Can you ever be sure you’re hiring the right salesperson?
When I first wrote this article, we were in a very different place, with unemployment at an all-time low and sales hiring a top priority.
Man oh man, how the world has changed so quickly!
Whether your company has paused hiring, topgrading, still hiring, or will be in the future, having the right people for your business and stage will ALWAYS be a priority.
With so many great candidates hitting the market and juggling a laundry list of competing priorities, are you prepared and equipped to handle that volume while understanding who is truly right for your business?
It may seem like you’re always taking a blind bet on a new hire, but there’s a way to rig the game in your favor so you win more often than not.
That secret weapon is a hiring scorecard.
In this article I’m going to show you how to create and implement a hiring scorecard so you can make the right hire, the first time.
The cherry on top? You’ll be able to download the interview scorecard template that I use with my clients.
If you’re a job seeker, never fear! Part two of this scorecard series will help you create a sales interview scorecard to land that sales role you’ve been dreaming about.
The Power of the Scorecard
Recently, a client of mine was feeling unsure about a highly qualified candidate.
The candidate gave all the right answers to all the typical questions. She had all the right skills and her numbers were incredible, but the chemistry was lacking during the on-site interview.
In my experience, getting caught up in shiny objects (like great numbers) during the hiring process is a straight line to Disasterville, and when the cost of a bad hire is painfully significant, it pays to take a measured approach.
Fortunately, my client used their hiring scorecard to sidestep a costly mis-hire.
By identifying what was important, realizing all salespeople aren’t created equal, and asking a series of important questions that probed below the surface-level statements, my client uncovered that the candidate didn’t align with what they needed.
Turns out, the candidate was scared, rather than excited, about their exit strategy.
Although the hire didn’t make sense at that time, the candidate could very well be a tremendous asset later. Luckily, because my client identified the problem early, the disaster was averted with no bridges burned!
What’s more, that scorecard reduced my client’s hiring process time by 37%, which allowed them to invest that time on other priorities instead.
A hiring scorecard allows you to consistently make thoughtful hiring decisions based on the factors that actually predict success in your organization and within the role.
Case in point:
Your roadmap to success
Let me be clear, not all candidates are created equal, and not all businesses need the same thing. A hiring scorecard is both the roadmap for the hiring process and the compass that points to the right hire for your role and the stage of your business.
The power of a scorecard reduces the margin for error.
According to the Harvard Business Review, the validity or predictive power of a typical unstructured interview is around 20%.
That means, if you’re not interviewing in a structured fashion, you only have a 1 in 5 chance of actually making a good hire (yikes). But that also means salespeople entertaining a new gig only have a 1 in 5 chance of deciding to work with you once you deliver your exciting offer.
If you haven’t defined what you need and why you need it, how will you know a good hire when you meet them?
In fact, psychology tells us that we’re blind to what doesn’t align with our current goals.
In a famous experiment called the Gorilla Test, participants were told to watch a video of people playing basketball and count how many times the ball was passed. Since the participants were focused on counting, less than half saw the gorilla walk into the frame, beat its chest, and saunter off slowly.
In other words, you stand a very low chance of finding an ideal candidate if you’re not looking for them specifically.
That’s why it’s so important to define what your ideal candidate looks like before the hiring process begins.
A hiring scorecard helps you pinpoint these quantifiable factors and evaluate candidates against one another according to your requirements. It also keeps everyone on the hiring committee on the same page.
And that’s not all. Because scorecards help ensure you hire the right person for the job, using a scorecard to evaluate and interview candidates can reduce churn by as much as 50%.
How to Define Your Ideal Candidate
The first step in building your hiring scorecard is determining your end destination. What does your ideal hire look like? You need to visualize who this person is.
If the new hire is exceeding expectations in the next 6–12 months, what does that look like? Why?
If the new hire is struggling in 6–12 months, what does that look like? Why?
What are the top performers in my current team doing? How? Why?
What’s missing from the members of my team who are struggling? Why?
Write down everything that comes to mind, and separate the list into “must-haves” and “must-avoids.”
Your “musts” are the deal makers and deal breakers that outline your ideal candidate persona (just like your ICP in sales). Once you’ve set the boundaries with “musts,” get very specific about the necessary skills, traits, behaviors, and experiences that you’re looking for.
Every factor you list will help you assess candidates and cross-reference them against one another during the hiring process, so be sure to define exactly what you need and why you need it. Ask and answer in-depth questions about what you need from the person, their workflow, their processes, how they’re enabled, etc. For example:
Do we have a lead generation strategy in place, and what does that really look like? Or will this person need to find their own leads from scratch?
According to Gallup, only half of employees strongly agree that they know what is expected of them at work. A hiring scorecard will help you get granular about role requirements, take the emotion out of the hiring process, and ensure success for your new employee.
If you’re unsure of what questions you need to ask yourself about your ideal candidate, here are some examples:
- Why am I hiring?
