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What I’ve learned in 30 years of automotive recruitment

In February 1991, proving the old adage that “ignorance is bliss”, I naively decided to start a recruitment business focussing on retail automotive.

“How hard can it be?” I thought at the time…

A long and winding road…

It’s been an interesting journey with its fair share of successes and failures. I’ve met some great people and enjoyed positive multi-decade relationships with many of them. I’ve also encountered a few colourful characters, some harmless, others less so. I’ve learned a lot, and I’m grateful to the many people who’ve helped and supported me over the years.

So what’s different?

Everything and nothing.

The fundamentals of the recruitment process haven’t really changed; the dreams, fears, hopes and expectations of the people involved remain more or less the same.

What’s been the biggest change?

There’s been so many changes, but technology is the big one.

Yes, personal computers were around 30 years ago but they were expensive and pretty limited in their functionality and actual usefulness.

Not only has technology changed the recruitment process, it’s changed the way we work and live.

Other memorable changes?

  • Greater acceptance - employers are more willing to use recruitment services

  • Larger number of automotive industry specific recruiters - the more the merrier?

  • Skilled trades shortages - made worse by declining interest in entering automotive trades

  • Diversity in the workplace - it’s great to see more women in automotive although I’d hoped we’d have more by now

  • Internet and social media - something that offers amazing efficiency and never ending distraction at the same time!

  • The evolution of retail automotive dealerships - from small family businesses into large corporate groups

  • Global pandemic - thought I’d seen everything until this happened

The biggest change to my recruitment business?

Moving from a placement fee / contingency based model to hourly rate / fee for service structure.

Why did I do this?

Contingency based placement fees seem very attractive to recruiters, but the facts are that 75% of contingency based recruitment assignments “fail” which means the recruiter makes nothing.

Then you have the minefield of providing some sort of “guarantee” for a product and process over which you have virtually no control.

I do quality work for good employers and get paid for my time and expertise.

What’s the best advice I can offer employers?

  • Recruitment and HR are different skillsets and HR professionals can benefit from help with recruitment tasks.

  • Employers should take the time to develop a recruitment system / process that can deliver a consistently positive experience for hiring managers and job seekers.

  • Adopt an “always hiring” approach rather than simply reacting to some random event.

  • Don’t assume that the best person to run a recruitment campaign is an over worked department manager.

What’s the best advice I can offer job seekers?

  • Read the job listing carefully including what’s implied rather than stated

  • Have an up-to-date resume that’s been proof read by someone else

  • Write personalised cover letters that clearly relate to the job listing

  • Tell the employer what you can do for them

  • Don’t assume the recruiter you’re dealing with is the enemy

  • Follow up, follow up, follow up!

Would I do it all over again?

This is a hard question as repeating something with new knowledge (knowing then what I know now) would certainly mean doing some things differently.

What’s the future hold for LJW?

I founded this business because I wanted to give job seekers a positive experience and still try to treat all candidates with dignity and respect. Positive feedback from job seekers suggests that I’m still achieving this objective.

So despite being 30 years older than I was in 1991, I still enjoy good health and intend to keep operating in this field for as long as possible. I like what I do and feel that I add value to my employer clients’ businesses. When required, I’m very much a part of their teams, and we work closely together to achieve great outcomes.

Need help with your recruitment projects?

Give me a call on 0412 523 168.


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