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Interviewing & Hiring: Should We be Surprised at Reality TV’s Bad Advice?

America just loves Reality TV. So much so that even respected business publications are succumbing to celebrity infallibility in place of good advice. Now you may be thinking, “Who in their right mind would take business advice from a reality TV personality?” The answer might surprise you. An article in Inc. magazine recently highlighted the […]

America just loves Reality TV. So much so that even respected business publications are succumbing to celebrity infallibility in place of good advice. Now you may be thinking, “Who in their right mind would take business advice from a reality TV personality?” The answer might surprise you.

An article in Inc. magazine recently highlighted the one interview question which Shark Tank star and accomplished businesswoman Barbara Corcoran swears by. As a former head of recruiting for Johnson & Johnson, and now a consultant teaching interviewing and hiring, this is the type of article I live for. With the show’s popularity, especially amongst businesspeople, this sort of information can provide engaging anecdotes when impressing on hiring managers the paramount importance of a sound interviewing and hiring process and practice. The article, however, centered on a question which, if applied, could result in a legal battle with the interviewer being unquestionably in the wrong. That’s right, Inc. magazine published an article with Barbara Corcoran sharing an illegal interview question. The question? “Tell me about your family.”

That question is so far out of bounds today that debating its merits, or illegality, is mute. The bigger issue is the fact that a publication such as Inc. actually published it! While Inc. would probably call to the disclaimer that states, “The opinion expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com,” the fact remains that many readers certainly would double-down on its validity.

Avoiding illegal questions is only one of the key success factors for today’s hiring managers. If your organization isn’t properly trained on interviewing and hiring practices and guidelines, or worse, your organization doesn’t have a process at all; you are going to flounder in what is possibly the most competitive job market ever. Although there are many things to consider when attempting to find and hire the best talent, there are three pieces of advice I typically share, and none of them will put you in jeopardy:

Identifying Passive Job Seekers

We’ve always known that passive job seekers, those that are not actively seeking another opportunity, are often the most desirable. These candidates are typically the most successful in their roles, and the companies that employ them know it and work to keep them. This is why managers should always be recruiting, specifically when they do not have an opening. The best managers I have seen at this are constantly identifying top performers from other companies, building relationships with them, and (most importantly) selling them on the merits and value of their company. It’s constantly puzzling to their peers when these managers are able to fill an opening with a superstar quickly. It shouldn’t be.

Interviewing and Hiring for Culture

The cost of a bad hire is significant. While some estimates put the cost of onboarding and training a new employee at $240,000, the true cost of a bad hire goes even further when you consider the loss in productivity, morale, etc.. With the war for talent, and the shifting demographics of employees to newer generations, the importance of matching an employee to the company’s culture has become critical in identifying and keeping them. The Lehigh Valley enjoys tremendous access to many talented individuals who would gladly trade their long commutes for a great culture and opportunity closer to home. As a consultant, working with organizations to define their culture and then training managers to interview for it has become one of the most important factors for hiring success.

A Positive Experience

A candidate’s opinion of your organization will be formed during the interview process. Glassdoor.com estimates that 72% of job seekers that have a bad experience will share that feedback online. How the candidate is treated during the process can mean the difference between hiring and losing the best candidates. To ensure a positive experience, the process should be timely and include frequent and positive communication that keeps the candidate excited about the organization and the opportunity. Also, timely and professional communication with candidates that are not selected is just as important. These same individuals may fit another role in the future, or recommend the company to others, and leaving them with a positive opinion will pay dividends.

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Fallacy: We Hire People That Know How to Sell

If your organization is struggling with achieving revenue targets, it’s possible you’ve sat in meetings to discuss topics such as account targeting, product lifecycle, new product development, and market needs. Hopefully, those discussions have also included the topic of salesforce skills.  The truth is that in my experience (even with my Fortune 500 clients), too […]

If your organization is struggling with achieving revenue targets, it’s possible you’ve sat in meetings to discuss topics such as account targeting, product lifecycle, new product development, and market needs. Hopefully, those discussions have also included the topic of salesforce skills.  The truth is that in my experience (even with my Fortune 500 clients), too many companies are remiss in discussing and evaluating just that – how well prepared, or not, is our sales team to actually sell? At the end of the day, you can have the best product in the market, but without a team with the skills necessary to sell in today’s complex business environment, you are facing an uphill battle.

There was a time when the key to being a good salesperson hinged primarily on the ability to build and maintain relationships and an understanding of the products? How things have changed…

For today’s sales professionals, the bar for success is much higher. First and foremost is the need to understand that salespeople, and the sales function, is a profession. Defining what it means to be a professional is something that comes up in many of the courses I teach. In the end, the simplest and probably most accurate definition of a professional is someone that is consistently developing themselves and their craft. Essentially, someone that is always ‘working on their game.’

The degree to which a salesperson has to work on their game today is significantly greater than in generations past. It cannot be achieved by the sometimes-inherent ability to build relationships and basic product/service knowledge and expertise. While additional skills such as understanding the market and customers may also come to mind, these are things we started realizing back in the 1980s and ’90s. Today, sales professionals must understand multi-decision maker selling, individual and organizational purchasing behaviors, buyer motivations, etc. These elements require a level of knowledge and skill development which cannot be achieved solely through on-the-job experience. To be competitive and to meet organizational revenue goals, sales teams need formal training.

Formal sales training lacks overall across the majority of industries, and one of the greatest mistakes I encounter when working with organizations is the belief, “We are hiring successful salespeople, so they know how to sell.” Trust me, over the past 25+ years I have spent working in, leading, evaluating, and advising sales organizations, I can tell you this ranks number one on the list of false beliefs.

Research over the past 20 years has significantly advanced what we know about how and why people and organizations buy. This is not simple survey data; it is based on the study of the human brain and decision making. Harvard Business Review recently devoted an entire edition of its magazine solely to the topic of the research on neuroscience, and its association to marketing and selling. Organizations must invest in the development of their sales teams to understand and apply what we now know to be competitive.

Take for example, the topic of individual and organizational purchasing behaviors. While experience may provide the sales professional with knowledge, they too often don’t know what it means or what to do with it. Knowing how to take that knowledge, and apply it against what science has now revealed, can create a competitive advantage for the organization.

Even more apparent is the application of what we know about the neuroscience of individual buying behaviors. Fascinating research by individuals such as Dr. Robert Cooper and Antonio Damasio, among others, have revealed things about human decision making that fly in the face of conventional wisdom which we, in sales, have operated under for decades.

So, when you are asking yourself and your organization if your sales team needs sales training, understand that it requires everyone to dispense with the old beliefs that sales training should be focused on simply uncovering needs and product knowledge. Today’s sales professionals need their organizations to advance their skills based on, and aligned to, the new science. Without it, organizations are doomed to come up short in attempting to achieve their revenue goals.

 

Bio
Pat D’Amico has more than 30 years of management and leadership experience, including combat tours in the US Army, and an extensive background in training. He has spent the last 25 years in the life sciences (medical device and pharmaceutical) in functional leadership roles including sales, marketing, recruiting, commercial operations, national accounts, and training. He holds a BA in World Politics and a Master’s in Education. He can be reached at pat@aboutfacedev.com.

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