Natalee Doenig, 33
Director of people operations, AutoNation Inc.
Natalee Doenig’s efforts in branding and recruitment have helped the nation’s largest new-vehicle retailer broaden its candidate pool in a difficult, low-unemployment labor market.
AutoNation received 120,000 applications last year in part because of hiring-related initiatives the retailer launched under Doenig’s direction.
Doenig, with AutoNation for nearly six years and leading its national talent acquisition the past three years, isn’t letting up on the gas. After taking on corporate human re-sources functions in 2019, she wants to continue to make it easier for people to apply to AutoNation and to identify more high-quality candidates.
“My biggest responsibility is mak-ing sure that our leaders have the right talent to select from,” Doenig said.
In 2016, AutoNation changed its recruitment strategy and put managers “in the driver’s seat” to select their teams, Doenig said. AutoNation launched hiring events to deepen the talent pool, and the company prescreens candidates and provides inter-view guides for store managers to help them have conversations with candidates.
The managers also are provided tools for a role play with an individual, such as a mock sales transaction, she said.
Doenig is seeking to attract people who think ?it’s too hard to apply, who don’t believe the company has a job for them or who don’t even know about AutoNation.
“My job is to really overcome those three ob-jections, or those three kinds of roadblocks that folks wouldn’t submit their credentials for us to vet them out for a place on our team,” she said.
And Doenig, who previously worked in college recruiting for Northwestern Mutual, is making inroads.
She has helped AutoNation overhaul how it attracts candidates by reaching out to people outside of the auto industry and has streamlined the application process. The company saw a 60 percent jump in job views last year compared with the year before.
AutoNation also discovered its percentage of incomplete job applications was 15 percentage points higher than average for retailers. It was taking candidates seven minutes to complete an appli-cation vs. the five-minute industry average. A redesign of AutoNation’s application last year shaved that to under two minutes, and Doenig wants it at less than a minute. The redesign has improved the incomplete application percentage, she said.
Doenig aims to hire more veterans and educate high school guidance counselors and the general public about auto technician careers. In June, the retailer announced a nationwide initiative to recruit 500-plus technicians.
“It’s such a lucrative and rewarding career for the right person,” Doenig said. “And I just feel like it is our job as America’s largest auto retailer and having the presence that we do to really rip the stigma off of that career.”
— Melissa Burden