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Archive for October, 2007

Benchmarking Pitfalls

We incorporate assessments into our hiring process and we sell assessments directly to companies. As you might guess, we are strong proponents of assessing candidates. Today’s ERE article presents an excellent explanation of what constitutes a “good” assessment.

It is a long article but definitely an interesting read. One topic we often discuss with prospective customers is benchmarking their top salespeople. We don’t do it. We benchmark the sale in that we define the parameters of a typical and ideal sale. This information leads to the job skills needed to succeed in the position.

Dr. Williams provides a clear description of the pitfalls of benchmarking top producers:

How does one define high-producer? By results or by actions that lead to results? It makes a big difference. Individuals in the high-producer group could have used different skills to get there. Some might be good politicians. Some might be very smart. Some might be taking credit for others’ work.

What about the confusion between correlation and causation? Just because ice-cream sales and shark attacks are correlated does not mean that one causes the other. Almost anything can be correlated, but not everything is causal. If you sort through enough garbage, you are likely to find correlations between cookie wrappers and hotdogs. So what? Your goal is to find a correlation between hotdogs and hotdog buns.

Cashing In On Skills

From the Career News newsletter (sorry, no link-my emphasis):

And a growing number of employees have concluded that the best way to move up is to move around. According to international-employment-matchmaker Randstad’s latest World of Work Survey, more than half of today’s employed are searching the Internet for a better situation; yet most profess to be happy in their current jobs, despite a 41-to-60-hour work week.

A just-released study by the Conference Board confirms that almost three-quarters of job-seekers are pounding virtual pavement. They’re scanning Internet job boards like or and networking with friends, acquaintances and friends of acquaintances on sites like Facebook and its business-networking predecessor LinkedIn.

Most job hunters simply scout employer offerings on job sites, but significant percentages also post resumes and register for e-mail alerts of openings. And these aren’t necessarily unhappy campers, insists Harris Interactive, which conducted the Randstad study. “This year, we see the highest workforce morale in three years, mirrored by impressions of improved productivity and less pessimism about the state of the job market,” writes Harris Senior Vice President Deanna Wert. “These workers are looking to cash in on their skills,” adds Wert, “and are more likely to switch jobs than at any time in the past five years.”

Retention will be one of the most important sales management topics of 2008.

Stuck In The Middle With You

When recruiting sales talent, we often get caught in the middle on one important topic. Timing. Sourcing a strong candidate who is looking to move at the right moment is a complex undertaking. Few salespeople will cash in their current job for blue-sky possibilities which is how most opportunities appear at the outset. As we approach Thanksgiving here in the States, the timing window shrinks.

With Q4 one third of the way complete, most salespeople have a good idea of how their quarter is going to finish up in terms of revenue and, more importantly, commission. On top of that, they probably have family time, holiday travel and time off already planned out on their schedule. Changing jobs now may interfere with some of those plans. These factors make the timing of a successful hire more difficult during the holiday season.

And there is another issue – how fast the hiring manager moves. Most hiring processes occur in the margins of the day. The sales manager is focused on growing revenue and hitting/exceeding targets. He or she does not necessarily place the highest priority on candidate hiring tasks. Often these activities are moved to non-sales times (outside of the 8 to 5 window), or they get pushed back. And let’s not forget that the hiring manager probably has the pressure of meeting their year-end revenue goals along with a busy holiday season.

So here we sit in the middle attempting to connect these two parties. The connection becomes more difficult when you include business travel, next-year planning/budget meetings and the ever-present customer surprises. It becomes a daunting task to move information at this point. Schedules, references, offers…all of these tasks become more difficult during the upcoming holiday window.

In terms of my sales manager days, I always found December to be a great time to onramp new salespeople heading into the new year. In order to accomplish this goal, I had to prioritize the time to work the hiring process. If you are hiring during Q4, I strongly encourage you to prioritize the hiring process during this time.

I Don’t Think He Got The Job

This story is from – Seven Deadly Interview Sins:

David Hoffman (CEO) recalls taking a candidate out for dinner for the final interview. The candidate impressed the hiring committee throughout several rounds of interviews and he was their choice to become a senior consultant…This informal meeting was the final hurdle.

The candidate drank so much scotch that Hoffman had to call an ambulance and the candidate was taken by stretcher to the hospital where he was treated for alcohol poisoning. “You think I’m embellishing but I’m not,” says Hoffman.

I shouldn’t laugh but I keep thinking of the CEO having to call an ambulance at the restaurant.

Working In A Totalitarian Culture

Corporate culture is an intriguing topic and one that is difficult to define. Lee and I both used to work for a company that attempted to measure, ascertain, define corporate culture through a homemade tool. It didn’t work, but the topic was still interesting.

