How Many Interviews Does It Take To Hire The Right Person?

I get questions like this almost daily.  The real issue is not how many interviews should an organization conduct before making a decision, but rather how well were the interviews conducted.  The key factor in a quality interview is to answer three simple questions:

1.  Can the person do the job?

2.  Do they want to do the job?

3.  Do we like the candidate?

The problem is that many hiring managers make the decision based on question three by itself, never really diving deeply into the candidates background to objectively answer questions one and two.  Yes, I agree that culture, fit and a candidate’s likability are important; however, not at the expense of the person not being able to do the job required or not wanting to do the job.  In my 20+ years of being in the sales and sales recruitment business, the single most important issue in hiring the right person for the job is to objectively determine the answers to the first two question, can they do the job and do they want to do the job.  If the answers to either or both of these questions is anything but a resounding yes, nothing else matters.

How do you best determine if they can do the work and want to do the work?  Simply put, you must define the job you are looking to fill by specific performance measures.  Most job descriptions outline basic skills, competencies and minimal requirements.  The outcome of what you want someone to do is never stated.  For example, right now I’m working with a company to help them find a sales person in the midwest who is selling a manufactured food product to restaurants, other food manufacturing companies that may use this particular product, hospitals, schools and other foodservice places.  The key to this job is for the sales person in their first 12 months to sell 2 or 3 accounts that are buying $400-500k worth of product annually.

This is a critical piece of the equation, as I now know the questions I have to ask in order to determine what accomplishments a given candidate has done in their past.  The key for me is to look for a track record of selling a food product directly into accounts that my client wants to penetrate and to determine if this candidate has a history of selling larger accounts in the $400-500k range.  If it is determined that they do have such a track record of success that can be validated, the objective likelihood that they can and want to do this type of work with my clients company is high.

We are humans and are subject to biases, stereotypes and emotions in the recruiting and interviewing process.  What we can do in order to counteract this is to develop an objective measuring system to help us remain as objective as possible so that we are not led astray and end up hiring someone based on their ability to get the job, but rather by their ability to actually do the job.

I welcome thoughts, comments and questions.


Antarctic Mike


“Would You Like A Pastry To Go With That?”

I had an interesting experience at a Starbucks coffee shop recently that has everything to do with sales people doing a more effective job.  I walked up to the person at the Starbucks around 4pm on a weekday.  I ordered a cup of coffee, as I usually do.  The “barista” asked me “would you like a pastry with that?”  Being that it was 4pm, I was not hungry for a pastry and I said to her “no thank you but I’m glad you asked.”  She looked at me a bit funny and asked why.  I proceeded to tell her that I take note of employees who are really engaged in what they do for a living and who make a concerted effort to take care of the customer, and in turn, grow the business.  After all, Starbucks, like any other company, will have increased sales if their employees proactively speak up about products and services that they provide.

I proceeded to tell her that it is very unusual that a retail person takes such proactive and engaging measures to take care of a customer and grow their employer’s business.  Ask yourself when was the last time someone at retail store took such measures with you as their customer.  I believe the reason it rarely happens to the point where I took notice is because most retail employees, like most employees in any industry, are not truly passionate about their job and thus, not very engaged in their work or with their customers.  Most people, including sales people, do an average job at best.  Not asking customers good questions is one road sign of a sales person not being engaged in their line of work.

Here are what I see as the top three questions that good sales people ask customers consistently and that showcase they are engaged with what they do everyday and who they do it for:

1. “Thank you for your business.  By the way, who are some other people you know really well that you think I should be introduced to in order to provide the same experience I’ve provided for you?”  Every sales manager and sales person knows that they need to get more referral business.  I remember when I got my start in sales at Mutual Of Omaha years ago, our sales manager forced us to put a sticker on the phone receiver that said “ASK FOR REFERRALS”.  Why did we have to do this, even though we all knew this was important?  Because we forget.  It is that simple.  If you simply asked for just 2 referrals every single day, that is 10 per week, 40 per month and almost 500 in one year!  How many more sales could you make if you were personally introduced to 500 people on a favorable basis?

2.  “Thank you for your business.  What is it about me, the way I conducted myself, and the way I helped provided value to you that made you decide to do business with me?”  This is a great question that few people ask.  As a sales person, you have to know what goes on in the minds of your customers and how they perceive you.  If you consistently ask this, you will discover what your real value proposition is (based on hearing the same thing from many people that you ask).  This will boost your confidence tremendously and teach you a lot about how to showcase your value, have conversations with people and how to better market yourself.

3.  “Than you for your business.  What is it that you think I can do a better job of in order to provide even more value to my customers?”  This is a great question that many sales people are reluctant to answer because they are afraid of what they will hear.  On the contrary, knowing this is the only way to get better in the things that people pay for.  Don’t take their criticism personally, but take it constructively.  Listen, the customer likes you or they would not have bought from you.  They are really helping you because they want you to succeed even more than you already are.