Spelling and grammar, and the ability to compose a professional email message, might be important to know about a candidate for an Internet department role, Gurnett said. Likewise, an applicant for a service adviser job might be assessed on his or her ability "to send those short but complete messages" that customers enjoy receiving by text, she said.
An unsatisfactory response itself isn't a deal-breaker if the candidate shows a willingness to be coached, she said.
"The important part for managers is just to assess the skill set and where the opportunities are within the store," Gurnett said, "and place that person in the best position for success."
In other software-based industries, job candidates often are asked to do a formal product presentation as part of the interview process that gives them a chance to show their skills at identifying opportunities and solving problems, said Candice Crane, a talent consultant who works with dealerships.
Dealership hiring managers can take a similar approach, said Crane, who previously worked for Walser Automotive Group and Hireology, a dealership technology recruitment company. One interview strategy is to ask candidates to reply to an email message as if they were an employee responding to a customer.
That approach, however, is not something the industry has done historically, she said.
"As an automotive industry, we tend to have a very fast hiring process, mainly because we're hiring out of desperation and we need to have that seat filled right away," she said. "So we have a candidate come in, we have one conversation with them and we're excited if they show up for the interview. And in my opinion, we have to kind of increase our standards or raise our standards and not just assume that if they show up that they're qualified for the role."