“How can I hire top sales talent?” If you need to fill sales jobs, you have probably asked yourself that question more than once.
Before we get to the answer, let’s define “top talent”. It is the top 10% of available Candidates whose compensation requirements are consistent with your budget. Next, let’s consider the justification for the additional effort required to hire top talent rather than average employees. We are all familiar with the 80/20 rule, i.e. 20% of the Sales Executives in a company generate 80% of the sales. Although the actual percentages vary based on market, employee type, etc., the concept is consistently valid. Accordingly, increasing the percentage of productive Sales Executives and Sales Managers (“good hires”), even incrementally, can have a significant positive effect on revenue and profit. In addition, the cost of replacing a “bad hire” is very high. Estimates range from one third of the employee’s annual compensation, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, to up to five times annual compensation, according to the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM). These are strong arguments for hiring only top talent and for improving recruiting and hiring processes in order to do so.
Some of the recruiting best practices used by HR professionals and Hiring Managers include application forms that are customized for each job, written job descriptions, resumes that are obtained from the the right sources, evaluating applications and resumes against job requirements, confirming information included in resumes, multiple phone and in-person interviews, evaluating work samples, i.e. sales communications and proposals, performing reference and background checks, and reviewing W-2s or other documents to confirm compensation.
In addition, Hiring Managers and HR professionals use various criteria to determine if there is a fit between Candidates and jobs and employers. These criteria include personality traits, cultural fit, years of experience in specific markets, total experience, job tenure record, and past performance. Of these, past performance is the most important, because it is the best indicator of future performance. Also, for sales professionals, past performance is a criteria that can be measured objectively by reviewing historical sales vs quotas. Most recruiting tools and processes should be focused on accurately determining past performance. For example, job applications should require that Candidates list all prior jobs and sales vs quotas for all years, or at least for the last full year for each job.
Job tenure record should also be carefully reviewed. Applications should require months as well as years for job start and end dates, descriptions of job challenges and reasons for leaving. Job tenure, challenges and reasons for leaving should be discussed in detail with Candidates. Interviewers should ask probing questions regarding previous jobs in order to obtain an accurate understanding of past performance. Candidate answers to questions should lead to additional questions by Interviewers.
Applications should also include achievements and awards, since many Candidates do not include all of their achievements and awards in their resumes.
Hiring top talent takes time. However, hiring managers often feel that they don’t have the time for effective recruiting and that they are buried in resumes. The right recruiting firm can significantly reduce the time required for recruiting and increase the percentage of good hires by carefully evaluating Candidates against job requirements and referring only Candidates who meet these requirements.
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