Hiring top talent: How to win when hiring for sales roles

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4 mins, 41 secs read time

How do you engage with the best sales candidates? That was the question that kicked off the “Hiring Top Talent: How to Win When Hiring for Sales Roles” session at Greenhouse OPEN. Greenhouse’s Director of Sales Development Mo Moran moderated this panel discussion between Jacqui Maguire, Director of Talent Acquisition at Greenhouse, and Steven Broudy, VP, Head of Sales at Bevy and former Head of Global Operations and Inside Sales at MuleSoft.

First and foremost, it’s important to recognize that recruiting is ultimately a sales role. So many of your activities as a recruiter – prospecting, initial outreach, exploratory phone calls – mirror the activities salespeople do every day. According to Jacqui, that means, “You have to match them – you can’t be mediocre in your outreach and mediocre in the way you’re looking for sales talent if you’re trying to find the best because it’s not going to work that way. They’ll see right through it.” Steven agrees, saying, “You can’t sell snake oil to a snake oil salesman.” So what are some of the actionable tactics that will help you win at hiring sales talent? Read on to find out!

Get Curious: What Do Your Top Performers Have in Common?

Many sales leaders have assumptions about what makes the best salespeople: the smartest people who went to the best schools who had the highest GPAs and the best track records of success. But after conducting an in-depth analysis, Steven and his team realized that most of these qualities have no bearing on a salesperson’s likelihood of being successful. Attending an Ivy League school can be a predictor of success, but it doesn’t matter nearly as much as some key personality characteristics.

The traits that are the best predictors of success – especially for early-career salespeople – are a passion for sales, coachability and a growth mindset. Once Steven understood this, he was able to design an interview process that assesses candidates on these qualities. For example, to gauge a candidate’s passion for sales, hiring managers will ask about the last sales book they’ve read, and the book before that, the book before that and… well, you get the picture!

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work: Promoting Recruiter-Hiring Manager Relationships

Both Jacqui and Steven agree that building strong relationships between recruiters and sales hiring managers is the key to successful sales hiring, though they each approach it differently. At Greenhouse, non-technical recruiters are responsible for hiring across all departments, so there are no recruiters who focus solely on hiring for sales. At the same time, Jacqui encourages her team members to immerse themselves in the departments they’re hiring for, so they’ll often attend sales team meetings and trainings to better understand the day-to-day work of the sales team. Encouraging recruiters to attend sales training was an especially useful tactic because it helped them to not only learn more about the roles they were hiring for, but also develop their own recruiting/sales skills.

Steven shared his experience based on his previous role as Head of Inside Sales at MuleSoft, where recruiters had an extremely narrow scope. There was a constant need to fill sales roles at MuleSoft because they were always trying to hire ahead of their headcount.

Steven found a few tactics to be especially effective: First, recruiters sat in the same pod as the sales team to form a tight partnership. Second, they focused on building trust between recruiters and sales leaders so that hiring managers felt comfortable discussing team and individual performance with recruiters. By understanding which hires were excelling and which were struggling, recruiters could get a better grasp on how to hire in the future. Third, recruiters would go through very structured sales training. Steven echoes Jacqui’s sentiment that the principles are all the same and recruiters ultimately hone their own skills by participating. Finally, especially in the early stages of a recruiter-hiring manager partnership, Steven encourages continuous and open feedback. Having hiring managers work closely with recruiters during the application screening stage, for example, creates plenty of coaching opportunities where the hiring manager can share their thinking and selection criteria.

Make It Repeatable and Scalable: Putting Processes in Place

Steven recommends looking closely at top performers to understand which traits and attributes they have in common. Once you understand that, you can design your interview scorecards and questions to assess whether someone has those traits. To assess coachability, for example, Steven worked with the recruiters to design realistic exercises where hiring managers would give feedback to candidates – regardless of their performance. This exercise helped them see how candidates responded to feedback in the moment. Were they able to internalize it and act upon it? This is a good indication of a candidate’s coachability.

Jacqui also recommends regularly reviewing data on your sales interview process. At Greenhouse (like many other organizations), the pipeline for sales candidates is always open, so there are plenty of data points to collect and monitor. Do you have an interview stage that 90% of candidates are passing, for example? If so, check in with your hiring managers to see if this stage can be removed or the criteria can be adjusted. Jacqui recommends checking in frequently and iterating constantly.

The common ground between recruiting and sales gives you an advantage – you already speak the same language and engage in many of the same activities. Being intentional about the ways you work together will only strengthen your partnership and help you hire the best talent for your organization.

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Melissa Suzuno

Melissa Suzuno

is a freelance writer and former Content Marketing Manager at Greenhouse. Melissa previously built out the content marketing programs at Parklet (an onboarding and employee experience solution) and AfterCollege (a job search resource for recent grads), so she's made it a bit of a habit to help people get excited about and invested in their work. Find Melissa on Twitter and LinkedIn.