Candidates – Over-qualified, Under-qualified, or Just Right?

Finding qualified salespeople who will sell for you is a challenge. It has been a challenge for ever and will remain so forever more. Here are a couple of hiring tips to improve your odds of hiring a winner.

The Danger of Hiring Over-qualified Candidates

What would you do in the following situation?

Your bottom line and your sales are suffering when along comes a saviour, someone with an incredible amount of sales experience and an impressive track record.

You can’t afford to pay the person what he or she is really worth but good fortune has smiled upon you. The Great One will join your company for a mere pittance of what he is used to making.

Before you start jumping for joy, find out why. Why would someone take a cut in pay and benefits? If you can’t find an acceptable answer to that question, beware, big time.

While your new, overqualified hire will do a great job in the beginning, he or she will probably get bored and slack off after a while if the job is not demanding enough for his capabilities. Or he may start feeling that he’s underpaid. Then, before you know it, he can start to feel hard done by and either becomes a pain in the behind or simply leaves.

When this happens, whatever short-term gain you may have had from hiring an overqualified candidate is more than offset by the long-term pain of lost sales, angry customers, and the cost of having to go through the hiring process all over again.

When should you hire an overqualified candidate? Hire the person when you’re absolutely sure that his or her reasons for joining your company make sense and are valid. Listen to your stomach. It will tell you what to do. It’s called intuition.

The Downside of Hiring Under-Qualified Candidates

Everybody seems to be concerned about hiring an overqualified candidate. This tip takes you to the other extreme - the downside of hiring the under-qualified candidate.

It’s tempting from a salary point of view to hire the newbie to sales. The problem is that a salesperson’s job is to get sales (income) but the newbie doesn’t really know how to sell and therefore ends up costing you more than he brings you.

This cost deficit is not only measured in money, but in management time, lost sales, lost opportunities, and lost customers. An untrained and under-qualified candidate can do unimaginable damage to your business.

It’s like recruiting someone into the army, giving him a rifle but no ammunition or target practice, and telling him to go to war. Bad news!

Even a seasoned salesperson can take six to nine months before he’s paying for himself and contributing to your company’s bottom line. An untrained and untried salesperson can take twice as long to get there. Some never do become profitable enough and have to be let go for non-performance.

If you want to hire a salesperson, hire a salesperson, not someone who is aspiring to be in sales. While it goes without saying, I’ll say it anyway, our Sales Temperament Assessment can assist you in determining a person’s suitability for sales.

When should you hire a newbie? Do it when you have no other choice or if you have an extensive in-house training program to bring the person up to speed. Otherwise, save yourself the pain and grief.

Just Right

Now here’s a problem most sales managers and HR professionals would kill for - two equally qualified sales candidates.

Assuming that both candidates scored equally on personality testing and that they are pretty well matched against your mandatory and desirable criteria list, which one do you choose?

You want to choose the person who seems most enthusiastic about the prospect of joining your sales team.

In fact, if one of the candidates was somewhat less qualified but more enthusiastic, I’d probably choose him or her over the seemingly better qualified one. Why? Because, in my mind, enthusiasm trumps most other qualities including experience.

In my experience, a less experienced, enthusiastic salesperson will sell rings around a more seasoned, laid-back one who has grown tired of his job.

As I always tell my clients, hire for attitude and train for skill. Enthusiasm is an attitude that is worth hiring.

Hire Sales Skills Over Industry Experience

This final hiring tip may seem counter intuitive, but it has a lot of merit. Many companies still choose industry experience over sales skills because of the potentially faster ramp-up time and potential business that an industry-seasoned candidate brings to the table.

While this is a reasonable assumption, you may be passing up the opportunity to hire the sales skills that could take the company further than any transfer of business would.

Successful sales organizations look for sales skills with the understanding that they can provide the industry knowledge and background in a reasonable time-frame. Mind you, experience is a wonderful thing just as long as it’s accompanied by sales skills.

People with good sales skills are everywhere when you’re looking for it. Instead of prospecting for new business, sharp sales managers prospect for new talent.

Improving the odds.

Finding and hiring the right person is a crap shoot but these tips will help improve your odds of making a good hire.