Why Your Job Interviews Bring in Crappy Sales People

by Chris Young

Most sales job interviews are meaningless.

Yes, that means in many circumstances you are wasting your time, money and effort to bring in crappy sales people who will never transform your business. Or worse, can harm your long-term organizational health.

Over the course of history, the sales job interview was thought of as an essential, powerful opportunity to identify the potential of sales talent, build rapport, and set expectations. Unfortunately, thanks to human biases, sales interviews rarely accomplish any of these objectives.

To overcome human bias and transform organizations, the tools and ways to evaluate sales talent and identify true Sales Wolves have evolved.

If you are not using the right methodology to find and attract Sales Wolves, you are losing.


handshake-2056021_1280The truth about most sales interviews.

AKA, a recipe for mediocrity.

The problem with typical sales job interviews is that they are ad hoc, unstructured, and filled with human preconceptions. Too many candidates are interviewed who should not be in the interview at all. Candidates read books like Knock’em Dead by Martin Yate and come prepared for yet another by-the-books snoozefest interview.

While everyone could and should prepare for sales interviews, there is no preparation to become a Sales Wolf.

If people are not wired to be Sales Wolves, they simply are not potential Sales Wolves. End of story.

Compounding the problem is that many sales hiring decisions are ego-driven, gut-based decisions that are influenced by a multitude of human biases and socio-emotional baggage. All too often, data gets beat by ego when it should be the other way around. Shareholders, customers, sales managers, and sales team members deserve a structured, data-driven sales selection process.    

When sales candidates are not expected to meet the standards of the sales hiring scorecard, the wrong sales candidates are allowed to enter the interview process. Oftentimes, the best of the lot are hired instead of the best possible salesperson. This is a recipe for mediocrity or worse.


Let’s start at the very beginning.

A very good place to start.

The biggest problem with sales job interviews starts at the beginning. Too many of the wrong sales candidates and too few of the best are recruited, interviewed, and vetted.

Few companies recognize and respect the relationship between elements of the sales hiring scorecard (particularly sales personality) and sales performance. Few companies autopsy deeply enough to understand why some salespeople perform well while others do not.

If you do not understand what makes salespeople perform, how can you find and hire the right ones?

It is time to take a critical look at sales recruiters. The most successful sales recruiters are NOT the warm fuzzy HR people and recruiters employed by many typical organizations.


There is a massive recruiter quality and quantity problem.

Few companies properly select sales recruiters, nor do they hire enough of them. Few understand that Sales Wolves respond to and are best recruited by fellow Sales Wolves. The best sales recruiters are mirror images of the sales talent they pursue. Sales recruiters who are not Sales Wolves themselves settle for good enough sales talent.

Good enough sales talent will kill your business.

All of this is preventable. It is not rocket science. Which takes us back to the true beginning of the entire process: The CEO.

The CEO just has to decide. And there lies the problem. If the CEO is soft, so shall be the sales team. All problems start at the head. The mindset of the CEO shapes the collective mindset of the company. If the CEO does not push the sales team to be the best it can be, by default everyone involved becomes complacent about incrementally-improving their sales hiring process and practices.

Complacent CEOs are unaware of the predictable tradeoffs between quality of sales talent and sales performance. This behavior may actually be attributed to a strong brand nationally or regionally that clouds the contribution of each salesperson. Many companies are successful in spite of their sales talent.

Think about that for a second -- many organizations are succeeding in spite of the very people who should be the lifeblood of a business. Yet in most instances, the CEOs here feel that everything is fine...until it is not.


Your apathy is arming the competition.

Turning your success into your downfall.

When organizations succeed in spite of their sales talent, competitors often notice the profitability battle-1846807_1280potential and enter the marketplace. Startups with funding often seek from the very beginning to build the right sales team. As new, more nimble companies scale their sales machines with only Sales Wolves, they take market share.

Incumbents who were previously fat and happy with profits suddenly find themselves in a tailspin. Many do not seek to improve their sales team DNA until it is too late.

Focusing on comfort will kill you.

The priority of many companies seems to be the comfort of their sales team and HR. Many are afraid that if their salespeople leave, they will lose customer relationships or some significant knowledge loss will occur. Accordingly, many do not push their sales team to perform at adequate levels.

They also fail to push HR (recruiting) to continuously improve the quality of their sales candidates and hires. Few in HR understand what it takes to build and maintain a world class sales team. The outcome is predictable. The company settles. Sales activity and accountability standards slide or cease to exist.


Turn it around before it’s too late.

man-2125123_1280Change your organizational DNA.

In many cases, you can stop the bleeding and turn things around before it’s too late. I have seen organizations at just about every stage of the process -- from just starting to feel the pain that comes from years of mistakes, all the way to being on full-on life support.

When we first interact with a company, we typically offer a brief trial run of our assessment services and counsel. As part of this, we pair with an influential recruiter or recruiting team who represents the best and brightest of the company.

Recruiters either see our expertise and tools as a significant career accelerant or as a workload threat.

We often find that the recruiter and/or recruiting team come to dislike our counsel, because our advice leads to fewer candidates meeting the sales hiring standard we require. Our sales selection process almost always illuminates the low job fit of candidates who previously would be determined as acceptable. Unless the recruiter digs in and works harder to identify the sales talent quality our process requires, the sales candidate pipeline dries up. Sales recruiters either dig in to work harder and the company hires additional recruiters, or they do not. If neither occur, our services are poo-pooed and the trial run is deemed a failure.

Most recruiters, when given the choice between doing the heavy lifting necessary to source only Sales Wolves or to be comfortable doing less, will seek comfort doing less.

It takes a special CEO and HR Director with strong business acumen to blow the recruiting budget up when they see signs of sales hiring success that scream, “Hire more Sales Wolf recruiters now!” Despite demonstrating significant return-on-investment, few companies will go out of budget to scale up a recruiting staff and truly meet the talent needs of a sales team to only hire Sales Wolves.

It never ceases to amaze me how many companies unnecessarily constrain profit-making sales by saying, “We do not have the budget to hire another recruiter.” While some companies do get sales hiring correct and have solid sales recruiters, they have both locked under budget or some other arbitrary control. You cannot go broke selling at a profit. You cannot go broke if you have a sales hiring process that illuminates the 20 percent who produce 80 percent of the sales results in the industry.

If you are hiring only the best salespeople and they are selling well, profits come. Profits are a signal to hire more Sales Wolves. If you have a solid sales hiring program but cannot hire enough, then hire more competent sales recruiters to do so.

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