Mistakes to avoid when trying to hire top sales talent: #3

Sales Talent

by TJ Fowler

Rotten interview formatting will get you rejected by top performers, but a fresh format will earn their respect. Here are specifics that will strengthen your interview results.

Finally, let’s discuss the operating system/process that provides a great experience all round for hiring managers, interviewers, and candidates.

Instead of listing the dozens of interview types I’ve seen, we’ll focus on what best attracts top candidates. Here are some pointers on format:

Avoid having the candidate “tell her story” to each member of the hiring team. In this way, an icebreaker avoids becoming a repetitive gauntlet for the candidate. Someone interviewing at your company ends up telling their story 5-7 times through the interview process; this is a waste of time and a turnoff.

The best time for this story is up front, where it’s then distilled into a simple brief on the candidate and disseminated. At the start of the interview day, pull all the interviewers that will be screening the candidate that day into a quick 15min briefing to hear the candidate tell her story and why she’s excited. After this, proceed with standard 1x1 interviews. This makes the process more efficient and effective. Each interviewer is then tasked with looking for specific items (e.g., past performance, achievements, culture fit, communication style) based on their role. These conversations become more meaningful for your team, and the candidate finishes the series of conversations having connected with multiple team leads on multiple angles of the business.

If you are at a small/young company without much structure or at a large company with outdated hiring processes, here’s quick advice: Lack of structure makes for a good free form interview. Start with this in the first phone screen. Be vulnerable, revealing to the candidate a current company struggle or desired future state (e.g., x% more profitable revenue growth, a new offering, new tech, breaking into new markets). Make clear the next new hire should be looked at as team role model who can pull them forward. Show where you are and want to be. Outline that unique skillset, experience, and creativity will contribute greatly to this goal.

Ask pertinent questions, allow the candidate time to think about the above, and frame F2F interviews as her opportunity to present her strategy & roadmap. Look for a set of actions and decisions she’ll take, provided the current state and desired future state/objective. You’ll find a top decile candidate running with this as a challenge, and fence-sitters weeding themselves out. And give your contact info with permission for the candidate to reach out to you while she’s putting thoughts together. Be available to clarify and provide quick feedback on drafts; you’ll get unique insights not observed during a typical recruiting process. You’ll also watch top performers excelling by offering new insights on company gaps & opportunities.

To bring it home, have an objective scoring process. Use a scorecard that lists all the items you look for in the ideal candidate. Require every hiring team member to understand the scorecard and each item’s rating. Tally final results for an overall score, category-weighted (e.g., culture fit, skills, experience, attitude, communication effectiveness), and use this as non-subjective candidate evaluation.

Regardless of your current group size or hiring model, avoiding these common mistakes will start a domino effect spreading better talent throughout your organization. What better place to start than with your next potential hire?