Hero image of Brian McCauley, ProSales columnist

In the world today, many companies are still finding they have more positions to fill than interested candidates to interview to fill the openings. It has never been more important to find good people to fill key roles in your organization. While conducting interviews for sales candidates, companies are looking for people who have the knowledge, skills, experience, and attitude to do the job while making judgements on how each candidate would fit with their company, people, culture, and job description. That is a lot to be on the look-out for, and the stakes are high.

There are many personality and talent assessment tools available, such as DISC and Challey Assessment Tool, to assist employers in finding the right employees. They focus on the personality of the candidate and how likely it is that person would succeed with certain types of jobs in the company. Many other tools focus on behaviors that candidates have demonstrated in other roles, based on certain competencies established for the role you are hiring for. I have found the behavioral interview tools more useful as they predict future success based on past behaviors exhibited by the candidates, as opposed to giving candidates a challenge or problem and asking them how it should be handled. I would rather know how they did handle it and what the results were.

Here are a couple less sophisticated, but effective tactics for helping you find the right person. It is said that Thomas Edison used to invite candidates for different roles out to lunch and order soup for the table. He would watch the job applicant to see if they immediately added salt or pepper to their soup or tasted it first before deciding to add any additional seasoning. He immediately rejected any applicant who seasoned their soup before tasting it. The reasoning was he did not want employees who relied on assumption. In his opinion, those who were content to go by preconceived notions could be a liability in his business because it demonstrated an absence of curiosity and willingness to ask questions which could hamper innovation.

Here is a similar tactic that can work well when you have a sales opening and have it narrowed down to a couple of candidates. Invite each of them to a separate lunch meeting with the hiring manager and another person in your company who may interact with them on the job but probably a level below in the organization. Observe carefully how they interact with others during the lunch. How do they treat the wait staff – are they impolite or do they make snarky comments when people are out of earshot? How do they interact with the company members in attendance, do they listen more than they talk, or jabber on like a monkey in a tree? Look for candidates who are curious about the organization, the people in it, their roles, and how the sales role they have applied for would work with the rest of team. All salespeople and sales manager will tell you that listening is much more important in sales than talking. But very few people in this industry practice what they preach. In many of these lunch meetings you will find sales candidate who ramble about the success they have had, how much their customers like them, how much they can help the organization and give nary a thought to the other people they are interacting with.

If you can find that sales candidate who really listens more than they talk, is curious about people and situations, they just may make an excellent addition to your team. Happy Selling!!