“Why did you leave your last job?”
It is a question nearly every hiring manager asks, and with good reason.
Since the best predictor of future behavior is previous behavior, it is important to know what kind of environment and mindset your candidate is coming from.
Is your candidate going to be brutally honest, unusually vague or even downright make up an answer on the spot?
Some answers may affirm your confidence in their future with your company, while other answers may send up immediate red flags.
As an interviewer, one of your most critical jobs is making sure you are getting truthful responses from candidates – getting down to the good, the bad and the ugly. But getting an honest answer from a candidate who is focused on trying to impress you can be challenging.
Your job, therefore, is to ask the right questions and look for patterns in a candidate’s previous job moves that may affect the future.
How Past Experiences Can Change the Outlook for a High Drive Candidate
You will have a good idea of which candidates are most likely to succeed in your company after completing a phone interview with them and having them take a sales personality assessment, specifically measuring their Need for Achievement, Competitiveness and Optimism.
These innate personality traits are necessary to succeed in sales; however, they are not enough to guarantee that you have identified the right salesperson for your company.
You still need to make sure he or she has the right personality, goals and experience to make the hire a strategic and worthwhile investment for your company.
Learning about a candidate’s past experiences may be enough to write off even a high scorer on the sales test. Someone unwilling to compromise, who may have a quick temper or who has stringent perfectionist tendencies may not fit in with your work environment.
The candidate you ultimately hire should not only have high Drive, but should also possess complementary professional experiences and personality, and fit in with your company culture. If all of these factors are not present, you may need to evaluate other high-scoring candidates.
Implementing a sales personality assessment can drastically decrease your timeframe between posting a position and hiring by narrowing your focus to the individuals most likely to succeed. Without full knowledge of past experiences, however, the assessment alone is not enough to ensure a good fit. This is where a strong interview strategy comes into play.
The Power of The Magic Wand Question in a Sales Interview
Conducting a successful sales interview can be difficult.
As a company representative, you need to appear confident, experienced and in control, while also making an interviewee feel comfortable and relaxed.
You have to ask the hard questions in such a way that you get the truthful answers you need to make a hiring decision that will impact your company positively.
Additionally, you may be feeling extra pressure to hire an excellent candidate due to existing frustration with current sales representatives being unable to perform at an acceptable level or to recent departures from the team.
For example, you need to discover if a candidate has a pattern of getting into arguments with supervisors, leading her to jump ship when things reach a boiling point. An individual who makes rash decisions is someone you may not want to risk hiring. No team benefits from the “bull in the China shop.” Unfortunately, the candidate may not be forthcoming with this information, making the hiring decision all the more difficult.
In an effort to remain neutral, she may use phrasing like, “There were some misunderstandings with my supervisor,” or, “We had a few differences of opinion.” You can easily see that the passive and vague nature of the answer hides contextual details.
By focusing on the manner in which you ask questions, you may be able to garner a more honest response than that candidate may have given you otherwise.
Remember the old adage that “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” If you want to hire the candidate who has the high Drive to succeed and would be a great fit with your current sales team, you need to start integrating “The Magic Wand Question” into your interviews.
What is The Magic Wand Question?
So what is this Magic Wand Question that works so well to help identify candidate red flags?
“If we had a magic wand and could improve three things about that job so you would have never wanted to leave, what would those three things be?”
Using this context to ask the question positively approaches a potential hot-button issue. You want to know how she would have liked the scenario to play out with her previous employer.
The tactic is disarming and much less likely to be finessed by a clever candidate. At this point, the candidate may respond, “Well, my base salary would be three times higher, my three assistants would not have quit and I would not have yelled at my manager when he asked me to put in more hours.”
Almost any answer you get from asking “The Magic Wand Question” will provide you with a wealth of information to help you with your decision making process.
You can also add in different variations of this question to dig a little deeper.
For instance, you could ask about which traits a candidate would change about herself or what an ideal work environment would look like in her future. Design the questions to target the answers that will be the most valuable for your decision making process.
From her answers, you may hear an indication that the culture was not the right fit for the candidate or something that indicates she is going to be a high maintenance salesperson. While qualified for the job, these high maintenance sales candidates may end up being too difficult for your team to work with.
A Comprehensive Approach to Hiring Sales Representatives
If you are like most sales managers we come across, you are frustrated with high turnover rates and poorly matched salespeople. It is time you changed your interview process for more effective results.
By adding a proven sales personality test and positively framed behavioral interview questions to your hiring process, you should start to see a dramatic shift in the quality and fit of your candidates. This multi-faceted approach will provide a more complete picture of your sales candidates and allow you to move forward with a team-building strategy that better meets your company’s goals over time.
Using strong questioning tactics will narrow your pool of candidates further and find those who are truly promising (or conversely, poisonous) for your sales team.
The answer to “The Magic Wand Question” often highlights the different types of salespeople you may or may not want as part of your sales team. You can avoid inflexibility, neediness and “the bull in the China shop” by listening carefully as your candidates open up to you in the interview.
Once you have a small group of candidates who have shown potential in both the pre-screening phase and the interview process, you can feel confident that your company will enjoy high quality talent now and into the future.
If you are looking for a long-term solution to your sales representative hiring process, do not be afraid of investing more time up front. You will likely find that added testing and strategic interviewing to the hiring process will yield a more bountiful crop of candidates who add meaningful growth to your team.