Async Journal

Improve Your Sales Hiring: 6 Methods For Screening Candidates

Hiring process designs
The most experienced salespeople have been through so many ups and downs that they see any problem as a temporary one. Things may change in no time, and if you reject their job application, they are fine and ready to get back on track as if nothing happened. And will you be able to move on with the same ease knowing you missed a great sales candidate, just because the resume was short, you couldn’t read the name properly, or just for no reason? To avoid mistakes and skip unconscious bias in the early stages of candidate selection we have “screening”.

Screening is like getting the right lens on the candidate pool and deciding who is worth it, who has to stay, and who has to go based on better evidence. Screening is also a chance to make sure the applicant is a truly available and active human being. Nowadays smart recruiters “screen in” not out, meaning they are no longer looking for reasons why a person is a bad fit for a position or a company, but rather trying to see the value in each candidate by evaluating the whole skill set of a candidate and analyzing the potential.

Soft skills are the most critical ones for salespeople and are arguably the most difficult to assess, especially in the early stages of the hiring process. How do you spot leadership or the ability to communicate just by looking at hundreds of resumes? Here is our list of 6 methods to screen sales candidates.

Let them talk on the phone

Lots of deals are still ultimately closed on the phone, and being comfortable and confident on the phone is a vital part of success in sales. As a recruiter, you can give a screening call to a job applicant (maybe even an unannounced one?) and ask them to tell a short story about themselves. A few tough questions in a stressful environment might be just enough to show how the person performs under pressure. Do they manage to align their experience to the job requirements? How are they selling themselves? Do they manage to convince you that they are worth progressing to a real interview? You can get a first impression of how prepared the person is for the role and how tough it will be for them to sell your products, especially if they know little about them.

Ask to describe in 100 words (or less)

Reading one or even two-page сover letters can make anyone sick, especially when the only thing you want in the early stages of the hiring process is to get an idea of who the person is or if they can communicate meaning can they write a decent email to a client? Ask an applicant to send you a 100-word essay about why they are good for the role and why they want to work with you. If a candidate is an efficient communicator, five-seven sentences would be just enough for them to show their eagerness, experience, and creativity.

How about a sales pitch?

Back in the days one of the popular screening tools was a phone pitch. The candidate would get the name of a company, conduct preliminary research, and then call you to leave a 30-second voicemail as if you were a manager of that company. It is quite an effective way to see how an applicant can internalize value propositions, tailor a pitch to an account and communicate clearly and efficiently.

Get real insights from videos

Do you remember that story on Reddit a few years ago about a guy who started doing magic tricks at the final interview? And another one about a guy who had to go answer the door during a video interview and flashed his “tighty whities”? Well, nobody is perfect, but how much time can you waste on absurd interviews?

A video introduction lets you come as close as you can to your candidate’s real personality and build a more human and integrative image of a person in the quickest way possible. It immediately brings you from dull CVs and cover letters to real evidence of the abilities and soft skills of a candidate. You get a chance to uncover your applicants’ language skills, communication styles, and professional perspectives in the first stages of the recruitment process.

It would be a pain to make an engineer or even a designer record a video for you, but for a salesperson presenting and communicating value should be second nature. Video screening works even better with passive candidates. Given their busy schedules more personal live video interviews are harder to arrange, and they get an opportunity to create a mini-demo of themselves with a one-way video interview.

You can improve the experience by preparing some job-specific questions to ask, and let your candidates use pre-recorded videos to answer them.

Use a sales assessment test

It goes under different names such as a sales assessment, a salesperson test, a personality test for sales, but the goal is usually to better profile the candidate. Screening sales tests are usually broken into different parts, including sales skills, personality profile, and aptitude. It may include a questionnaire where job seekers rate their skills, a sales scenario test, and a test to measure reasoning, analytical skills, language, and basic math. The variety of assessments is huge, and some of them are even incorporated into the Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) organizations use to track applications.

Organize a contest

You can sell anything if you can sell a brick. That was a simple idea that advertising agency Ogilvy used in their recruitment campaign. The company took to YouTube in search of ‘The World’s Greatest Salesperson’. The participants had to submit a short video in which they showed their best techniques of selling a common red brick, and the winner got a three-month fellowship at Ogilvy.

With a variety of social media channels available nowadays, a full-scale out-of-the-box hiring campaign may bring fresh talent from around the globe into your candidate pool. Keep in mind that not only the winners make it to the top. A sales contest is some sort of screening tool made to engage the best candidates. It works if you need a creative sales professional, or if you are ready to deal with candidates (such as interns) who probably have lower levels of sales experience but show great potential and can stand out.