How to Hire a Sales Staff

How to bolster the sales of your product or services so your business can grow? The key is your sales force. To get the best sales employees for your business, you need to know how to look for qualified people, how to interview and screen candidates, how to set compensation, and how to make a job offer.

What You Should Know Before Getting Started

  • Why Do You Need a Plan for Hiring a Sales Team?
  • An Effective Sales Team

Hiring an Effective Sales Team

  • Identify What You Need
  • Decide an a Compensation Program
  • Decide Where You’ll Look
  • Write a Recruitment Advertisement
  • Evaluate Resumes
  • Interview and Screen Candidates
  • Check References
  • Decide Who to Hire
  • Make a Job Offer


What To Expect

A well-selected sales force is key to growing your business. This Business Builder will take you through the step-by-step process of recruiting and hiring sales reps where and how to look for qualified people, how to interview and screen candidates and how to make a job offer.

What You Should Know Before Getting Started [top]

Why Do You Need a Plan for Hiring a Sales Team?


  • It helps control training costs. By first identifying the skills and experience needed to do a job and then hiring someone to do it, you can reduce the need for new employee training.
  • It helps you document and standardize a potentially litigious business function. A carefully-planned recruiting and hiring system, complete with applications and forms that have been reviewed by an attorney, creates a paper trail that can help you justify your hiring decisions in court, if necessary.
  • It ensures that you hire smart the first time. A system that helps you assess candidates thoroughly can also help you avoid costly hiring mistakes.
  • It enables you to create a hiring system and candidate database to use in the future. By the time you make your hiring decision, you’ll have resumes, job applications and interview evaluation forms from several “top candidates.” You can keep that information in an applicant database to be used for future job openings.

An Effective Sales Team

An effective sales team is made up of highly motivated, energetic and hungry individuals. These individuals

  • know how to present themselves and represent your business,
  • establish effective relationships with customers and clients,
  • know how to sell a product or service, and
  • know how to close a sale.

Hiring an effective sales team is accomplished through careful interviewing, role-playing, observing, reference-checking and selecting.



Watch Out For It’s expensive to hire the wrong person, and it’s difficult to fire someone. Make sure you take the time to get the best “fit” you possibly can for your company. Remember, time spent now will save time later in training and recruiting.

Don’t delegate the hiring process. You know best where your company is headed and what kinds of people will help you get there.

Make sure that what you are looking for in an employee is reasonable. Is the job you’re seeking to fill really one job? Is the mixture of education, experience and skills one you’re likely to find? Is it possible to have someone come in ready to “hit the ground running,” or should you plan for some basic sales training? Setting realistic expectations up front will help ensure search and hire success.


There are nine steps involved in recruiting and hiring sales reps:


  • Identify what you need
  • Decide on a compensation package
  • Decide where you’ll look
  • Write a recruitment advertisement
  • Evaluate resumes
  • Interview and screen candidates
  • Check references
  • Decide who to hire
  • Make a job offer

Step 1: Identify What You Need

You’ve decided to hire a sales team to help sell your product or service, interact with customers and grow your business. Before you set out to find the right individuals for the job, however, you have to have a clear idea of what the job entails.

The best way to do that is to have the person currently doing the job write out for you, very specifically, what his or her job consists of. If the job you’re planning to hire for is new to the company, make a detailed list of all that you envision it will require. For example, what duties are involved? Do you need someone on a part-time or full-time basis? Is this a temporary position? Must the job be done in your office, or might salespeople be able to work from their homes? What kind of education is required to do this job? What kind of experience is required? What job skills are necessary? What is the potential for advancement? How much supervision will the individual doing the job need?

Your job description will be used to communicate the job to candidates for employment, help set the pay rate for the position, and later, help set the standards for and guide the performance of the employee you hire. Make sure your sales job description includes information in these categories:


