Interviewing for any position at a dealership is a bit of a balancing act when assessing whether or not the person will be a good fit. Will they have the right personality? The right combination of experience and prior success?
The dealership environment is a bit different than most corporate offices. It’s a more dynamic and often stressful place that mixes sales and product education in a way that is designed to help a buyer get their dream car or truck with a constant nod to maximizing profit.
Ok, well maybe it is more like a corporate job in that way but it is more casual and less ‘button-up’ than most. They can be a fun place to work and I know I enjoyed my time in many of the stores I worked in.
But how hard is it to interview and find the right fit in F&I specifically? What should you look for in that initial meeting and what questions are helpful to ask to help make your decision? This is a unique position that requires an equal skillset of salesmanship, closing ability, ethics, and attention to detail.
What Questions Should You Ask?
Depending on the industry they are coming from, find out why they want to work in F&I and not in sales. This can be very telling…perhaps they have dealer experience as a salesperson, and they are ready to take the next step in their career. Find out what about the job appeals to them and what they envision the job to be like.
If they have dealer experience, they already know what the job entails, and it becomes more of an exploration into what their motives are in moving to something new. Could be money, could be the title of ‘manager’, who knows? Start with this question…
Next question may be how they view the role of F&I (if they have worked in a dealership before). This gives you a window into whether or not they see this as strictly a way to make lots of money for themselves or as a bigger piece of the puzzle when it comes to being a part of a successful team where everyone helps each other make money. Big difference here…the wrong answer may mean a mercenary personality who could be prone to unethical behavior or shortcuts that can harm the dealership.
Ask if they value continuing education and training as part of their job. Successful dealerships often spend thousands for F&I training to help teach new closing skills, regulatory requirements, and best sales practices. Any new hire must be teachable and willing to learn the way your store handles F&I transactions. Someone from the industry may come from another store that does things very differently than your store does. They should be opening to learning a new way.
Other Things to Watch For…
There are certain things every candidate should do when coming in for an interview such as dress for the job you want, have a copy of your resume with numbers to back up achievements, and professional references. All that is a given no matter what the industry.
Since this a unique position, look a little deeper. If they are coming from another store in F&I, ask for numbers…you should know penetration number for popular products, average PRU for new and used, and if there are established relationships with finance personnel at local banks or OEM finance arms. If that is not on their resume, alarm bells should be going off.
If not from the car business, be aware of the questions they may ask you. If they have little idea how a dealership works based on past experience, it’s ok but they should ask lots of questions about the environment, expectations, and training opportunities. I did not come from the dealership environment when I took my first F&I job (the mortgage business, go figure!). I asked more questions in that interview than any subsequent job I have ever taken. I wanted to know all about it, and I believe my enthusiasm helped the dealer take a chance on me.
If they are checking their smartphone, if they show up dressed like they just woke up, if they are chewing gum, if they ask about the compensation plan within the first 10 minutes…you have the WRONG candidate. These are all stories I have heard from dealers and it’s amazing to me that anyone would behave this way when looking to work in a professional position like F&I.
There is plenty of room for debate on whether or not you should hire for F&I from inside the car business or an outside hire, so I won’t go into that here. But for the same reason that the interview process of a buyer is a critical part of success in F&I, so too is the importance of the interview for the F&I manager. This person must be the right fit and yes, sometimes you don’t know until you get them in front of a buyer, but by watching for specific things during the interview, you can help increase your chances of a quality hire that fits your store best.