Strategies for evaluating business development and marketing employee candidates


It isn’t easy to hire really good marketing and business development talent. Especially for business developers (salespeople), companies will do everything they can to retain their talent — meaning the ones that might be on the “open market” may have some real problems. (Of course there can be good people out there who are unemployed or looking for work, but you need to be able to assess these individuals quickly and move fast — or you will lose to the competition.)

The problem: How do you sort out the people who look better than they really are, because they package their resume and interview skills to market themselves effectively?

Matt Handal addresses the issue of fakery and selection in a recent post, and his solution — from another friend, Tim Klabunde — makes true sense.

Step One: Shortlist on experience and skills
Step Two: Hire the candidate with the most positive outlook

The “step two” is the secret sauce.

Don’t get confused. Tim wasn’t talking about hiring the person with the “best personality” or “most likable.”

He was not using personality as a selection factor. He was focusing in on the candidates’ outlook. It’s a nuanced, but important difference.

His reasoning was this. The job changes from day-to-day. One day you’re working on something creative and fulfilling. But the next day you might be dealing with some arduous task or situation you’ll probably hate.

People without a high degree of positivity don’t thrive in that environment.

The point of course is you still have an initial screen — there are certain skills and experience levels you must have — but as Handal and Klabunde have discovered — there can be younger or less experienced people with the right stuff, and (if you are fortunate) there can be truly experienced individuals who lose their jobs for reasons unrelated to their own lack of performance/ability.

I’ll add my own observations about hiring processes to this mix. I generally consider resumes only in the most cursory manner at the outset; and offer candidates a work-related questionnaire/test to evaluate job-related skills and key personality issues. ?These responses help narrow down the resume slush pile (especially since if someone doesn’t bother completing the questionnaire/test, they have indicated limited interest in the work) and it can be quite entertaining to the varying quality of the responses. (For example, for an administrative person, we might ask some simple grammar and “office math” questions; and I discovered a specialized multiple-choice test for bookkeepers that allows me to score on the basics of accounting.)

Our final evaluation process includes, wherever possible, a paid working assignment. This helps understand the interaction between the new potential worker and the rest of the team, and their “get up and go” to start achieving results.

These systems have some limitations — it can be hard to ask someone currently employed elsewhere to take a leave to “try out” the new job, but I remember my best result very well. The candidate said he could only take one day for the evaluation so I gave him that amount of time. At 3:30 he phoned in to say he had snared a sizeable order that I hadn’t expected. I made him an employment offer the next day, and he quickly became the company’s top sales representative.

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