Let Go of Recruits Who Will Never Join Your Sales Team

Save your Sanity and Stop Chasing Salespeople who Aren’t the Right Fit for Your Company

If you’ve ever met an overly optimistic person, you’ve learned firsthand how optimism can murder your time and wreak havoc on your life. Recruiting optimism can waste too much time.

If you’re recruiting for your sales team, there are simply some candidates who aren’t worth pursuing. Sure, they may look great on paper, have many of the right characteristics, and make your hiring manager giddy with excitement. But trust your instincts.

Recruiters who are driven by emotion (that’s all of us at different times) will take shots at recruiting salespeople who will never join the team. This could be due to pressure, limited supply of skilled candidates, or lack of time.

Impatience can cloud your judgment and cause miscalculations.

Clouded judgment negatively impacts situational awareness and finds a way to flub up the process. It’s not always easy to see how some candidates will never join the sales team. In fact, they will start to absorb endless hours of time only to result in non-hires. Months will pass filled with interviews, calls, and meetings that lead to nowhere.

Unfortunately, many of these misses are predictable.

Avoid un-closable recruits by tightly qualifying candidates on the front end. Sure, swing for the fences occasionally, but prioritize high-probability, high-match candidates.

Recruit people who see your opportunity as a strong potential fit.

If you don’t know who those people are, give some thought to who they might be. Which companies are challenging to work for? Which employers might be facing financial challenges?

What VP of Sales recently left behind a reliable team that’s facing too much uncertainty? These are all potential targets for a match.

If you have to work too hard to convince your new recruit, you may have better options elsewhere. Candidates who need endless persuading won’t have the motivation to accept an offer and make it through the counteroffer process.  Know when to cut your losses even when you’ve sunken hours of your time into the process.

Know Which Game Your Playing

Recruiting is a game of Go-Fish, not poker. If the match is there, it will reveal itself, and things will become relatively “easy.” High emphasis on relatively. If you find yourself bluffing, putting all your hope into the next move, or keep going bust, you’re playing poker.

Qualifying candidates happens throughout the recruiting process. If at any point, things start to go awry, it’s time to reevaluate the match. Disengage if you must at any time during the interview process.

Letting go is hard to do when sunken time costs are high, but essentail even during the final interview stages.

Sure, it’s harder to do when you’ve already invested six weeks in the search. But the job of a good sales recruiter is to assess a high-potential fit for the company and the employee. If the fit isn’t there, it’s best to keep recruiting.

How Do You Test Candidate Engagement?

Some people will tell you to listen to what the candidate wants. Others will advise you to pay close attention to the words they use. It’s a good idea to do both of those things. But after thousands of interviews, the most reliable way to predict candidate engagement is to observe and note behavior.

Behavior never lies.

When the words don’t match the candidates' actions, go with the behavior.

Me: Do you think you’ll be accepting this offer at BestCompany? The letter says you have 48 hours.

Candidate: Yes, I’m excited about it. I just don’t make quick decisions. I think it’s only fair that I have a week to evaluate the offer.

Me: That’s probably not going to happen. What else you have going on? You said you don’t have another offer, so I’m assuming you’re getting to a final interview with RocketShip Startup?

Candidate: Yes, I have a final tomorrow. But I do like BestCompany. I just want to make sure I’m not selling myself short.

Me: Ok. Let’s say RocketShip comes with an offer for the same amount. Which position would you take?

Candidate: I don’t know. I’d need to really think about that. I’m not sure.

Me: How long have you been interviewing with them?

Candidate: Four weeks. I’ve met with everyone, including the CEO. I just have to interview with the Director of Product Marketing.

Me: If we can’t get you the extra week on this offer at BestCompany, would you just like to go ahead and turn it down? I’m not sure you’ll get it.

Candidate: I’m really interested and think BestCompany is an innovative company. They are doing a lot of the right things over there. I think if they’d like to hire me, they will give me more time to make the decision. This is a tough decision for me. Once I commit, I don’t look back. I think it’s only fair they give me the time they need. If they can’t, I just don’t know.

