Do You Sway Towards The Ideal Sales Job Candidate?

aka, Do You Give A First-Date Or Joe Friday Interview? One of them is good, the other, terrible…

Want to know which one gives results a whopping six times better than the other? Well, according to a couple of pages I read in the pop-psych Sway (pp80-2 of my paperback), the authors quote recruitment expert, Professor Allen Huffcutt.

Although from the view of the recruiter, his ideas can be as readily applied by any hopeful interviewee. After all, how better to show sales acumen then knowing what helps sets you apart…

He found these top ten questions get asked in the standard, typical ‘free form’ interview. Recognise any?

  1. Why should I hire you?
  2. What do you see yourself doing five years from now?
  3. What do you consider to be your greatest strengths or weaknesses?
  4. How would you describe yourself?
  5. What college subject did you like the best and the least?
  6. What do you know about our company?
  7. Why did you decide to seek a job with our company?
  8. Why did you leave your last job?
  9. What do you want to earn five years from now?
  10. What do you really want to do in life?

These are witheringly categorised into a trio of clusters. The self-evaluative 1, 3, & 4. The crystal ball gazing 2, 9 & 10. The past reconstruction 5, 7 & 8. None reveal anything relevant. Simply the as-expected, prepared, largely useless responses. Such as;

“I work too hard … I’m a team player who enjoys a good challenge … my life’s dream is to work for your company … in this exact job”

As compilers the Brafman brothers conclude with delightful sarcasm, “yeah, that’s the ticket”.

The only half-decent one appears to be number 6; “What do you know about our company?”

At least it should show up qualities vaguely related to doing the job in question.

As for overall approach, the recommendations are clear.

“restrain … from delving into first-date questions and focus instead on specific past experience and ‘job-related hypothetical scenarios’ … It’s the Joe Friday just-the-facts-ma’am approach”

Joe Friday, they reveal, returns the impressive six-times more effective results.

They provide a triplet of examples from various situations;

What kind of accounting software are you familiar with?
What experience do you have running PR campaigns?
How would you reduce inefficiencies on the assembly line?

In our Sales context these seem to have everyday equivalents.

What kind of objections do you field?
What experience do you have with complex bids?
How do you quicken the sales cycle?

Yet in a winning interview, such alone are not enough.

The most recent help I gave to sales management in this regard was aimed at producing a simple six-point checklist. A half-dozen things to do during the interview. Two in particular involved not just hearing what the candidate had done. You have to go farther. Deeper. Narrower.

I thoroughly recommend conducting actual role plays.

Cold calling integral? Then swing round your chair and let them shoot.

Simplified pitches vital? Then hand over a marker and let them draw it out.

Talking in CEO-speak essential? Then you be the chief exec and see how they engage.

One word of warning. If you have HR departmental police, be careful of sharing your insight. For as Huffcutt acknowledges, such staffers are slow to adopt the right path. He himself is left frustrated that even his own personnel team preferred their traditional (ineffective) ways rather than put his compelling findings into (better result creating) action. Crazy.

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