What Sales Job Interviews Can Take From Google's Talent Choices

So a few days ago on Bloomberg TV, I saw a snippet on Zappos. Usually worth a listen, shoe disrupter Tony Hsieh described how his firm has become so sought after to work at.

They have dumped judging people on performance. They only assess against the ten core values they as a company follow.

Results speak for themselves. They are booming. They are popular. Are they the future?

Whilst I wouldn’t perhaps go as far as gung ho Americana, the number of times I have seen a promising salesteam debilitated by the cancer of a particular top performer means I admire such a stand.

You probably know the type. They fail to fully engage internally, undermine the direction of the business and show contempt for anything that gets in the way of their tunnel visioned pursuit of their own agenda. It’s a tough call, but they must be jettisoned.

And so this week the web has been a flutter over a New York Times ten-paragraph interview with Google’s job hunter dream-breaker-cum-maker-in-chief.

Yes, definitions of his required main traits now abound (learning, leadership, humility, ownership & inexpertise). What I like rather, are questions that draw these out.

If you’re a sales manager conducting interviews, or instead going for a place on a new salesteam yourself, you can adapt these quite easily I think. In whichever way you shape the flow. They’ll expose the true abilities of the applicant in the first instance, or show you truly fit the necessary mould and stand out in the second.

Learning (Ability) – What was the last change you personally made to your sales process?
(Emergent) Leadership – What was the biggest challenge when you last collaborated on a sale?
(Intellectual) Humility – When has a significant fact changed on a deal?
Ownership – When did something go horribly wrong on a bid you lost?
Inexpertise (ie, not being an expert) – What’s your number one selling expertise?

I’m sure if I thought on this longer than my twenty minutes quick blogging here, I could riff on each of these further.

I realise that other obvious qualities loom large in the supposed ideal sales psyche (persistence, clarity, focus). As NY times writer Tom Friedman sums up, in this world of team innovation anything that gets to the heart of why you succeed is crucial.

As a sign-off, one commentator’s more general questions from these five can be entertainingly and directly matched to a Sales environment.

Do you have an IQ higher than 130? (intellectual humility) In the same way that contrived acumen assessment exams are no real indication of new job performance, so too are previous sales numbers. Yet there is a paradox here, as the highest performers I’ve met tend to know their own performance KPIs intimately.

What shall we have for dinner this evening? (emergent leadership) Can you give firm opinion, delivered with belief?

Why did you choose the last five articles you read? (learning ability) Perhaps my favourite. If they weren’t related to selling as a skill or the problem/industry of your key prospects then I might worry. Google, on the other hand, may say to be a random link clicker is to pull potential solutions from leftfield. You decide…!

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