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Preparing for the 2020 Applicant Economy

With the summer sales season in full swing, it might be hard to imagine planning ahead and preparing for the demands next year will hold. But this is the time to start thinking about what is working and what needs to change to set your dealerships up for a successful 2020. Your best bet will be to start planning for the needs of your true competitive advantage: your people.

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Adam Robinson is the co-founder & CEO for Hireology.

Planning Ahead for 2020

With the summer sales season in full swing, it might be hard to imagine planning ahead and preparing for the demands next year will hold. But this is the time to start thinking about what is working and what needs to change to set your dealerships up for a successful 2020. Your best bet will be to start planning for the needs of your true competitive advantage: your people. 

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You may have spent most of the year with open positions — likely across all dealership departments — as consumer demand kept your showrooms and repair bays buzzing. This is no surprise as the number of job openings across the country currently outnumbers the unemployed by the widest gap ever reported. For business owners and large employers, this means that that key hire they’re chasing is probably already working at a company that’s eager to keep them on board. 

Last year, Hireology coined this phenomenon as “The Applicant Economy.” And we see it being just as important to understand in 2020 as it was in 2019. The most successful dealerships will reach these most in-demand applicants who can be incredibly selective on their next career move by marketing their open jobs just like they market their vehicles on the showroom floor. 

How will dealers do this? By throwing out the traditional playbook on recruitment and hiring and using new technologies to automate the most administrative hiring tasks so owners, HR leaders and hiring managers can provide an engaging and exciting applicant experience to sell the most qualified candidates on their next career move. 

Rethinking Recruiting

Retail automotive dealers have relied on traditional job boards to find and hire new team members since the days of Monster.com. But we’ve noticed more and more applicants starting their job search on Google instead of the leading national job boards. This connects applicants directly with a dealership’s career page, assuming this is a page that exists. For applicants, the career site is the critical first impression to give potential employees a chance to see themselves working alongside your team. Do you just have a list of roles and responsibilities, or are you really highlighting the best parts of your company on your website?

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The Application Process

Make sure you have an easy way to apply to your open roles directly from your website. And as fewer people across all age demographics rely on desktop computers, make sure your site and application are easy to complete on a mobile phone. 

You can also put in pre-screening questions to qualify top employees or knock-out poor fits by asking things like weekend availability or if they have a valid driver’s license, so you don’t waste your hiring managers’ time on people who won’t be right for your role. 

Focus on Hiring Velocity

Today’s top applicants want the hiring process to move as quickly as possible. Having a fast process or “hiring velocity” ensures you can lock down top talent quickly, while also having fewer job vacancies across your rooftops. 

However, the average dealership takes 10 days to simply review new applicants applying to roles. By simply having your hiring managers commit to reviewing all of their applicants within one day, you can improve your hiring process by two business weeks, and ensure each and every applicant is reviewed, giving you a larger applicant pool.

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Candidate Communication

Today’s top applicants are looking for ways to communicate faster and more effectively, driving a shift to text messaging (SMS) for most aspects of their lives. HR teams are catching up to this trend of sending applicants messages — to update them on their application status, coordinate interview times, and request verifications like references without the need of a disruptive phone call or an email that may not be received or replied to for hours or days. 

Technologies, like candidate relationship management systems, help keep hiring managers and applicants in touch using text messages without the need for your employees to share their personal contact details while tracking conversations in a centralized platform. 

Beyond using text messaging and email channels, consider putting a system in place that allows you to communicate with applicants at scale. This will allow hiring managers to gently let down applicants who do not advance to the interview stage, or batch-message top candidates when a new role opens up to get someone in the door quickly. Savvy dealerships may also offer discounts or promotions to applicants since your local talent market also includes buyers and you never know when someone is shopping for their next vehicle.

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A Great Interview Experience

The phone screen interview may be the first time a candidate steps through your dealership door to get a feel for working with you. While we always think of first impressions only impacting candidates, top performers are evaluating potential employers just as much. Little things can go a long way: making sure a team member welcomes the candidate as soon as they arrive, the hiring manager communicates the interview format effectively and that each interviewer is prepared with a list of objective, compliant questions that are asked of all candidates looking to get the same role.

Together, these elements will make the applicant feel welcome, less nervous and provide your team with valuable details on whether each person could be a good culture fit and succeed on the job. Ensure you’re maintaining expectations on the decision timeframe and engaging with these candidates if they ask for an update on the overall process.  

Candidate Verifications

If the interview goes well, it could be very tempting to hire someone on the spot — especially if a role has been open for weeks (or longer). Instead, this is the time to verify the candidate is qualified for the new position by using skills tests, checking their references and conducting a background check to give your team peace of mind that you are selecting the right person for the role and that you are protecting your team from potential employee litigation. 

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Digital Onboarding

Once a candidate scores well on their interviews and is verified to be a fit, the final step is to have them accept an offer and kick off their training. Today, so many companies wait until the first day on the job to have them fill out a pile of physical paperwork and forms, watch training videos and rush through tax elections and benefits enrollment. In contrast, dealerships that embrace smart technology like automation kickoff the new hire onboarding process the minute the applicant accepts their offer. 

Allowing them access to training videos, the handbook, tax forms and benefits elections before their start date will allow the new hire to review and complete all of the materials at their own pace, reducing mistakes and allowing them to spend their first day meeting the team, making personal connections and getting ramped up faster. 

Measuring Your Results

Using technology can help facilitate candidate sourcing, communications, the hiring process — and help demonstrate the impact of your hiring process to the rest of your dealership business. You can use systems to compare the total number of applicants vs. hires that originate from job boards, your website and other channels deliver — and compare the results to the top recruitment channels you’re investing in. 

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Beyond this, you can monitor the time it takes to review applicants, move through the entire process and compare across rooftops and hiring managers to identify bottlenecks in the process.

Driving Change for 2020

It might take a significant change to use technology to get to the ideal hiring process. But the dealerships that invest in this transition will be set up for success and drive a competitive advantage while others struggle to fill their roles. 

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