  • PlanningThis section should describe all preparatory work that should be done before an actual sales call is made. For example, who are the established customers? Who are the prospective customers and where can they be found? How often should they be called? What are the objectives for each call?The job description should outline the planning responsibilities of the sales rep and estimate the percentage of the job that should be devoted to meeting these responsibilities. 
  • SellingThis section outlines the sales rep’s responsibilities during the actual sales call. How many sales calls should be made in one day? How should customer questions/objections be handled? How should the benefits of the product or service be touted? How should orders be communicated to the office? Again, the percentage of the job that should be devoted to meeting these responsibilities should be stated here.
  • ServicingThis section of the job description refers to customer service skills and responsibilities, such as installing a product, handling questions and complaints, making adjustments or accepting returns, processing special orders, and negotiating payment arrangements. The sales rep’s degree of autonomy/authority over financial arrangements should be stated here, and the approximate amount of time expected to be allotted to customer service should also be estimated.
  • CommunicatingThis section of the job description refers to the time the sales rep spends acting as a liaison between the customer and your company. For example, how much of the sales person’s job should be devoted to writing sales call reports? How much time should be spent on researching the industry and/or competitor’s products and services?
  • MiscellaneousThis section covers all responsibilities not listed elsewhere, such as time spent attending team meetings, attending and conducting training sessions, etc.Source: Adapted from Managing Salespeople

Step 2: Compensation Package

Once you’ve completed the job description, you have to determine how much you’re willing to pay someone salary plus commission and employee benefits, if any to do the job. To do this, consider how important the position will be in your company, how difficult it might be to find a person with the skills, education and experience you’ve decided are critical to the job, what the going rate is for the position, and what the sales cycle is. For example, a product like elementary school textbooks might only be purchased once a year. That would make a 100 percent commission, no salary arrangement unfair to the rep, since commission, too, might only be paid once a year.

Data on comparable pay rates for positions can be obtained from sources like your local Chamber of Commerce, major firms in your area, national trade publication salary surveys, the American Marketing Association, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Administrative Management Society, and the American Management Association.

Most companies pay sales reps through some sort of commission structure. Commissions can be paid out either when the business is written or when the client pays. Commission structures vary according to industries; however, a rule of thumb to consider is the higher the guaranteed draw or salary, the lower the commission structure. The lower the draw or salary, the higher the commission structure.

A sales rep needs to stay motivated and challenged. Be careful not to pay too high of a base salary up front. A complacent sales rep is an ineffective rep. It is important to find people who are not afraid of commission, but rather welcome it. Successful sales reps welcome higher commissions over higher salaries because they have the opportunity to exceed salary caps. But do remember, they have bills and responsibilities so it is best to find a happy medium. By doing this you will also reduce turnovers.

Types of commission structures include:


  • Draw against commissionThis structure pays the sales rep a draw against future sales commissions. The rep would receive a weekly or bi-weekly sum, that is paid back when she writes a sale and/or the client issues a payment check.

    For example, if a rep wrote $20,000 worth of business in one month or if $20,000 worth of receivables came in one month and her commission structure pays 10 percent (her draw is $250 per week), the employer would pay her a total of $2,000 for the month four weekly draws of $250 and a commission check for $1,000. If the rep does not write enough business to cover her draw, then the employer may total the draw for the month and not pay commissions until the draw for the previous month or months has been entirely paid back.


  • Guaranteed draw against commissionThis structure guarantees the rep a weekly or bi-weekly salary, whether she writes business or not. This structure allows reps to make additional money only after they have covered their guaranteed salary in commissions.

    For example, if you guarantee a rep $2,000 per month with a 10 percent commission structure and she writes $20,000 in business one month, then she would receive no additional money. However, if the rep wrote $40,000 in business you would pay her an additional $2,000 in commission.


  • 100% Commission/No DrawThis structure usually pays a higher commission rate due to the fact that there is no salary or draw. This structure pays a sales rep only on the percentage of the business she writes.

    For example, if the rep writes a deal for $4,000, and the rep receives 20 percent commission, she would receive $800. In order for this structure to work, the sales cycle of your product or service must be frequent and continuous, either daily, weekly or monthly.

Incentive programs are a vital part of a well-rounded compensation package. If a sales rep continually exceeds your sales quotas, you’ll want to reward her with cash bonuses and/or incentives. Remember, when she is generating higher sales than you expected, she is making your company money. An extra $100 in her pocket, a certificate to a dinner or a show is a great way to say keep up the good work and let her know you value her.


Think how you can reward your new hires and discuss this plan during the interview.


Step 3: Decide Where You’ll Look

Now that you have a clear picture of the job you’re hiring for, the compensation package, and the skills and experience your sales reps must possess, you can decide where to look for prospective employees.

