Interview candidates with a purpose – free template
If you are a bit new to recruiting and interviewing, and feel you could use 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.
We all understand the importance of understanding your advanced technology, or that the candidate has a great network, is extremely experienced, and is 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, they are what managers I talk to mention as the most important criteria when recruiting.
On the concrete or “hard” competencies, you will want to evaluate the candidates
- market knowledge and network in the territory
- product and technology understanding
- sales skills/technique competencies
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 ranked active listening, problem solving, confidence (trust), relationship building and communication skills as the top 5 traits. Technology understanding, years of experience, and industry expertise came lower.
During your interviews, pay special attention that the candidate:
- will adapt to the context and support network you have in your company
- will learn well and can adapt to ways of working
- is open to change
- will fit in your culture, making it easy to work together
- shares 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” competencies all fit. Product/technology, market/industry, contact network, and demonstrated sales methods and techniques were all “check!” yet they failed. Why?
What happens is that the soft abilities and cultural fit just don’t align with how your team and company work. 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 decides to open a new sales office in a new country/market, and hires a top manager from the incumbent competitor for the job. This is always a bad idea, as the first person in the market needs to do all the work themselves initially, and there is no support network yet.
- A large corporation that hires people from startups often finds it difficult to accommodate the new hire’s appetite for creativity and room for own decisions, and the employee often feels hindered and suffocated under all the 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 we must be sensitive to which candidates will fit in our context.
DEFINE KEY EVALUATION CRITERIA
Make sure to complete the “hard” job descriptions with the most important “soft” characteristics you are looking for. Then design an interview template that helps you evaluate the candidate in all these dimensions. You can download a simple template by clicking the button below.
The more important you deem the values, culture, and other “soft” skills for the role, the more you may want to consider a personality test. 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 something similar for you.
If the job requires technical skills, set up a test that your candidate needs to solve, or ask them to prepare a convincing sales meeting if recruiting telesales.
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 much more complete picture of the candidate. After each round, set up a debrief with the interviewers, and run through the evaluation criteria.
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 competencies and personal traits you will want to evaluate.
Use it as a support to help you formulate questions and conduct the conversation so that in the end, you feel confident all areas were covered to your satisfaction. The questions 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”
Prepare by thinking through each area, and note what specifics you want to know, and how to formulate the question to get the answers you need.
Remember to ask for relevant references, and complete the interview by contacting those references.