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Archive for April, 2007

Hottest Job Markets

These types of stories seem to come out once a quarter.  This time offers America’s best jobs in the hottest markets.  I’m sure you are wondering who is number 1.


The 2 year job growth forecast for that city is 6.8%.  In fact, 5 of the top 15 cities are located in Florida while 3 others are located in Texas.

Proof Of Thesis Interviewing

There is a style of interviewing that we encounter frequently that leads many companies down a hiring path they should avoid.  I call it “Proof of Thesis” interviewing and here is how it works.

The hiring company publishes a job description on a major job board or, heaven forbid, in a printed newspaper.  The hiring company refers to the published job description as a “sales ad.”  It is not, but that is a topic for another post.

Phone calls are generally discouraged.  Email copies or resumes are passable.  Complex and frustrating navigation through an online applicant tracking system is preferred.  So the applicants respond and resumes pour in to the hiring company.

Some form of a superficial sort occurs that simply separates the absolute “no’s” (based solely on their resume) from the doubtfuls, possibles and probables.

The latter pile is passed on to the hiring manager for his or her expert summation of the salesperson’s abilities.  Although the process has many weak links, this point is usually the weakest.  Here’s why – the hiring manager forms a biased opinion of the candidate often without knowing it.

Biases are a part of human nature therefore they are difficult to neutralize.  Since this is the case, we use a hiring process that limits the impact of these biases.  Yet, we still see them appear at times.

The most common spot for these biases to occur is just before the initial interview.  It is at this stage that we present candidate information which includes phone screen results, assessment results and the candidate’s resume.  It is almost astounding how often we encounter hiring managers who review the resume and make broad generalizations about the sales candidate.

Generalizations include statements such as:

“They cannot sell products.”

“They cannot sell services.”

“Their experience isn’t relevant to our sale.”

“They won’t be able to learn our (fill in the blank).”

There are a host of other statements we often hear.  The statements may be true, but why not discuss such topics with the candidate?  Unfortunately, the bias continues during the interview which is problematic.

We have experienced this fact first hand.  A hiring manager makes a biased generalization about a sales candidate and then attempts to prove that generalization during the interview.  Hence, my phrase “proof of thesis” interviewing.  The superceding goal of the interview is to justify the preconceived bias.

This approach is compounded by companies that use the interview as the first live filter.  The hiring manager has a tendency towards false positives – essentially viewing a weak candidate as strong.  Conversely, the hiring company has probably filtered out strong candidates in the resume-sort step.

The solution here is to rely on structured interactions with the applicants to view their sales abilities live.  Take the appropriate steps to be as objective and open-minded as possible.  All hiring, to some extent, comes down to a subjective decision.  The companies that take the steps to minimize these biases enlarge the talent pool from which to successfully hire.

A Shot At Perfectionism

Since I work with perfectionists and am not one myself, I was drawn to Penelope Trunk’s latest article – Breaking the Perfection Habit.  Let’s just jump into it:

Here are the reasons I can’t stand perfectionists:

€¢ Perfectionists procrastinate because they’re scared of not being perfect.

€¢ Perfectionists are hypercritical to the point that they can’t support people around them.

€¢ Perfectionists can’t finish a project because they can always think of a way to improve it.

€¢ Perfectionists are phony, because no one’s perfect and they can’t handle showing that in themselves.

Well, that is direct, isn’t it?  I harass one of our perfectionists for always making a left turn in a project when it is close to being completed – the third point sums that approach up succinctly.

I can’t top this:

2. You do better work if you aren’t worried about perfection.

Here’s a story I heard from Alexander Kjerulf, who was talking about David Bayles’s book “Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking“:

A ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of the work they produced. All those on the right would be graded solely on their works’ quality.

His procedure was simple: On the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the quantity group; 50 pound of pots rated an A, 40 pounds a B, and so on. Those being graded on quality, however, needed to produce only one pot — albeit a perfect one — to get an A.

At grading time, the works with the highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity.

It seems that while the quantity group was busily churning out piles of work — and learning from their mistakes — the quality group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of clay.

Think about this in your own life, even if you’re not using clay. The more you practice, the better you’ll get. But you can’t practice if you think only of perfection. Practice is about making mistakes; perfection comes from imperfection.

Read the whole thing.

Another Ad Writing Mistake

This is straight from an ad for a sales executive – the opening line:


The rest of the ad is in normal case so the upper case is, in effect, screaming. I would not recommend using upper case sentences in any ad. Starting a sales ad with this type of statement is an invitation to recycle mediocrity from within your industry.

The best method for hiring strong salespeople is to look for the skills and traits you need to be successful in your typical sale. Experience does not equate to success. Companies think their is less training with industry experience, shorter ramp times and some even think business will walk over with the salesperson.

These are all dangerous, and usually erroneous, assumptions.

Resume Blunders offers the commentary piece 10 dumbest resume blunders. This is an entertaining read to start your Friday. Just a sample:

9. … stated that he works well in the nude.

3. … explained a three-month gap in employment by saying that he was getting over the death of his cat.

The Psychology Of 2

We enjoy telling prospects that if we performed perfectly in our process, they would interview only 1 candidate and hire him or her.  That would be it – task completed.  But we aren’t that good and our clients seem to want more than one interview.

There is definitely a psychology behind 2 choices – people like choices especially when they are not certain of their selection.  When out of control, this desire for numbers can lead to a “never-good-enough” mindset that thinks there might be a slightly better candidate out there.  Probably true, but how long can you afford to wait and how much better will that candidate be?