There are many sources of employees. Where you look, however, will determine the quantity and quality of the applicants you attract.


For example, you may want to advertise for industry-specific sales help only through trade publications a technique that would limit the number of candidates you’d attract but would help ensure that the candidates have specific backgrounds and experience. General sales help, on the other hand, might be successfully recruited through a local, daily newspaper or a “help-wanted” sign on your office door.

Contrary to what most people believe, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get your recruitment message out there. Free recruitment sources include:


  • Personal and professional contacts. Often, friends or professional contacts like your accountant, lawyer, banker or distributor can refer good job candidates. The more people you tell, the more candidates you’re likely to attract; just don’t hold your sources responsible if their referrals don’t work out.
  • Local chapters of professional associations and other groups. Groups such as parents networks, part-time/alternative employment groups, women’s groups, trade organizations, junior chambers of commerce) often have space on bulletin boards or in newsletters for recruitment ads.
  • Colleges, universities, high schools and technical schools have job-placement offices where they help link graduates with employers.
  • Major employers that are laying off workers in your area often want to “partner” with other businesses to help their employees get new jobs. Contact major employers or their outplacement suppliers to have your recruitment ads posted for free.
  • Contact your local Public Employment or Unemployment Bureau (also called Employment Security Agency). These offices are affiliated with the United States Employment Service, and their job is to help businesses with their hiring needs.
  • Customers, suppliers, present employees and local armed forces bases are also potential sources for employees.
  • Competitors. You can walk into a competitor’s business and recruit their sales help for free; however, it’s important to remember that what goes around, comes around.

There are also recruiting sources ready and willing to take your money. These include:


  • Print advertising is perhaps the most commonly thought of method for recruiting and the one that generates the most applicants. You can place a recruitment ad in local, regional and national newspapers, including National Business Employment Weekly. The best day to place a regional or local ad is usually Sunday.You can also advertise in trade magazines and newspapers, the names of which you can find by consulting publications like Bacon’s Magazine Directory. If you choose to advertise nationally, however, be aware that candidates you interview will expect you to pay their travel fees and may expect some sort of relocation package to help off-set their moving expenses.
  • Online bulletin boards on services like CompuServe and run recruitment advertisements in general help-wanted sections and also in special-interest areas, like professional, online forums.

Step 4: Write a Recruitment Advertisement

A recruitment ad should sell your company and the position you’re offering. Is there something unique about your organization? Is it growing? Do you offer a casual dress code or flexible working hours? Is it a non-smoking office? Is there a cafeteria or gym on-site? Does the position you’re advertising have growth potential? Is it possible to work part or all of the required hours from a home-based office? The answers to some of these questions, if they are in your company’s favor, should be included in your recruitment ad as some of the benefits of working for your company.

Using a display ad or an ad with lots of type may, because of size, attract more candidates; but it’s not really necessary to spend the extra money. An ad that is to-the-point, well-written and puts the company’s best foot forward will do the job, too.

Write the ad as a newspaper reporter would write a story: make the headline and the opening sentence really count. Your headline should list the position’s title in a way that describes the job accurately (i.e.: Sales Representative). The first sentence, however, should explain the benefit of the job and, in particular, of working in your company. Hiring expert Robert Half offers these four examples:


“World-renowned museum is looking for a creative and assertive individual to market and promote membership benefits to prestigious clientele.” This opening sells the prestige of working for a fine museum.


“A rapidly-growing publishing company is seeking a sales manager who is anxious to take on more responsibility and excels in a fast-paced environment.” This opening sells the career potential.


“A small but dynamic advertising agency that specializes in travel accounts is looking for a sales representative who likes variety and is willing to travel the U.S.” This opening sells the glamour of working in travel.


“Salary plus draw plus bonus means 75K potential in the first year for a seasoned sales professional. Nationally expanding pharmaceutical company needs expert to cultivate the MD market in the tri-state

In the body of the ad, include selective but truthful information about the job and the company. It’s okay to be personal, using words like “we” and “our;” in fact, in an era in which large organizations are laying off and work and family issues are becoming increasingly important to employees, personalization may actually attract more candidates.

