Hiring a critical salesperson who is expected to make a big impact in the business is a serious task and a big investment. Yet, we often apply hiring practices that work against attracting the best candidates. Here is a summary of the worst hiring practices to avoid if you want to attract the best-fit candidate and in a reasonable timeframe.

Profile Creep: Profile creep happens when people introduce or keep adding, vague or highly subjective selection criteria that are impossible to measure e.g. the person has to have high energy? This sounds reasonable but is not going to help you identify people who can do the role – which should be the starting point. What is needed is an agreed common shortlist of objective – hard – selection criteria that are evidence-based.

Trying to Hire Off a CV: A CV is a tool that summarises information. Most are average in quality, some make poor-fit candidates look good and good-fit candidates look poor. You cannot hire off the CV. Use the candidate’s CV to decide if you should go to the next step (e.g. telephone interview), rather than as the only step to screen a candidate or as an easy way to reduce a shortlist.

Too Many Opinions: A committee approach to candidate selection might be necessary, but one person needs to drive the big decisions, deciding what opinions to take on board, what to ignore and what is an opinion as opposed to an expert-based, objective  judgement about a CV or a candidate. Many sales hiring projects become a search for a candidate who can offer everyone something pleasing, rather than an objective search for a competent professional.

Searching for the Holy Grail : Unlike most other occupations, sales requires a complex mix of capabilities and there is the constant temptation when hiring to insist on a “holy grail” candidate who is right from every angle – and you are prepared to keep looking until you find that imagined person. Nobody, especially in sales is successful because they are good at everything; it’s usually because they are good at the 1-3 things that matter. The holy grail candidate is  a comforting hire, but  not the right hire.

Many sales hiring projects become a search for a candidate who can offer everyone something pleasing, rather than an objective search for a competent professional. 

Wildcard Interviewers: It can seem sensible to introduce a wildcard or “surprise” interviewer who will “shake up” the selection process. Typically, they will change the whole direction of the process, introducing profile creep and uncertainty. All stakeholders involved in the hiring and selection process should be following the agreed, objective candidate profile criteria rather than introducing subjective considerations. Otherwise, you will lose good people, extend the search time and usually end up with a compromise candidate.

Beer Money-Champagne Expectations: It’s not uncommon that we find the “ideal” candidate but under no circumstances are we prepared to make an adequate offer to attract the talent. Either leave room for an expanded offer (decide upfront) or reduce your expectations. You might get lucky, but generally beer money doesn’t buy champagne, much as we want or need the champagne.

Avoid Lumpy Timelines: Many scarce but capable candidates are lost through tardy timeline management during selection processes that includes stalling candidates and waiting for 2 or more people’s calendars to sync. Serious professionals won’t stick around where the hiring process seems open-ended and is likely to reflect a company’s everyday culture.

The holy grail candidate is  a comforting hire, but not the right hire.