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Finding qualified professionals
An increasing number of water treatment dealers have found themselves in the position of needing to add to their professional teams. Perhaps they got fed up with some of the toxicity in the organization and made the difficult decision to replace it with professionalism. Or, hopefully, the recovery of the economy has created a necessity for a larger professional team.
Whatever the reason, hiring can be expensive and time consuming. This is the reason many owners and managers dread the process. They know they need to hire but do not have the time or the experience to interview properly. The result is that they often hire the first individual who shows up on time for an interview and does not have on different colored socks.
Veteran salespeople have learned to say all the right things to an owner or manager when they are jumping from sales position to sales position. They will often back slap, look you in the eyes, give a firm handshake and tell you how much they love going door to door and working straight commission. They will talk about six-figure incomes and will explain that their failures at the last three sales positions were caused by an unscrupulous owner, lack of training, broken pay promises or company downsizing. These salespeople are often charismatic and good at making an owner or manager believe that they will be a good addition to the team.
Owners and managers recognize this personality type and associate it with times in the past when they had one or two salespeople like this who did seem to “close deals.” The only type of strategy anyone has ever taught them was door-to-door, and maybe that persistent bottle drop program.
For an owner or manager, the prospect of spending hours to sort resumes and thoroughly interview is agonizing. When faced with a charismatic, well-dressed salesperson who says everything an owner or manager wants to hear, the memories of past salespeople like this pale. The owner or manager forgets how demanding and ungrateful they were. He forgets that while they did bring in sales, there was always that concern that they were toeing the line of ethics. He forgets that the previous salesperson promised a ton of creative business, but the only result was a lot of money spent on redesigned flyers that are now useless because they included the salesperson’s name and personal cell phone number, and boxes of empty bottles sitting in the warehouse.
If you have found yourself in the auspicious position of needing to hire a new professional, please understand that the suggestions that follow are made with complete recognition of how difficult and time consuming the task can be. Committing to completing the process thoroughly will yield a professional and will help ensure that the time and investment is not wasted.
The following suggestions are related to sales professionals, but owners and managers should use the same diligence for any position in the company, especially those that will be in direct contact with customers.
As discussed in “Replace Toxic With Professional” (Water Quality Products, February 2011), the first step is to define a professional, develop a program to attract such professionals and then commit to choosing them. Professionals are difficult to find because they are often already working or they have enough confidence in themselves to demand more in terms of compensation and benefits. The trade-off, however, is that you will find someone who is willing to give to your organization and customers far more than they take. This characteristic should be one of the most basic traits of a professional member of your team. They will recognize that the more they give, the more they get.
Once you have prepared to bring a new professional into your organization, you have to find one. Where you place the advertisement and how it is worded is key. We have all heard the cliché “you get what you pay for,” and while there are exceptions to every rule, this one is generally true.
I recommend placing an advertisement on free listing websites like Craigslist because there is very little to lose; however, do not expect great results from these sites for your higher-paid, higher-responsibility positions. Do expect a lot of spam. Remember that the more resumes you have, the more time it will take to sort through them. This is not a bad thing, but I would rather have 30 highly qualified resumes to sort through than 100 unqualified ones.
Newspaper advertisements can be expensive for what you get. They usually only run for a week and the space allotted to describe the position is limited, requiring abbreviated and incomplete descriptions. Fewer people are reading newspapers these days—but some still are. If you run a newspaper advertisement, make sure that it is also placed in the online version. Some newspapers also have arrangements with websites like Hotjobs or CareerBuilder. That means placing an advertisment in the newspaper will get you an advertisement placed online as well. This is an option worth pursuing, especially if the professional seeking a position is using a job search engine like Indeed.com.
This is where I usually go to find sales professionals. Although it is significantly more expensive, I currently like CareerBuilder.com best. On occasion, I use Monster.com. I like these sites because this is where I seem to find the most qualified and serious, candidates. I can create folders and manage the applicants directly on the site. The advertisement usually runs for 30 days and I can add enhancement features that keep it in front of as many candidates as possible during this time.
There are still plenty of unqualified candidates that apply, but I have the room to write specific requirements into the advertisement to eliminate many of these, resulting in a smaller but more qualified candidate pool.
When you sign up with these companies, they will try to sell you the ability to search their resume databases. Unless you have the resources to commit to having someone call a bunch of people that may have posted their resumes online just in case something comes along, I would not recommend this investment.
I also have learned not to put a lot of stock in the heavily touted applicant rating system. This is where the website rates a candidate based on your job description and the candidate’s resume and how well its computer algorithm thinks the candidate matches. Experience has taught me not to pay for this feature.
With a little planning, you can reduce the cost of these ads. There are excellent discounts for multiple job listing purchases. They do not have to be used all at once, so if you anticipate having to hire three people over the next year, consider purchasing three advertisements at a reduced price and then run the advertisements as you need them.
I like these avenues for ongoing recruiting. Usually the people on these sites are more technologically savvy, which can be good for a professional organization. It also is likely that if they are visiting your Facebook page and saw an ad, they have done business with your company.
These services are free, so be cautious about the candidates you are considering. Also, while there are exceptions, I do not recommend hiring from within the industry.
If you already send mail to your existing customers (rental invoicing, service reminders, etc.), stuff an advertisement in with the mailer. What better people to sell your products and services than the people who have already invested in them?
Job fairs are a good way to get a lot of resumes, but research the demographic the fair coordinators are targeting before investing your time and money.
Home improvement shows are a great place to hang a help-wanted sign. It shows that your organization is growing and it is clear what you do. Make sure that the staff in your booth is not inadvertently sabotaging the position, however. For example, if you have a lead runner and you are hoping to hire a lead creator, the salesperson who relies on house leads should not be the one who gives the first impression of your company to the potential sales professional.
Regardless of where you place an advertisement, be prepared to call applicants quickly. A good candidates will not stay on the job market long. Other companies will find them and you will have wasted your time and money. My opinion is that you should be able to complete a thorough interview process and offer an invitation to join your team within three weeks of the advertisement being run. Past this point, your chance of finding a qualified candidate decreases.
Making the commitment to fill your organization with professionals is a difficult but worthwhile goal. If you want a professional organization, then you have to hire professionals. Look for those professionals in the places they are looking for you. In future months I will discuss more specific characteristics to look for and how to complete a thorough interview process, as well as how to train once you find a professional.