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Finding & Retaining Qualified Auto Service Techs & Salespeople

September 16, 2011

By: Carletta Clyatt

In the automotive industry, finding, hiring and retaining qualified service techs and salespeople isn’t just luck of the draw. It takes a well thought out plan, so six months down the road, you don’t find yourself looking for yet another replacement for that auto technician you thought would do so well. 

If you’re starting to feel more like an employee recruiter than a dealer, it might be time to revamp your hiring practices. While wages, environments and working conditions all become factors in an applicant’s decision to accept or decline a job, another integral part of the interview process is to determine if there is mutual compatibility among the candidate, the position and the proposed supervisor. Too often, there isn’t. 

To begin your search for the right salesperson or service technician you’ll need to define your objectives and expectations for each role – in other words, know your own criteria! 

For example, do you need a salesperson who’s more persuasive or consultative?  Quick paced or patient? 

Should your new service technician be self-reliant?  Or more cautious and inclined to ask questions before proceeding? 

Being absolutely certain about the kind of person you’re looking for will help you more easily screen out candidates who don’t even come close to matching your needs. 

The second step is to hire the right person. This may seem obvious, but in order to do this, you’ll need to pose the right questions and ask for specific examples of cited traits. Make sure you’re not being told half-truths or creatively embellished stories. If you really need a proactive individual and the job seeker tells you he or she is just that, verify that this is indeed the case and has been demonstrated previously. 

Don’t ask open-ended questions -- ask for the particulars! It’s one thing for interviewees to say they’re confident and self-sufficient, but it’s quite another to have proven to be so

Remember that job applicants know they’re under the spotlight and can often put on an extraordinarily good show during that 60 minute interview! 

Misfits create turmoil, cause dissent, destroy harmony, and quickly level any spirit of cohesiveness that might be trying to take shape at your dealership. Speak with former employers or references to help gain some insight into the behavior of the person you are considering for the job. Do everything you can to get to know who it is you may be hiring! 

Once you‘ve found a suitable employee, you may need to retool your management style -- at least slightly -- in order to play into individual strengths and weaknesses. This is how you can increase your chances of retaining good workers.   

For example, let’s say you’ve just hired Gary, a new salesperson who seems to have excellent potential. He’s somewhat inexperienced, though, so you’re tempted to step in, take control and show him how the job needs to be done. Should you do it? 

Maybe…or maybe not! 

The answer to that question depends largely on just how independently minded Gary really is. If he’s the type who wants input from others, attentive management, guidance when he’s unsure, he’ll undoubtedly appreciate your care, concern and efforts. In fact, he may become quite frustrated or think you’re intentionally ignoring him, if you leave him to fend for himself.

However, if he’s free-thinking and self-assured, Gary will want you to stay out of his way so he can devise and implement his own sales approach. The self-directing Gary will resent it if you try to take over or monitor him closely, even if you’re doing so with the best of intentions. Frequent questions about his actions or the least bit of skepticism from you are sure to drive this Gary away. 

You probably know all too well that good, certified service technicians are hard  find. Once they’re on board, you’ll need to keep them. This means that you, as a manager, can’t afford to be extremely picky when hiring. You may need to become much more flexible, go out of your way to understand what makes your subordinates happy and productive – and what doesn’t!  Employee behavioral assessments, background checks, and educational or work experience can all help provide important insight on how to successfully manage people even before you hire them!

Different personalities have different trigger buttons that launch desirable or undesirable behavior.

A service technician who’s normally very methodical and careful will cringe if forced to rush when doing a job and can end up making uncharacteristic mistakes. Give him/her ample notice of deadlines! Don’t spring last minute surprises, as routine-oriented people need predictability in their day. Conversely, the seasonal aspect of your industry may deter service technicians who are hurried and have a need to stay busy all the time. If you know in advance there will be a lag in the workload, have a back up plan ready to launch. Assign some other tasks to your antsy employee, but make sure those tasks, or at least stages of them, can be completed quickly.

Hiring should never be left to guesswork. It takes time, patience, determination and insightful management to bring aboard, and then retain, excellent workers.

Each time you begin the process of employee selection, you’ll need to ask yourself and the applicant important questions. Remember too, that a person who seems good for the job and comes with great credentials, may have objectives and needs that are quite different from your own. Do you know how to deal with subordinates who need extra direction and attention? Can you put up with a person who insists on making his own decisions and resents being told what to do?

There are distinct personality groups that most people belong to. Each of these groups has strengths that can be utilized and weaknesses that can be offset, if you know what they are and how to respond to them. You don’t need to be lucky to find, hire and retain good salespeople and service technicians, but you do need to be informed!

Carletta Clyatt

Carletta Clyatt, a popular seminar speaker, is the SVP at The Omnia Group. She offers clients advice on how to manage more effectively and gain insight into employee strengths, weaknesses and behaviors. For more information about employee behavioral assessments, call Carletta at 813-280-3026 or email:

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