Interview candidates with a purpose – template

If you are a bit new to recruiting and interviewing, and need some basic tips and tricks, continue reading. As with most things in Sales Management, putting a little structure and thought behind your recruiting will enhance your chances of selecting the right person and getting off to a great start as a manager.

 

In this article we have put together some general guidelines and tips to help you prepare for your interviews.

 

 

Who do I want to work with?

The first area to spend some time on is to define what is truly important for the role.

 

“HARD” SKILLS

 

We all understand the importance of understanding your advanced technology, or that the candidate has a great network, extremely experienced at the same time as young, hungry and full of energy. We can call these the “hard” skills. They are often tangible, more easily measurable – and 9 times of 10, are what managers I talk to mention as the most important criteria when recruiting.

 

On the concrete or “hard” competences, you will want to evaluate the candidates

  • market knowledge and network in the territory
  • product and technology understanding
  • sales skills/technique competences

 

“SOFT” TRAITS

 

Very often the “soft” abilities are passed to a second plane, they are more difficult to define and measure, or even to talk about. Yet, they are key to a successful transition into your team and to reach productivity.

 

In The LinkedIn State of Sales Report 2020: U.S. Edition, 500 buyers and 500 salesreps/managers were asked what 10 characteristics buyers desire from salespeople compared to the characteristics sales managers look for in the sales reps they hire. Buyers were ranking Active Listening, Problem solving, Confidence (Trust), Relationship Building and Communication skills as the top 5 traits. Technology understanding, Years of Experience, Industry Expertise came lower.

 

During your interviews, pay special attention to that the candidate:

  • will adapt to the context and support network you have in your company
  • learn well and can adapt to ways of working
  • is open to change
  • will fit in your culture, make it easy to work together
  • share similar values, and will subscribe to the corporate values

 

 

Recruiting the right person to the wrong place

 

There are only too many examples of great salespeople – absolute top performers who are recruited into a different context but selling something very similar to the same people, who still failed to succeed or even get close to the previous success. The “hard” competences all fit, product/technology, market/industry, contact network, and demonstrated sales methods and techniques, all “check!”, yet they fail, why?

 

What happens is that the soft abilities and cultural fit just don’t align with how your team and company works. This is everything from your internal team dynamics, culture and jargon, but also misalignment with the expected surrounding support, HR, pre/tech sales, support, services, marketing etc.

 

 

Two classical scenarios:

  • the medium sized company who decide to open a new sales office in a new country/market, and hire a top manager from the incumbent competitor for the job. This is always a bad idea, as the first person in the market need to do all the work him/herself initially, and there is no support network yet.
  • large corporation that hires people from startups often find it difficult to accommodate for the hires appetite for creativity and room for own decisions, and the employee often feels hindered and suffocating under all processes.

 

Note that we are not saying one is better than the other, but as hiring managers, we must be conscious of our own ways, culture, and values, and must be sensitive to which candidates will fit in our context.

 

 

The Process

 

DEFINE KEY EVALUATION CRITERIA

 

Make sure to complete the “hard” job descriptions with the most important “soft” characteristics you are looking for. Then design the interview template that help you evaluate the candidate in all these dimensions. You can download a simple template clicking the button below.

 

USING TESTS

The more important you deem the values, culture and other “soft” skills are for the role, you may want to consider a personality test, and make sure you prepare your interview well and focus on these areas. If you are using an agency, they can often set up a DISC test or similar for you.

If the job require technical skills, set up a test that your candidate need to solve, or ask them to prepare a convincing sales meeting if recruiting telesales.

 

MULTIPLE INTERVIEWS

Do have at least 2 people apart from yourself interview the candidate throughout the process. Let them meet with different personalities and roles, to catch possible moments where non desired behaviours come up to the surface. You will get a moch more complete picture of the candidate. After each round do set up a debrief with the interviewers, and run through the evaluation criteria.

 

 

Interview template

To help you structure the interview, we propose a simple template that you can follow. It should not be a questionnaire, but list the key competences and personal traits you will want to evaluate.

 

Use it as a support that help you formulate questions and conduct the conversation so that in the end you feel confident all areas were covered to your satisfaction. The question in all cases being:

  • “How well/badly do I think the candidate will be doing……?”
  • “Will the candidate be strong enough in ……..?”
  • “Is the candidate motivated and able to learn this ……. quickly”

 

 

Download template

 

Prepare by thinking through each area, and note what specifics you will want to know, and how to formulate the question to get the answers you need.

 

Remember to ask for relevant references, and to complete the interview with a contact to those references.