- What does my buyer need, and what is my market telling me?
- Who do I need now?
- What specific tasks does this person need to do to be successful? For example:
- Complexity of the deal
- Communication (internal, external, written, and verbal)
- Sales chops
- Technical chops
- Cross-functional collaboration
- What sales system do we use? Are we a Challenger Sales shop, and if so, does the person we hire need to know those methods? Most importantly, how do they apply them?
- What specific KPIs do we need this person to achieve?
- What’s not getting done today/tomorrow without this hire?
- Is our organization ready to support this hire? If so, how?
- Who is involved in the interview process, onboarding process, and ongoing support and training process?
This is a team effort.
Have everyone involved in the hiring process evaluate and weigh in on the score criteria to ensure alignment. The last thing you want is to derail your search because the hiring team isn’t aligned and is unsure about what’s important. This can lead to an icky candidate experience that can come back to haunt you and your organization.
Don’t Lose Sight of the Long Term
Here’s the hard truth: Who you need today is likely not going to be who you need in five years.
Hiring for “right now” is like taking one step forward and two steps back. Jake Reni says it best:
I’ve never regretted under-hiring, and/or slowing down my hiring process. I have always regretted hiring too soon or over-hiring my reps.
It’s important to take an honest look at the skills and traits you need to get to the next level but also leave room to grow in years to come. Failing to do so can negatively impact your potential growth, especially in enterprise sales.
After all, top-performing salespeople want to be part of winning teams where they can make an impact.
According to the State of Startups Survey 2019, the ability to make an impact on a company is the top-ranked (55.1%) reason candidates join a startup.
If you don’t provide opportunities for advancement — or if you’re churning salespeople constantly — you will develop a bad reputation, and it will come back around like a bad boomerang.
6 Key Questions For Long-Term Hiring
Here are six questions to ask yourself when trying to hire for both your immediate needs and future growth.
- What’s our mission? Why are we doing what we’re doing? (A truly qualified hire is aligned with your big-picture goals).
- What is our 3-5 year plan?
- Expansion strategy
- New markets
- Going up/down market
- Do we need someone who can achieve results in a leadership position? (side note: this is a post all in itself)
- What type of salesperson do we need?
- Executive-level presence with a strategic thought process to boot
- Inbound or outbound
- Enterprise or SMB
- Master social seller
- High-volume transactional closing machine
- Do we need a lone wolf? Or do we need a team player?
- Do we need this person to come into the office? Or can they work from home? Given the current landscape, how might our position on this change in the future?
Building Your Sales Interview Scorecard
Once you’ve defined your ideal candidate, it’s time to create the scorecard you’ll use to evaluate and interview potential hires.
Because of all the work we’ve done defining our ideal candidate, this is actually the easiest part.
This can be done quickly and easily in a spreadsheet, with the ideal traits and criteria along the top, and space for the interviewer to rate or score each candidate on how well they meet those criteria below.
In each section you should include key items that you want your interviewer to discover or dig deeper into.
Based on the qualifications of each candidate, the interviewer will assign a rating/score to each section which determines how well the potential hire matches up to your ideal candidate.
This document will serve to guide the interviewer through their questions, while also helping the decision makers to quickly assess the candidate afterwards.
According to SHRM via Hubspot, ”the most effective [interview scorecards] prompt the interviewer to choose a rating — ranging from poor to excellent — based on the candidate’s answers.”
This is my interview scorecard template. You can use it as a starting point to create your own ideal hiring scorecard.
Implementing the Sales Interview Scorecard
Once you’ve got your interview scorecard template, it’s time to use it.
Review the scorecard before an interview. In particular, review the candidates’ profile, resume, and LinkedIn profile to pinpoint specific questions that relate to each category.
Based on the answers, assign a score of 1–10 in each category.
After the interview, calculate the average score across all categories of the scorecard. You can also assign an added weight to categories that you consider mission-critical. By counting certain areas double, you can ensure your final average reflects your real needs.
This helps you understand:
- Where you need to dig in further
- What stands out
- What’s missing
- How the candidate compares to your current team
- How they compare to other potential candidates
Next, it’s time to calculate your minimum acceptable score for each category.
For example, an average of 7.5 is my minimum acceptable threshold because it means that we’re not a perfect match on 25% of our questions.
Voila! You now have an objective, results-oriented evaluation of each candidate.
A well-designed scorecard should make it easy to narrow the list of qualified candidates, as it did for this colleague, after I gave him my interview scorecard template:
The beauty of the hiring scorecard is that it helps you make decisions without getting bogged down by emotions. You hold yourself accountable to evaluate every candidate at the same standard without any bias.
The Dos and Don’ts of Using A Hiring Scorecard
Your hiring scorecard is only as helpful as it is accurate, comprehensive, and detailed.
Here are a few pointers for getting the most out of your scorecard and using it to make the best hiring choices.
