3 Questions to Ask when Interviewing Potential Hires

In this job market, when companies have open Teleprospecting positions (or any open positions, for that matter) they tend to receive a large number of resumes.  The position is open for a reason and any delay in filling it may delay sales funnel growth.  That is why companies feel compelled to get the hiring done fast. In an effort to fill the position quickly, some resume screening occurs and viable candidates are brought in for in-person interviews.  Several key people are asked to interview each candidate to review their skills and to see if they would be a fit for the company.  These interviews happen within the same day. I call this the “Interview Shuffle”.

During the interview shuffle, Teleprospecting candidates meet with several people from marketing and sales.  In some cases, candidates will have a final interview with the CMO, CSO and even the CEO.  Depending on the number of people required to do the interviews, the actual time each member of the interview team spends per candidate may be only 30-45 minutes, at the most.

These are the 3 reasons why I advise my clients against using this method to interview candidates:

1. Who is this person?

In 30-45 minutes it is difficult to determine if the candidate is a good fit for the position or the company.  A series of questions are asked and people who are good at interviewing may wow each interviewer.  When a decision is based on this first series of interviews, I have seen that the hiring manager regrets their decision within the first 3-6 months because the candidate isn’t performing as well as was hoped. Bring the candidate in at least 2-3 times.  Ask the candidate a few of the same questions that were asked during the first interview.  Are their answers generally the same?  Or are their answers significantly different?  Plan the questions that the interview team will ask each candidate.  Make sure that the bulk of the questions are “situational” questions.  Ask questions that require specifics for how the candidate performs their job.  For example:

Question: Give me an example of a typical day at your current job.

Good answer: “I get into the office around 7 am and take a quick look at my activities that I have set up for the day. If there is a company that I need to research, I will take a moment and Google the company before I make the call.”

Bad answer: “Well, in this job, I guess most people start early after they get their coffee and then they start making calls.”

Situational interviewing takes time.  It is the best interview format to uncover if the candidate knows their stuff.  This interview process might take 90 minutes or more for each interview team member to complete.  The time will be well spent because the information uncovered will help you to make a more informed decision.

2. What is the commitment level?

When a candidate is interviewed by the interview team on the same day, there is no way to tell how committed the candidate is to the position or the company.  When candidates are asked to return for additional interviews, the hiring manager has an opportunity to verify continued interest.  Determining commitment level is another reason why the candidate should come back to the office 2-3 times. By doing this, you will see how committed the candidate is and it gives you more than one day to determine if they are the best candidate for the job.  Are they professional and appropriately dressed each time? Do they exhibit a continued level of enthusiasm?  Do they ask additional and interesting questions about your company with each subsequent interview?  If not, the candidate may not be right for the job or your company.

3. What does the interview team think?

There is a Chinese proverb that says “Don’t be over self-confident with your first impressions of people”.   There are many people who are very good at interviewing.  Sometimes these people are great on the job and sometimes they aren’t.  I do believe that managers should trust their gut if they don’t feel good about a candidate.  However, I think that a hiring manager should give themselves some time to see if their first “good” impression sticks.  This can’t be done in 1 day. Bring the candidate back.  Circle back to the interview team to see if they too continue to feel good about the candidate.

The Interview Shuffle enables companies to get their open positions filled quickly.  From my experience, however, this hiring method costs companies time, wastes resources and inhibits a company from meeting objectives.  Too often the wrong candidates are selected and the position is open again within a few months.

I recommend that you have the hiring manager conduct the first interview; taking time to ask situational questions to determine fit. Candidates who pass this first interview should be asked to meet with the interview team and the hiring manager a few more times and over a period of 8-10 days.  This will give everyone time to get a good sense of the person.  If you rush the hiring process you might regret your choice later on. Take a few weeks to get a sense of the person so that you will not have to repeat the interview process again in a few months.

Elevate the Morale of Your Sr. Executives and Recapture Hope and Success to improve Corporate Culture

Many of the companies that we have been asked to “turn-around” had executive teams that were without hope.  Despair and lack of faith were the emotions of the day, reulting in a missing sense of community and a negative corporate culture.  These executives couldn’t see a way out and had no vision for the future.

Recently, I was asked to do a GAPaudit (Growth, Accountability and Performance) for one of our clients.  The CEO was at his wits end with the numerous challenges that he had to address.  Some of his challenges included:

  • A “me-too” product that was launched very late in the game and without key features that would make it a compelling solution
  • An ineffective Sr. Management team whose focus was on what the other guy wasn’t doing leading to an eroding corporate culture
  • A sales funnel that wasn’t nearly large enough to support the company’s revenue objectives
  • A non-existent strategy for developing the sales funnel
  • The perception of an “in-crowd”. Every senior manager felt like the CEO was favoring the “other guys”

The atmosphere at the company was so bad it was palpable.  The senior management team was without hope and no one on the team could share with me their thoughts for improving the situation.  Team members were in a state of panic. Corporate Culture was basically non-existent.

When there is no hope, it is difficult to get out of a bad situation.  When communication breaks down, there is no way to have meaningful discussions.  When team members view each other as the enemy, alignment of thought is almost impossible.

