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Talent & Recruitment
PODCAST TRANSCRIPT - Sales Recruitment and Talent - What Do Recruiters Look for in Sales Candidates?
Jan 3, 2018 | Canadian Professional Sales Association lock

In the latest episode of the CPSA Recruitment and Talent podcast we'll discuss what recruiters should look for in sales candidates today.  

This episode considers some of the most important personal and technical skills which recruiters look for when qualifying sales candidates, where are the best places online to source sales candidates, how important are online skills - such as being able to leverage social media for sales candidates, how much of the recruitment process can be streamlined through automation, what are some indicators that a sales candidate’s will is not necessarily as promising as their resume would suggest, and what interviewing techniques are recommended and how important is it for recruiters and hiring managers to prep each other and the candidates before the interview.

The guest is Jennifer Koss, Sr. Account Director of Strategic Operations at WilsonHCG.

Listen to this episode of the CPSA Recruitment and Talent Podcast and discover:

* What are some of the most important personal and technical skills which recruiters look for when qualifying sales candidates

* Where are the best places online to source sales candidates

* How much of the recruitment process can be streamlined through automation

* What interviewing techniques are recommended and how important is it for recruiters and hiring managers to prep each other and the candidates before the interview

Want to hear more? Check out bonus insights including:

* Provide 2 or 3 top tips to find candidates who'll actually make a difference to your bottom line


* Can you teach someone to have the drive and engaging personality to sell, or is it an inherent skill?


* Do extroverts make for better sales-focused hires?


Read the edited transcription:

Kevin Grossman: Jennifer, thank you so much for being on the CPSA Recruitment and Talent Podcast. Before we dive into the rest of the show, why don't you tell us a little bit more about who you are and what you do today.

Jennifer Koss: Thanks, Kevin. My name's Jennifer Koss. I'm a senior account director at Wilson HCG. I manage large scale client relationships for Wilson. In this partnership, we manage hiring for the whole North America sales force. I consult with this client on everything from workforce planning, strategic implementation, branding, recruitment marketing strategies, and sourcing strategies. On the operational side of the house, I manage recruiting managers who oversee and operationalize the overall talent acquisition strategies with our recruitment and delivery teams.

Kevin Grossman: Excellent, so you know a little bit about sales, right? Just a little bit.

Jennifer Koss: Just a little.

Kevin Grossman: Just a little bit. Nice. Let's just kick it off because, again, with Wilson HCG you really are an extension of your customers' recruitment teams.

Jennifer Koss: Correct.

Kevin Grossman: On many different levels. What are some of the most important personal and technical skills which recruiters should look for when qualifying sales candidates? Now I know, let me preface that, I know it will vary, depending on industry and type of company, etc., and what is being sold. Just give us the big picture there.

Jennifer Koss: You know, it's really critical that organizations build out an objective assessment strategy so that it fields sales talent from a multitude of backgrounds. Recruiters look for sales candidates that have relevant knowledge and experience, along with intangibles that will work within the culture of the company that they're hiring for. Intangibles are really key when vetting sales talent. Most sales organizations look for very self-motivated, confident, disciplined and competitive candidates that have a track record of winning. The top-performing sales talent in your organization is going to be the hardest to recruit. These individuals are the candidates who are at companies long-term, are high performing, and feel secure. If you don't have the industry knowledge to build a relationship with them, you'll lose them. It's also critical to keep candidates' experience in mind and understand when to communicate, how to communicate, to ensure that your candidates feel fully informed and are ready for the interview process.

Kevin Grossman: You're speaking my language there, especially when we're talking about candidate experience.

Jennifer Koss: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Kevin Grossman: That said, and I liked the highlight of intangible versus tangible skills, which I think is really important, where...again, this is kind of a big, big bucket question in a way, but, where are the best places online to source for sales candidates and where do we go?

Jennifer Koss: This is a great question, and the best places to recruit sales talent, I find, is really to start with the company's top performing sales talent that they currently have. Sales people are strong networkers and, typically, have solid knowledge of the marketplace and the players. Tapping into their networks is a great source, not just in the form of employee referrals, but also by tapping into their social media groups...really understanding where they live online.


Outside of top performer networks, online recruiters should really be tapping into LinkedIn, and strategically working to recruit candidates from preferred companies and backgrounds. Depending on the level of sales person you're recruiting and sourcing, there are different strategies to look for talent. A great place to look for less-experienced sales talent is within university alumni groups that have strong sales programs. More experienced sales reps, you're gonna wanna make the dials, and outreach to candidates using different points of contacts found through Chrome extensions. At the end of the day, LinkedIn is a great place to start, but the competitive advantage really comes into play with each strategic outreach plan.

Kevin Grossman: I love the point about leveraging those that are being targeted, their networks and your own networks. For the longest time, companies know that referrals are very important to their organization from a recruitment perspective. What's fascinating is that in the talent board, candidate experience board research program that I run, what we find now more than ever is that the candidates themselves are really focused on their own networks more than they ever have before...referral side. Whether it comes from a customer, whether it comes from another employee.

Jennifer Koss: Yep.

Kevin Grossman: And we've been telling each other, right, for years to build and leverage and nurture your networks on a regular basis. The good news is, at least according to our data and our survey research, they're doing it. That's good stuff. Speaking of online and the importance of online skills today...for one I've been drinking the social media Kool-Aid for years, right?

Jennifer Koss: Yep.

Kevin Grossman: It's important for candidates, particularly in sales, to be able to leverage social media. Tell us how important that really and truly is.