Whatever the tone you choose to take, include the following facts in your ad:


  • The nature of the job
  • The nature and location of your company, and the products or services it sells
  • The salary range, plus commission, of the job
  • Employee benefits, if any, including one or two key benefits of the workplace (non-smoking, flexible, casual, etc.)
  • Growth potential, if any, of the job and the company

You should not make any reference in the ad to race, creed, color, gender, age, physical ability or other discriminatory factors. That’s against the law and it’s bad business. Make sure all requirements specified in the ad are job-related. And, to protect yourself further, don’t make any promises in the ad about the position being “permanent,” “secure” or “stable;” time and market conditions often necessitate change. End each ad with the phrase, “Equal Employment Opportunity Employer.”

Step 5: Evaluate resumes

It’s overwhelming to think about evaluating 300 or more resumes that have come through the mail or fax machine. The key to evaluating resumes is to review them in small doses no more than 15 in one sitting, for example and to sort them into three groups: one group that you’d like to interview; one that you might like to interview; and a third that you know, based on their resumes, you do not want to interview.

Use your criteria of a good sales rep as well as the requirements of the job to help you sort through the resumes. Does a person’s resume suggest that they’ve sold successfully in the past? Do their dates of employment suggest stability and career mindedness? Do an applicant’s educational background and work experience match the requirements of the job?

In addition to looking for positive indicators, look for negative ones and file the resume accordingly. For example, does an individual have long gaps in his or her employment history? Is the “hobbies” section of the resume given significantly more weight than the employment section? Are the words used to describe the individual passive, indicating little first-hand experience (assisted with, was exposed to) or active (sold, managed, headed, etc.)?

When you’ve made your three piles, call as many of your interview choices as you have time for, explain a bit about the job and the company on the telephone, and see how many in your pile are interested enough in what you have to offer to schedule a face-to-face interview.

Step 6: Interview and Screen Candidates

You’ll find a checklist to help you avoid hiring mistakes in Section III provided by attorneys Jackson, Lewis, Schnitzler & Krupman, may help to pull that section out and refer to it as you read the following section.

Interviewing may be a learned skill, but even inexperienced interviewers can be successful if they follow a procedure and emphasize listening, not talking, during the interview process.

Set standards. Be selective. Remember salespeople represent your company’s image in the eyes of your clients and customers. List the attributes and qualifications that you believe will make the “ideal” candidate. Don’t compromise during the interview process until you find the right person.

Sales experts like Barry Farber, author and trainer, recommend interviewing promising candidates at least two to three times for a sales position. Farber recommends (1) a standard first interview; (2) a meeting where the candidate is asked (ahead of time) to prepare and conduct a mock sales presentation on your company’s product or service; and if appropriate, (3) a ride with an existing rep. If possible, the candidate should be interviewed and evaluated by several people in the company; however, the candidate’s qualifications should not be discussed until all key people have had a chance to review his or her resume and meet with him or her face-to-face.

The most important thing to do before you meet the job candidate for the first time is prepare for the interview: read the individual’s resume through several times; prepare in writing a list of questions to ask; know what not to ask; and create a game plan for the interview session.


A sample game plan might look like this:

  • Greet the candidate and have him/her fill out a job application
  • Put the candidate at ease with brief small talk
  • Give an overview of what you want to accomplish during this interview
  • Elicit information about the candidate (You’ll get the truest picture of the candidate by asking him or her questions before sharing specific information about the job.)
  • Describe the job, the company, the two to three interview process
  • Discuss in detail what you might like the candidate to prepare for during your next meeting
  • Answer questions
  • If the interview has gone well and you feel positive about the applicant and his/her qualifications, schedule the next meeting
  • Close the interview

Source: Adapted from Robert Half On Hiring.

Specific questions you’ll ask will vary with each candidate; however, try to ask open-ended questions that relate to a candidate’s work experience, job-related skills, education, career goals, management style, approach to work and attitudes toward work. Your interview questions should give you a good picture of what the candidate did on his/her last job; how he/she did it; why he/she did it; how much supervision was necessary; how much initiative was taken; and how he/she felt about the job.

Open-ended questions are those that encourage the applicant to say more than “yes” or “no.” A good example of an open-ended question is this: “I see that you led a customer focus group to get feedback on a new product. How did you feel about organizing and directing that project?”

