Top 6 Sales Recruiting Mistakes - Part 1

January 21, 2018


Frequently clients ask, "What are the top sales recruiting mistakes you see over and over again?" Here are the six that come to mind most readily:


1. Looking for the Wrong Things in Sales Job Candidates

Many sales recruiting ads read like comprehensive job descriptions, with lengthy lists of requirements and no prioritization in terms of importance. In this type of scenario sales recruiting can become an exercise in checking boxes. Unfortunately, this does nothing to favorably impact "80/20" sales team performance (where a small fraction of the salespeople produce most of the results).

My recommendation for solving this problem is to identify the top 5 to 8 characteristics and capabilities that are "must haves" for success in your company's sales position. The answers to the following questions will help you identify these characteristics:

  • What characteristics are required for success in your company's sales position?

  • What else? (Ask this question repeatedly until you run out of answers.)

  • What do you see as key differences between your top sales producers and salespeople who are struggling?

  • What else? (Ask this question repeatedly until you run out of answers.)

This simple exercise provides the information required to write a highly focused, performance-based recruiting ad.

Please note that the lists of requirements for success rarely include "education" or "experience." Why? Consider the following:

  • Education: What's more important -- having a college degree, or the having a proven ability to learn quickly? What does a college degree tell you about the rate at which an individual learns?

  • Experience: Many experienced salespeople are part of the 80% who produce a small fraction of sales results. Even if a salesperson is part of the top 20%, how will the resources and support they will receive at your company differ from the resources and support they were accustomed to receiving from their prior employer(s)?

    • Did they have people set appointments for them?

    • Were they able to hand off accounts to an account management team?

    • What specific activities were they responsible for conducting?

    • How does this compare to what they have to be able… and willing… to do to succeed at your company?


2. Not Screening Resumes Properly

If you haven't isolated the top 5 to 8 characteristics and capabilities that are "must haves" for success in your company's sales position, how could you possibly screen resumes in a manner that:

  • Screens OUT undesirable candidates (without screening out GOOD candidates), and

  • Screens IN candidates who have the best chance for success in your company's specific sales position?

The focus when screening resumes should be on looking for verbiage that indicates an individual has some or most of the critical characteristics and capabilities that you have identified. This can take anywhere from 10 seconds (for resumes that are obviously not a fit) to 3 minutes (for a dense resume from an individual with an extensive employment history).

Next week's blog post will continue the conversation by examining the remaining 4 top sales recruiting mistakes.