The aftermarket automotive industry is facing a major talent shortfall. As more Baby Boomers near retirement, companies have no one waiting in the wings to step up to mid-level and senior-level leadership positions– or even fill open entry-level roles. Aftermarket companies are eager to hire qualified sales professionals to bridge this talent gap, but few Millennials are accepting offers or even interviewing for open positions.

As a Senior Executive Search Consultant focused on sales talent, I’ve noticed this trend is increasingly impacting recruitment options for aftermarket companies. Part of the problem is perception: rightly or wrongly, the aftermarket automotive industry is simply not considered to be as exciting as other industries. Millennials are eager to work for companies with a reputation for innovation, like Apple, Google and 3M, which topped unseated Google for the top ranking last year, according to Forbes. The few Millennials who are interested in the aftermarket industry are already well compensated by their current employers and are more difficult to recruit away from their current jobs.

Recruitment Challenges and Opportunities: Shifting Strategy for Today’s Market

Recruiting and developing top Millennial talent is not impossible, but it does require a shift in strategy. Rather than competing with other aftermarket companies for a smaller share of the rapidly shrinking talent pool, look outside the immediate industry and consider non-traditional candidates.

Here’s how I advise companies to get started:

1. Create a Millennial-specific outreach strategy.
Gone are the days when aftermarket companies could simply post a job opening and wait for the resumes to come pouring in. Your company needs to proactively engage with potential job candidates to get them excited about the aftermarket industry before they even will consider a job opening. Educate Millennials about the benefits of working in the aftermarket industry, including opportunities for skills growth and career advancement.

2. Focus on innovation.
Unfortunately, when compared with hot industries like clean energy and aerospace, aftermarket automotive simply doesn’t have that same appeal. You can change perception by focusing on opportunities for innovation, creativity, and growth. Show Millennials how they can make their own mark on your company. For example, hybrid car technology advances pose both challenges and opportunities for the aftermarket industry. How can your new hires embrace new opportunities for innovation here?

3. Recruit team-oriented leaders and quick learners.
Technical skills can be taught, an eagerness to learn and a natural ability to lead cannot. When recruiting new hires, I look outside the aftermarket automotive industry for individuals who possess intangible skills like decision-making confidence, an aptitude for quick learning, and inclusive, team-oriented leadership. These are the future leaders who bring a fresh, innovative perspective that will help keep your company ahead of the curve in a rapidly changing industry.

While the current aftermarket industry talent gap is certainly a cause for concern, it is also an exciting opportunity. Companies that proactively recruit talent from parallel industries will tap into a much larger and more qualified candidate pool.

I’m interested in your perspective on this topic. How is your company addressing this shortage? Please share your experience in the comments section below.