A reader asks, "As company president, I have always conducted any interviews and made the decisions when hiring sales reps. I would like to change this and involve other employees in the interview process. How do I go about it?"
Everyone wins when employees participate in the selection of a new hire. The candidate meets more people within the organization, coming away with a better sense of the overall culture. You benefit from listening to the opinions of others before making a final decision. Employees feel their views count and have greater buy-in for the candidate you select.
The Best of Intentions
Though well meaning, many presidents or sales managers begin including other employees in the selection process by saying, "Oh, by the way, I'm interviewing a candidate for our open sales position this morning. Would you like to talk with this person for a few minutes after I'm done speaking with them?" Others drop a prospective hire off at an employee's cubicle unannounced. A company president told me about spontaneously introducing a candidate to an employee playing solitaire on their computer. Another mentioned leaving a salesperson to chat with a staff member. When she came back the two were enthusiastically discussing their favorite restaurants.
These situations lead to awkward, unprepared conversations between the parties. Executives leave themselves open to this type of occurrence when no pre-planning takes place.
Consider the Participants
Include only those who would interact with the new sales rep on a regular basis. If hired, your new salesperson can meet and chat with other employees during orientation. Unless we're talking about a very small company, having a job applicant meet every one in the organization is tiring, confusing, and a time waster.
I recommend the potential hire meet with four people at most. If you've never included other employees in the interview process before, start with just one or two. See how it goes.
At least a week before the candidate comes in to meet with you, get together with the selected staff members. Let them know you'd like to include them in the interview process. Ask them what questions they would like to ask of sales candidates. Talk about what you would like to learn from their conversations with the applicants. Let a discussion take place. Be open to suggestions on improving the overall hiring process.
Leverage each employee's strengths. Have the Director of Customer Service inquire about post-sales account management or the Director of Marketing ask about lead follow-up.
At the close of the meeting, ask each person to submit a list of questions to you. Look them over and get together again to finalize the lists. Candidates for any position resent having to answer the same questions over and over again. Make sure that each staff member makes different inquiries.
Present an Organized Front
The day before the candidate arrives, tell them who they'll be meeting with. Give them a chance to do some research on LinkedIn. They might prepare some questions of their own.
Email the salesperson's resume and interview time slots to the group. Stop by after the last interview and bring the candidate back to your office. Answer any last questions. Escort them to the reception area and make your goodbyes. They will be impressed by and appreciate all of these courtesies.
Don't let too much time elapse. At some point during that day or the very next, convene the interview group. Share thoughts, opinions, and observations about the salesperson. You should go last. Once all of the applicants have been met with, rank them by order of group preference.
Not everyone will be in agreement, but the opinions and insights will prove valuable. You'll feel more confident when you extend an offer to a candidate.
Many presidents or managers wait until the second interview to have a candidate meet with other employees. If the initial interview does not go particularly well, they won't be wasting valuable time on an unsuitable candidate. I agree with this.
Just as you assess applicants for your open position, they evaluate you and your organization at the same time. By allowing different people to participate in the interview process, the candidate sees a company with a professional, thorough, organized, and inclusive approach to hiring. Top performing sales reps want to work for a company embodying those qualities.