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The bad news started at the beginning of 2008 with Icelandic banks collapsing. As the year progressed, there were high-profile bail-outs in the UK and USA, and by the end of 2008, we’d all gained some new vocabulary: “credit crunch”. It was only supposed to last 6-12 months, but now nearing the end of 2012, economic conditions haven’t really improved.

The world has been in the economic doldrums for four years, unemployment is on the way up, and there are, if we believe the media, many highly-skilled employees on the job market. For employers, recruiting is easier than ever, isn’t it? Well… no, not really. Recruitment steals time from managers’ “real jobs” as much as it ever has, interviews get no easier, and whilst there might be more recruitment consultants cold-calling us and more CVs coming our way, actually finding the ideal employee is still tough.

I’ve been recruiting for sales professionals for ten years. To help you through the process, I’ve put together these five tips to bring method to recruitment madness.

Step 1: Screen CVs properly

CVs are a wonderful tool for both job-seekers and employers, as they allow a huge degree of creativity which can be invaluable for both parties.

The drawback to this, is that there’s no such thing as a “standard” CV, so some skill is required when trying to sort them for potential interviews. Everyone will (I hope!) have many positive points on their CV, and will have chosen these to highlight their strengths. As employers, we need to look out for certain warning signs within this personal promotion.

  • Sloppy spelling, grammar or punctuation: this is most likely a sign of lack of skills or knowledge in this area. It is also a sign of someone who didn’t bother to proof-read their CV, or ask someone else to cast their eye over it. At best it shows poor attention to detail.
  • Job-hopping: either the candidate is a poor performer who is unable to hold down a job for long, or they can’t decide what career is for them, and may move on from your job quickly as well.
  • Unexplained gaps: perhaps there’s a job missing in there which they’d rather you didn’t know about – another short-term stint, or perhaps on which they’ve left under undesirable circumstances.

Of course, these things alone don’t necessarily make for a poor choice, but should at least be discussed further at interview.

Step 2: Conduct the first interview by telephone

When I first started interviewing, I wasted many an hour meeting people who I’d decided were unsuitable during the first 2 minutes of the interview. This wasn’t usually related to appearance, but to energy levels, tone of voice, communications skills… that kind of thing. I have since saved myself a huge amount of time conducting the first interview on the telephone.

Face-to-face, it’s difficult to politely conduct an interview with someone unsuitable in less than 45 minutes. However, conducting a 15-minute telephone interviewing first means that only the best candidates make it into the office. Keep the phone interview informal, let the candidate ask most of the questions, and clarify any doubt points from the CV.

Step 3: Scripts are for actors, not for interviewers

My sister works in an industry where interviews all have to be conducted in an identical manner. This makes it difficult for her to probe individuals’ strengths and weaknesses, or to investigate further into a relevant area. Unless you’re also bound by this type of constraint, ensure your interview is conducted flexibly.

Rather than having a list of questions, consider having a list of information you wish to find out, problems to investigate, or traits to perceive. How you achieve this can then be tailored to individual situations to really see each candidate as an individual.

Step 4: Don’t overlook the importance of the team

Every team needs a balance of personality types to function effectively. It’s important to mix the high-energy inspirational types with steady dependable people, innovators with those who prefer to follow the rules, goal-oriented with team-oriented. This balance is what makes a team really perform, so remember to consider which types you’re missing and try to aim for this type in your recruitment.

Step 5: Ensure the candidate closes

My final tip is most relevant to a sales role, but can be applicable to any position. An interview is the opportunity for a candidate to sell herself to an employer. This should be exactly the same as a real sale: find a needs gap, identify requirements, position the product (i.e. the candidate herself) to satisfy this need, and close the deal or get commitment.

If a sales candidate is unable to do this in an interview, then in my experience they’ll struggle in the job. Many a recruitment consultant has tried to talk me round on this point with “it’s not a real sale”, but it is, and this is important when recruiting salespeople.

So, here you are: five tips to improve your recruitment and help you get the right people into your vacancies, quickly, and with a minimum of fuss. Happy interviewing!

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Neil Shorney

Neil Shorney

Neil Shorney is a director of Naturally Sales Ltd, a London-based business which helps organisations around the world to sell more through improved sales, leadership, customer service and team-work. Through a combination of many years of training professionals, and on-going experience leading an international sales team at the world's largest project management training company, Neil brings his clients cutting-edge training and consultancy from the front line of global business. Naturally Sales Ltd provides <a href="http://www.nsales.co.uk/recruitment.php">recruitment training</a> in London and around the world.

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