Here are 8 things that you can do to massively improve morale and turn your company into a successful, high-performance, high-energy culture of respect and success:

  1. Admit that there is a problem.  Burying your head in the sand while this negative activity continues will not help you to get out of your mess.  If you have a lot of finger-pointing and bad vibes amongst your team, you need to nip it in the bud and now.
  2. Find a conference room that you can spare for 6-8 weeks.  This room will become your success room; much like the cabinet war rooms that Churchill and his team operated during World War II.  I refer to this space as your success room, because this is the place that your team will use to map out a turn-around strategy.  The success room is the place where your senior managers will meet, twice a day, to hash out the issues and map out a recovery plan.  This room should be available only for this team and for the period of time outlined.
  3. On the first day, have your Success Team map out all of their complaints, grumblings, upsets and write these on the white board.  I highly recommend that you use an outside facilitator to help coach your team through this difficult process, as this allows objectivity and avoids accusations of ‘favoring’.
  4. Once all of your key issues have been identified and listed on the board, use brainstorming sessions to outline possible solutions to each of the problems.  Everyone on the team needs to be part of these sessions throughout the time allotted.
  5. Once you have identified your Goals, Objectives and Strategies, assign team members tasks that will move your company out of the problem(s) and into a viable solution(s).  There will be many tasks, as you uncover the issues.  Make sure that the tasks are broken into do-able daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly chunks.  Highlight the tasks, as they are completed.  Everyone will need to assume responsibility for achieving their tasks on time.  If a task is going to slip, the person responsible should let everyone know, ASAP.  The team should ask why the task(s) can’t be completed on time.  Perhaps they need additional resources (brainstorm on how to get these) or more information (brainstorm on where to gather this information).   Whatever the case, there will be no hiding out.  Get the information to the team and resolve the issue with the team.
  6. Have each team member write down what they appreciate about each of their team members.  You can do this on the board or distribute “thank-you” cards for each team member, so they know that they are valued by their colleagues.  While this may sound like a silly exercise, it does work.  When people feel appreciated, even a bit, it frees their energy so that they can focus.
  7. Hold 2 success room sessions each day, for the period allotted (I recommend a period of 4-8+ weeks).  In the morning, meet to ensure that everyone is in alignment with the plan and discuss items that need to change or be moved out to a later date, as above. During the afternoon session, ask team members to list any challenges or issues that may keep them from being successful.  Some of your strategies may need to be re-worked.  That’s ok.  Be willing to keep going until you get it right.  The more your team effectively communicates with each other, the better the communication will become.
  8. Make everyone in the room responsible for sales.  Revenue can’t happen if the product isn’t right or if there isn’t enough demand generation to build a viable sales funnel.  Revenues will be lost if customers move away from your company to your competitors.  Everyone needs to have an idea of how you will hit or exceed your quotas.  Everyone must contribute to supporting the Head of Sales to ensure that the company meets its growth goals.

This process will be tough going at first.  Over the weeks and months (hopefully no more that 2 or 3 months) your team will learn to trust each other, communicate more effectively and take responsibility for making a positive contribution to your company.  The uplift in atmosphere will improve your corporate culture, thus elevating moral and productivity. Where there is hope and energy, there is fire.  That fire will transform your company.

Sales Management: How to Refocus Complainers at work to be Positive

complainers at work

As I sat at my desk browsing LinkedIn, I came across a Slideshare that was funny and clever and made me laugh out loud. It was about people who complain at work but let me tell you, for Managers, complainers are not fun. Complainers at work can suck the positive energy out of a team and bring morale down in a flash. This is where it is essential for good Sales Management to step in. Here are 6 strategies that I have personally used to refocus complainers at work to get them back on track:

  1. Let them vent. Set up a meeting with your complainers and let them tell you their perspectives about everything that’s wrong with the job. Let them vent about their frustrations and write their complaints down on your whiteboard. Review their complaints and ask the complainers to prioritize the most important issues. Let them know that you believe that there is a solution to every problem (which there is) and you will work with them to resolve the issues to the best of your ability.
  1. Select the top 2-3 issues and create task forces to address these issues. Each task force should be comprised of a group of 3-5 team members. Give the complainers at work a leadership role on some or all of the task forces. The goal of the task force is to brainstorm to find a solution. After the brainstorm session, weed out the ideas that aren’t viable and build a plan around the viable solutions. Present the solutions to the senior executives who, ultimately, will need to approve the plan.
  1. Tell your team to bring their complaints and solutions to you. Once your team sees that you are open to finding solutions to their issues (perhaps you’ll need to run several task forces to build trust), let your team know that you will listen to their complaints and work with the team to find workable solutions.
  1. Create a solutions board. Set up a whiteboard in the team area. This board is a place for team members to outline issues and possible solutions. Once a week, meet your team at the board and review issues and solutions. Prioritize the issues and create a plan (and maybe a task force) to resolve the issues.
  1. Personal complaints need HR support. If your team member is spreading rumors, gossiping about others, or is randomly ranting about unspecified “things,” I recommend that you work with HR to come up with some team building exercises to rebuild morale. When people meet outside of the office, they may gain a new perspective about the people or person that they think they dislike. Set an example of respect and make sure that you respect every team member and show it. Make it clear that every team member is to be treated with respect and dignity.
  1. Hold a team appreciation day. Set aside one day where everyone on the team is appreciated. During the appreciation day, get a big thank you card for each team member. Pass the cards around so that everyone can write statements of appreciation for each team member. If you have 5 team members, you’ll need 5 cards, for example. At the end of the day, each person gets their card. Each person has to think of a positive aspect to write about each team member so once team members receive their cards, they will understand that they are appreciated. This is a very powerful exercise and I have seen amazing results while applying this process.

If the complainers at work are under-performers, take time to provide additional training and support. It is the Manager’s job to help team members meet performance objectives, so ask them to outline where they feel like they need support to grow and provide them with constructive feedback. Good Sales Management means realizing that sometimes complainers need more attention. The additional training and support will help them to be more effective. With this approach, their complaints may decrease as their performance improves. If you work with your team and give them opportunities to find solutions, your complainers will feel valued and see fewer reasons to complain. We are all just people and you need these people (your team) to meet your objectives. In short, “you are all in this together.” Value your team and they will value you and the job!


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