Hire Smarter: The Shift in Thinking for Hiring Sales Talent

Business.com / HR Solutions / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Sales people are a different breed, so you shouldn't use the same recruiting techniques for them. Here's how to handle hiring these roles.

Sales people are a different breed of human beings. They seem to be less affected by rejection than the general population, and they tend to see themselves as effective and competent, even when they may not be.

This allows them to respond to jobs that they honestly (or delusionally) believe they are qualified for, for which you may discover later they are not. Hopefully, your discovery arrives during the interview process.

So, how do you recruit and interview better so as to avoid inappropriate sales hires and to eliminate wasted time in the process?

The Current Process & Why It’s Not Working

Most recruiting today sees the résumé as the central document for elimination or inclusion in the hiring process. Hiring professionals compare resumes to the posted job description and then begin to eliminate candidates. In many instances, a cover letter is read and considered as well.

From here, candidates move on to the “next steps” which are typically a phone or in-person interview. It is here that viable candidates are selected, and less viable candidates are eliminated. But could your selection and elimination have been done sooner? Is it possible to have only the best, most qualified candidates at this stage, allowing the majority of the time to be spent examining great candidates rather than in eliminating weaker ones?

The answer is yes, but with a slightly different recruiting process.

Related Article: Born to Sell: Do You Have Sales Personality?

How Should The Process Change?

Nearly every sales position today requires competency in some basic functions that have nothing to do with sales. These include having a dynamic phone presence, good writing skills and having the ability to tell a story. Without these skills, a candidate will fail in sales or be extremely hampered by their abilities.

So why not screen and eliminate on the basics, before you ever take the time to communicate directly with an applicant? How can this be done?

Let’s start with the posting of the job position. Whatever the qualifications and experience that is believed to be necessary for this position, leave this alone. Counter to what you might believe, do not ask for a résumé at this time.

Include the following in your job posting:

1. For immediate hire. Only those candidates with the required qualifications will be contacted.

Why? Sales people want immediate gratification, and they respond positively to any person or organization that promises quick decisions.

Concurrently, most of your applicants will be eliminated, so you are no longer obligated to communicate with those applicants who do not meet your criteria, which saves you time.

2. Call Mr. Jones (or any fictitious name) and leave a message describing why your past experience would give you an advantage in performing this job.

Why? Candidates are told to leave a specific message that requires that the person be able to tell a story that relates 2 specific skills—the requirement of the job posting with their experience.

Related Article: How to View Your Sales Pitch as a Game (And Win)

With this, the hiring manager now has a sample of the candidates’ phone presence and of their ability to tell a concise and relevant story. You can expect a lot of hang-ups as candidates want to re-record their message, and you will notice which candidates wrote a script and then read from it. From the hiring manager’s perspective, candidates with no phone presence can immediately be eliminated.

So what happens next? An e-mail is sent to every candidate that makes the cut, asking that person to send in their resume with a cover letter that specifically details why their skills and experience would be a great fit for this position.

Why? You will receive a unique writing sample from each candidate that must tell a story and end with a specific conclusion—“I am the best and most qualified candidate for this position.”

The hiring manager should focus attention on the cover letter, which can immediately be classified as compelling or weak. Only the compelling candidates should have their résumé looked at, and then be invited for an interview.

Related Article: 5 Scientific Ways to Secure a Sale

What happens to the recruiting process as a result of using this system?

Inappropriate candidates are eliminated sooner and more easily, with less time taken in the process.

Under the old system, colleagues reported that 80% or more of recruiting time was spent in eliminating “false positives,” allowing less than 20% of the time to be spent with viable candidates. When taught to use the new system, these same colleagues reported that nearly all their face time was spent with viable candidates, they were able to make faster hires, and they felt that they had a better pool of candidates from which to choose.

With the old system, viable and less-viable candidates were presented in the same way at the same point in time. Under this new system, less-viable candidates are eliminated sooner and definitively, leaving the hiring manager with only the more viable candidates to choose from.

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