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Dealership Engagement Fundamentals: Onboarding the Right Stuff!

I hear often from dealership sales and service managers that they "inherited" a weak team or, somehow, ended up with a workforce that they are struggling to get to a high level of engagement. I won't cover today how to deal with such a situation but, instead, talk about how to recruit your best chances for success into the future. It all boils down to determining the answers to just three critical questions.

I was in an interview many, many years ago where the interviewer asked me why are manhole covers round? It was one of those New Age trendy questions that were going around at the time. Popular opinion at the time thought that interview questions should reflect the new, complex age that we lived in. In reality, you can forget about all those fancy, fun questions in an interview, and simply focus on these three:

Forget about New Age fancy questions. There are just three questions you need to answer when it comes to determining suitability of an interview candidate. Get a Yes to all three, and you're almost certain you're hiring a winner;  that is, if they take the job.

1 Does the interview have the necessary skills?

You might even be able to determine this before you ever meet the person, by examining their resumé, assuming it's truthful. It seems like an obvious question, but non-professional interviewers often fail to determine this clearly. Your candidate must be qualified to do the work you are considering giving to them. That is, unless you are planning to train them from scratch. Yes, some of the required skill can only be learned when they come on board — your dealership is, after all, unique in some way. For this first question, you are trying to determine if they have the basic skill set required. Will they be technically capable — within a reasonable time frame — of the work they will be given? The answer must be a resounding Yes, or the interview is over.

2 Do they love what they do?

Very successful dealership employees are self-driven, especially in sales. They don't really consider work to be a chore. They might get tired after a lot of it, and that's perfectly normal, but do they have a passion for the work you are hiring them to perform? The answer to this question must also be Yes. If they're just in it for the money, every day will be drudgery for them, they'll be looking at the clock all day, and they will never go the extra mile when you need them to perform above and beyond expectations.

3 Can we embrace them in our culture?

You don't have to like everyone you hire. It's not a bad thing that you do, but it's not critical that you do. They just have to avoid creating friction within the culture of your dealership, and be productive themselves, of course. I remember working with a brilliant software engineer in Germany many years ago. He was the very personification of sarcasm. No one liked him but he was totally harmless, and he did excellent work. We found him funny, and a type of "mascot" of our group. He was completely tolerable and actually added a little spice to the otherwise dry team that we were.

That's it. Three simple questions. Number 1 is easy to determine, but a crafty interviewee who really wants to defeat your screening efforts might be able to talk his or her way round your defenses. That's why employee referrals — actual friends of your existing, trusted employees — are a great source of recruitment candidates. You already have a very good idea that you can tolerate them.

A recruiting program with a high success rate makes every employee engagement initiative much easier. You have the right people; now, you just need to give them the tool and the freedom to passionately represent your dealership.


Tom McQueen is PDP's automotive industry expert and has consulted with over 400 dealerships on performance improvement and employee engagement.

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