Making a good hire

It seems like every client I have currently is trying to find qualified salespeople as well as hang on to the good ones they have.

At first glance it seems as if those would be pretty easy tasks. Hiring is simple enough. Prepare a job description, write an ad, screen resumes, interview, hire. Unfortunately it is not so.

Several factors are making this more difficult than ever before. In Reno and across the nation we have very low unemployment. That means that there are not a lot of people looking for jobs. Roger Herman in his book, The Impending Crisis: Too Many Jobs, Too Few People," tells us that economists predict that by 2010 there will be too few people to fill the open positions in the U.S. Although some criticize his work, there is already truth to this in many fields such as nursing, accounting and sales. In Reno, these shortages are already happening. Besides my own clients, I get requests almost daily from companies who are looking for salespeople.

You're not the person I hired

So how do you find good salespeople in a market like this? There are several things you can do and the first is read "You're Not the Person I Hired" by Boydell, Deutsch and Remillard. I highly recommend it. It is a great how-to guide, and there are so many things covered that most of us don't think about. After reading it, I confirmed my feeling that the vast majority of you should find a professional recruiting agency to do the work. I know that many companies believe they can't afford this but I have learned over the past 10 years that it almost always costs more to try and recruit and hire on your own unless you have an inside recruiter and plenty of HR people to help. A bad hire can cost you big dollars, but worse it may hurt your reputation.

Knowing that despite my urging many of you will hire salespeople without assistance I am going to give you my best tips on how to improve your hiring process.

Right ad draws right people

Job description - Recruiting starts with an excellent job description and performance standards. Once everyone agrees on those the job ad can be written.

Job ad - A well written job ad will attract the right kind of people. The authors of "You're Not the Person I Hired" have a great example in the book. The job ad should be about the person, not your company. It should describe the attributes the ideal candidate will have. It should entice high performers to send you their resumes.

Ad placement - This is crucial. The best-written job ad will do nothing for you if the right people don't see it. The first thing I recommend is to send the ad out to everyone in your company. Someone who is already and employee may be interested. Then ask them to refer anyone they know who is interested. Ask them to send it to colleagues, family and friends in the local area. EDAWN does a great job of this and they find excellent people. Post the ad in Career Builders and on and then get creative. Find other job posting sites within your industry. Be sure the ad is posted on your own website.

Resume screening - This is the toughest part but if you have a solid job description and placed a good ad you should have some good resumes. It is easy to look good on paper; it is also easy to look bad.

Immediately eliminate any resumes that are sloppy or have errors. Next start looking for results not job duties. Does the candidate state the results achieved at previous jobs? Does the candidate have the needed education and skills? Has the candidate been in similar work situations? Is the language used positive and engaging?

Look at as many resumes as you can. It is not always possible but I recommend that you find at least three candidates before you start the interview process. This gives those involved in the interview process some means of comparison. Do what you can to get several at the same time because candidates won't wait weeks to see if you are interested, someone else will snap them up. A good job ad properly placed should bring you a good amount of resumes to choose from.

Prepare questions - You would do well to consult an expert here. All of the questions should be planned in advance and address the requirements in the job description and ad.

Behavioral interviewing is the way to go. According to Quintessential Careers ( "The premise behind behavioral interviewing is that the most accurate predictor of future performance is past performance in similar situations. Behavioral interviewing, in fact, is said to be 55 percent predictive of future on-the-job behavior, while traditional interviewing is only 10 percent predictive."

There is a lot of information in books on hiring and on the internet. is one I have used. It has some good examples of behavioral-based interview questions and other resources. There is also good information in "You're Not the Person I Hired."

Questions are the answer

It is important to plan all of the questions in advance. You should plan appropriate questions for each interview. The first interview on the phone serves as another screening, so questions that will screen the candidate in or out should be asked. The second interview may be face-to-face, one-to-one or with a team. Everyone involved in the interview should be prepared to ask questions. There should be questions about past situations and performance that will indicate the candidate's future success as well as questions to determine the character of the candidate. A third interview may be necessary and more questions that will reveal the character and potential of the candidate should be asked. It may be helpful to ask some of the same questions during the different interview sessions to see if the candidate answers consistently.

In order to be successful in comparing candidates the same questions should be asked to each. Another thing to consider is that when you have several members of your organization participate you need to make sure each knows what role to play during the interview and what questions to ask. Determine that in advance and do a run through so that everyone is comfortable. It is important that the person who will manage the new hire and some of the people who will work with the new hire be involved in a team interview.

In my next column, we'll dig into effective interviewing and how to check candidates' backgrounds.

Alice R. Heiman is president of Reno-based ARH Consulting. She'd like to hear your stories about building a sales culture at your company. Send them to


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