The biggest mistake sales leaders make when it comes to hiring? They simply hand over a job description to their recruiting team, and leave the search in their hands.

The problem doesn't lie in the job description or the recruiter’s ability to do the job -- it’s that sales leaders need to help their recruiters understand their dream hire by creating a candidate persona for every position. After all, you’re the expert.

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In 2017, top sales representatives have a ton of career choices and a laundry list of emails and InMails sitting unread in their inboxes. This is why it's crucial to make sure the recruiter and the hiring manager have the same type of person in mind for the open role, and are aligned on the recruiting process -- from sourcing channels to interview scorecards. If you don't employ a candidate persona model and follow through, you could already be losing to the competition.

Before you extend even one job offer this year, grab some time with your recruiting team to rethink your hiring process.

How to Use Candidate Personas in Sales Hiring

What Is a Candidate Persona?

Let’s start by defining what we mean by "candidate persona."

A candidate persona is a research-backed representation of your ideal candidate. It should include details that bring your candidate to life like personality traits (curiosity, competition), past experience (college athlete, teacher), past companies or schooling, and motivations and goals. However, be mindful that you’re not asking for 20 of the same person -- generalize enough to make sure there’s room for a diverse set of candidates.

This will give your recruiting team a feel for how the ideal candidate thinks and interacts, and what makes them tick. With this persona in hand, they can write job descriptions and even create titles or career pages that appeal to your ideal candidate.

Using Recruitment Channels to Target the Right Candidate Personas

Funnels are a central part of recruiting, yet not many companies truly understand the conversion rate between candidate to employee, and even fewer have this information broken out by channel.


Source: Drafted

Let’s review the channels that exist today, as they have changed dramatically over the past decade.

  • Passive outreach: Just like not every company (person) is capable of buying your product, not every sales rep has the experience to join your team. With this in mind, recruiters are sourcing passive candidates more and more. Talented people are often reluctant to speak with recruiters, so I recommend getting your executive team and investors involved in outreach. Although outreach typically has the lowest candidate-to-hire conversion rate, building relationships with these folks is important because when they are ready to make a move, they'll contact you first.
  • Paid channels: Job boards and staffing agencies tend to generate the highest cost of acquisition, but they also have the lowest lifetime value.
  • Inbound: A huge difference between marketing and recruiting is that inbound isn’t always better in recruiting. People who come to your website and apply for a job are more often than not unqualified. But every once in a while, a diamond in the rough will submit their resume.
  • Referral: Referrals have the highest ROI of any hiring source. They also get hired faster and stay on your team longer. If you don't have a solid referral system in place, consider creating one.


Source: Drafted

Do you know which channels your best hires come from? If not, take time to synch up with Recruiting and match your best hires to the channels they were sourced from.

Standardize Interview Scorecards to Match Candidate Personas

According to SHRM, "The most effective [interview scorecards] prompt the interviewer to choose a rating -- ranging from poor to excellent -- based on the candidate's answers. These ratings are selected based upon pre-determined parameters that help dictate to the interviewer what constitutes an 'excellent' versus an 'okay' answer."


Source: Greenhouse

Interview scorecards are one very important way to define what makes a good fit for your sales team. Without having an interview scorecard, hiring managers often hire with their gut rather than the data.

Make sure you and your recruiters thoroughly discuss each interview and create and fill out a scorecard each time. Over time, this data can help you fine-tune your persona while maintaining a wide funnel of candidates.

The Post-Offer Relationship

There should be a company-sponsored lunch between the recruiter and their hire every six months or so. This is a great opportunity for the employee to give the person who recruited them direct feedback on the role and what they wished they had known before accepting the offer. The hiring manager should layer on the context about whether the person is a cultural fit and has been performing to expectations.

Recruiting is cyclical. Recruiters should always be observing top hires' qualities and then look for those in the new folks they are sourcing. Without a continued relationship, it is very difficult for recruiters to keep the pulse on the qualities they should be looking for.

Finding the right talent is the hardest, most important, and most time-consuming part about growing a business. People are the biggest line item on nearly every company’s balance sheet -- and the difference between a pillar company and a non-existent one is the ability to acquire, motivate, and retain great people.

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Originally published Jan 18, 2017 7:30:00 AM, updated October 04 2019


Sales Hiring