Virtual employment office attracts strong candidates

Donna Harris covers automotive retailing for Automotive News.
Publicly held dealer group Sonic Automotive Inc. is casting a wider net to find high-quality employees.

Sonic created a virtual employment office, a separate Web site just for posting job opportunities and making application online. The site also promotes Sonic’s culture and mission: “Building one of America’s best companies to work and shop.”

And visitors can read about training, career paths and benefits. There are employee testimonials and a nice tribute to company founder O. Bruton Smith in a video describing his life and the corporate award named for him.

I spoke with Harry Harden, Sonic’s human resources chief, and he says the site draws 15,000 visitors each month and that 23 percent of them complete online applications.

And get this: Sonic’s spending less than it did for posting print ads for help in local newspapers.

Other large dealership groups -- AutoNation Inc., Lithia Motors Inc. and Larry Miller Group -- have created similar Web sites.