I recently wrote about the top four traits that I look for when hiring sales reps. It generated a lot of buzz and made me realize that those traits are useful for any team, not just sales.
And I also received a lot of questions on how to actually vet for those qualities. It’s a great question, since asking directly is unlikely to get you anywhere. But the good news is once you’ve honed in on the attributes you want on your team, you can design and focus an interview process around learning more about the candidate’s aptitude with them.
Here are some methodologies that have worked for me to vet candidates for my top attributes: coachable, curious, driven and smart.
Coach them. Give them feedback. Have them do a role play, then highlight one thing you like and one where they should improve, then have them repeat the role play. Can you make this person better at their job during your 30 minute interview? If so, imagine what you can do if you work together for a year?
Do they ask questions? About everything? Do they want to know more, or are they just sitting back and taking what you give them? For me, this is a way of being. I don’t necessarily care what you are curious about, so much as that you are curious. I like it when people ask about where leads are generated, what is the process from there, why do we do things that way, how did we come to our current setup, what happens after the customer closes, who handles support items, how do the teams interact and on and on. This isn’t about what I ask them, it’s about what they ask me when I’m not asking them anything.
Look at their career path and see what they have done. Ask about short term and long term goals to see where they want to go from here. Ask how this job will help them get there. These are areas where it’s easy to get a “PC” response, so keep digging. Find out what this person is passionate about, and ask them goals they have accomplished that mean a lot to them. Dig into past successes and how they got there. People with a burning desire to be the best are what you want, and that’s not something that turns on and off throughout life. If you think you are getting canned answers, keep asking for new examples (they will run out). Go back to high school or college and have them talk about something that wasn’t prepared, and dive in deep there.
You can get signals here from the resume, but you can also get a lot of false positives. Talk to the candidate about your business, and see if they get it. Ask what they think about recent decisions, or about questions you are facing today. Can they process and react to information presented? It’s less about the answers they offer and more about the thought process they use to get there (are they thoughtful at all?). Dig in to see if this candidate is going to be a thought partner on your never-ending journey to improve. If so, that’s the kind of smarts you need.
Finally, I have one bonus trick to help you with the screening process. Create a Google form that has your top attributes on it, and send it to everyone who meets the candidate to score them on each from 1 to 10.
This doesn’t replace the normal feedback loop you take internally to discuss candidates, but I’ve found that when teammates know they are going to have to complete the form after the interview (and score them on the 4 attributes you’ve highlighted), they are much more likely to successfully focus their conversation on the things that matter.