Hiring for Success

By Lain Ehmann

Hiring the right individual is no easy matter. “A hiring decision represents a major investment and should be carried out with the same degree of rigor and care shown other investments,” says Margaret Dale, author of A Manager’s Guide to Recruitment and Selection, 2nd Ed. (Kogan Page, 2003). Here are some tips from Dale to help make your search easier and more effective.

  • Look for hidden skills. Some of the most important skills needed for sales jobs – decision-making ability, organization and time management – are the toughest to recognize. Dale suggests asking yourself: How will I know someone with these skills when I see him or her? “For example, what does someone do to demonstrate a high-level of decision-making ability? Answers might include analyzing a lot of complex and conflicting data, working out the pros and cons, drawing up conclusions and deciding courses of action without closing down options,” she explains. Dale suggests using these types of definitions when setting job specifications, as well as when assessing candidates. You might ask applicants to complete certain exercises or walk interviewees through a time in the past when they used these skills.”
  • Look beyond the obvious. “Sales managers may be tempted to look for one source of evidence to demonstrate a candidate’s ability – for example, exceeding sales targets. This might conceal the fact that a new product was being sold, the price had been dropped, a competitor had closed, other people were involved in the sales campaign, and so on,” warns Dale. She suggests developing a complete description of what comprises a competent salesperson and using several independent indicators from different sources.
  • Use a combination of formal and informal meetings. Informal meetings are great for assessing a general social fit, such as: Can I work with this person? But, says Dale, informal is not enough. She stresses there must be a systematic approach to hiring. “Along with the meetings there should be an assessment process designed to explore if the person has the required abilities,” she says. This might include asking candidates to make a sales pitch to a prospective client and having individuals familiar with the job and those who might be future co-workers of the new hire conducting the assessments. “This enables qualities such as team-working abilities and interpersonal skills to be assessed alongside the technical know-how requirements,” says Dale.
  • Don’t always look for your Mini-Me. While you must be able to work with the person you hire, selecting someone just like you has its drawbacks. “There are a lot of pluses to having a diverse work group, such as reflecting the customer base and bringing together a range of talents and different perspectives and experiences,” says Dale. “Managing a diverse team does requires the manager to have skills, however, such as the ability to welcome each person’s contributions and opinions equally, to the deal with problems early, to be open about conflict and to find ways of resolving differences early.”

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