Pre-screen Sales Applicants with a 10-minute Phone Interview

Yep, a 10-minute phone call is all you need to pre-screen your sales applicants.

How can you get all the info you need in such a short period? We pre-screen sales applicants in 10-minutes all the time. It works because every potential applicant takes an assessment test prior to your phone interview.

pre-screen sales candidates over the phone

Since the assessment test does most of the pre-screening for you, you can do a 10-minute initial phone interview vs. the usual 30 or 60-minute initial interview. After you have your pre-screened qualified list, you can start a more robust behavioral, Topgrading or structured interview process to get the shortlist for the final in-person interview.

Automate the assessment test taking, but not so fast

We suggest clients create an autoresponder for each job opening. After someone applies for your job (via your career page or job posts), someone should thank them for applying. Many companies use an auto responder or an applicant tracking system (ATS).

The auto response should include wording such as “Thanks for your interest, we ask every applicant to complete an online job assessment prior to our first interview. This way we make sure our company and this job are good fits for you. Please take our online assessment test as soon as possible (place a link to your online test.)”

In monitoring response rates, we have noticed a couple of factors. In the past, we got better response rates when we delayed the autoresponder reply for 2-3 hours. As people are more comfortable with technology today, an immediate auto responder reply will probably work but you should play around with the setting to see what happens.

In addition, you can’t be sure that your email got through their spam filter so a short friendly VM saying look for our email may be needed.

If you are in a tight job market with fewer applicants for each job, your response should refer to something unique about the applicant. This does show applicants that you have read their application and can increase response rates. Still, you want to include that link to your sales assessment test in your response.

Conduct a quick 10-minute screen of only qualified applicants

If you only interview the truly qualified applicants, you can work through your applicant pipeline very quickly. We’ve seen some companies create a 40-hour screening process for each applicant. What a colossal waste of time! As with any business activity, think about your “return on time invested.”

Would you spend 40 hours on follow-up with a poorly qualified prospective customer? We hope not. Job applicants must demonstrate they are good fits before you invest in-person time. And, by screening first, you eliminate the personal bias that comes with selecting applicants via a personal interview. As we’ve said before, personal interviews have a horrible track record of resulting in bad hires.

Topics to use when pre-screening sales applicants over the phone

Remember…this is a sales call, let them sell you! Your job is to emulate your typical prospect! The screener must be able to judge the sales skills of each applicant.

We create a customized interview scorecard for items we want to cover in this pre-screening call. (Note: if you want a sample copy of our pre-screening scorecard, contact us). Our generic scorecard covers categories such as:

  • was on time (part of the success in sales is showing up)
  • had the appropriate presence
  • demonstrated rapport and warmth
  • did their homework
  • matched experience & knowledge requirements
  • closed for an appointment (this is a sales job… they should do this)

We assign points for each item and give every applicant a final score. At the end of the pre-screening phase, we rank all applicants based on their score. We invite folks with the highest scores in for a structured interview.

If you need help establishing an effective process for selecting sales candidates, please contact us. Our team has years of experience in helping companies field the best sales teams.

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