There are different approaches to the process of selecting candidates for work on the position of the seller. There are companies that apply the principle that when the candidate meets three basic criteria: he lives, has a driving license of category B and is able to communicate, he immediately jumps into the list of potential candidates. There are also companies, which get a lot of applications from candidates and recruiters have only one problem: How to choose the candidate who will best perform tasks. There are also lot of averange companies. As you can guess, the possibility of “making a fuss” can be related to whether the proposed conditions of employment will have a range of compliance with the expectations of potential candidates. I don’t have to add that the more unique the competencies, the higher expectations, so we cannot always have who we want (of course, we can count on some surprise, but it is not a certainty). In short, this is our market.
I will address here a situation in which potentially, the company has an offer that is adequate to market expectations. The process itself is not problematic, and the right selection is crucial to the success of the entire recruitment process.
There are also some variants of the examination of candidates and the most common is to have a “nose”. Despite many questions giving in this conversation, intuition becomes the main oracle. If you are recruiting your team and the candidate has adequate experience (in CV) then – what is wrong with that? – You might ask. The problem is that the nose is very fallible, perceptive mechanisms are not conducive to us, rich CV does not at all mean suitability for a job, and the cost of opening a new recruitment not only are associated with money but also with wasted time. When recruiting new staff, we usually meet world champions, and many of them disappoint in the competition. The recruitment without hard methodology many times has become the art of context. Someone seems much better than the previous two candidates, because there were really not good employees – and so we lose ourselves in the correct assessment.
Meanwhile, the selection of candidates is a technical process and there is no place for feelings. The degree of probability that a candidate will be good on a given position can be calculated in principle. Just use the appropriate methodology, and we will minimize the risk of confusion.
Further in this article, I will briefly describe the method of selecting candidates for commercial positions in various companies, which we have been using for many years.
- Establishing a competence profile
For someone, who does not know to which port he goes, every wind is unlucky. And, in line with the Seneca’s suggestion, we set the direction of the search.
So, it is best to start thinking about what is our ideal candidate and here you can list the different requirements based on past experience and planned tasks.
For example, he should have x years of industry experience, be communicative, have negotiation skills, know sales techniques, be honest and responsible, development oriented, speak English, know technical education, etc. There can be a lot of such requirements. In general, we can say that we are looking for a competent person, so let’s say what is competence?
Generally it is a mixture of knowledge, skills and attitudes. Within these 3 collections you can accommodate 99% of the candidate requirements. The next task is to divide these competences into those 3 collections. As part of our knowledge we collect everything that starts with the words “know”. We usually include his experience and ceremonies because, for example, work in the industry does not imply any specific skills, but only gives the probability of knowledge about the industry. And, a language certificate, contrary to what one might expect, does not necessarily mean the current ability to run conversations in a given language.
Within the framework of attitudes we will gather everything that is related to the nature of man or that is acquired in the process of socialization. It’s about such elusive features like punctuality, honesty, responsibility, sense of humor, etc.
In the set of skills we usually put these features that begin with the words he/she “can” or “has the ability” rather than he/she “is”. There are qualities that we can hesitate, such as creativity – can be an attitude or skill. It may be a personal tendency, but creativity can also be learned, I write such things as skills.
There will be some things that run out of these three collections, and which we may require without disclosing them (especially if they are sometimes questionable legally) such as marital status, possession, specific places of residence, preferred sex or any aspect of physicality (60/90 / 60 or 90/60/90). All these things we note in a collection called “other”.
This division will make it easier for us to create the ideal profile of the candidate.
Now is the moment to understand the recruitment paradox, which will reveal after 3 questions.
What is easier to check? Attitude, knowledge or maybe skills? Of course knowledge because you just have to ask a question or do a test, and then skills can be checked by the task, and the attitude is at the end because declaratively everyone is clear as a whistle.
And what is the easiest to change? There is the same order. You give the book and you change the state of the knowledge, you conduct training and teach what you need, the attitude is long.
And what do we care about the most? We care the most about the attitude. Because we can see it in this way: it doesn’t matter that the seller can sell well, when he steals.
The paradox is that what we care the most about is difficult to verify and that change is also difficult.
You can see what this is all about. The divided competences we can verify, and we will be pleased with each competence to varying degrees. On the basis of divided competences we have emerged an orderly, but not complete profile of the ideal candidate.
