January 13, 2010

Avoid Hiring Mistakes

By Renee Houston Zemanski

Joe interviewed well. He seemed to have the right skills, and he was outgoing, approachable, and showed a definite drive to succeed. Yet, three months later his sales are flat – where did you go wrong?

"Most people hire the person who interviews the best, not necessarily the person who is the most experienced or who can best succeed in their environment," says Henry Glickel, owner and recruiter of Sales Recruiters, Inc., a full-service sales recruiting firm that work with clients worldwide. "Many of the best people are the worst interviewers. And likewise, most miss-hires interview very well."

Take this example: A sales rep with 10 years of experience interviews against someone with three years experience. The person with more experience hasn’t been on a job interview in eight years. The less experienced interviewee was interviewed four months ago; she’s read all the right books, and she knows what companies want to see and hear. The more experienced (and better) rep hasn’t kept up with the latest trends in interviewing because he hasn’t been looking for a job. Who will interview better? Probably the less qualified, less experienced rep who is in fact more experienced in interviewing. Point taken? That’s why Glickel says that it’s critical to go beyond the interview and have a defined hiring process.

"If you don’t have a hiring process or don’t follow it, you end up taking shortcuts, which can lead you to hiring the wrong people," he says.

Studies back up Glickel’s words. A recent survey shows that 53 percent of all sales recruiting efforts lead to miss-hires. And according to a Miller Heiman white paper, The Three Top Challenges Facing Sales Leaders Today, only 28 percent of sales leaders believe they have an effective process for recruiting and hiring qualified salespeople.

Lacking a defined process for hiring poses even more of a danger in the sales industry. After all, it’s a salesperson’s job to "sell" you in an interview. If you have a structured approach it can help you avoid bias and give all job candidates a fair chance.

The two most important parts of defining your hiring process is to determine the factors for inclusion and exclusion, says Glickel.

"Outline the most critical factors for contribution and success given the job, the skills of other employees, and the needs of your customers," he says. "Once you’ve identified these, don’t settle on a candidate who doesn’t bring these characteristics to your workplace."

You also need to pinpoint the factors for exclusion, says Glickel. For example, it could be that "working well in a team environment" is a reason for exclusion if the salesperson will be traveling and working alone most of the time.

To help identify critical factors, Glickel recommends assessing the skills and characteristics of both top performers and low performers and talking to your customers about what traits they value.

Once you’ve identified these characteristics, go a step beyond and define them. For instance, you may decide that self-motivation is a factor for inclusion. You then need to define self-motivation and make sure the rest of your interviewing team is looking at the same definition.

"You’ve got to take a qualitative analysis and literally break it down into a quantitative analysis," explains Glickel. "Consistency in the hiring process is very important – are you all looking for similar traits, virtues, and experience in each person?"

Another way for companies to avoid mistakes is to get a second opinion – or hire an outside professional to help them in their search. Firms such as Glickel’s often help companies to refine their processes and define key factors. Providing input to companies on the hiring process is about 40 percent of Sales Recruiter’s business. Testing candidates can also help narrow the field.

Final words of wisdom from Glickel: "It will take you a lot longer in this economy to find the right person. For this reason, I encourage my clients to have a back-up candidate and to keep the search open. It’s just one more precaution in a tight market."