One of the toughest things for a sales manager or small business owner to do is hire the right people. Having been in sales and marketing management for roughly twenty years as well as having owned a small business owner for six years, I have had my share of good hires and a few bad hires. I have also had to lead a team that my boss hired before my promotion to sales manager.
The good news is that you can learn from your 'bad' experiences so as to improve your batting average. Everyone makes bad hiring decisions if they are in management long enough. The question is, are you going to be one of those who learns something from the experience or one of those who uses it to undermine your confidence in yourself?
One of the biggest challenges I face when hiring is recognizing my assumptions. The following examples show how my preconceived ideas resulted in not checking far enough.
Lessons I Learned from My Roles in Management:
- Have new hires do simple skills tests, like basic math, i.e. add, subtract, multiply and divide, plus have each candidate do percentages
- If a sales person can sell me on hiring him, he can sell products to customers.
- Technician who stole business from us
Have New Hires Take Simple Skills Tests
As the sales and marketing executive in a South Texas small business, I was responsible for hiring or for managing those my boss hired. We were a computer dealership that provided a lot of computer and printer maintenance to the American manufacturers across the border in Mexico.
I assumed that anyone who got into college, much less graduated from our community college, could do simple grade school math needed for inside sales. I was wrong. Since then I have given some simple tests. When my budget allowed, I used temporary agencies or employment agencies to do the pre-screening for me.
If a Sales Person Can Sell Me on Hiring Him, He Can Sell Products to Customers
This was a real disappointment because I liked the guy. He was a charmer, possibly a con man. However, once he was on my payroll, I couldn't get him to actually greet and work with customers. When I challenged him on this, he would claim to be watching and learning from the other sales people. Because I believe in learning from others, I kept him on too long.
The good news is that a decade later, I remembered this. The sales person I was hiring would operate in a remote territory. This guy told a great story about his skills, especially about building relationships. He was so good that I almost hired him before checking his references. Fortunately I got a personal referral to his former boss. When I refused to hire him, he became belligerent. This time I got the decision right.
Technician Who Stole Business from Us
I tend to believe people. I wouldn't lie to you so why would you lie to me was my attitude for years. Moreover, if I treated people with respect and caring, they would reciprocate. I learned this is not always true. First off, employees rarely see the true costs of doing business or appreciate the cost of things you do for them. A small percentage, therefore, feel entitled.
While my first experience of a technician who stole business from us was in my own company, I later learned from clients that it is common for technicians to do that. The main thing I learned from this was to be aware of it and to have systems in place to eliminate opportunities for them to use your inventory as their parts house. Additionally, if they will steal from others, be assured they will eventually steal from you.
Steps to Take to Screen
- Check references, especially former employers.
- While not foolproof, using an agency can save you headaches because they keep up on the laws about what you can ask when checking references so I like using them.
- Do skills tests to check on basic math, writing and spelling tests
- If in manufacturing, find out how much they enjoy using their hands. I told one manufacturing client to pre-screen people by finding out their hobbies. For a manufacturing job like his, he needed people who were musicians, woodworkers or who did crafts because things like that show a high degree of manual dexterity.
Everybody has preconceptions about others. These assumptions predispose you to certain actions. The more you understand yours, the better you will do making hiring decisions. Then, use tests to screen for basic skills. Check references. Still, no matter how much you do, you will eventually make a bad hiring decision for your small business. The best action then is to recognize it and make the change needed - and view it as an opportunity to learn so you get better next time.
*Note: This was written by a Yahoo! contributor. Do you have a small business story that you'd like to share? Sign up with the Yahoo! Contributor Network to start publishing your own finance articles.More from this contributor :
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