2. Assigning significance for competences in the profile
Since there are more important and less important things for us, the profile of the candidate should be taken into account. In this step, we try to point out how important is the competency of the candidate for us. Of course, knowledge for us will have smaller importance and skills higher importance, etc. After putting this information into a simple excel, there will be the picture of the perfect candidate, who we are looking for. Below there is an example (fictitious) graph of the candidate for the position of Commercial Agent (Figure 1). Table 1 present the competencies for which an exemplary employer is concerned. They are divided into three colors: knowledge, skills and attitudes. The maximum weight for competencies in the first compartment is in this case 5 points, the second 8 points, the third 9 points. This means that in the evaluation, the candidate who fully satisfied us with the response in the given category receives just the maximum number of points that we set in a given row as maximum. The ideal candidate for us is the line on the graph, which is the visual reference point. 12526376810
3. Creating practical tasks
We have heard stories about questions and recruitment tasks from which the candidates derided and which became known as the whispered marketing in the negative sense for the company. The sale of a pen is of course a classic task, but one day a psychologically unfulfilled psychologist conducted observations asking to draw an animal like a pig. Probably, such tasks have more or less objective purpose, and whether the candidate will seriously treat the offer of such employer? Or in the case of the lack of employment or won’t he want to spread this great story, turn up a little tension.
Each of the tasks and questions should be related to the specific competence that we want to evaluate and in the case of incomprehensible questions, they should be told that they will occur but have their purpose.
In case of questions of knowledge, a simple question addressed to the area is enough, and you can also prepare the appropriate tests. You can also evaluate the knowledge based on CV (i.e. you can assume that someone has a knowledge based on experience, education, certificates).
There are the examples of questions:
– What kind of sales techniques do you know?
– How do you know how to build relationships with customers?
These types of questions are to reveal whether the trader has acted so far in a conscious way. They give an image of his potential suitability on a given market, show whether he is in the market by chance or whether he develops himself.
An employer who is looking for a related experience will ask about his current clients, ways of working, databases, etc. We probably want to hire a person who will be able to produce results very quickly thanks to his experience.
In the case of needs, we set the scenarios and tasks in which the competencies may reveal themselves. What else is there to tell about what was going on and what else to do? A candidate who is already at the level of conscious or unconscious competence should not have problems with running it in an artificial task.
And so, in the case of the ability to analyze needs, you can lay out any scene by handing out a role to write and asking for making an analysis of needs with the customer.
In the case of checking skills of presentation of the offer, we can prepare your own product / service brochures (or simplified product / service) and ask your client to convince them. The client then plays the role of the recruiter. In a simplified version, the candidate can present the product / service of the last company he worked for.
We can proceed in similar way when checking the other skills. You should be sure to include your own specificity in the scenes.
In the case of attitudes, things get complicated because they are difficult to see through questions and tasks. The smart candidate will declare what we want to hear. When he is asked about his biggest shortcomings after a moment of false reflection, he will reply that his biggest disadvantage is workaholizm and too much obstinacy in pursuit of the goal.
Loyalty will be assessed after the course of employment and the reasons for changing jobs. If the reasons are true then this will be a tip. There is still a case in our case profile of the credibility of the candidate. We will evaluate it on the basis of the candidate’s declaration in relation to the specific questions addressed to these declarations. There is still analysis of work certificates and … the opinion of other people who have seen our candidate during his work and can tell about it. Unfortunately, the attitude is something that comes out in everyday life and so to evaluate it we need to get feedback from reliable sources. We should also remember that the recruitment is not closed when the candidate is employed – it really takes about 3 months to see some aspects of his job.
We used to ask the candidate for a number to his former supervisor (in case he still has a surname and a phone number from the previous job). We pointed out, of course, that we would call him only if he was one of the three final candidates and we watched the enthusiasm and willingness to share such information. Today, there is no problem to find information about such a man and from experience I know that the superiors willingly and truthfully share information about former subordinates (it is best to ask the facts of the candidate to avoid the opinion, which may have different sources).
When completing tasks, we should know what the perfect answers are. Unfortunately, in competency recruitment you need to know the competences. The potential supervisor conducting the interview must be familiar with the sales and be able to recognize the correct behavior. HR who recruits to different positions will not always be able to correctly assess candidate’s answers. When doing a task of presentation of the offer, the recruit can evaluate, for example, the tone or personality of the candidate, and it is really about whether the candidate uses the appropriate sales techniques that affect the mind of the potential customer (feature – benefit – image).
