The Internet is not just a way to hook customers. Some dealers are using it to reel in employees.
Although the Internet is still new as a recruiting tool, dealers find that the few candidates who approach them online are generally better educated than those who come in off the street or answer a newspaper ad. Some dealers who aggressively promote their Web sites say online classifieds draw more response than newspaper ads. And as the Internet is more widely used, it could become more effective than a newspaper for attracting potential employees.
'The Internet's penetration is too low right now' for it to become the primary recruiting tool, says Jim Ziegler, president of Ziegler Supersystems, an Atlanta sales consulting firm that has posted dealership jobs on its Web site.
The online job seekers who answer ads on Jerome-Duncan Ford Inc.'s Web site tend to be young midlevel managers or college students hunting for internships.
'When we get a candidate through the Internet, we spend extra time with their resume because we know the person is thinking about the future. We found a really good customer service person that way,' says Glenn Franks, communications director for the Sterling Heights, Mich., dealership.
Ernie Boch Jr., general manager of Boch Motors Inc. in Norwood, Mass., believes in the Internet's potential as a recruiting tool because candidates can search for work in privacy.
Boch has hired a finance and insurance manager, as well as service writers and salespeople, through classifieds he places on his own Web site.
'I try to steal people from other dealers, and they tell me they can't pull into my place, because two seconds later their boss knows they were here. On the Internet, I can talk to them,' Boch says.
Dealers who want to give their job classifieds more exposure can take a look at a national online classified service.
The Auto Jobs Bulletin Board, for example, at AUTOdealerjobs.com was launched Jan. 1 by Steve Brown, a recruiter in Montrose, Colo.
Traffic on Brown's site is growing at a rate of 33 percent per month. Brown is not tracking actual job placements, but the jobs Web site has had more than 21,400 visitors since its startup, he says.
'The site offers prospective employers and employees an immediate and confidential dialogue 24 hours a day,' says Brown, owner and president of Steve Brown and Associates, which has been in the recruiting business for eight years.
Pat Gibson, general manager of Huffines Jeep-Mazda-Kia in Dallas, has hired a fixed operations director and a parts manager through AUTOdealerjobs.com. He received about 20 resumes for fixed operations manager and about a dozen for parts manager.
'We got a more qualified candidate than we would have advertising in the local paper,' Gibson says. Gibson is uncertain if many rank-and-file salespeople use the Internet enough to browse the site and acknowledges that fixed operations personnel tend to be more computer-literate, since that department has been computerized the longest. But he believes Inter-net use is growing among auto salespeople.
'The computer-literate people are responding to the online ads. We are taking a rifle-shot approach, but we are encouraging computer-literate people to respond in a computer age.
More and more, computers are becoming a part of our business,' Gibson explains.
Nevertheless, some in the business are skeptical about online job classifieds because most dealership employees lack access to the Internet.
Many dealerships still restrict Internet use to one person. As more employees are able to use the Internet at work, online want ads will become more widely used, says Leslie Hollingsworth, interactive manager for Gulf States Toyota Inc., a Toyota distributor based in Houston.
'I do see e-mails from job candidates going to dealers,' says Hollingsworth. 'It's easier to send a resume by e-mail and make sure the resume gets to the right people.'