Also helpful are hypothetical questions, those that ask, “What if,” and “How would” An example of a hypothetical question is this: “What would you do if a customer was dissatisfied with a product?” Asking hypothetical questions is a good way to find out how a candidate approaches selling and customer service.

Other good interview questions:


  • Did you regularly hit or exceed your sales quota in your last job?
  • Describe the type of customer you most like to sell to.
  • Describe your experience in setting up new accounts.
  • What do you consider the single most important idea you contributed or your single most noteworthy accomplishment in your present/past job?
  • What specific strengths do you think you can bring to this position?
  • Tell me a little bit about how you make important decisions?
  • What are some things your present company might do to be more successful?
  • What interests you about this job?
  • What risks did you take in your last job, and what was the result of those risks?
  • Describe one failure you’ve had and what you learned from it.
  • What, in your opinion, might set you apart from other candidates for this position?
  • What motivates you?
  • Describe your ideal supervisor.
  • What would your co-workers say are your greatest strengths? Weaknesses?
  • If you were to work here, in what areas might you need further training?
  • Describe a typical sales call at your last job.
  • What do you do when a customer says he/she isn’t interested?

Be careful not to ask any questions pertaining to religion; race or color; national origin, gender, age, marital or family status; sexual orientation; physical disability; arrests; or financial status. Questions pertaining to any of these issues are against the law.

During the interview, while you’re asking questions, observe the candidate’s body language as well as his or her answers. Does he/she seem to take responsibility for his/her past failures as well as accomplishments? Does he/she have self-confidence? Does he/she seem bitter and/or angry at a past boss or co-worker, suggesting difficulty at getting along with others? Does she/he have energy and enthusiasm for work?

It’s OK to jot down a few notes during the interview, but don’t write down everything the applicant says; that makes people uncomfortable. Also, try to keep your own body language and facial expressions from indicating approval or disapproval when a candidate is speaking. An applicant who senses approval may try too hard to please, while one who senses disapproval may shut down.

If you liked the candidate, make sure you schedule the next meeting, the trial sales presentation, before the candidate leaves the first interview. Let the candidate know what the agenda will be for the next meeting: first, that he or she will give a sales presentation on your company’s product or service, and then, that he or she may be asked some questions about the presentation and preparation. You may want another key employee to sit in on the sales presentation. If you do, be sure to let the candidate know.


  • The mock sales presentation. When the candidate returns for the mock sales presentation (and some of them won’t), look at the presentation for:Creativity. Did he/she show initiative in researching your product, service or company? Is he/she positioning the product or company in a unique way?Level of preparation. Does the presentation suggest that the candidate put a lot of time and effort into it? Does he/she know your company, product or service? Does he/she use supporting materials?Selling techniques. How well does he/she know the basics of selling? Is his/her technique effective? Does he/she rush through the presentation?

    Energy. Is his/her enthusiasm for the product or service contagious? Does he/she seem motivated?

    Interpersonal skills. How does he/she interact with the customer? Does the candidate’s approach seem pushy? Does he/she allow time for feedback and questions?

    You may also want to ask the candidate questions about the presentation. For example, did he/she enjoy working with your products or services? What did he/she do first to prepare for the presentation? What does the candidate think he/she might do differently next time?


    If appropriate, at the close of this meeting, set a date for the next one: the candidate’s ride with an existing sales rep.


  • Tell the candidate that you’d like him or her to have a chance to experience the job first-hand. Of course, from that meeting you’ll also get valuable information from your rep: What questions did the candidate ask? Did he/she seem enthusiastic and excited in the field? Was he/she focused and attentive?After the candidate rides with your rep, ask him/her questions about the experience.

    For example, how did the candidate feel about the customers he/she met? How might he or she present the product or service differently than your rep did?

Evaluating applicants. Though it’s difficult, it’s important to judge candidates objectively, based on their resume, interviews, sales presentation, appearance, mannerisms, intelligence, enthusiasm, motivation, body language, qualifications, etc. You need to consider the applicant as a whole, without letting one thing, like credentials, carry too much weight.

An interview evaluation form, like the one pictured below, may help you evaluate candidates objectively. To use this form, insert the specific information you collected in Step 1, “Identify What You Need,” under the heading “Job Skills/Knowledge.” Include information on skills, knowledge, educational requirements, experience, interpersonal skills, and other things you feel are necessary for getting the job done. You can include qualifications like motivation, self-confidence, personality, etc., as long as you can justify, if necessary, their job-relatedness.

