03 Aug 2017

Interview Tip – How to Properly Evaluate a Concern

Most hiring managers do a poor job of evaluating weaknesses or concerns that they find in a candidate. In our experience, they either reject the person when they find a concern or they focus on what they like and fail to properly vet the concern. Both approaches leave much to be desired. Given how excruciatingly difficult it has become to hire A players and how costly mis-hires are; we developed an effective protocol on how to evaluate a concern.

When to Pass.

You must be clear on what the most difficult aspects of the job are before you are ready to evaluate talent. The next step is to evaluate whether these are trainable. Those aspects that are untrainable and difficult become your can’t miss, must haves. Pass on otherwise excellent sales professional if they are weak in the most difficult aspects of your job.

We need to move away from the notion that an excellent sales rep can selling anything to anyone.

This same thought process can be applied by sales professionals evaluating potential career opportunities. If you are not strong at the hardest part of a job, it doesn’t matter how attractive the employer is. You will likely flounder or fail. Read Is Your Sales Career Mapped Out for deeper thoughts on the subject.

When to Continue Evaluating a Concern.

Continue interviewing candidates that excel at the hardest part(s) of your job even when you have concerns about lesser but still important skills and intangibles. Properly vetting these concerns might require adding a step to your interview process (especially if you uncover the concern late in the interview process). Typically it means flagging this concern for the next person who will be interviewing the candidate.

The (Interview) Process Reveals the Answers.

In our experience, a properly designed interview process can effectively measure every necessary skill and intangible. We share how to simplify that process into a simple checklist in How We Improved our Interview Process. The strength of evaluating each candidate’s relative strength or weakness with each required skill and intangible is the complete picture you gain of a person.

With an objective view of the candidate as a whole, you’ll be in a much better position to make a smart hiring decision. For example, it often becomes obvious how a person’s strengths can mitigate or even nullify their weaknesses. This also prevents the all too common mistake of hiring the candidate that has no glaring weaknesses and no brilliant strengths.

In short, we continue vetting a candidate until their weaknesses tip the scales to a no go or we get to the end and have a full picture. Yes, it’s okay to conduct 4 interviews with a candidate and not hire them.

So what do you do when you get to the end of your interview process and you don’t have a clear answer regarding the candidate? No Answer, is an Answer.

The Added Bonus to Properly Vetting a Weakness.

We gained more than confidence in our selection process since we adopted this approach when hiring for the Sales Talent team. When we hire someone, we do it with full knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses. Armed with this information, their sales and recruiting training gets adjusted to help them exploit their strengths and minimize or strengthen their areas of weakness. We also adjust the long-term coaching they receive. These tweaks have dramatically decreased ramp up time and increased employee engagement.


Chris Carlson

President and founder of Sales Talent Inc, a B2B sales recruiting firm. Based near Seattle, WA we place sales reps, sales engineers and sales leaders across North America.