Automobile

‘Great reassessment’ will require car dealers to rethink recruiting strategies

CHICAGO — It’s not the “great resignation.”

The challenges in the U.S. labor market today can be better understood as the “great reassessment,” said Adam Robinson, CEO of Hireology, a recruitment technology company that works with auto dealerships.

There is a broad rethinking happening about “what it means to have an employment relationship,” Robinson said Wednesday during Hireology’s Elevate conference here.

The notion of work-life balance is evolving into a consideration of how work can fit in and around life. And labor supply challenges were present even before the pandemic brought sweeping changes to the way Americans work, he said.

“If you’re sitting here thinking that this is going to get better, I don’t believe it’s going to get better,” Robinson said during a keynote address.

Yet, he added, the challenge of recruiting and hiring qualified employees is not insurmountable. It will be critical for employers to make their companies the most attractive to applicants at a time when companies across industries are short-staffed and competing for the same talent.

“The choice is as stark as I’ll lay out here,” Robinson said. “Do you want to hire the best available talent in your industry when they’re available, or do you want to be relegated to hiring from the pool of talent that’s left over after more strategic operators have had their first pass at it?”

Dealerships, like other employers, should think of their available jobs as products to be marketed to specific customers — prospective hires — just as they would approach selling vehicles to consumers, he said.

Hireology recently surveyed 6,000 job seekers across industries, including auto retail, and found the majority of respondents applied to at least 16 jobs in the last six months. That means an employer must demonstrate to a job applicant how their company is a better choice than 15 other potential employers, Robinson said.

Pay is a motivating factor for applicants, he said, but Hireology’s survey found 84 percent said they would take a lower-paying job if other aspects of the job meet their needs.

Respondents said they are most looking for schedule flexibility, career growth opportunities and fulfilling work.

Yet the “vast majority” of employers Hireology surveyed in a separate study said they are competing for talent by increasing pay, Robinson said.

“Less than half of you are reporting that you offer flex scheduling,” he said. “Only about a quarter are innovating around career pathing and growth.”

Flexibility doesn’t only mean remote work, Robinson said. Some jobs, such as dealership service technicians, require in-person work. What applicants are asking for from employers is, “can I live the life I need to live, I want to live, in exchange for an employment opportunity and my best work?” he said.

Employers should define career opportunities in 18- to 24-month increments to help candidates visualize their future at a company, he said. And they should ensure they are advertising those aspects to applicants.

Hiring managers also need to respond more quickly to applicants. On average, Robinson said, it takes seven to eight days for employers in industries Hireology works with to get back to a candidate.

“How many cars would you sell if you waited eight days to get back to an Internet lead?” he said. “Zero cars.”

About six in 10 job seekers take a job with the first employer that responds to their application, he said.

“Be the first,” Robinson said. “You want the simple strategy you can sell up when you get back home? We just need to be the first to respond.”

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