09 Oct 2014

Where Most Interviewers Go Wrong (Part 2)

In Part 1 I addressed the need to explore concerns and “Red Flags” that get uncovered during an interview.  The follow-up to this is when should you ignore a “Red Flag” or concern?

sales

A pet peeve of mine is when a solid candidate gets passed on for a reason that does not relate to the candidate’s ability to perform or fit in with the team and company.  This very topic is discussed in depth in “Moneyball” by Michael Lewis which will be the topic of a future blog.  So how do you know when your “red flag” or concern doesn’t correlate with actual sales performance.  I’ll give you a few:

  1.  The issue is easily correctable.  Is this a coachable problem? Is this a coachable candidate? If you like everything else about the candidate and their strengths align with the toughest part of your position, I’d caution you to not pass on that candidate.  You just might end up hiring a candidate that doesn’t have this issue but has nowhere near the strengths in the areas that count.  Ben Horowitz in “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” goes into fantastic detail on this topic in his chapter on How to Hire a VP of Sales.
  2.  The candidate reminds me of another person that failed.  When I hear this I want to know what aspect reminds them and why the original person failed.  There is a clear difference between sales professionals sharing a style and sharing weaknesses.  Focus on identifying strengths and vet concerns.
  3.  Does this issue correlate with success or failure in your environment? Do you even have a large enough sales force that you can definitively answer that question? I’ve been on the inside and gotten to know a sizeable % of the top reps with several companies that have sales forces with 50+ sales reps.  If you isolate any one characteristic such as polish, presence or even years of sales experience prior to joining the company and rank those reps from the best to the worst you will find, at best, a loose correlation between that ranking and the actual sales #s of the reps.  Unfortunately, there are some seriously polished and articulate sales professionals that don’t sell that much, for example.
  4. You haven’t properly identified the top 3-5 strengths required for a rep to achieve success.  If you can’t answer this question you are simply guessing when you interview.  At best, you’ll be able to identify if you like the candidate, if you would buy from them and if they have achieved a measure of success in a different environment.  Honestly, I think this is why a lot of hiring managers get fixated on hiring from their competitors.  They simply don’t know how to consistently identify talent that will succeed in their environment.  I’ll discuss the dangers of this approach in a future post – The Dangers of Hiring From the Competition.

These four reasons just scratch the surface of reasons why you shouldn’t pass on a candidate simply because you don’t like an aspect of their personality or background.  When in doubt, ask a follow-up question every time you uncover a concern.  Does this concern/weakness have any correlation with failure? If so, how much and does the candidate’s strengths warrant overlooking this?


Chris Carlson

President and founder of Sales Talent Inc, a B2B sales recruiting firm. We place sales reps, sales engineers and sales leaders across North America. Employers can click here to learn more about our sales recruiting services. Candidates can view our current sales openings here.