"We are getting better now," Vaughn says, because "we are able to communicate better on Facebook, Twitter and other social media."
Vaughn, 36, posts articles by third parties about the dealership's employee and customer best practices on its Facebook page and then writes, "We'd love to speak with anyone new," he says.
Vaughn also has started to direct prospective hires to third-party dealership endorsements to help solidify their decision to join the dealership. He got that idea when he started conducting informal "entrance interviews" with new hires about a year and a half ago. During those interviews, he learned that most hires accepted the job because they had researched the dealership's online customer reviews.
When they learn from those reviews that the dealership takes good care of its customers, "then they know we represent a good brand and the employees are happy," Vaughn says. "Gen Y'ers want to read reviews on Amazon before buying a product and they go on Facebook and get everyone else's opinions before making a decision. They do the same thing with where they want to work."
Vaughn has hired eight Gen Y employees full time since upping his social media use and monitoring the store's reputation management in the past year. Four of them are women, he says.
"We are very conscientious of our online reputation, but it's always been on the customer side of it," Vaughn says. "We never realized that managing that would be a big determining factor for prospective new hires."
Adam Arens, 53, owner of Patriot Subaru in Saco, Maine, started recruiting employees from his customer base about 10 years ago.
"We let [customers] know we are growing and if there is a time they'd like to look at something in our business, to talk to us," Arens says. "They get a full tour of the dealership and see how we behave."
It has worked. In 2005, Gen Y customer Vinnie Martorano bought a 2004 WRX STI from Patriot Subaru. Martorano, 38, was then working as a port captain for a small cruise line in Maine.
"I'd be coming in for service," Martorano says. "I'd chat with these guys and they'd say, 'You should work here.' But I had a good job that I hated to leave."
A few months later, Martorano changed his mind as the cruise line company appeared unstable. He talked with Arens, expressing his desire for a career. Martorano was impressed with the company's benefits, he says. Martorano hired on as a salesman, and today he is a sales team leader.
"When I came in, they trained me on how to do things," Martorano says. "As time went on, the more I worked here, the bet- ter I understood Adam's thought process."
Martorano says he feels "as though I've grown with the dealership."
Arens has hired 20 former customers to sales, parts, manager and service technician jobs, he says. About 15 still work for him, including one woman, Jackie Parker, 36.
"We try to share what we're about with our customers," Arens says. "You can't BS people, so just be what you are and they will be attracted to it when the time comes or they will think about it for someone else in their family."
Arens offers flexible hours and job sharing to accommodate Gen Y and women with families. He doesn't want to just attract good hires, he wants to keep them.
Arens has attended five seminars to learn about retaining women and Gen Y employees, he says.
"Managing Gen Y, you might find they might be sensitive to things you might not think anyone would be sensitive to," Arens says.
For instance, Gen Y is more sensitive to criticism than older generations are, Arens says. Also, their desire for a work-life balance "is clear upfront," Arens says.
To help him attract Gen Y and women, Arens' dealership has an organic vegetable garden and a gym. Four employees' dogs spend the day at the store.
"We are dog friendly to friendly dogs," Arens says. "When your dog has surgery, we have a place where you can put your dog close to work to care for your dog all day. The same would be true for kids."
Norm Bothun, 58, spent his career in the Army doing public affairs. He was based in Colorado Springs, Colo., when he retired in 1997 to civilian life. He envisioned remaining in that area doing public relations work for a private company.
But Phil Long Ford of Chapel Hills in Colorado Springs offered him a full-time job selling cars. The dealership works with an agency that helps recruit retired military and wounded soldiers for jobs.
For Bothun, who still works at the dealership, the sales job became a perfect fit.
"In the military, you have to have a certain amount of self-discipline," Bothun says. Likewise, "in the car business, if you don't have self-discipline, you're going to fail."
The dealership likes to hire former military members because most of them follow a process well, says Jim White, 49, general manager and partner at Phil Long Ford of Chapel Hills.
The military accounts for a large part of Colorado Springs' economy. The city, Colorado's second-most populous behind Denver, has three military bases and the U.S. Air Force Academy.
"It is ripe ground for us to pick future employees from," White says.
But former military personnel come from other areas, too.
"I just hired a gal who recently retired from military from back East," White says. "She has a terrific attitude and will do well given the [military] structure."
Many dealers rely on internal referrals to hire employees, and pay current employees for references that lead to hires.
Sunrise's Kurtz and Garber pay $100 to an employee who refers a hire. If that hire lasts 60 days, they pay the employee another $100, Kurtz says. After six months, the referring employee gets $200 more, Kurtz says.
Warren Henry Auto Group also pays employees for referrals of people for hire, says Larry Zinn, 27, general manager of Warren Henry Auto Group in Miami. The company owns Land Rover South Dade, Warren Henry Infiniti, Warren Henry Jaguar and Warren Henry Volvo, all of which are on this list of the 100 Best Dealerships To Work For. Warren Henry Auto Group also owns Land Rover North Dade and Lamborghini of Palm Beach.
Zinn says, "We have also had a great deal of success advertising a sales position on Craigslist and mentioning, 'No sales or automotive experience preferred.'"
Advertising on Craigslist for employees seems to attract younger people open to doing any job in a dealership, Zinn says.
"I prefer to hire people without automotive experience because they don't bring with them any bad habits," he says.
Zinn has hired five salespeople using Craigslist since starting advertising there within the past year. All five now work at Warren Henry Infiniti.
Trainer Sullivan endorses searching outside the industry for talent. The Internet has changed car shopping so dramatically that the "old plaid jacket" salesman is no longer qualified to deal with the new kind of buyer, she says.
"Shoe salespeople are great candidates and so are jewelry salespeople," Sullivan says. "I'd love to hire people who sell mortgages or who do phone work. Telemarketers are good because they're fearless."
It's that belief in the potential of people with no automotive background that keeps Kurtz going to community events, job fairs and mystery shopping around town and at cellphone stores for potential hires.
"We don't do traditional advertising for help," Kurtz says. "Our philosophy is we don't really like to hire anyone who has experience. We like to teach and train the values and ethics ourselves."