Then, rate each candidate on a scale of 1-5, with “1” indicating that the candidate’s qualifications are below job requirements; “2” suggesting the candidate’s qualifications meet only minimum job requirements; “3” suggesting the candidate meets all basic position requirements; “4” indicating that the candidate meets all basic position requirements, some slightly above average; and “5” signifying that the applicant exceeds all position requirements/is exceptional.

Sample Interview Evaluation Form:

Job Skills/Knowledge Candidate 1 Candidate 2
Mock presentation
Product knowledge
Organization skills
Knowledge of the sales process
Education college grad
Experience 10 years or more in sales

Interview summary. After the interviews, write down, in a couple of paragraphs, your general impressions of the candidate. Does he/she have relevant experience? Was he/she accomplished? Intelligent? Upbeat and positive? Energetic? Sincere? Resourceful seeming? How did his/her qualifications measure against the qualifications of the job in terms of experience, education, and skills?

Source: Adapted from Quality Interviewing

After you’ve concluded your interviews, interview evaluations and interview summaries, you can again divide your candidates into three groups: candidates with the most potential, “maybes,” and definite “nos.”

Step 7: Reference Checking

Once you’ve divided your interviewees into three piles, it’s time to check references. This step will help you further narrow the candidate pool.

Check at least two work-related references for applicants you’re seriously considering and don’t just limit your references to candidate’s supervisors or human resource managers. Equally valuable information can come from subordinates, co-workers, customers, and, sometimes, a boss’s boss.

You may find that past employers are not very receptive to your questions. That’s because they are concerned about saying anything they may be sued for specifically, defaming the former employee’s character.

For that reason, asking references for “employment verification” instead of a “reference” may help, because the conversation begins more neutral. Early in the conversation, stick to the facts date of hire, past job duties and supervisory responsibilities. Then, when the reference feels a bit more at ease (if that ever happens), you can ask some more daring questions, like:


  • In your opinion, what are the candidate’s strengths?
  • What are his/her weaknesses?
  • How much of a contribution do you think the candidate made to your company or department while he/she worked for you?
  • Was he/she absent frequently?
  • Was he/she: Honest? On time? Motivated?
  • How would you compare his/her sales ability to that of other reps?
  • Would you rehire him/her?

Source: Adapted from Robert Half On Hiring.

It’s important to remember that reference information is, by its very nature, subjective. If an employer sounded bitter and angry about your candidate, but gave grudgingly positive answers to your questions, you might rightly assume that the employer wasn’t happy about the candidate’s leaving the company. On the other hand, if all of your references point out a disturbing flaw in your candidate for example, that he/she routinely came to work late, rarely met his or her sales quota or is ineligible for rehire, then you’d probably do well to move the candidate to the “definite no” pile.

If a past employer, co-worker or colleague offers information that disagrees with what the candidate told you, you may want to ask the candidate about the contradiction (without sharing the source of the information, as references are confidential), and give him/her a chance to explain. You can decide whether or not to continue considering the candidate for employment based on the exchange that takes place.

Step 8: Decide Who to Hire

Making the right hiring decision is critical to your business. ‘Bad hires’ hurt businesses in many ways, costing tens of thousands of dollars, negatively influencing the course of your business, lowering employee morale, and causing emotional suffering all around.

To avoid making a bad hire, evaluate all of the information you have about your top candidates carefully. If you think you need more information, ask the applicant to come in or have a follow-up telephone conversation.

When you have enough data on all of your top candidates, review and compare the information, using the Interview Evaluation form in Step 6. Be hypercritical of each candidate, avoiding the tendency to “overlook” a real weakness in favor of another, less important strength. Remember, past experience is the best indicator of future performance, so if a candidate has exhibited an inability to sell consistently, meet deadlines, make cold calls, work without constant supervision, etc., don’t set out to correct or change his/her behavior on your time and at your expense. Move the candidate to the “definite no” pile instead.

While there’s no single characteristic that guarantees sales success, a common denominator among top sales reps is internal motivation what sales expert Barry Farber calls “hunger.” Motivation comes through during the interview process as enthusiasm, interest and eagerness. If you don’t see these qualities in a sales candidate, move him or her to the “no” pile.

