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Screening Applicants for the Sales Job

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third in a series of articles that addresses the issue of hiring the right salespeople for your dealership by using the Six-Step Hiring Pyramid.

Proper recruiting will attract good candidates. Now, you must screen them. To accomplish this, you must identify the best candidates and eliminate the less qualified ones without wasting too much of your valuable time.
Be sure your hiring practices comply with the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) standards as well as all state and other legal regulations. Here are some guidelines to follow:
n Never ask questions, either verbally or in written form, that aren’t job related.
n Never ask questions, either directly or indirectly, that might limit an applicant’s employment opportunities because of race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, medical condition, physical handicap, marital status, sex or age.
n Never ask questions that may violate the candidate’s legal right to privacy. This can include things like outside interests, hobbies, political views, etc. The best way to avoid this problem is simply to make sure that your questions are exclusively job related.
In addition to these guidelines, your dealership may also have do’s and don’ts that should be observed when hiring.

Dealing With Applicants
Remember to have each candidate fill out a job application. Your dealership should already have a good job application form. If not, you can develop one or purchase an existing form. However, be sure to review any new application form with your dealership’s attorney to make sure it follows all legal requirements.
Be sure to offer a job application to every applicant who shows up while the position is vacant. If not, the dealership may be subject to legal action.
Do not accept a resume in lieu of an application. Have everyone who applies fill out an application. This will ensure you have the same type of information for all candidates.
You should always treat people as you’d like to be treated. Applicants are no exception. Make them feel welcome. Show them you appreciate their interest in the job. Keep in mind that a rejected candidate, if treated properly, may be a future customer or may refer friends and family to your dealership.
Review each application and immediately conduct a brief initial screening interview. The purpose of this is to classify each applicant as: A, Highly desirable, B, Possible or C, Unlikely
This process lets you immediately identify and eliminate all the “unlikely” applicants.
Make all your notes on separate paper. Never write comments on a job application. These comments could prove costly if the applications are ever required in some future legal action (some states require that all job applications be kept on file for a specified length of time).

The First Cut
Decide who has and who hasn’t the qualifications you’re looking for and arrange an initial formal interview with the qualified applicants. For those you don’t select, you can ease the unpleasantness by saying something like, “Thanks for coming in. If our hiring committee selects you, you’ll be notified by phone within 24 hours. Then we'll arrange for a more complete interview. If someone else is selected, we’ll notify you in writing as soon as possible.”
The hiring committee might consist of you and the dealer or other department managers. Mentioning “the committee” indicates that this initial interview won't be the only deciding factor.

Be Courteous with Bad News
Once you have filled the position, send a short note to each of the candidates you did not hire. This is courteous and it gives you the option of contacting them at a later date if you have a future position for which they might be suitable. Always remember that you want to treat everyone with dignity. For example, you might say something like:
“Thank you for your interest in the sales position at our dealership. Your qualifications were impressive. Unfortunately, another highly-qualified candidate has been selected. We will keep your application on file. Should another opening make itself available in the future, we may be contacting you.”
This letter should be printed on the dealership’s letterhead and signed by you.

Next time: Conducting the initial interviews.

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