Sales Tip: How to Hire Good People

As I place the last coaching manual on the table, Maria, a sales director, and Samira, a sales manager, walk into the room. They are early. (To protect the innocent, the names of the individuals and some minor details have been changed.)

We introduce ourselves and exchange pleasantries. I ask if they have any burning questions about coaching before we begin. In response, they both say they have no burning questions yet give a heavy sigh as they exchange a knowing look.

I comment, “Sounds like something is up.”

Maria confessed, “We’re just frustrated. There are no good candidates in our industry, in our city.”

“Tell me more about that.”

“Well, we’ve hired 5 people in the last 6 weeks. And each one hasn’t really worked out.”

“What do you mean?

“Well, 3 quit before they even made it to the 2 week mark. And the other 2, we’re in the process of firing.”

Wow! Tell me about your interview process.

“Well, we develop a set of questions. I interview them after Samira does the first interview.”

I turn to Samira and ask, “What happens during the first interview?

“I ask a lot of questions and the interviewee answers my questions.”

How do you know if someone’s a viable candidate?

“It really is a gut thing for me. I just know if they are going to fit in or not.”

I turn back to Maria and inquire, What happens during the second interview?

“I too ask a lot of questions. I also ask the candidate to share examples of what they have done in the past.”

And how do you know if the candidate is someone you want to hire?

“I’d say it’s a gut thing for me too. I can tell if they will fit in with the staff and our culture.”

Tell me about the role. What kinds of skills does the person need to have?

“Well, they need to have excellent people skills.”

What else?

“They have to be good with numbers and paperwork.”

How come?

“We’re in the financial industry and the role involves speaking with clients after they’ve done some number crunching and written a report.”

What percentage of their time in the role is spent on interacting with people, number crunching and writing reports?

“That’s easy. 30% on speaking with clients, 30% on number crunching and 40% on writing reports.”

What percentage of time do you spend on each of the skills during the interview process?

“Oh my gosh! We spend all our time on the speaking with clients skills. We spend no time on the other two.”

You probably saw it before you read Maria’s comment. In Maria and Samira’s defense, when we are in the midst of our own challenges, it’s not always easy to see the dynamics of our current reality .

There are actually three great hiring lessons anyone involved in hiring can use from this interaction:

1. Match the Interview Process to the Role

As the conversation with Maria and Samira demonstrates, we often don’t match the interview process to the role.

To remedy the situation, consider isolating the essential skills for the role and then structure the interview process to provide the interviewees with the opportunity to showcase their level of each of those skills.

Maria and Samira most likely would have avoided the interview challenge they experienced if they had taken this approach.
2. Beware of Interviewee’s Verbal Strengths as They Can Pose a Challenge
Maria and Samira also made the common interview error of assuming that because their candidates could speak well that they would make great team members.

Just because candidates have verbal strengths doesn’t mean they will have the other necessary skill sets for the role. It simply means that they have a verbal gift. And their verbal prowess is not a measure of their other skill sets.

With this in mind, recognize that it’s easy to be swayed by candidates with verbal strengths. Consider adding to your evaluation of who to hire a logical process based on percentages similar to what came to Maria’s awareness during our conversation. It will allow you to have greater success in your hiring practices.

3. Recognize that the Interview Process Is Often the Reverse of the Role
An interview is typically the reverse of people’s roles. The interviewer asks questions and the interviewee answers. The interviewee does most of the talking.

This dynamic is the reverse of most company roles. For example, for a salesperson, their dominant activities are to ask the questions and do most of the listening. For a manager, their coaching role is to ask questions, build trust, demonstrate listening and provide targeted information. For a service person, their job requires them to listen well to clients and solve problems.

Most interviews don’t allow candidates to spend much time demonstrating their skills of listening, problem solving, and asking questions.

Recognize this weakness in the structure of most interviews for many roles. Reflect on what you do as an interviewer and consider shifting what you do to better align with the roles you are interviewing.

Use Maria’s and Samira’s lessons as guideposts to help you improve your interview process.

How does the story end?

Maria and Samira changed their interview process to better align with the role. Within a month, they had all the positions filled with the “right” people.

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