I personally believe that culture is experienced directly from your manager. I worked in a company where my dictatorial manager created a department that was far different than other departments within sales.

In light of that theory, I give you this quick post from Stan O’Neal Failed the First Rule of Leadership. The pull quote:

Beth and the other interns were given a strict set of rules governing how they should behave in the presence of the new CEO. If they saw him walking down the hall, they were to stay out of the way and not speak to him. If they were waiting for an elevator and the door opened and they saw him inside, they were not to get on. If they were already in the elevator and he got on, they were to step to the rear and keep their mouths shut.

Now that is a culture I would not want to experience firsthand.

The Craig’s List Tragedy

The recent murder of a young woman responding to a Craig’s List ad here in Minnesota has saddened all of us. Although the details are still sketchy, it appears to be a heinous, planned murder.

Unfortunately, it has hit close to home with all of us at The Hire Sense. The murder occurred just 20 miles away from us in the same metropolitan county.

Furthermore, we know the victim’s uncle. He is the top candidate for one of the position’s we are selecting for one of our customers. I called the candidate yesterday to follow up on the next step in our process and was utterly stunned when he told me about his relationship to the victim. Obviously, everything is on hold with him as it should be. I was speechless especially after hearing the grief in his voice.

Their family is strong in their faith and, by all accounts, is dealing with this senseless tragedy in an admirable way. Our thoughts and prayers go out to them especially as they move forward with their lives.

And it is a good lesson to all in regards to responding to an ad of any sort. The most prudent path is to meet in a public location. We use coffee shops extensively to meet with candidates. They are public, high-traffic areas. Please keep this idea in mind and share it with anyone you know who is responding to a meeting request with someone they have never met before.

English Gone Very Wrong

The latest update to Cover Letters From Hell is out and it is quite entertaining. The cover letter errors will make you laugh along with the snarky commentary from Killian’s people.

One of my personal favorites this time (Killian’s comments in italics):

“i am a freeelance writer and have worked with a magazine for almost three years before. i came across ur advertisement in [name of magazine]. if you wish i can send you my cv along with some sample writings.”

“To seek career in a dynamic & well Organization which offer Good oppertunities & challenging revelant exposure, self enchancement & growth…”

While we have no idea what this means, we’re pretty sure “self-enchancement” is illegal in at least twelve states, even in the privacy of your own oppertunity.

Who Needs Contracts?

I was on a sales conference call with one of our national customers this morning. The sales manager went around the horn asking each salesperson what contract/documentation they use when closing a new customer.

The company is lacking a structured contract. I know, scary. But the salty old sales guy in the group who has had success over the years had a great reply.

Sales manager: “Jim, you’ve been doing this a while. What do you use for a contract?”

Jim the sales guy: “A handshake and a smile.”

Good thing I had my phone muted.

Judge Them By Their Performance

Here’s a mindbender for you – we have a customer who has a relatively new salesperson and a new sales manager. The salesperson has sold more than the 5 other new salespeople hired within a few months of him (mostly before him). The sales manager has not met the salesperson in person yet, but has voiced some concern about him.

The concern – this salesperson does not have industry experience (we sourced him from a completely different industry that has a similar sale). The industry they sell in is, well, to be blunt, rather not complex. Again, this salesperson is off to the best start of the group, but the sales manager has doubts about him.

This mindset is revealing of the worst type of bias any sales manager can have. The belief that industry experience trumps ability is 180 degrees out of phase. Unfortunately, we see it often in our sales hiring business. However, I must confess that I have never seen it as the salesperson is excelling in the role.

That is a first for me.

And hopefully the last.

Facebook, Microsoft And Banner Ads

From regarding Microsoft’s staggering investment in Facebook (emphasis mine):

The software megalith paid $240 million for a 1.6 percent equity stake in the fast growing social network. That’s a lot of money, but the real reason for the Facebook brouhaha is the valuation: $15 billion dollars for a company that has revenues estimated at $150 million, profits of approximately $30 million, a flip-flop wearing 23 year old of a CEO. The idea that Facebook might be worth $1 billion let alone $15 billion seemed like near insanity only a year ago, which makes Microsoft’s investment a huge coup for Mark Zuckerberg.

But look beyond the numbers, and you’ll see that this deal has very little to do with valuation. It’s about advertising. Buried underneath the headlines about Zuckerberg becoming really rich, is the fact that Microsoft became Facebook’s exclusive advertising partner as part of the deal and will now be responsible for all of Facebook’s third party ads. This expands upon an earlier agreement, signed in 2006, that made Microsoft the U.S. provider of banner ads.

I’m not sure how much the right to serve third party banner ads is worth, but it’s definitely substantial.

I guess it is substantial. So much for making banner ads look cheap.

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