February 26, 2014
Anneli Thomson, Managing Director
The task of hiring can often be daunting for managers. Many questions can run through your head: “What if I can’t find somebody?” “What if I don’t get any qualified applicants?” “How much time is this going to take out of my schedule?” “What if I hire the wrong person?”
It’s happened to us all at least once. We hire someone with great expectations of them. Six months down the road the “Brad Pitt” we thought we hired has turned into a “Woody Allen”. What we find out is that the best sales pitch any salesperson will ever give us, is when they’re sitting across from us in the interview. How do we distinguish the Pitt’s from the Allen’s?
We toughen up. Too often, we use the interview process to “sell the job” rather than qualify the candidate. It begins even as early as the writing of the advertisement. We coach candidates on how to sell us on themselves with banalities like: looking for a “go-getter”, “self-motivated”, “great prospector” and other typical jargon of recruitment ads. Ultimately, candidates come in and regurgitate what we’ve listed in the ad, and we buy it.
We must be tougher from beginning to end. If the candidate can’t hold their own in a tough interview, how will they ever hold their own in a tough marketplace? Sales is not for wimps. It is a business of high rejection, but it’s also a business of great rewards - if you’re willing to work for it. To find candidates who are willing to go the extra mile means implementing a systematic process into your hiring plans.
What is your current process for hiring? Think about where you begin and the steps you have taken in the past when looking for a new salesperson. What did you base your decision on? How did you justify your decision? Did you meet somebody and just have a “gut feeling” about them? Did that work?
We often hear statistics about what the cost of hiring the wrong person is. Industry experts estimate the cost of replacing an employee is 1 – 1.5x their salary plus benefits. In my investigation I also found research by Jorgen Sundberg, author of theundercoverrecruiter.com, who reports that the average cost of a new employee not including training costs is $57,968. Refer to the table to see the actual costs and hidden costs of having to replace a bad hire.
Apple Inc. was 90 days from bankruptcy in 1997 when Steve jobs let go 3000 people. Cuts reportedly saved Apple $1.35 billion. Was each individual’s salary $450K? Of course not. It does demonstrate however, that each employee’s responsibilities are financially larger than their salary. This must be top of mind when getting the right people in the door.
The hiring process must be treated as a science, not an art. That is to say, trying to predict how someone will perform based on their previous experience and your impression of them is not enough. It must go deeper than “what do you think are your greatest strengths?” It must be more analytical, more strategic, and with a specific understanding of the traits valued across the organization and the competencies needed in order to be successful.
So how do you toughen up, get specific and be more strategic? First, break your process down into four compartments: Recruiting, Interviewing, Inventorying and Assessment & Decision Making.
Creating a job description that is different and creative is imperative. This is not a place to sell the candidate on the position, but to give a 360° view of the values and direction your company wants to move in. What are your expectations for how this candidate will contribute to that vision?
Use the S.E.A.R.C.H. model (Skills, Experience, Attitude, Results, Cognitive Skills, and Habits) to be specific about whom you are looking for. What’s going to appeal to your ideal candidate? Be disarmingly different. How are you setting yourself apart from every other ad?
The goal of interviewing is not to portray the position in a favourable light or make the candidate comfortable. Nor is it to poke holes in the candidates resume or to intimidate. The key is to challenge them appropriately and address the reality of the position and whether or not it is a genuine match.
Preparation is key. Craft compelling questions and anticipate ideal responses. Get the candidate talking, and gently explore below the surface. Never attack, but be firm when looking for a more specific or deeper answer. Don’t be afraid to ask tough questions, but do so in a nurturing manner. Provide equal time – questions are revealing, and the candidate is also making a decision, so allow them time to do so. If you are looking for a quality conversation, don’t have the underlying intent of the interview to be a test of whether or not the candidate can “think on their feet”.
Review the interview notes, taking into consideration all of the S.E.A.R.C.H. model attributes defined in the recruiting step. All too often, managers find a candidate they like and then talk themselves into reasons for hiring that person. Make sure you manage your expectations and acknowledge the gaps that exist.
At Sandler, we bridge this ‘expectation gap’ by using assessment tools like The Devine Inventory Assessment and the Extended DISC Assessment. These are tools that help us determine candidate’s skills, behaviours and communication preferences. Both assessments offer a number of tools that aide in determining fit.
Gauge your level of confidence in the candidate. We rarely find someone who is 100% suited to a position, so have the discussion around areas of development you want them to be aware of, and facilitate that development. Once you find an ideal candidate, don’t throw them into the deep end. The more you invest in on-boarding them thoroughly, the more likely they are to be a long term member of the team.
Hiring new team members is a crucial part of business that can make or break your company. Have you been winging it? Be tough in your hiring process, and you’ll find tough salespeople.