Finding the right new hire is always a challenge, especially in the F&I department at your dealership. Do you promote from within? Do you look outside the dealership? It can be a huge gamble either way.

The F&I department is an important profit center within the dealership. If your store is lucky enough to have a couple of strong closers that can hold a high per copy gross and maintain a solid CSI, you have few worries. So when you have an opening, you have a few options for finding that next superstar.

Internal candidates, external candidates, and even the ‘out of the box’ candidate all present their own unique advantages. So which hire is best for your store?

The Case for the Internal Hire

At every dealership, there are always a couple salespeople on the floor that say they want to ‘be in the box’ as an F&I manager. They want the office, the higher income potential, and the demo (if your store still allows those). But is he/she the right person? They could be for a few reasons.

An internal hire already knows your policies and procedures. They know how your store desks a deal and how the back office works. They are known commodity and you already have a sense of their personality with customers and other staff. No surprises here.

Yes, they may have to be put through an outside F&I training but the basics of selling and negotiating are already there. You also get to train them YOUR way and that helps insure fewer clashes with the director or GM.

The Case for the External Hire

An outside hire, however, could bring a variety of dealer knowledge and skills that you may not have in-house. There would likely be little or no learning curve as an outside candidate will have years of experience under their belt with different OEM’s or banks. That’s particularly important in high volume dealerships.

Carolyn Watts, F&I Manager at Dave Smith Ford in NY, has been in the business for over 35 years and shared a key advantage of an experienced candidate.

“When you hire someone who has years of experience, they often have established relationships with bankers and that is invaluable at a high volume store. They know what it takes to get a deal bought.”

The ‘Out of the Box’ Hire

Watts also shared a story about one of her hires years ago that really surprised her. As a director for a large dealer group, she was interviewing applicants for an open F&I position. This particular candidate had no dealership experience and had come from the mortgage industry as an underwriter. She could assess credit risk and she had some sales background but that was it.

“I took a real chance with this woman and I gave her 2 weeks to figure out if she could successfully handle deals and hold a solid per copy gross. She was hungry, smart, and teachable. She ended up being a very good F&I manager and was successful for many years. So I learned to never discount the applicant that has intangibles from outside of the car business.”

The ‘out of the box’ hire doesn’t bring along any bad habits from other dealers and is not jaded about the pressures of the dealership environment. They can bring a fresh perspective and a variety of experience from other industries that can help them be successful.

What’s the verdict? Where should you look for your next F&I manager? External candidates have the advantage but also be open to considering a hire that has never worked in the car business. It’s a unique position that needs a stronger and more diverse skill set than the average salesperson.

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