Sales Hires: What Lurks Below?

Matching candidates to the job can help navigate the icebergs in the hiring process.

Source: Channel Executive Magazine

By: Kathy Meader, RSPA VP of Education

You’ve just interviewed an outstanding candidate. The resume was well-written. It showcased her sales skills and lengthy industry experience as well as sales performance. She arrived early for her interview, asked all the right questions, and answered all of yours. The other two team members who interviewed her thought she would be the perfect person to lead the new team. Fast-forward six months, and there is a very different picture. The fit is not as perfect as the team thought it would be. She has struggled to get the data right in all the forecasts, the team missed last quarter’s plan, and many of the sales reps are frustrated with the lack of leadership. Bottom line: she is not the perfect fit you predicted she would be.

Does this scenario sound familiar? This is one of the most painful situations for any hiring manager. It inflicts pain because it is costly, it drains productivity, and it decreases a team’s morale. All companies have a unique mission and vision, but all companies also desire to be great places to work. How can leaders foster a great place to work through better hiring decisions? The answer lies in a paradigm shift from candidate hiring to job match hiring. Job match is the ability to match people to the success attributes of a role, a team, and a company.

All too often, organizations use candidate fit hiring practices, relying on resumes, interviews, and what they can see on the surface. In fact, SHRM estimates that 63 percent of all hiring decisions are made in the first 4.3 minutes of an interview. Wow! This approach is problematic, and here’s why. Picture an iceberg. An iceberg, on the surface, is a beautiful and majestic work of nature, and we are easily enamored as it comes into view. However, what lies beneath the surface, what we can’t see, can cause a lot of damage. In the age of technology, every candidate should have an impressive cover letter and resume. With enough coaching and practice, most candidates can pull off a couple of good interviews. Finding the elusive “great candidate” is an age-old challenge. The Harvard Business Review states that “job matching” more accurately predicts job success than any commonly accepted factors such as education, experience, and job training. This sounds good, but if finding someone with the right skills and experience is challenging, logic would tell us that finding someone who has skills and experience and fits the job success criteria, is almost impossible. Good news: It is not impossible when we, as leaders, are willing to help our teams look beyond the resume and interview, at what isn’t in plain sight on the surface. To look below the surface requires a special tool — a job match tool. When organizations enhance their hiring process through the use of job match tools, they strengthen their defense against bad hiring decisions.

What does a job matching tool tell us about candidates? The answer is nothing we haven’t already learned. But a job match tool provides companies with the “combination” to unlock potential success in a specific role. There are many different job match assessments available with similarities and differences among them. What makes them useful is their objective perspective on the candidate in key areas like mental ability, behavior, and long-term career interests.

  • Is the person mentally equipped to handle the responsibilities of the job?
  • How will the person behave in the company environment?
  • Is this person genuinely motivated and satisfied with doing this type of work?

Let’s take a closer look at each of these questions to better understand how a job match assessment can facilitate better hiring decisions.

SCENARIO 1: A small company hires a new sales manager. In this fast-paced environment, there is no formal training program and very little product documentation. New hires often receive their training on the job. This demands that new employees be able to process large volumes of information at one time and retain what they are learning. The new sales manager, although extremely intelligent, is a slow, methodical learner and struggles when there is too much information to process at one time.

With the help of a job match assessment, a hiring manager could have seen that this candidate’s learning style preference was one where information is delivered in an organized and methodical method, a few pieces at a time. This would have raised a red flag with them because there is no formal or organized training in the small company. New hires are often “drinking from a fire hose” for the first several months. The potential mismatch for the role would have surfaced.

SCENARIO 2: Sam has been hired at ABC company as an analyst. ABC company has a contemporary office environment complete with an open floor plan, collaboration areas with whiteboards and beanbags, a break room designed for socializing, and no individual offices. At his last two companies, he was a top performer, and he had stellar references and good interviews. His candidate aptitude test score was also very high. However, Sam prefers to keep to himself most of the time and does not enjoy small talk. Sam’s manager is puzzled when, after 30 days, things are not going very well.

A person’s desire to interact with others, or sociability, is a critical factor in job fit. People with lower sociability may struggle with an open office floor plan and collaboration areas. These environments are designed to drive collaboration, strengthen relationships, and promote dialogue and communication. Less sociable people may find it exhausting to interact in groups or talk to people all day, every day. They may be better suited for a traditional office or cubicle environment where they can control the amount of interaction, and recharge when needed. Sam’s low sociability would have surfaced with the help of a job match assessment.

SCENARIO 3: A successful street sales rep is hired to manage an inside sales team at an established company. While the sales representative is experienced and certainly qualified to manage a sales team, the routine and structure of the telephone sales environment wears on him. He has always loved the challenge of walking the streets, pulling door handles, and getting to know the prospects and their businesses. One day, he would like to own his own small business. Now, his days are structured and predictable, and his weeks are filled with reporting and coaching salespeople on the same three to five telephone scripts. After three months, he leaves the company. When matching candidates to jobs, engagement, motivation, and passion are equally important considerations as the way someone thinks and acts. A job match assessment could have identified a misalignment between the sales rep’s interests and those of someone who matches job success criteria and, perhaps, prompted the hiring manger to explore the issue further.

At the end of the day, one of the biggest areas of financial exposure is a mistake or a bad hire that requires a reset and lost time. To make it worse, organizations will often take days, weeks, months, or longer to correct the problem. Meanwhile, the meter is running, productivity suffers, and team morale is impacted. Hiring will never be an exact science, but we can decrease the amount of subjectivity in the process. We will never bat a thousand, but a job match tool can help bring more consistency to our hitting. As leaders, we have the responsibility to reduce risk and help our managers increase the probability of hiring candidates who will be successful. When we do, we are putting money in the bank.

Qualifications and experience are important for success. A job fit is vital for success.

KATHY MEADER is the vice president of member education services at RSPA. Kathy develops the road map for the RSPA Academy and owns the content delivery strategy.