How to Avoid Hiring Bad Apples

by Cheryl Powers

Despite what I see in my news feed, my experience has shown me that most humans are decent, well-meaning, and kind. And when you agree to bring someone into your company as an employee, those are important qualities to screen for throughout your recruitment process. But let's be clear: it takes more than nice people to get the job done.

"The next thing you know, this CEO or business owner and their executive team is spending precious time and costly resources interviewing nice, well-meaning candidates who are not suited for the position."

I can't tell you how many times a CEO or business owner who has paid our firm to help them select stronger, more qualified sales and sales management candidates, abandon the process we put in place and start falling in love with candidates who are not recommended because they don't have the skills or competencies for the position but they appear to look good on their resume. The next thing you know, this CEO or business owner and their executive team is spending precious time and costly resources interviewing nice, well-meaning candidates who are not suited for the position.

Some get so enamored with unqualified candidates, they stop running their employment ads, which cuts off the supply of new potentially qualified candidates and leaves them with too few options for making a good decision.

Some settle early, having fallen in love with a candidate's background, voice, attire, or "look" that they discount any relevant findings or facts that come out in the process.

This is when I begin to channel Jerry Maguire. Not for my sake, mind you. They've already paid me. No, this is for them. This is for the sake of the new process, which if they use it correctly, will guarantee them a salesperson who makes it to the top half of their sales force within six months. Or if they are hiring a sales manager, it will guarantee that the manager can and will be able to execute on their sales priorities.

For the sake of their company. For the sake of their customers. For the sake of their shareholders. And for the sake of all that should be good and revered about growing revenue through a competent, role aligned, culturally suited, skillful, strong, able, willing, and qualified sales team -- stop spending time with the candidates that aren't recommended. "Only take the candidates that we recommended through our rigorous and proven screening and hiring process and then only choose the candidate or candidates that are the most qualified to do the job", I say.

I implore them to stop allowing their old confirmation biases to take over because it will simply lead to the same abysmal results they are trying to change. It's not an easy ask on my part. And it takes a great deal of leadership and determination on their part to set aside those biases and to suspend disbelief that sales hiring can't get any better than it is. But that's the work. "It will only change when you change", I tell them. "You decide what you are willing to accept and you hold your team accountable to that standard."

The sales profession has developed a bad reputation. And I believe that a great deal of that centers around abysmal sales hiring practices. I've said before that hiring salespeople and hiring sales managers is different from hiring any other role in your organization. You would never consider hiring a bookkeeper who couldn't add up the numbers. It wouldn't matter what they wore to the interview or how impressive they looked, math is math. If they can't account for your numbers, you can't afford to hire them. No question about it.

But a salesperson somehow gets a pass. Why? Because you're confused. No one ever told you that a salesperson who was successful selling for another company might not be successful selling for your company. No one ever showed you that there are quantifiable factors in that make the difference between a successful salesperson and another unsuccessful salesperson. Think about your current sales team.

You likely have a split between salespeople who are making their numbers and executing on your mission and those who aren't.

Why? Why can some of your salespeople be counted on to hit their targets while others can't seem to consistently make goal? If you don't know why you can't predict a successful hire. When you find out, you can make meaningful changes that lead to significant revenue growth. You'll still have to overcome the psychological factors and suspend your disbelief that all of your salespeople can be top producers. But that's what I'm here for.

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