Other keys to successful hiring include:


  • When evaluating, focus on accomplishments, not credentials
  • Don’t try and force the fit. If a candidate doesn’t seem to ‘fit’ your organizational culture for example, he/she needs to work within well-documented rules, and your organization tends to be more flexible and easy-going, then cross that candidate off the list. Chances are, he/she would be frustrated by a perceived lack of discipline exhibited by you and your company. Close your eyes and try to visualize the candidate selling your product or service. If you can’t picture the candidate working with you, your customers and other employees, move the resume to the “definite no” pile.
  • Consider the candidate’s level of motivation and enthusiasm.
  • Don’t settle.
  • If you make a mistake, rectify it quickly. If you know after a week that you’ve made a hiring mistake, rectify the situation immediately.

Source: Adapted from Robert Half On Hiring.

Step 9: Make a Job Offer

Once you’ve decided which candidate is right for your company, you’re ready to make a job offer. Make the offer as soon as possible by telephone, and then, once the candidate has agreed to your terms, follow-up the verbal offer with a written one.

You determined the salary range, commission and benefits you’d pay the rep in Section A. The written job offer should contain that information and other terms of employment, such as: the job description, hours and schedule expected of the employee, length of the probationary period; the sales territory, and the start date. It’s OK to negotiate terms of employment within reason; however, if the demands made by the candidate seem excessive, it might be wise to re-evaluate the fit of the candidate to the company.

Consult an attorney. If your job offer will also serve as a letter of agreement to be signed by you and the prospective employee, be sure that the letter includes a sentence like this: “I understand thatif hired, my employment is for no definite period of time, and may, regardless of the date of payment of my wages or salary, be terminated at any time.” Having an attorney review all employment documents including job offers, sales contracts, letters of agreement, etc. is a very good idea. Though it costs money, in the long run it will save you time, money and maybe even your business.


___ Provide employment application, which has been reviewed by legal counsel

___ Meet applicant face-to-face in a private area

___ Review the blank application and explain information required, answer questions

___ Tell prospect to answer all questions completely and accurately

___ Carefully review completed application

___ Confirm accuracy of spelling and addresses of relevant organizations, references

___ Determine applicant’s residence and how long he/she has lived there

___ Ask the applicant about any gaps in employment history

___ Ask applicant if you’ll need additional information concerning any name change, nickname or use of an assumed name to allow you to check references and work record

___ Review applicant’s educational training, if it has bearing on the position

After the initial meeting:

___ Check all personal/character references


  • How do they know the applicant?
  • How long have they known the applicant?
  • Upon what is the reference based (firsthand experience, secondhand info)?
  • Do you need to ask for more current references?
  • Document all comments you receive

___ Check all professional/employment references


  • Determine job duties (Do they agree with application and resume?)
  • Determine length of employment
  • Determine reasons applicant left the previous job
  • Determine if former employer was satisfied with applicant’s performance
  • Document all comments you receive

___ Confirm educational information provided

___ Speak with the applicant again if you need clarification or additional information

___ Review the application and information with other company decision-makers

___ Discuss the applicant with them in detail

___ Decide

Source: Jackson, Lewis, Schnitzler & Krupman, attorneys at law


Identify What You Need

___ Have you outlined specific job duties under the categories of planning, selling, servicing and communicating?

___ What miscellaneous duties are involved in doing the job?

___ How many hours a day/days a week do you want your new employee to work?

___ How much do you want to pay a new employee, in salary, commission and benefits?

Decide Where You’ll Look

___ Have you contacted free recruitment sources, such as: existing employees; personal and professional contacts; local chapters of professional organizations and special interest groups; colleges, high schools, technical schools and universities; major employers in your area that may be laying people off; and your local Public Employment Bureau?

___ Have you contacted paid recruiting resources, like employment services; newspapers and magazines; and online bulletin boards?

Write a Recruitment Advertisement

___ Are you using a print-only ad or a display ad?

___ Have you identified what is unique about your company and thought of ways to sell that in words?

___ Have you identified and highlighted the primary benefit of the job in your lead sentence?

___ Have you included selective, honest information in the body of your ad, telling potential applicants the nature of the job; the name, nature and location of your company; the salary (or salary range) of the job; employee benefits (if any), including one or two key benefits of your workplace; growth potential for the job and company, if any?