Do: Get specific about what success and failure look like.
As I discussed above, you and your team should get specific about the traits of your ideal salesperson. If you don’t go into detail, your persona will be sloppy and your scorecard won’t be helpful.
Do: Ensure that everyone in the interview process uses the same scorecard.
The hiring committee should all have access to the same information when evaluating candidates. Plan to discuss the scorecard together as a team while you’re creating it, both before interviews and after.
One of our clients made an offer but had to retract it when they discovered the candidate had lied during the hiring process. After uncovering the inconsistent behavior, we created a custom interview scorecard template and shared it with every person involved in the hiring process to help them circumvent issues like these in the future.
This is easily avoidable when you embrace the power of a hiring scorecard.
Do: Review your scorecard regularly to make sure it’s up-to-date and accurate.
You’ll want to refine your scorecard over time because your hiring needs are always changing.
I recommend scheduling time every quarter to evaluate your scorecard based on the performance of your current team and the insights you’ve gained from the hiring process.
If you’re not hiring regularly, though, reevaluating your scorecard before a new hiring process should be plenty. This way, you can be sure you’re training yourself to interview optimally (instead of falling for the same tricks over and over again).
Do: Go slow to go fast.
Quality hiring is directly linked to growth. The best companies take their time during the hiring process because they know rushing to fill seats can lead to costly mistakes in both the short- and long-term.
Good begets good. Finding the right candidate (the first time) cuts down on the risk of a bad hire, but it also cuts down on recruiting time and cost. Meanwhile, this helps minimize disruptions to your company culture and solidifies your reputation as a good place to work.
Making the right decision takes time, and going slow helps create a flywheel of success that pays dividends over time.
DO: Keep going.
You may not see results from a hiring scorecard immediately. The best salespeople are almost always employed and not actively looking for a new role. They’re good at what they do and have a great job because of it!
Trust that your scorecard will guide you to find the best person for the job versus rushing into a bad hire.
Do: Define your “why.”
To get people who believe in your mission and produce results accordingly, you need to be intentional about hiring. This starts with knowing your “why.”
As Simon Sinek discussed in his massively popular TedTalk, what underlies the most important, attractive, and successful organizations is their “why” — their underlying values.
When these core values are defined, it becomes very easy to attract the right people to your camp.
For example, people flock to Apple and remain loyal, not because they make smartphones, but because people love the brand. Apple’s brand identity is well-defined, and it resonates with users.
The best salespeople want to believe in what they are selling. And more than that, they want to believe in the business they are building by selling your product or service.
“Why” is your personal standard and the key differentiator in the hiring process. Salespeople who align with your “why” are great hires.
Don’t: Change your scorecard during the hiring process.
Your hiring scorecard is only accurate if it’s consistent for all candidates. Don’t change it during a set of interviews.
Otherwise it will become impossible to properly measure candidates against each other.
Don’t: Change too many things on your scorecard at once.
If you restrict your diet to learn what you’re allergic to, but then add too many foods back at once, you can’t know what you’re reacting to when you have an allergic reaction. A sales interview scorecard is no different. If you change too many variables at one time, it’s hard to know what made the difference in the hiring process.
The goal is to be able to track progress so you know which aspects of a sales candidate are most important to the position you need to fill, and so you can make better hires over time.
If you do/don’t do these things, you’ll be squeezing every last ounce of performance out of your scorecard and making sure you hire the best person each time you need to fill a vacancy.
Don’t: Forget to tally your results and compare the data to your team’s performance.
Being able to tie the results on your scorecard to the performance of your team is a key part of keeping your scorecard up-to-date and effective. Comparing your hiring record to your team’s performance allows you to ensure you’re making the right choices.
Putting it all Together
Implementing a hiring scorecard into your hiring process can be boiled down to 5 simple steps.
- Create your scorecard. Use the interview scorecard template I use, or create your own from scratch.
- Review your hiring scorecard against your sales team’s performance to make sure it’s up-to-date. Depending on your hiring frequency, you can do this quarterly or before a new hire.
- Make sure the entire hiring committee is using the same scorecard. Schedule a time to debrief to discuss the scores before and after interviews to prevent gaps in communication.
- Keep a record of the data after each round of interviews. Compare this data to your sales team’s performance and adjust the scorecard accordingly.
- Talk about your results with the candidates, and use this as an opportunity to collaborate. It’s a great way to see how they take feedback, clear up any miscommunication, and get better together.
A hiring scorecard is the best way to clearly navigate the hiring process, avoid the painful effects of a mis-hire, and identify and evaluate candidates.
So, create your candidate persona, galvanize your hiring team on the key traits before you start the hiring process, and whatever you do, DO NOT figure it out as you go. Go into the hiring process with a plan, and you will improve your hiring.
It’s as simple as that.
Do you use an interview scorecard template in your hiring process? How is it working for you? Let us know in the comments below!