Over the past 20 years that CMI has been in business, we have found that there are seven main areas that present a challenge to hiring managers.
- What are the best ways to source/find candidates?
- How do you sell your opportunity (verbally and in print)?
- What is the ideal number of candidates to interview for each position?
- How many interviews are ideal in the process with each candidate?
- Which questions should you ask? What should you not say?
- What is the most effective way to make offers and close candidates?
- How do you retain top talent?
We have seen companies meet these challenges successfully and others continue to struggle, and will tackle each question in our latest blog series. Be sure to check back as we address each question in the series.
This week we want to look at the main question companies come to us with:
How do you find or source good candidates?
Although finding primary sources of top sales talent can be relatively straightforward, most companies don’t use the appropriate amounts of each strategy “on purpose.” Putting sources in order of most to least effective is possible only when discussing a particular level and type of position, but general methods are:
- promoting internal referrals
- recruiters/headhunters/search firms
- Internet/job boards
- job fairs
- references of candidates
- sourcing from competitors
- your customers: ask which competitors have sold to them (specific names)
Bottom line: There is no magic bullet, no method that will drive the best results 100% of the time. So, the goal is to become proficient in each method, never relying on one source to do the job. I address advertising below. Searching Internet/job boards for candidates is straight-forward (as is attending job fairs). Given this, I’ll discuss the other five major methods of finding sales talent.
Although paying internal referral fees is not a new concept, getting the organization to view the recruiting process differently (as a team concept, in everyone’s best interest) is an underused concept. Remind your people where, when, and how to keep their eyes open for potential talent for the organization. Hold monthly meetings, publicize “contests” for the most internal referrals, and make it all highly visible! Getting your organization “energized” to recruit for you takes work on your part; they need to get their energy/enthusiasm from you.
When asking potential hires for references, always ask for peer references in addition to traditional manager references. But specifically, remind them that you want credible references, so ask for the top 2 or 3 salespeople they’ve worked within the past 3-5 years.
Sourcing from competitors essentially means trying to do the job of a headhunter on your own. I doubt that most hiring managers find this a suitable avenue because potential backlash might not offset potential benefits. But when it does make sense, I suggest starting the easy way. Have your reps ask major customers for names of competitors’ reps, particularly if someone has impressed them. This way, it’s at least a “warm call”.
On working with search firms/recruiters, I’m tempted to write a 10-page dissertation. But probably the most valuable nugget I can give you about working with search firms/recruiters is: what motivates them to work on your search? The order of most to least important will vary from one recruiter to another (even within the same office!), but I can tell you the top 5 will usually consist of:
- Is the search/requirement within the firm’s core space?
- Is the fee competitive with other searches at the same level?
- What is the client’s average response time?
- What is the realism/ease of the search?
- Is it exclusive or are other recruiting firms working on the search?
These items determine both the prioritization of each search and whether the search firm/recruiter will actually search, or just “keep their eyes open.” Although I have plenty to expand on here, I believe I’d be satisfying my own view of what hiring managers need, versus what might be most relevant to you.
Don’t forget to come back for our next topic, “How do you sell the opportunity?” which we will address in the coming weeks.