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Shift in dealership hiring process and mindset fosters change

By 2007, Williams was ready to own a store, but his employer didn’t extend the opportunity to be a partner. After reading about the formation of RLJ-McLarty-Landers Automotive and Johnson’s directive to develop minority entrepreneurs in Automotive News, he contacted the company, which soon hired him.

Williams noticed early on that his management staff lacked diversity. He was determined to build an organization with staffers of numerous ethnicities contributing and that provided opportunities for women to hold leadership roles.

“They were not going to be able to create a diverse staff because they were already in a box with how they looked at diversity,” Williams said. “None of it, I believe, was intentional. It was just, historically, if you don’t have a diverse management staff, you’re probably not going to hire diverse.”

It’s no secret that auto retailing has been a white, male-dominated industry. Williams’ stores put together a case study that said this has resulted in an environment that leaves out those “who might not fit the classical mold of the previously accepted ‘car salesman.’ ”

That led to an reinvention of his company’s hiring process. The dealerships, according to the study, have removed the filter of what a “car person” looks like in service, sales, parts or management and tried to widen the pool of applicants.

Williams said he’s open to bringing in people from outside the car business who can be taught how to be customer-experience driven. One way to do that is to cast a wider net in job listings.

“When you see an ad for manager, I’m going to include in there ‘male,’ ‘female’ and I’m also going to include ‘no experience in management,’ ” Williams said. “Rarely do you see ‘no experience in automotive’ for an automotive person.”


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