Hopeful Recruiter A: I must get time for this person; we should be able to get more time. It’s only fair to have the time you need to make a decision.  Hope/optimism clouding judgment here. Recruiter is trying to figure out how to save this deal. Maybe we can make an offer worth thinking about that will beat the other company.

Hopeful Recruiter A Makes These Critical Mistakes:

1. Ignores the fact that this person has been interviewing for FOUR weeks with the other company. They already know how they feel. They have met the CEO; they know what they think about the company.

2. The old fairness factor has emerged and is being used to cloud judgement. Being told what "fair is"--is a negotiating tactic. No one likes to think they are being unfair or being mistreated.

We all feel entitled to fairness. Chris Voss, a key FBI negotiator mentions in his book Never Split the Difference that the F-word is used to exploit the other side and gain concessions. “When your counterpart drops the F-bomb, don’t get suckered into concession. Instead, ask them to explain how you’re mistreating them.”

Experienced Recruiter B: Sounds like our superstar is holding out for BestCompany. OK, got it. Superstar might be using our opportunity as leverage with the other company. Superstar is smart, so this is expected, but we still don’t like it.

Behavior says this superstar is leaning towards the other company. Who else do I have that might be a good fit for this role? I need to alert the hiring manager; this isn’t looking great.

This deal has a less than 50% chance of happening. It’s time to explore other options.

What Experienced Recruiter B Gets Right:

1. Examine what the candidate has NOT done. They haven’t taken the offer. They haven’t said they would accept the offer. They haven’t asked for anything except time. They are not negotiating.

2. Remembers candidates who take offers always say BestCompany is my number one choice. Even if they don't take the offer unless they get ABC--more money, more vacation time, a delayed start date, etc.… they will ALWAYS say that BestCompany is their top choice. Everyone else receives delay tactics and hedges. BackUp Company is told what a difficult decision this is to make, how more time and consideration are needed before a final decision is made.

3. Alerts the hiring manager to the deal probability sliding below 50%.

4. Continues the recruiting immediately and gets back to working on finding more recruits. This is easier to do because this recruiter doesn’t drain their energy with hope and optimism hanging on until the end with the superstar. They move on and refocus their energy on starting more conversations.

Hopeful Recruiter A: Keeps wasting time and emotional energy, hanging on to the candidate’s every move. Over analyzing what’s happening and torturing themselves. This can lead to search and career burnout.

Experienced Recruiter B: Keeps putting more candidates in the pipeline. Makes the call immediately that this deal is as good as dead, if it’s not, bonus, but has a less than 50% chance of happening.

Alert everyone in the process and keep moving forward. This prevents burn out, frustration, and allows you to focus on what you need to focus on—moving forward with other candidates.


Questions to Consider During the Interview Process

  • How long does it take a candidate to get back to you about scheduling an interview?

  • Do they keep interviews, or do they frequently reschedule?

  • Are they invested in the interview process? For example, have they prepared a presentation or presented a 30-60-90 day action plan?

  • Are they enthusiastic about moving to the next step in the process?

  • Measure your new recruits behavior to the ideal engaged candidate’s actions. If you find a big gap, it’s time to let go.

Getting to the Root of the Problem

All recruiting problems don’t stem from the same place. Throwing more candidates at an opening isn’t going to solve every recruiting conundrum. The first step to solving complex problems is to break apart the congested areas and identify where the problem stems from.

Sometimes there is trouble with the compensation; sometimes it’s the expectations of the hiring manager, other times the process takes too long, and therefore things get more competitive than they should be.

Hiring is complex.

There are many stages to a recruiting process and multiple people involved. Every person and phase of the process affects the outcome. Everything counts, and nothing should be overlooked.

Consider investigating the following:

Recruiting process, interview process, interview methods, hiring profile, hiring managers approach to interviews, offer process, time to decide after the final meeting, candidate communications, candidate expectations, and overall commitment to filling the position.

Friction in any of these areas can look like recruiting problems when, in reality; they are an entirely different problem with various potential solutions.