The Hire Sense

Do Not Trust Myers-Briggs

Well, that is my paraphrasing of this author’s post.  The Myers-Briggs test is common throughout many business-world assessments and it serves a purpose.  The difficulty I have always had with it is the binary aspect of the assessment.  You are either Extroverted or Introverted…there is no grey area.  I think the author explains it well:

More problematic, though, is that it classifies personalities by a binary preference for a particular trait. In reality, however, most people exist on a spectrum between the two and can vary between them from week to week…

Agreed.  People are the ultimate variable and far from binary.  I think the best use of the Myers-Briggs assessment is to define preferences, but not to make hiring decisions based off of it.

If you are looking for a reliable assessment tool that does provide grayscale depth, I recommend our DISC-based, Selling Style Assessment (more details here).

Hiring What You Need To Know

Experience is a tricky component to successful sales hiring in that it is often overvalued.  Don’t get me wrong, it is important, but you never want to overvalue it.  The reason is that you can teach new salespeople about your product or service a lot easier than you can teach them how to sell.  A sports analogy (I know, often overused) – it is far easier to teach a football wide receiver what routes to run in your offense than it is to teach them how to run a 4.3 40 yard dash.  Some will simply never run a 4.3.  This is why talent is far more valuable to successful hiring.

This Entrepreneur.com article discusses this point in clear terms:

You’ll notice that I didn’t mention experience, and that is for good reason. When you find a great talent who is passionate about what your organization is doing, experience doesn’t matter. Great people can decipher what they need to learn in order to be successful. Twenty five years in the same industry or with the same company is not necessarily a good thing. It’s much harder to unlearn what you know then learn what you need to know.

Agreed.  The author discusses talent in terms of attitude, competency and mindset in an intriguing manner.  As they say, read the entire thing.

Revealing Resumes

We run a systematic hiring process for sales positions.  We have refined the process over the past 14 years and have it optimized (even though when we started we were writing newspaper employment ads!).  As part of any hiring process, you have to receive resumes of respondents to the ad.  This is where things are changing.

A new trend I am seeing is resumes with copy and paste information from job descriptions, websites, etc.  What I mean is candidates do not take the time to write about their skills and experience in their current or previous roles.  They simply use web/marketing copy that they paste into their resume.  I have also seen many resumes with the job description information pasted into their experience.

For example:

“You will call on mid-market companies to sell our cloud-based service.”

That is someone’s experience for their current job.  Amazing.  What is worse is that this position is selling marketing services.

I like to remind hiring managers that this is the best the candidate has to offer.  The interview process should reveal the best of what they have to offer, from writing to phone discussions to follow-up.  If their best in this phase isn’t good enough for the role, do not expect improvement if you add them to your sales team.

Approaching Via The Ad

I recently read this line in an approach email/ad for a sales position:

Do you have open availability that includes holidays, days, nights and weekends?

To be honest, it appears to be a retail position, but my word, I would not lead with that fact in an ad.  Think of that sentence…what times are not covered by that statement?  I would not recommend ever making a job appear to be a 24/7 proposition.

How GPA’s Matter In Hiring

They don’t.  That is the conclusion from Google based on their own internal research.  Some info from the New York Times article:

“One of the things we’ve seen from all our data crunching is that G.P.A.’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless — no correlation at all except for brand-new college grads, where there’s a slight correlation,” Bock said. “Google famously used to ask everyone for a transcript and G.P.A.’s and test scores, but we don’t anymore, unless you’re just a few years out of school. We found that they don’t predict anything.

Mind you, this is research from inside Google – they know a thing or two about data analysis.  I’ve told many hiring companies that GPA’s just don’t matter in the real world, especially for sales hiring.  Give me a street savvy, strong qualifying salesperson any day over a book smart, ivory tower salesperson.  It is best to find candidates that fit both criteria, but GPA is not a reliable predictor of future success.

The feedback from Google’s research on the best strategy for successful hiring (emphasis mine):

Bock said it’s better to use questions like, “Give me an example of a time when you solved an analytically difficult problem.” He added: “The interesting thing about the behavioral interview is that when you ask somebody to speak to their own experience, and you drill into that, you get two kinds of information. One is you get to see how they actually interacted in a real-world situation, and the valuable ‘meta’ information you get about the candidate is a sense of what they consider to be difficult.”

Yes, drill down is what we like to call it.  I believe it is the single most important interview skill – you must be able to drill down on responses to peel back the veneer and get to the core of the candidate’s response.

Interrogating A Prospect

Questions are the backbone of qualifying any sales opportunity.  Yet, many salespeople seem to flounder with this approach and I believe it comes from over coaching/training.  Ask this series of questions, use this linguistic trick, turn the tables on them…improper use of these “moves” stands out to every prospect.

To that point, here is an excellent excerpt from a recent Eye on Sales article:

We’ve all been taught the difference between closed-end and open-ended questions. We’ve been given instructions on when to use which type question.  Some trainers have given us formulas; others have given us specific questions to ask.

