Dealers find opportunity in hiring veterans
Ryan Medina, 26, isn't a typical car salesman.
His first job was with the U.S. Army. Medina was stationed in Afghanistan, providing security for a convoy that was crossing the desert searching for insurgents and roadside bombs.
Medina's three years in the Army, including eight months in Afghanistan, armed him with skills that he uses today to sell cars at Performance Mazda of Houston.
"The military requires self-motivation and being positive," Medina says. "I'm self-motivated. You've got to keep your morale up in this industry because you have people come in back-to-back and not buy a thing."
As the U.S. government withdraws more troops from Afghanistan this year, many dealers are hiring veterans.
Not only can dealers get one-time tax credits ranging from $2,400 to $9,600 for hiring veterans, says Craig Lockerd, owner of AutoMax Recruiting and Training in Mays Landing, N.J., but job recruiters and dealers say many veterans have attributes that make them strong job candidates: They know how to follow directions, pay attention to detail, respect others, are self-motivated and are trained to be leaders.
"Most people who've been in the service have a little more discipline about themselves and are used to following orders," says Mike Calhoun, general manager of Performance Mazda of Houston, which sells about 1,500 new and used vehicles a year.
Calhoun hired Medina and a former Marine as salesmen in January.
Plenty of veterans are joining the work force as U.S. troops return from the Middle East and elsewhere, recruiters say. About 1 million people are in the National Guard, for example, and it's estimated that about a quarter of them will be unemployed when their enlistments end, Lockerd says.
"That's criminal, in my opinion," he says.
In mid-January, Lockerd launched an online job board, onlinevetjobs.com, where dealers post jobs for free and veterans apply. Almost 300 veterans have found jobs through the site, Lockerd says.
Katie Jenson, 24, a service technician at McRee Ford in Dickinson, Texas, credits her experience working on military vehicles as an Army military police officer stationed in Bamberg, Germany, for success in her job now.
"You have to pay a lot of attention to detail of what you're taking apart and putting back together," Jenson says. "You need to take charge when necessary. You need to have respect for everyone around you."
McRee services 60 to 80 vehicles a day, says Tim Allen, McRee's service manager. He says he hired Jenson a year ago based on her military experience and her self-confidence.
"I have found that people that came out of the military are very sure of themselves and have some basis of training discipline," Allen says. "I had no doubt she'd make a good employee."
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