Advice From Late, Great Job Interviewer

The late Brian Wolfe was one of the best at hiring top-notch showroom sales people. Mr. Wolfe, 29, who died July 5, was sales manager at Pace BMW in Mamaroneck, NY. His success at hiring the right people stemmed from going about it the right way. He offered advice on that during an interview a few months before his death. Here's what he said: If the prospect is good at interviewing, it's like a sailor

The late Brian Wolfe was one of the best at hiring top-notch showroom sales people.

Mr. Wolfe, 29, who died July 5, was sales manager at Pace BMW in Mamaroneck, NY. His success at hiring the right people stemmed from going about it the right way.

He offered advice on that during an interview a few months before his death. Here's what he said:

“If the prospect is good at interviewing, it's like a sailor who gets good at bailing; it's probably not a good sign.”

The professional interviewee, said Mr. Wolfe, has read every book and says what he or she knows the interviewer wants to hear.

“We've put ads in the papers, but what you get then are your professional car salespeople who've worked at every dealership under the sun, know who's sleeping with whom, who's bad, who's good, and they've got an excuse for every possible thing.

“They're not personally motivated. They're not self-starters. They are people who need to be managed.”

Mr. Wolfe often hired former independent small business owners.

“For one reason or another, the business changed or they wanted to sell their business and get into something else where they didn't have to worry about meeting payroll and all of those things.

“They're motivated people. They're not clock watchers. You find that type of person and it resonates through their personality.”

Even when he wasn't trying to fill an immediate job opening, Mr. Wolfe would conduct interviews because “if you interview often, you get a taste for what's available.”

He spent as much time as it took to get to know each candidate, although sometimes, he knew quickly that the person on the other side of the desk wasn't going to get hired.

“It's not hard to get a lot of information out of them, even bad information. A lot of them will volunteer it easily because they don't think it's negative.

“I had a person come in from an ad. He was well dressed, had been in the car business for a while, and was able to tell me about all of my competitors, etc.

“He must have worked for 10 dealers and he was proud as he could be of the list of jobs he'd had. I took the list and asked him why he left each one. The answer each time was that the general manager was ‘abusive’ or ‘hard to work for’ or ‘I couldn't work for them.’ We were two minutes into the interview, and I said to myself, ‘Do I want to save him some time and turn him down now?’”

Mr. Wolfe said the hiring process takes time and that includes time for the applicant to follow up on the interview the same way you'd want him or her to follow up with a prospective vehicle buyer.

Mr. Wolfe recalled one young prospect he interviewed:

“He was a closer. He asked closing questions during the job interview.

“He asked me, ‘What do I have to do to be employed here?’ As much as I hate those kinds of cheesy lines, I knew what he was getting at and I liked it.

“He followed up with me the next day. He probably left the dealership to go to the post office to dispatch a letter. I then received an e-mail at my office address as well as my home address, which he had to dig a little to find. He was over the top in that respect.”

Less than half of job applicants appropriately follow up, said Mr. Wolfe.

He emphasized the manager must be flexible when hiring. “The interview process is essentially give and take.” And, he added, so is selling.

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