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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Interview Question for Sales/ Marketing Jobs : How I Hire: Sell Me a Pen

How to hire is a tough question to answer. Many managers have hired people who have failed to deliver, so what's the secret? What are the main aspects that need to be evaluated when recruiting new employees?
Do I care about qualifications?
The simple answer to that is no, its life education that I look for. I have never focused on the candidates formal qualifications, its just not that important. Unless you are a Doctor, Dentist, Lawyer etc, it's rather irrelevant. People who put too much emphasis on this are wrong. Within one of our companies we have a developer who did not go to university or have any sort of formal higher education, yet he is a brilliant developer capable of creating amazing web technology which can change businesses globally. If I had put an emphasis on hiring graduates only, I would not have hired him. We would have lost out.
People will lie in the interview.
This is true, remember, you are about to provide a salary to someone, i.e. secure their future. What are they prepared to do to achieve this? Sometimes, anything! So lying is a simple thing.
You need to cut above the lies. Don't be afraid to ask difficult questions in the interview.
For example, I know its an old one, if you are interviewing a sales person, pick up a pen (or whatever is nearby) and ask them to sell it to you. The point here is not about them selling a pen (or any other object) but about seeing how they react to pressure (as you would expect a sales person to), the questions they ask you in return and more importantly how they can increase the value of such a simple object. The pen analogy is just that.. an analogy... it can be applied to any product or service that you sell. Make them demonstrate to you they understand value and how to put that across.
When reviewing their experience, ask them why they did not hit their targets and delve deep. Don't simply skirt around subjects, get into depth around why they did what they did. Good hires are not afraid to tell you the good or the bad of their career. Let's face it we have all had both.
Expert interviewers will tell you that using "behavioural techniques" are the best way to hire. But I think its not enough, how someone can tell you they behaved in a scenario is not the same as how someone will behave now. People can miss out the mistakes and paint a positive picture for the interview. I want to know how they will react now.
Create real world scenarios in the interview and ask the candidate to respond to you as if it were a live situation, if they respond positively you have a potential positive hire. For example, if you are hiring a Customer Service Manager for your business, then create a scenario where you are a customer making a strong complaint (which could have a devastating impact on your business) and then ask them to respond to it. Look for someone who can digest the issue, evaluate it and provide a rapid solution whilst appeasing you emotionally. Its a good way to assess a candidate whether you are looking for a customer services manager, marketing or sales person.
In the past, I have taken on sales people on short trials to see how they can perform. It's a good way of reducing the risk of taking on someone who turns out to be waste of time.
Don't be afraid to be harsh at the interview process, remember its not a personal attack. Its all business. Ultimately you are helping them figure out if the job is for them too. You have invited this person to the interview to hire them, not to waste their time, so essentially it is their job to lose, they should be able to handle any form of questioning.
Personally, I rely on instinct, some people just feel right both for the role and culturally. And culture is important. Cultural fit is a big deal. if you have a great team which is working well you won't want to hire someone who will potentially upset the apple cart by reducing staff morale. You are the only judge of this. So make the right decision so that culturally they fit.
A good way of doing this is to get them to meet the team they will be working with. Get them to meet everyone from the seniors to the juniors. Take feedback from everyone. It's an easy thing to do and will save you from making a mistake. Listen to all feedback, even from juniors, remember, everyone has an instinct and sometimes its the smallest things that make a bad hire.
Do you like them, can they do the job, do they check out, have you tested them, do your colleagues like them, if you can say yes to all of the above, then hire them.
I believe that when you are a small business every hire is a very important one. New hires can change the path of your business in a very short time. It is a bad CEO that underestimates the value of a new hire in a small company. The first 6 weeks of a new hire will tell you everything. Whether they will sink or swim but more importantly, if they have the passion to succeed in your company.


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