards ceremony/party with overnight accommodation, or a more personalised package based on specific needs could really make the difference.

Pay particular attention to the recruitment of technicians.

Recruiting for service technicians has always been a challenge, and a skills shortage has only made the problem more pressing.

In sales there’s a constant churn, but provided people skills and personality are fit for the job, giving them the tools to sell a car is, obviously, a lot easier than training a vehicle technician.

In aftersales, other than employing apprentices under the government apprenticeship scheme, there is no other option but to employ experienced, qualified mechanics, and this is certainly not easy.

This is where highly geo-targeted recruitment ads, as mentioned above, can become quite a powerful ally. 

Author: Neil Smith, operations director at Imperial Car Supermarkets

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