Benchmark Business Group

Selecting Sales Associates

July 18, 2017

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As we continue the month on hiring sales associates, it's important to reiterate the need to have a well-planned strategy. Part of that strategy involves resume evaluation. This week we'll focus on using the resume and application to determine who to invite to the interview.
Wading Through the Pool
When you know who you are looking for to fill your sales associate position it's easier to wade through your pool of potential candidates and pull out the ones you want to evaluate further. Here are the most effective ways to initially evaluate your candidates:


Resumes - If you haven't met the individual, the resume is your first impression of a candidate. It represents your candidate on paper. And in sales, first impressions have a large impact on a customer or prospect. As you review resumes, be clear on what areas and items to look for. First, look at items that will disqualify a candidate immediately (e.g. education or work experience) then, look for other more subjective areas. Some of the most common items to look for with sales associates include:

  • Past sales experience: decide if they have enough sales experience you are looking for and what kind of sales experience (retail, travel, customers come to them or they go out finding customers).
  • Personal drive and goal orientation: look for the goals set and achieved in the past work experience, education, or in their personal life.
  • Education: Be clear on the education requirements for your business. And, look for areas the candidate shows an aptitude for continuing to learn and develop. This is an indicator on their openness and desire to continue improving.
  • Visual appearance: review the resume for spelling and grammatical accuracy. A poorly worded resume or one full of errors may be an indication of a person that doesn't value presentation; such individuals may not make a good impression with your customers and prospects either in person or through different communications.
  • Employment history: look for longevity with a company or if the candidate jumps from company to company. Lengthy employment may be a sign of loyalty. If a candidate shows multiple jobs with one employer, each a higher level position than the last, over a lengthy period of time, this may be an indication of a responsible goal-oriented individual. Job hopping may indicate they are not adapting to sales cultures and are not successful, or opposed to changing, or not willing to improve.
  • Identify the key words or action-oriented words used by the candidate to describe themselves and their accomplishments, and see if they match the qualities you've identified you are looking for in a sales associate.
  • Beware of unrealistic descriptions of job duties, indicating the applicant may be exaggerating about their responsibilities.
A final note on resumes: Have a method to score each of the criteria (education, experience, qualities, traits) you are seeking, so that when you score a resume it gives you a clear decision to either proceed with this candidate or not. This could be as simple as giving a 1-5 point system for each trait you want to evaluate. Then, add the scores. If the score is above your decidedly required number, they move to the next phase. If the score is less than your required number, they are sent a decline notification.


Applications - The biggest advantage in using applications is that it allows you to evaluate candidates on a consistent and equal basis. With the same format and information collected on an application, it makes the scoring decision on a candidate easier. Also, some electronic job sites are programmed to automatically eliminate certain applicants. For example, if your position requires 5 years of work experience, and the candidate has less than 5 years of experience, it can automatically eliminate the candidate and send a decline notification. This can save you time by filtering out those candidates who don't qualify.


Resumes and applications are both excellent tools for the initial review and deciding on whom to engage with the next phase of hiring. No matter if you use one, the other, both, or another method to wade through the initial candidate pool, it's important to ensure that all federal hiring laws, and those in your state and jurisdiction, are followed. 


Next week, we will dig into the topic of interviewing sales associate candidates. In the meantime, we challenge you to cultivate your own list of traits and requirements for the sales associate position; then, decide how you will evaluate those in a resume and/or application.


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