Hayley Bernard holds a unique spot in The Premier Collection's history: She is the first hire in the Mount Kisco, N.Y., dealership group's college recruitment program.
Bernard, who graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Arabic Studies and a Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Anthropology, excels in her current sales job at the group.
"She is very business-minded, very bright and she loves the automotive world," says Patty Coughlin, director of recruiting for the company. "Her father sold used cars and did service, so she grew up with it."
Premier wants more hires like Bernard. In March 2012, the family-owned, nine-store dealership group began aggressively recruiting college graduates for product brand-specialist jobs.
It has hired five so far and plans to groom many of them for higher-level positions.
Premier, which sells about 7,000 new and used vehicles a year at its stores in New York and Connecticut, aspires to be seen as a company where staffers can build a career, not as a mom-and-pop shop that's a stepping stone to someplace bigger.
Recruiting college graduates is a bit unorthodox for a small family-run dealership group. Many of the large public dealership groups do it regularly, but they have the size, scope and money to tout long-term career opportunities that tempt college recruits.
Premier's goal is to hire 15 to 18 additional college graduates in the next 18 months with the plan of mentoring them.