It’s these detailed guidelines that seem to get many sellers in trouble–that gets their questions to resemble Gestapo tactics rather than a discussion with a prospect.

So how do you use questions without intimidating or badgering?

The answer is actually quite simple—don’t interrogate your prospects.  Instead, of trying to figure out whether to ask an open-end or closed-end question here or which specific question to ask now, just ask the natural questions you’d ask your friends if you were trying to understand their problems.

I know, it sounds simplistic, but it is crucial to successful qualifying.  I have seen far too many salespeople use questions and questioning tactics in a clumsy, impersonal way.  When you experience this approach, the salesperson seems to be pulling tools out of a toolbox and using them with little to no rapport.  This approach is embarrassing to witness as it does put the prospect into the interrogation chair.

Much of selling comes down to one simple approach – having a conversation.  Forget about the toolbox, tricks and techniques for a minute and start a conversation with a purpose to learn what you need to learn to qualify them.  The most effective salespeople are the ones who can maintain this conversational approach while still acquiring the information they need.

6 Practices of Innovative Companies

From the Herman Trend Newsletter:

BCG also highlights six practices of the most innovative companies and explores how those practices have played out at innovation leaders across a range of industries:

1) Get the customer involved early.

2) Use data to drive tough decision-making.

3) Think strategically about tradeoffs.

4) Ensure senior leadership commitment.

5) Envision innovation as a holistic system.

6) Optimize intellectual property to create value.

I think that is a spot-on list.  I was drawn to number 3 – think strategically about tradeoffs.  In dealing with smaller, entrepreneurial companies, I see the founders often fail in this area (fail to the point of liquidating).  It is critical to think strategically (i.e. objectively) when setting course or changing direction in an innovative company no matter what size.

Tattoos Hurt You

I’ve written about this before, but it keeps coming around – tattoos hurt your chances of landing a job according to this salary.com article.  I am a bit old to participate in the tattoo craze so I probably come across as a stodgy old man on this topic.  However, the millennials seem to be enthralled with tattoos even in open sight.  To give you proof:

A recent study from the Pew Research Center found nearly 40% of people between the ages of 18 and 29 have at least one tattoo…

Think about that stat – 40%!  That is more than a fad.  But here is where the problem develops:

The biggest takeaways from our survey include a whopping 76% of respondents feel tattoos and piercings hurt an applicant’s chances of being hired during a job interview. And more than one-third – 39% of those surveyed – believe employees with tattoos and piercings reflect poorly on their employers. Furthermore, 42% feel visible tattoos are always inappropriate at work, with 55% reporting the same thing about body piercings.

I don’t care for tattoos and I don’t understand the appeal.  If they have this significant drag on hiring success, I would strongly encourage people to avoid them.

Call me old-fashioned.

3 Ways The Brain Handles Info

This article is from Eye on Sales with some key points about how our brains handle information (emphasis mine):

It all goes back to how your brain is wired to work. Despite how advanced our technology has become, the brain inside your head is brilliantly primitive.

There are really only three ways that our brain handles any information that it receives:

If it’s boring or expected, the brain ignores it.

If it’s too complex, the brain dramatically summarizes it.

If it’s threatening, the brain makes you fight or run.

So what you’re saying doesn’t really matter.

Especially if the brain in the person listening to you is feeling threatened or fatigued or flat-out bored. You lose.

So how do you change this? How do you say what needs to be said in a way that gets the right people to listen without their brain killing your sales speak a few millisecond after it leaves your lips?

(It’s certainly not easy. And it probably feels awkward at first.)

But here are a few ideas to help you manage brain parts and conquer better;

  1. Ask more questions than you make statements.
  2. Don’t pretend to be somebody that you’re not.
  3. If things “don’t make sense”, say so.
  4. Talk about the “elephant in the room” first.
  5. Look between the lines for personal issues.
  6. Care on the inside.

In terms of successful selling, you cannot overstate the importance of the first bullet listed above.

Managing Paradoxes

From the Herman Trend Alert email newsletter (sorry, no link):

Agile Thinking Skills. In this period of sustained economic and political uncertainty, and, agile thinking and the ability to prepare for multiple scenarios is vital. In industries that face significant regulatory and environmental challenges, including life sciences, and energy and mining, the ability to prepare for multiple scenarios is especially important—72 percent and 71 percent respectively, compared with 55 percent for the overall population of respondents. To succeed in the changing marketplace of the future, HR executives also placed a high premium on innovative thinking (46.0 percent), dealing with complexity and managing paradoxes (42.9 percent).

I couldn’t agree more with them – “agile thinking” is critical in the today’s world.  Everything is moving faster which inevitably leads to change.  The best candidates we assess have strong scores in these agile areas – Practical Thinking, Theoretical Problem Solving, Using Common Sense, Intuitive Decision Making – these are all measurable traits that help identify the strongest candidate.

So much has changed over the past decade that it is problematic that companies continue to use outdated hiring models.  There are better tools today, tools that will provide more insight into an external candidate that what you may know about an existing employee!  May I suggest you test drive one of these assessments to see the power behind them?  Contact me if you would like to see what is available today.

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