Sales Recruiting by the Numbers

I talk to many business owners and managers who do not have much experience with sales Sales Recruiter recruiting (or more specifically, SUCCESSFUL sales recruiting). They ask me a lot of questions about numbers and ratios, including:

  • How many resumes should I expect to receive when I post a sales recruiting ad?
  • What percentage of respondents should I expect to contact to schedule telephone screening calls?
  • What percentage of respondents is likely to “pass” the telephone screening call and warrant an in-person interview?
  • How many job candidates should I plan to assess?

I’m happy to share information about the numbers and ratios I experience when delivering “a la carte” sales recruiting services for clients. Let’s take a granular look at the steps in the sales recruiting process and (where appropriate) the numbers associated with each step.

1. Write an Effective Sales Recruiting Ad

What is an effective sales recruiting ad? One that clearly identifies the key capabilities and characteristics required to succeed in your company’s sales position. An effective sales recruiting ad also avoids asking for capabilities/characteristics that don’t directly impact sales success.

I won’t go into this topic in more detail because it is a lengthy topic that requires more discussion than would easily fit within the scope of this article. However, a free special report is available on the website listed at the end of this article.

2. Compile a List of Targeted Screening and Interview Questions

As you might expect, these screening and interview questions should relate directly to the key capabilities and characteristics that are required to succeed in your company’s sales position. This is what performance-based recruiting is all about — focusing the entire sales recruiting “conversation” (beginning with your recruiting ad) on the capabilities and characteristics that are most important for success in your company’s sales position.

It is important that you write down the questions you intend to ask for one very important reason — consistency. It is critical that you give each sales job candidate you invite to participate in a telephone screening call or interview the same opportunity to explain their ability to perform the tasks that are most critical for success in your sales position.

Why do I bring this up? Because it is very common for interviewers to give job candidates “a free pass” if the job candidates make a favorable first impression. The interviewer may very well switch from grilling the job candidate to trying to convince them to join the company!

The problem with this approach is emotions, biases, perceptions, stereotypes and first impressions are all significant contributors to “80/20” sales performance (where just 20% of salespeople produce 80% of sales results). If you want to substantially reduce your chances of making expensive hiring mistakes, one way to do it is to put more rigor and consistency into your sales recruiting process.

3. Post Your Recruiting Ad

Performance-based recruiting ads tend to be pretty long — as much as one entire 8.5″ x 11″ page of text and bullets. As a result, these types of ads don’t lend themselves to newspaper advertising. They are a better fit for posting online.

My recommendation to most clients is that they post their performance-based recruiting ads on either Monster.com or CareerBuilder.com plus Craigslist. Some clients have sales compensation plans that are rich enough to qualify their recruiting ads for posting on six figure job boards like 6figurejobs.com and theladders.com. Other clients are in less of a hurry and prefer to post their ads on low cost or no cost websites like LinkedIn, InDeed, SimplyHired or JobMatch.

4. Screen Resumes

Now let’s start getting into the numbers. My experience has been that a well-written recruiting ad will attract 60 to 100 responses in 30 days. This number may be higher or lower based upon what you say in your recruiting ad, the availability of qualified candidates in your specific geography, plus a host of other factors.

Reviewing resumes typically takes me an average of 3 minutes per resume. You may be faster or slower at reviewing resumes; that’s not important. What IS important is that you make sure you look for very specific information when you review resumes.

A good place to start is by looking for quantified accomplishments. These are indicated by statements such as the candidate exceeded quota by a specific percentage, grew market share by a specific percentage or dollar amount, grew sales in their territory by a specific percentage or dollar amount, etc. It is also important to look for information that suggests the candidate has had experience performing the specific types of tasks that are most critical for success in your sales position.

5. Conduct Telephone Screening Calls

My experience has also been that 1 out of 10 to 1 out of 15 recruiting ad responses are strong enough to warrant a telephone screening call. If you receive between 60 and 100 responses to a recruiting ad, there should be somewhere between 4 and 10 responses that warrant a telephone screening call. Telephone screening calls (the purpose of which is to determine whether a candidate is interesting enough to warrant an in-person interview) usually take 20 to 30 minutes each.

When I conduct a telephone screening call, my focus is investigating the top three to five capabilities required for success in that particular sales position. This often includes asking questions in several of the following areas:

  • Does the salesperson have existing relationships with people in certain job titles in certain types of companies that they can leverage to book appointments?
  • What is their approach to prospecting?
  • How much prospecting are they accustomed to performing?
  • At what level in an organization are they accustomed to calling?
  • Why are they successful convincing target prospects to make the time to speak with them?
  • What is their process for sales opportunity qualification?
  • How do they ensure they qualify for opportunities across their company’s entire portfolio of products and services?
  • What is their process for rapidly learning how to find and qualify opportunities for a broad portfolio of, and/or for complex, products and services?
  • What is their process for managing product demonstrations and presentations?

NOTE: There are many other capabilities that may be critical for success in specific sales positions. This is just a small sampling of possible telephone screening call questions.

Because I am so exacting when screening resumes, my experience has been that approximately 80% of the candidates that I invite to participate in telephone screening calls do well enough to warrant advancing to the next step in the recruiting process. Depending on the client, this next step is either an in-person interview or sales assessment testing.

6. Conduct In-Person Interviews

During an in-person interview you will want to drill deeper into each candidate’s experience and capabilities. Ask the questions on your list of Screening and Interview Questions that were not asked during the Telephone Screening Call. Put the candidate through role plays and other types of “situational” interviews to see how they respond to real-life sales scenarios. This is also a good time to ask questions intended to determine how good a fit the individual is with your management style and/or your company’s culture.

7. Assess Finalists

Next, I recommend that you gather objective information by assessing your sales position “finalists.” This is another lengthy topic that is beyond the scope of this article. For more information on a very comprehensive approach to sales assessment testing, visit the website listed at the end of this article.

8. Conduct Additional Interviews and Extend Job Offer(s)

Your recruiting process may include additional interviews for a variety of purposes. These include:

  • Asking questions that were raised by the individual’s assessment results
  • Giving other individuals in your organization a chance to interview candidates. If you do this, make sure the other interviewers have a clear understanding of their role in the sales recruiting decision process. Ask them to be consistent in their dealings with interviewees. What specifically are they trying to uncover through the questions they ask? Do their questions relate to capabilities and characteristics that are critical for sales success?

Don’t be surprised if this sales recruiting process produces more than one desirable sales job candidate. You will now have a (happily) difficult choice — will you hire just one salesperson or more than one?

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