A job calls for generally routine order filling and servicing.  Should the sales manager hire the best, highest qualified candidate available?  (Notice that this is "trick" wording.)

For a position in sales, would you hire students right out of college or would you hire seasoned professionals?

What is a polygraph test?  Honesty test?  Aptitude test?  Knowledge test?  How do each of these work?  How is each supposed to work?  What are some legal issues associated with these?  What are some problems and advantages to these?

Do you think that a test should be used in the salesperson selection process?

  • centralized
  • decentralized

You could be interviewed by a recruiter from the corporate home office (centralized) or could be interviewed by a local district sales manager (decentralized). In some cases, initial screening will be centralized, but final selection will be made by the local sales manager.

There are advantages and disadvantages of each of these to the organization. As the job candidate, however, keep in mind that a district sales manager has different objectives than a professional corporate recruiter who might never have worked in sales.

  • no relocation problem
  • less elaborate, less costly selection procedures
  • better adjustment of recruit to local environment
  • sales rep from local area more likely to be accepted by local customers
  • looks better to community

  • more expertise available
  • more sources of candidates can be explored
  • selection process tends to be more objective
  • leads to more uniform quality across the firm
  • wastes less of the field manager's time

  • determines the types of salespeople needed:
    • account rep/ route salesperson
    • industrial products salesperson
    • detail person
    • sales engineer
    • services salesperson
  • determines specific requirements for the salesforce:
    • desired caliber
    • turnover expected
    • level of training to be provided
    • level of supervision to be provided
  • performs:
    • job analysis
    • job description
    • job specification/qualification

job analysis
study of the job by observing and surveying what people actually do in the job
  • ask salespeople, company execs., customers
  • accompany salespeople on sales calls
job description
formal description of:
  • characteristics of the job
  • duties (e.g., selling activities, customer service, trade shows, etc.)
  • responsibilities of a specific position
  • working conditions (e.g., required travel)
job specifications
individual traits and characteristics required to perform the job well

  • internal
    • current employees
    • promotions
    • transfers

  • competitors
  • non-competing organizations
  • advertisements
  • schools and colleges
  • employment agencies
  • walk-in applicants

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964:
    prohibits discrimination because of race, color, religion, gender, or national origin in all employment practices.
  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC):
    created to administer Title VII.
  • Age Discrimination Act of 1967:
    cannot discriminate in hiring or termination practices because of a person's age.  (You can be asked if you are over age 18.)
  • Affirmative Action:
    requires the employer to make additional efforts to recruit, employ, and promote qualified people formerly excluded.
Equal opportunity legal criteria are based on two questions:
  1. Are employment practices equally applied and do they have the same effect on all potential employees regardless of race, gender, religion, or national origin?
  2. Are employment practices job related?
Note: a "bona fide occupational qualification" does allow discrimination.

  • gender

  • Are male and female brains different?  If a married couple is lost, who, in any culture, will likely be the one that doesn't want to ask for directions?
  • minorities and immigrants

  • Do customers prefer relationships with people who have had similar life experiences?
  • age

  • Are younger people more flexible, or do older people have more wisdom?  With whom do customers better relate?
  • mentally and physically disabled

  • Could people with attention deficit/ hyperactivity disorder have characteristics which give them advantages in many sales positions?


A substantial proportion of job applicants lie about salaries, job responsibilities, and educational background:  DON'T GET CAUGHT.

  • Top performers in sales tend to be the ones who told the truth.  Why?
Credit checks are commonly used to assess financial responsibility in sales.
  • some sales managers believe that heavy debt leads to sales motivation
  • some believe that only modest debt suggests better character and organization

  • intelligence
  • personality
  • aptitude
  • knowledge
  • honesty, lie detector, etc.

What is the relationship between test scores and performance? How should you answer a question such as, "have you ever wanted to write a college text book?"  Aptitude tests are used to create a profile of the applicant which can be matched to the more successful salespeople in an organization.  A profile of the top salespeople in one organization can be different from the top salespeople in another organization.  That is, you can take the same aptitude test for two different organizations and receive a high score for one and a low score for the other.

Don't try to "fake" the answers to an aptitude test because you really do not know what might be the "right" answer.  Importantly, you want to work for a company for which you generate an aptitude profile which matches well with the more successful people in the organization - this is a suggestion that you, too, have a high probability of success in that particular environment.

Are test results always valid - does a test measure what it is supposed to be measuring?  Polygraph tests (lie detector machines) are not used so much anymore because they are subjective in interpretation.  Unfortunately, some rather absurd consulting activities have come to serve as substitutes.  If asked if we have ever stolen anything from an employer, many of us would emphatically answer "no."  When a test with this answer is sent to the consultant who is evaluating you from afar, you could be labeled as someone who does not tell the truth.  The reasoning is that everyone has taken home at least a pencil at some time in their lives, so, according to the consultant, anyone who claims never to have stolen anything must necessarily be a liar.  For most of us, such a test would lack validity.

Absurd tests come and go.  One sales management textbook from 1912 teaches the use of phrenology and physiognomy, bogus "sciences" of the late 1800s.  Phrenologists claimed that they could predict thiefs, liars, and good salespeople by feeling the bumps on people's heads.  Physiognomists claimed that they could predict such personal characteristics by looking at facial features, such as the shape of one's chin or forehead.  A person with eyes that are close together, for example, would be labeled as having tendencies to be a thief.

Would you really want to work for an organization that selected you, in part, on the basis of an analysis of your handwriting?


Field salespeople often must endure a great amount of stress and frustration, must do extensive travel, and must haul heavy equipment.

For what sorts of sales positions is physical condition a bone fide occupational requirement?  For what sorts of positions is it not?

Note that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) now prohibits a pre-employment medical exam, but this can be a condition of employment once an offer has been made.

  • first paragraph: clearly indicate the job for which you are applying.
  • second paragraph: explain how you are qualified.
  • last paragraph: ask for an interview (and state what action you will take)

NOTE: You have about eight seconds to convince the reader to put your application on the "maybe" pile.

Does this mean that you should use cute, attention-grabbing tactics such as bright colored paper?  Does listing the courses that you took in college gain someone's attention?  Does a statement of objective indicating that you want "a rewarding position that allows me to achieve personal growth" gain the reader's attention?  What are the reader's needs and wants, and how does your resume and cover letter show them in eight seconds that you have what they need and want?

  • What is the best decision that you ever made?
  • If I call one of your references, what is that person likely to say about you?
  • What is the dumbest thing that you ever did?
  • How many shoes are on your college campus right now?
  • What gives you the most satisfaction in life?
  • What did you like least about your last job?
  • Describe your ideal job.
  • Where do you expect to be in ten years?
  • Why should we hire you?
  • Sell me this pen.
What are the organization's needs and wants?  What is the objective in asking each of these questions?  What is the interviewer really asking?  Why, then, doesn't your professor ask more direct questions on exams?

How do you apply the seven-step selling process to a job interview?  How can you do a trial close?  Should you ask for referrals?  What are some methods of follow-up: should you make inquiries on the phone, should you send a thank-you letter?

You have something for sale, and so you should treat this just like any sales call in which you want to sell something.  HOWEVER, you are selling a scarce resource: you can work for only one person and you want to find the best customer possible.  Be sure that YOU ask questions during an interview as well.  What questions should you ask to avoid accepting the wrong job?