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Friday, January 19, 2007

Finding great salespeople -- the incredible challenge

Today, we went through the roller-coller experience, again, in sales recruitment. We're looking for someone capable to join the team; the starting compensation is reasonable -- about $20 per hour -- and we could work with the right candidate on a full-time or part-time schedule.

Recently, I've been focusing my recruitment efforts with the Canadian government's free Job Bank online employment service. The price is certainly right, and we've used the service to attract some very qualified candidates in the past.

But the latest round of advertising hasn't gone so well. When the posting first appeared, we received many responses -- I count 35 or so in total. I've never thought there to be great value in wading through resumes, developing short lists, and the like. Instead, we email a response customized to the offered opportunity, with a questionnaire designed to verify whether the person is right for the work.

There is another, hidden, test. If the prospective salesperson shows some initiative and calls us, they win points. If, instead of just answering the questionnaire, they put some thought into the questions and perhaps engage in some follow-up communication, they also gain additional points. We are, after all, looking for salespeople and this is one situation where we want the candidates to effectively "sell themselves" to get a job. (Conversely, when I see this selling-type behaviour for other types of work, I generally discount them -- we are looking for their actual talents, not selling skills; for e xample, we want journalists who can write and communicate, not 'sell' us on why we should hire them.)

Alas, however, it doesn't look like any of the current batch of candidates is passing the test. One person called (good) but in subsequent conversations, he disqualified himself. "I only want a full time job," he said. "I don't want to telemarket," he observed. Okay, but you need to use the phone to sell, and as far as I could tell, the candidate didn't have a job right now -- so he wouldn't be giving up much to prove himself part-time.

The last thing we want to do is to hire someone simply because we have a space to fill, and take the best of a bad lot of candidates. (Conversely, if two super candidates showed up, I expect we would find a way to create two jobs.)

So we'll go back to the drawing board, and continue our efforts. I know this is a common problem for most businesses and wish I had a better answer -- but if we did, we would be in another line of business.

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