For each task we should write (or remember) for what we assign next points. If, for example, we would assess communication, it consists of a combination of factors: eye contact, asking questions, paraphrase, appropriate body posture, referring to the speaker’s opinion, appropriate speech formation, etc.). You can allocate points for each aspect and the whole need not be based on tasks and can be evaluated on the basis of the whole contact.
In the case of assessment of knowledge, the quantity of knowledge can be taken into account. The test will give us a score, while the answer to the oral questions should be written down. If you have questions about the sales technique you can assess the amount of knowledge of the candidate for persuasion, writing down briefly what he said.
In the case of tasks and scenarios, we also need to determine in advance what kind of points will be given (remembering the maximum amount that can be gained in a given competence). If we would like to assess the ability to analyze the needs, we could assess whether it is being conducted in a planned way asking open questions or paraphrasing how much he can engage a client to speak at this stage, whether he uses metacommunication or takes the initiative, asks deep questions, or is able to go beyond the price when the customer says about this aspect (“I want a cheap product”) – there are many opportunities and it is enough to estimate a product.
At the presentation stage of the offer, we will evaluate the use of the language of benefits, the number of used arguments, the change of the connector of the characteristics with benefit (or perhaps use another AIDA presentation, Mango formulas or on the basis of storytelling and canvas “enemy – hero”, “Augeas’s stable”), adequacy, the use of metaprograms, etc.
At the stage of overcoming objections we can check whether the candidate does not fall into the polemics or whether he uses the language of persuasion, inception, one of price defense techniques, or non-invasive transition to the arguments that stimulate the rationalization process or whether in the case of seeing the signs of processing arguments, he attempts to finalize the purchase.
In the case of assessing negotiating skills, there are many possibilities, from the ability to target to all interests and the use of negotiating techniques and technical aspects such as the amount of entry proposals, negating the first offer, supportive behaviors, etc. You can also negotiate only price aspects, make concessions (less and less), try to get something in return, show dissatisfaction, etc.
It is clear here that a person from outside the world of sales can at the very least harm the candidate and not properly assess his competence.
The assessment at least in theory should take place after the completion of all interviews on the basis of written facts. We thus avoid the weakness of human nature or the personal charm of the candidate, who could influence the assessment.
After evaluating the response, you will see a second line on the chart that will show the competitor’s competency status.
Below, there is a hypothetical layout.
We are looking for the candidate closest to the design. The chart shows us the candidate’s reserve space. Of course, we can establish a line of minimum competences that we can accept with a view to their further development.
Some recruiters also count points earned by candidates to compare them. You can do this by remembering to count them in 3 categories because the points are not equal.
5. The course of the interview
During the interview, we try to create the most friendly conditions for each candidate. We care that stress does not block the candidate’s ability to demonstrate competence (resistance to stress can be checked separately). Terms of call should be equal for different candidates.
It is worth mentioning that we assess the individual competencies we are looking for and that we will preapre a theoretical part, and then we will invite the candidate to do tasks and play a role. We do not want the recruitment interview was strange for the candidate.
You can sometimes just say what a given task checks, because after all, if a candidate does not have the skills to analyze the needs, then he will not be able to run it even if he know that it is checked.
If the candidate in the theoretical questions stage gets offended and emphasize that he is a practitioner and not a theoretician then we need to re-formulate the question so that it can be easier to evaluate a given category,
– what sales techniques do you know?
– I am a practitioner and I do not know the names.
– ok, what do you do in practice to influence the customer?
Pay attention to invoke the candidate to the role when he leaves it. So if at the stage of the price defense he says “I would do that i that way” then ask him to improvise with you. It is easier to talk but if you have the competence you will be able to conduct it. There are some nuances in the task as well, such as the way of constructive expression.
We shouldn’t comment the answers and we should listen with interest, note and thank you for your task.
You sometimes see that the candidate does not reach the minimum number of points and generally that there is no chance. Due to respect for the candidate, we recommend that you should continue the conversation by giving the candidate time (you don’t have to make notes). Radical failures usually result from our mistakes in the initial selection.
The described method of assessing the competency of a candidate is designed to protect us from typical pitfalls that we do not want to fall into during the assessment. We often compare candidates to each other instead of the ideal profile, or how weak they are, we employ the best person of the weak ones. We will remember better the candidates who are at the beginning and the end so that the good candidates from the middle have less chance and we succumb to the aura of the candidates (while very charming candidates may be presented very poorly on the chart). We also forget that attitude despite high skills may be a factor of exclusion.
I met this method 10 years ago on one of the trainings and despite other later trainings I did not find the methodology as simple and effective. Today I share it with you.