Jennifer Koss: Yeah. Much of the sales process and networking is now done digitally. It's just the direction of the economy, and the workforce has been headed in this direction for a long time. While it's incredibly critical to have excellent people, networking, and relationship-building skills, you also have to be able to sell digitally. This can include networking and sharing video, social media, email marketing, driving digital thought leadership, etc. Much of the relationship building is now done online. Everything from online dating to business deals. If you hire sales talent that's resistant to this change, it's not going to benefit your organization, and it's really only going to slow you down.

Kevin Grossman: Nobody picks up the phone anymore. I mean...

Jennifer Koss: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Kevin Grossman: I know it's so important from a sourcing perspective that there is an aspect of cold calling, but we're getting pinged online whether it be instant messenger...

Jennifer Koss: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Kevin Grossman: Social media challenges, and texting. That's how we respond.

Jennifer Koss: A lot of people do respond that way, and you can't underestimate that. You just can't. Salespeople can't.

Kevin Grossman: It's not just the kids today, right Jennifer?

Jennifer Koss: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Kevin Grossman: It's us older kids like me and Gen-Xers. All of those that have embraced the digital economy, that's where we're at on a regular basis.

Jennifer Koss: Cracked.

Kevin Grossman: There you go. Let's talk about how much of the recruitment process then can be streamlined through automation. Give us the big picture there from your perspective.

Jennifer Koss: Great question and, obviously, this is a really popular topic right now in our industry. There are a lot of opinions and thoughts on recruitment automation. The role we see automation playing in recruitment is to aid and supplement, not replace. Automation here, and it's absolutely a technology that can benefit business, recruitment included. In terms of candidate experience, we see it really having a positive effect. By using automation to increase recruiter-to-candidate response times in conjunction with human touch, it's a really powerful combination, but it also has to be a partnership. The entire recruitment process cannot be automated, or you'll lose out on that critical candidate relationship building piece. This is incredibly critical for talent, community growth, referrals, and future roles. If used correctly, technologies like automation can aide the recruitment process. It's here to stay and, again, it's a partnership. It's a supplement; it's not to replace.

Kevin Grossman: Well, I would agree with you on that, and I'm an old dog in this space. There's no way that anybody who even knows a little bit about technology today, especially in the world of work, to know that there's some displacement; there always will be, but not on such an immense scale. Technology like this is really, at the end of the day, supposed to empower more human interaction whether it be from sourcing all the way through the recruitment and "selling and marketing" period of trying to land a particular candidate for a role. This is supposed to empower us to focus more time on the relationship side.

Jennifer Koss: Agreed.

Kevin Grossman: The robots aren't taking over any time soon. I think there's a lot of help, whether it be automated sourcing and screening, as well as just to kind of serve up the help short list, and then the customer service side with chat bots, basic Q&A, communication on career sites is something that's being experimented with. Again, that in itself is just freeing up more time for the recruiters.

Jennifer Koss: I agree. It's a partnership.

Kevin Grossman: We all fudge a little bit. Maybe not all of us. Maybe I don't want to blanket everybody. There are many of us that fudge a little on our resumes and on our LinkedIn profiles, even with the peer vetting that can occur online with individuals saying, "Yeah, you didn't do that, dude." What are some of the indicators that sales candidates aren't exactly what their resume says they are? How do we know that out of the gate?

Jennifer Koss: That's a really great question. I want to start by talking about what the really innovative companies are doing and understanding. They're recognizing that their old profiles aren't going to land them the talent that they need. Best in class businesses are honing in on the skills and traits of their top sales performers and have been redesigning their profiles based on that data. Instead of focusing on what they think works, organizations have to focus on what is working in their organization. From there, the recruitment teams can build out a successful strategy that will attract their top performers. Taking that persona data, and then looking at the resumes to make sure that there's an alignment there is huge in trying to be able to pick out those personas from those resumes. There are, however...and a lot of these things are very customized based upon the sales search that you're doing...but when you're looking at a sales resume in general, and when you talk to a sales recruiter, there are some top things that they do look for or a lack of that are really big red flags.

One is going to be has the candidate moved jobs a lot? Have they not really been in a place to have a history of success? Gaps of employment. Also, one of the biggest things they look for is lack of success indicators on a resume. For example, percent of goal achievement, closing ratios, absence of performance and awards. Those are all things that are big red flags for recruiters when they're looking at a sales resume but, again, it's really important to have a really good understanding of that persona and then the culture and the industry knowledge that you need in that candidate to be able to fully vet out of a resume.

Kevin Grossman: The last thing I wanted to ask you about, Jennifer, is in regards to interviewing. How important is it today for recruiters and hiring managers to prep each other on the candidates, and the candidates as well for that matter, before the interview, and what kind of interviewing do you recommend? So, kind of a big two-parter there.

Jennifer Koss: You know, really great question. Interviewing sales candidates can be really tricky because typically they're not only good at selling goods and services, but themselves. For us, this really makes behavioral and situational screening important interview techniques. Another strong technique that can be utilized is video interviewing in the sales interview process. This can help screen any behavioral presentation skills and also just the overall impact that a candidate is having with the recruiter.

Prepping sales talent before an interview can be the difference between them getting the job or not. If the candidate has a better understanding of the organizational goals, their career trajectory, industry insights, sales territories they'll be working in, and the sales history of an organization, they'll be better prepared to share other experiences, and expertise may align with the company's. On the flip side though, it's equally important to prepare your sales managers for candidate interviews with transparent feedback on the candidate's screen. This one builds a recruiter's credibility with the hiring leader. It also allows the hiring manager to fully capitalize in their interview time with that candidate. Also, hiring managers also need prepping in today's market to best be able to close top passive talent in the sales arena.


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