At the Agent Summit earlier this year, I was given the opportunity to do a presentation on how to recruit, hire and train agents.
My message focused on the importance of identifying your specific need, using the available arenas to find candidates, and crafting a pay plan that would match the behavior we were seeking.
What the presentation did not do, however, was focus on the importance of ensuring the candidates were qualified and had the requisite skills to perform the job they were selected for.
As I move through the latter stages of my sales and management career, one of my regrets is that I did not develop a formal, process-based recruiting program sooner. For years, we were able to fall into good hires who assumed their roles quickly and stayed for long periods of time.
Entering the millennium decade, it slowly became more difficult to find the right people for the right jobs and we began to make mistakes with regards to matching up roles with skills. We were hiring people emotionally as opposed to scientifically.
Last year I developed a formal, process-based system that would ensure we were hiring candidates that possessed the personality traits and skills that we were looking for.
We identified three missing links:
First, we needed a personality testing profile that would match the requirements of the position with the value system of the applicant. After researching the market, we selected a testing tool that was based on the specific position we were screening for. As opposed to “one size fits all,” we developed assessments for individual jobs and trained each of our channel managers to read and interpret the results. We are now able to get a reliable match measurement early in the process.
Second, we developed targeted interview questions that would quickly assess how a candidate might behave in typical workplace situations. The questions were also developed in conjunction with the testing tool and designed to provide confirmation of certain answers and traits.
And finally, the “secret sauce”: A successful field rep needs a variety of skills to be effective. Some are more important than others, but the ones we highly value are:
- Needs awareness assessment
- Sales presentation
- Sales meeting
We decided that there would be no better way to measure these skills than to require the applicant to demonstrate them.
Our recruiting process now starts with job websites. We provide detail on the position, identify ourselves, and disclose compensation. We screen the applicants coming in on the site(s) and select candidates who fit our paper profile.
The initial interview takes place after the applicant has completed the personality assessment. During this interview, we ask targeted questions, and only the channel manager and the HR manager are present.
If we are impressed with the candidate, we schedule a second interview with potential peers and slightly modified questions. If we all agree that the candidate is acceptable, we bring them in for a final “test.”
Over a two-hour period, the candidate will role-play through a prepared needs awareness assessment based on the product or service that they are currently selling or have sold. We do something similar for the sales presentation. The role-play sales meeting will provide product, service or targeted sales training.
In all cases, we provide the candidate with instructions to prepare ahead of time.
The Microsoft application testing on PowerPoint, Excel and Word is designed to ensure the candidate has the requisite skills to do the job. We do not want to be training on basic technology tools that a successful candidate should arrive with. Each of the Microsoft exercises is based on a specific set of ingredients that we ask for and provide in a written format.
The goal is to identify candidates that have the desired behavior as well as the skills to execute the tasks at hand. We are early in the process, but we are confident that we are on a far more reliable track than we were a year ago.