Make Hiring An Event

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Reel in potential staff and sales by hosting a job fair.

This column is part of an ongoing "real world" series describing the challenges of buying an existing dealership and then making it your own. Previous columns have focused on renovations, sales coaching and sales processes.

The biggest concern I hear from dealers is the ongoing challenge of staffing. My clients cite three problems in particular: They cannot find anyone who wants to work, they get no response from newspaper ads, and most potential applicants do not have powersports experience.

Our new dealer addressed his own staffing problem by hosting a job fair. The following is a description of how we planned and executed the event.

Get the Word Out

First we drafted job descriptions for every current position as well as future positions. (Later on we updated the description for the specific applicant, detailing our expectations in the months ahead.)

We then contacted the classifieds department of the closest news paper that reached out over 50 miles. Because job fair posting are common, the paper had no trouble creating the ad. It simply adjusted the verbiage to address the reader we wanted. We said we were accepting applications for all positions, and we stressed the fun of powersports and how a career at this dealership was an opportunity to mix business with pleasure.

We also contacted three radio stations that best fit the demographics of our guests, and placed the ad into two trade publications.

Near the dealership are two junior colleges and one state college. We placed ads in their business department newsletters. The sales manager is a graduate of the state college, so he contacted the dean and scheduled, at no cost to us, four presentations to various business classes with an average of 125 students.

Dates of the Event

In deciding when to hold the job fair, we concluded that there was always going to be a conflict, so we started the job fair on a Saturday to take advantage of the increased foot traffic. Signage directed applicants to drop off their applications, and told them that if selected, they would be notified for an interview on Sunday or Monday (when the store is closed). The response was overwhelming. The store had lots of foot traffic and business.

We sorted applications by position and department. Each manager took his or her set of applications, reviewed them, and contacted the applicants to schedule 20-minute appointments.

On Sunday and Monday our first round of interviewees showed up at 8 a.m. We set up a grading criterion: A, B, C, D, F for a checklist including experience, job history, etc. Each applicant read the job description and signed off on it as being acceptable, perhaps preventing a lot of issues later.

Whom to Hire

Concentrate on smiling candidates with a sales background (not necessarily in powersports) and follow-up skills. You want outgoing enthusiasts who understand that they will be assisting people in buying and servicing their dreams.

Technicians need to have hands-on experience. Parts employees should have a background in your particular brands.

When hiring, make sure you also address floor coverage in your parts-and-accessories department. This area has the highest margins, yet with few exceptions, metric powersports dealers have virtually ignored it.

Also take into consideration your customer base — its average age and income, what types of machines it favors, and how often it comes in for service. During your guests' visits to your dealership, what do they expect? Remember, your staff will need to exceed those expectations.

Finally, don't try to skimp on compensation. High turnover induced by low wages can lead to a lack of professionalism, changing faces (not a comfortable environment for guests), and increased costs for hiring and training.

As the saying goes, if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.

Steven Zarwell is a dealer consultant and manages the Dealernews 20 Groups. He also is a member of the Dealernews editorial advisory board. Send questions and comments to editors@dealernews.com.