...and on the seventh step, they rested.
We’re 75% of the way through the process of hiring our Chief Connecting Officer (they’re too important to be called a sales person) and only now have we asked for resumes, what we call “tombstones”. We have six things we look at, in order, and looking at the resume early on is not one of them.
People only put on their resumes what makes them look great. Resumes, like tombstones, tell you almost nothing about the real person. If we had looked at tombstones first, we would have tossed out at least five of the seven candidates remaining, maybe all seven, and never looked at them. What a tragedy that would have been. These are great people and a great fit for our business.
Six Steps To The Right Person – In Order Of Importance
Step One – Culture. We hire first for culture. That is the number one criteria. We asked people to NOT send their resume and simply answer seven culture questions.
Doing this cuts down the response “noise” by 80%. Too many are looking for a job, but not for work (the Industrial Age taught them to do this – see this blog post). Answering questions resembles work. Most will just sling fancy tombstones at lazy companies who will hire them for their nicely engraved epitaphs. That’s a nice culture match, too, because the lazy companies who don’t want to do the hard work to hire someone, end up with the lazy applicants who don’t want to work. So everybody wins.
Step Two – Talent. For this position we prize the talent of being able to “connect” with someone quickly via phone or in a personal conversation, so our first talent assessment was a 10 minute phone call to see if they could connect with us. For a different position requiring different skills, we would do a different talent test. Culture and talent are not things you can teach someone. If they have these things, that’s a great foundation.
Step Three – Skills. We’ll take a person who has the intangibles (culture/talent) and teach them the tangibles (skills). This is the step at which we finally ask for their resume, and a list of references. We find their skills from a combination of the other steps above, their resume and their references.
Step Four – References. Never hire anyone for a sales position until you’ve talked to people that have actually bought from them. That is the best way to find out if their skill set is schmoozing, glad-handing, managing sales people, account management (a cousin to sales), or actually selling stuff. Find out what their references say about why they like them, and see if it matches with why you want to hire them. Again, they might have a list of very impressive skills, but if you’re hiring for something not on their list, don’t bite.
Step Five – Experience. Most people look at the resume first and sift for those with the most experience. Bad idea. The fifth thing we hire for is experience and we just don’t give it a lot of weight. Highly experienced people can actually be less likely to learn our particular business. We don’t ding them for it, but it’s not very important to us compared to culture, talent, skills and references.
Step Six – Personal Interviews. Very important. We’ll have the final three or so do 30-45 minute interviews with everyone they will work with in any way. We’ll also ask them to attend some events, then we’ll get feedback from attendees. We’ll also probably take the last couple out for happy hour or something on separate nights to see how we all relate away from the office (we don’t separate work and play). We will likely have them meet with a few existing clients as well and get their feedback.
Never Go To Step Seven!
Can you see something missing from the list? We NEVER hire for education. It’s about as good an indicator of success as what town you were born in. We just ignore education, but if someone makes a big deal out of theirs – that’s a warning sign for us. The more they like to trumpet their education, the more we’re pretty sure they won’t do real well in the trenches where you actually get dirty and learn the good stuff by getting beat up. It also tells us they’ve probably bought off on the lie that the more education you have, the more capable you’ll be, and the more money you will be worth, etc. All fairy tales.
Does This Sound Like Too Much Work?
If this whole process sounds like too much work for you, you need to look at your own culture. You get what you intend, not what you hope for. If you hope to get a great person by doing the traditional, lazy, sit-across-the-table conversation based on a tombstone, then don’t expect to get great people on board. I personally feel the same about farming this process out to someone else to do for you. Any HR pro should have you in the process up to your teeth; it’s your culture and company, not theirs. If you take the lazy traditional approach, you’re process will attract the lazy applicants who are slinging tombstones. Good luck with that.
The good news is we’ve got seven incredible people still in the running (and even some others we dropped earlier that would be great fits elsewhere). The bad news is we’ll have to pick one. The good news is we’ll have a bunch of people to refer to others looking for great sales people.