About a year ago, managers at Delray Buick-GMC in Delray Beach, Fla., started noticing that traditional methods of job advertising seemed to yield fewer quality applicants.
Store managers had spent hours poring over applications and scheduling interviews with candidates. And after all that, more than half of the applicants never showed up for a first interview, said Jessica Gasper, the dealership's digital marketing manager.
Then the store turned to Facebook and LinkedIn, social media sites where advertising yielded better results almost immediately. The strategy was buttressed by an employee incentive program that included a referral bonus of $500 upon hire.
If the new hire stuck around, the referring employee could get another $1,000 after 90 days and an additional $1,000 after 12 months. That, too, led to social media, with employees increasingly advertising openings on their personal Facebook pages.
Delray's experience mirrors that of many dealerships. With good help hard to find, stores are increasingly turning toward social media as a relatively new and often-fruitful way to attract talent. It helps that sites such as Facebook have become ubiquitous in many Americans' lives. Facebook seems to be the preferred choice for dealerships to spread the word about employment opportunities, but LinkedIn is cited as a useful tool, too.
Jennifer Myers, director of marketing at Kunes Country Auto Group, with dealerships in Wisconsin and Illinois, said the group uses LinkedIn by asking employees to contact people in their networks.
It's a matter of "just putting a post out to people they're connected with, saying we're looking for a sales manager with X, Y, Z qualities — if you know anyone, send them my way," Myers said.
On Facebook, the dealership group may post an ad from the company's page, targeting certain ZIP codes. Commenters will subsequently tag friends, telling them to check the open position.
"We get a lot of luck with salespeople on Facebook," Myers said. And with the group headquartered in a rural market, "boosting" ads, or paying Facebook to give the posts greater play on users' feeds, can be an inexpensive form of advertising; the social media giant's rates are typically linked to population. "So on Facebook, 15 bucks goes a long way," Myers said.
J.R. Toothman, general manager at Toothman Ford in Grafton, W.Va., calls advertising on Facebook "relatively inexpensive for the traction you get."
If the company sees a post gaining ground, it may pay to boost it. This typically costs around $20 for Toothman. If done several times a month, that could cost about $400 — a fraction of what the dealership may spend on other advertising methods.
New talent also can come through Facebook indirectly. When the company posts success stories, such as sales records or certain milestones the dealership hits, unhappy employees from competitors sometimes come calling, Toothman said. The potential ship-jumpers may message a manager or two at Toothman Ford.
"At that point, you know that they're excited; they're seeing greener pastures," he said. More often than not, those recruits are not even responding to a specific need advertised by the store.
While such organic, indirect recruiting works, Toothman said the company has had less success with direct recruiting on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram — and Twitter has been a nonstarter.
Dan Ryan, principal of recruiting firm Ryan Search & Consulting in Franklin, Tenn., has worked in talent acquisition and development for 12 years.
"For 11 of those 12 years, different types of social media, especially LinkedIn, have become the primary sources for anyone to find talent," he said. LinkedIn is his preferred platform for finding higher-level positions, but he concurs that Facebook can be useful to find sales personnel or technicians.
But Ryan, who has auto industry experience at a Tier 2 supplier, said it's important not to rely too much on a few relatively new social media tools. He pointed to employment sites such as Indeed and Glassdoor as recruiting devices that can be useful. Beyond that, getting creative with the way dealers market their workplaces, such as using videos, can help attract talent.
"The usage of video on social media can be very powerful," Ryan said.
Dave Wright Nissan-Subaru in Hiawatha, Iowa, has dabbled in making "come work here" videos, posting them on social media and YouTube, and has run ads on sites such as Indeed. The dealership had less success boosting posts on Facebook but has used it as a word-of-mouth platform.
"We seem to have more success when we kind of 'grassroots it,' so to speak," owner Dave Wright said.
That involves management and employees spreading the word that the dealership is a great place to work, saying which positions are open and pointing interested candidates toward where to apply.
"It evolves every day," Wright said of the recruiting efforts. "You've really got to get creative."