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Making the most of your employee search with a thorough interview process
It finally happened–you fired the toxic salesperson that has been a drain on your company for so long. But now you are the one running all of the sales calls in addition to running your business.
In a previous article (“Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are,” June 2011), I discussed how to find good candidates, but suggested that the interview process could take hours. How are you going to find the time? You ran an ad on Career Builder and Monster and have a ton of resumes, but now what?
Most people who have submitted a resume through Career Builder or another job-posting website have also submitted resumes to other places. Once you have sorted the resumes, dedicate a few days to telephone interviews. Have an assistant call each candidate to schedule a preliminary telephone interview. The caller may say something like, “Hi, this is Sue from ABC Water Conditioning. You submitted a resume to us in response to a territory manager position we have available. We are interested in speaking with you about this position. We are conducting preliminary telephone interviews on Tuesday afternoon between 1 and 5 p.m. Will you be available during that time?”
Potential candidates will almost always make themselves available. Scheduling the telephone interview begins a potential relationship with respect and allows for a more relaxed conversation. Once you have confirmation they will be available during the time you allotted, send the candidate a short e-mail to remind them of the time with the original ad attached so that they can review the company.
During the telephone interview, reiterate some of the challenges of the position. Ask candidates about their income requirements, their hours of availability and what attracted them to the position. If the position is straight commission or requires working in the evening and on weekends, talk about it on the phone to make sure all requirements are understood from the start.
Some potential candidates will be eliminated because they or you lack interest. Either way, the telephone interview takes far less time than a face-to-face interview and allows you to narrow the field of qualified candidates.
If things go well on the phone, invite candidates to a face-to-face interview.
First Face-to-Face Interview
Hopefully, you will have eight to 10 candidates for face-to-face interviews. Dedicate a day or portions of several days to these interviews. If you try to schedule them between your other tasks, you will likely be distracted and rushed, not giving each candidate the complete consideration needed. This is risky, considering that this individual may be representing your company, unsupervised, in your clients’ homes.
During these interviews, you will gather basic information about the candidates. Were they on time? Were they dressed professionally? First impressions matter—a potential sales professional cannot “grow” on you. If something about them turns you off when you first see them, then it is possible that the same will happen with potential customers.
Do not spend a lot of time talking about the position in this interview; reiterate the necessity of creating business and the evening and weekend hours. If you are going to hire a self-generator, make this clear in every step of the interview process. Otherwise, you could end up with a lead-runner that thought the self-generating requirement was optional.
If the interviews go well, do not be surprised if they last for an hour or more. Try to narrow your field down to three candidates for second face-to-face interviews and invite those candidates back during the same week. The longer you wait, the more likely a potential candidate will find another job opportunity.
Third Face-to-Face Interview
There is not a successful married sales professional in this industry that does not have the support of his or her spouse. Water treatment sales professionals are required to work long hours with varying results. You will dramatically increase a potential candidate’s success if you involve his or her spouse in the decision-making process. Schedule a dinner interview with the candidate and his or her partner. Make sure the spouse understands exactly what the job requirements will be—don’t “candy coat” the pros or cons.
There may be times after a dinner interview when a qualified candidate decides he or she cannot accept an invitation to join your organization. While this can be disappointing and frustrating, appreciate that this decision was made prior to spending effort, time and money on training.