Our approach is different in that we do not take an inclusive approach to hiring.  Instead we are exclusive.  What I mean by that is simple – our approach is to screen applicants for specific abilities and motivations.  We do this by phone screening and assessing – a far more objective approach than simply sorting resumes and conducting face-to-face interviews.

Through this process, we reduce a large applicant pool down to a qualified candidate group.  At times this approach can be troublesome in that some companies prefer to use numerous interviews to filter numerous applicants.  Some companies have contacted us about our services but are not interested in using us since they won’t have 10 different candidates to interview.

Selecting the right salesperson is not dependent upon a quantitative approach.  Quality of candidate is the key to finding the deep-seated sales abilities needed to succeed in a specific position.

The Feathers Are Fine

Velvet Hammer’s recent post, Retention Past Retirement, did not “ruffle my feathers.” Nice try, Hammer Boy.

As we read more and more about the “graying” of the workforce, it should stimulate some thoughts and conversation about experience and how to take advantage of the experienced workers wishing to remain active.

Elizabeth Hocking, writing in the Small Business Times had this to say:

To combat the graying of its workforce while recruiting and retaining younger employees, Cleaver Brooks started a mentoring program about two years ago. Older workers are paired with younger workers to share their experiences and mistakes, helping the younger workers move more quickly up the ladder, Pfefferkorn said.

€œ(The younger employees) benefit from 40 years of experience,€ Connor said. €œAnd to see them capitalizing on some knowledge that exists around here is rewarding.€

The mentoring program has had a positive influence on the overall attitude and work environment at Cleaver Brooks, Pfefferkorn said.

I certainly agree! My first sales manager was an excellent mentor. He was an extremely successful sales rep that made a successful transition to sales management with an attitude of sharing. I’ll never forget the time Charlie spent with me, along with the results.

His approach to mentoring people in his sales group lead to outstanding success for all the members of his team. I was fortunate to be one of those people. Even today, some 25 years later, I recall the ideas, concepts and mentoring.

So before Velvet Hammer puts me out to pasture, I’m hoping to share a few of Charlie’s concepts and approaches. Maybe after that I’ll worry about my old feathers.

An Objective Step For Hiring

We are strong proponents of using assessments for hiring – it is the backbone of our system. Yet, many people still have some hesitancy in completing the assessments. offers up Why Wasn’t I Interviewed After Taking Personality Quiz? which is a Q&A article about whether or not to complete the assessments.

This mindset is almost unbelievable to me. From the article:

Answer: Being asked to take a pre-employment personality test often puts candidates between a rock and a hard place. If you refuse, you won’t move further along in the hiring process. If you agree and take the test, you may be screened out without further contact with the company.

This type of thinking frustrates me. I realize the author is attempting to couch the question in common terms, but the article dances around the obvious point. Assessments objectively measure how well a candidate will fit to the job’s requirements.

Most candidates believe they are a strong fit for the position regardless of whether that thought is true. The power of the assessment lies in its objective ability to measure the candidate’s fit to the position. I cannot stress enough the term “objective.” People are not objective, assessments are.

Pre-employment tests come in many forms, but all are designed to assess characteristics and values that employers believe lead to success at their companies.

Exactly. The word “believe” is a bit loaded, but the point is true. As a candidate, I would think it valuable that a company takes its hiring seriously enough to invest in extra steps to hire the right person. I would be disappointed to sell myself into a position that was a mismatch to my abilities. That is frustrating for the employee and the employer.

Sales Traits Series – Empathetic Outlook

This week we look at a critical sales trait that involves the salesperson’s ability to read the other person. Obviously, this ability has a tremendous impact on success. One key note – there is a fine line between too much empathy and not enough. This key factor is an aptitude we measure in all salespeople.

Empathetic Outlook
This is the ability to perceive and understand the feelings and attitudes of others – to place oneself €œin-the-shoes€ of another and to be able to view a situation from their perspective. It involves being conscious of how one€™s actions will impact others.

A salesperson with strength in this trait will be able to appreciate how their actions impact others. They utilize this knowledge in a wide variety of scenarios from interacting with others to managing others.

A salesperson with weakness in this area may have difficulty understanding the needs and feelings of others. This may cause them to make decisions which do not sufficiently consider the needs of others.

Retention Past Retirement

Most companies are aware of the shrinking workforce for which we are encountering as the Baby Boomers start retiring.  One short-term fix is to simply employ these boomers past their retirement age.  This approach has many merits that will benefit a company.  However, a recent article from Small Business Times – Survey says employers need new hiring strategies – reveals that the vast majority of companies are not implementing any hiring adjustments for this shortage.

In the study of 1,000 U.S. employers, 78 percent indicated they were not concerned that an aging workforce might hamper their ability to recruit and retain talented workers. Additional findings support this sentiment, including the fact that only 28 percent of survey respondents reported having a strategy to retain workers past retirement age while just 18 percent have a strategy to recruit older workers.

In terms of managers, I suspect there are some out there who are quietly intimidated by older, more experienced workers.  The perception may be that some of these workers may be more skilled than the younger manager.  A plausible estimation.

Our typical day encompasses many sourcing activities through varied channels to find strong sales candidates for our customer’s positions.  The market is tight right now with record low unemployment. I am one who does not believe productivity will increase at a fast enough rate to cover the huge number of retiring boomers.  Adjustments will have to be made within the next 5 years to fill these positions.  Retaining older workers past retirement age is a natural fit.

We here at Select Metrix are doing our part by employing Red Bird as he prepares to join AARP.  That ought to ruffle his feathers.

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