___ Have you included the phrase, “Equal Employment Opportunity Employer?”

Evaluate resumes

___ Are you reviewing no more than 15 resumes in a sitting?

___ Are you sorting resumes into three groups, “definite interview,” “may interview” and “definite no?”

___ Are you looking for warning signs in resumes, such as long, unaccounted-for gaps of time?

___ When you call those you’d like to interview, are you giving them a brief description of the job and your company, and giving them a chance to re-evaluate their interest?

Interview and Screen Candidates

___ Are you prepared to listen more than you speak during the interview process?

___ Have you prepared for the first interview, re-reading the candidate’s resume and preparing a list of questions to ask?

___ Have you prepared an interview agenda, and shared it with the candidate?

___ Are your questions open-ended, encouraging the candidate to say more than “yes” or “no?”

___ Are any of your questions hypothetical, probing the candidate to talk about his or her approach to the job and people management?

___ Are you being careful to respect the candidate’s right to privacy and comply with the law, staying away from questions pertaining to religion, race or color, national origin, gender, age, marital status, sexual orientation, family and financial status, physical disability and arrests?

___ Are you selectively taking notes?

___ Are you keeping your responses and body language neutral and objective?

___ Have you given the candidate an overview of what’s expected of him/her during the second meeting, the mock sales presentation?

___ Have you evaluated the candidate and sales presentation for creativity, adequate preparation, effective selling techniques, energy and good interpersonal skills?

___ Have you made plans for the candidate to ride with you or an existing rep at your company?

___ Have you completed an interview evaluation form and interview summary on each candidate?

___ Have you divided your interviewees into three piles, “candidates with the most potential,” “maybes” and “definite nos?”

Reference Checking

___ Have you identified at least two references (preferably work-related) for each potential hire?

___ Have you scheduled a call or personal visit with each reference?

___ Have you prepared a list of questions to ask the references, including questions about the candidate’s work habits, approach to work, accomplishments, timeliness, eligibility for rehire, etc.?

___ Have you weighed the references’ comments against what you know of the candidate, and asked the candidate for verification on any obvious discrepancies (all the while protecting the reference’s confidentiality)?

Decide Who to Hire

___ Have you compared and contrasted all of the information on each potential hire, using your Interview Evaluation form?

___ Are you focusing on each candidate’s accomplishments over credentials?

___ Are you trying to be objective in your assessment of each candidate?

___ Are you trying not to force the fit between the candidate and your company?

___ Can you visualize the candidate selling your products and services, working in your company and interacting with your existing employees and customers?

___ Are you giving the proper weight to the candidate’s energy, enthusiasm and “hunger?”

___ Are you avoiding a tendency to “settle” for someone that you don’t really want?

Make a Job Offer

___ Have you called your first choice and outlined the offer, including the job description, hours and schedule of work, salary, commission and benefits, probationary period, sales territory and start date?

___ Have you had an attorney review a letter of agreement/written job offer to make sure you include information about “Employment At Will,” and that you don’t inadvertently make any potentially harmful promises?



Complying with the ADA: A Small Business Guide to Hiring and Employing the Disabled by Jeffrey G. Allen. (John Wiley & Sons Inc., 1993).

State-of-the-Art Selling by Barry J. Farber. (Career Press, 1994).

Compensation Management in a Knowledge-Based World, 8th ed. by Richard I. Henderson. (Prentice Hall, 1999).

The Directory of Executive Recruiters 2000. (Kennedy Publications, 1999).

Directory of Outplacement and Career Management Firms 1999, 11th ed. by James H. Kennedy. (Kennedy Publications, 1999).

Quality Interviewing by Robert B. Maddux. (Crisp Publications Inc., 1995).

Professional Groups or Trade Associations

American Management Association

Society for Human Resource Management

Other Sources

Jackson, Lewis, Schnitzler & Krupman is a nationally recognized law firm practicing exclusively in the area of labor, employment and benefits law and litigation on behalf of management. The firm has offices in 20 cities across the nation.

Local Chambers of CommerceSmall Business Development Centers

Barry J. Farber, Farber Training Systems Inc., a sales, management, and personal development training company in Livingston, NJ.

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