Our software client had four regional sales reps in North Texas up until 12 months ago. They push their people pretty hard and the VP is a “my way or the highway” type of guy. He’s been with them for 10 years and worked his way up. He is a pretty good guy and certainly knows his company and products very well. He’s not particularly fun to work for and he lets people know he’s the one on “top of the heap” and as long as you perform, he’s your distant friend, but a bit of a solipsis.

Two of the company’s salespeople really were not doing all that well so about a year ago they left. The company was in the middle of being sold to a larger organization so management decided to postpone hiring until they had been integrated with the newer company. At least that was their excuse for not hiring. With the new company came a “reorganization” of the sales effort into more of a “team” approach. This team approach would have a sales team led by more of a client/delivery type person, one salesperson and two consultants. (Not a particularly efficient sales model.)

The hiring process now became that the client/delivery manager, who was never really a salesperson, would start the interviewing process with the candidate and then move the candidate along to the consultants who would interview, then to the VP,  (all video interviews) then a group interview with all of the same people and the one candidate. As with all processes like this the “planning fallacy” applies… things always take longer and are always more expensive than you think they’re going to be.   The client/delivery manager was a nice enough guy and pretty much past every candidate on to the next level. But organizing everybody else took an average of at least three weeks.

What the company was looking for in a candidate was hard enough to find, but between the VPs hard-nosed “now this is the way it is” rather adversarial interview, organizing everybody to be able to meet as a group and the relative disaster of group interviews, in the last six months they had initially interviewed six of our candidates, lost four  because they’re interviewing process took too long, and eliminated two at the last step of the group interview because everyone in the group could not come to a “yeah, we really want to hire this person” conclusion. They didn’t really dislike the candidates but they couldn’t come to an overwhelming “yes.”  (This kind of thing happens more often than not with group type interviews.)

In the meantime, the two salespeople that were still there didn’t like the new management matrix, so they left the company over the past two weeks. So, there is now a $5 million territory with no salespeople in it at all. Everybody in the organization is pointing fingers at everyone else.

The VP decides that he’s going to take control and do what they should’ve done to begin with, have him initiate the first interview, pass the candidate along to the group and do it within three or four days, get the groups input but not have them in essence, “vote” on the candidate. If the candidate passes this test, the VP simply decides.

Now, we have just started this new process, but it is guaranteed to work a whole lot more efficiently. Even the candidates that we have found for them this past week are asking why it is taken so long for them to find salespeople. One of the candidates we have presented told me that he had heard about this opportunity six months ago and he’s anxious to hear “what’s wrong.”

I’m sure this will work out all right, because these really are good people. They are just what Teilhard de Chardin called, “spiritual beings acting human.”

Most people think that our biggest challenge as recruiters is with our candidates. It’s not! 60% of our challenges are with our clients. Most companies and the people in them don’t really like to admit that they create their own problems with the processes they come up with to protect themselves from hiring the wrong people.  But they get in their own way.

In spite of what people might be reading in the newspaper, really good candidates are hard to find. The longer the interviewing and hiring process takes and the more convoluted it becomes the harder it is to fill positions.

The lesson, as we have preached ad infinitum is to: keep the interview process simple… only involve the people whose livelihood depends on the candidate/prospective employee’s performance (no more than three, may be at the most four)…and do it quickly.