Show Me the Money!

I've been reading your latest articles on improving the hiring process. Could you write about money motivation? During the interview, sales candidates always assure me that they want to make a lot of money - as much as the comp plan will allow, if not more. With some salespeople, after they've been on the job for a few months, I don't see the drive and ambition that they spoke about before I hired them. They seem to be satisfied making less money than they originally claimed they wanted to earn. How do I determine someone's level of money motivation?

Determining a candidate's level of money motivation trips up a lot of hiring managers during the interview process. The reason often can be traced back to discussing the candidate's interest in making a lot of money, but not requiring them to prove a history of high earnings.

What It Is / Is Not 

Money motivation isn't a skill. No certification for it exists. It's a trait, inner drive, or behavior. A person heavily influenced by money holds earning power and what it can buy in high esteem. 

A sales manager, boss, or mentor can add direction or discipline to someone's desire to earn a lot of money. But no manager is able to force someone to be more money motivated.

The Interview Process 

When discussing the job opportunity with a candidate, presidents or sales managers will show them the compensation plan, often pointing out the top earning potential. The candidate frequently expresses a lot of enthusiasm with regard to earning that kind of income. The president or sales manager takes this to mean that they are driven and know how to make that kind of money. 

Many disappointing months later, some presidents may discover that their eager candidate had no real game plan to achieve a substantial annual income.

Telling vs. Demonstrating 

Money-motivated people have a history of earning more than their peers. Often their drive appears at a very young age. To determine how inspired someone is to earn a high income, try asking these types of questions during the interview process:

  • Tell me about your very first job.
  • How old were you?
  • What did you do with your earnings?
  • What has your income been for the last several years?
  • How satisfied are you with that?

Their answers will help you see whether or not they have a history of acting on the desire to earn a lot of money.

Having a Game Plan 

Most people who are driven to earn a lot of money don't put all of it in the bank. They have plans for a lot of it. Specific plans. Ask questions such as:

  • If you achieve the highest bonus level in our comp plan, what would you spend the money on
  • What's the next major purchase you would like to make?

Cash-driven individuals have a list ready. It could include: a boat, a vacation, a car, or a re-landscaped yard. Many love gadgets and will spiritedly mention buying the latest version of an iPhone or the equivalent. Yes, these individuals have kids to put through school and mortgages to pay. But money-motivated candidates are likely to talk enthusiastically about the types of purchases that are more fun to make.

Providing Proof 

Though many presidents balk at this, asking the candidate to show you their W-2's or pay stubs for the last several years will provide proof. The genuinely dollar-driven candidates will produce the documentation needed. They won't work for much less than they are currently making and need to make certain that your company can provide the income they insist upon. 

Ambitious, money-motivated individuals are not shy when talking about money and earning potential. Most have a precise figure in mind when it comes to their annual income. They understand what it will take to bring in that amount. Make sure that they explain their plan to you during the interview process. You should be in agreement with them that the plan is realistic and achievable. At that point, you'll know that you're interviewing a money-motivated individual.