5 Steps Talent Acquisition Can Take to Work Effectively with Reluctant Hiring Managers

Still looking for the “perfect” sales recruit?

What’s more frustrating than sourcing accomplished sales candidates only to have them interviewed but never hired? Some software companies have left key regions open for more than 12 months while they search for the “perfect” salesperson to take over a territory.

Other hiring managers have spent months interviewing more than thirty candidates for one Account Executive role.

Meanwhile, competitors are building relationships, making pitches, putting together proposals, winning deals, and becoming more entrenched in the region. And every quarter that rolls by without a sales rep in the territory, someone else is making gains while you’re not even showing up.

In fact, without a rep in the region, you’re not even in the game.

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Skills GaP? or Something Else……?

A recent SHRM study found 83% of HR professionals have had difficulty recruiting strong candidates in the last year.

Articles have been proliferating across the internet about the “skills-gap” causing the majority of today’s recruiting headaches.

However, sometimes the problem with recruiting the right candidate isn’t a “skills-gap issue” at all. This is especially true when recruiting for sales roles.

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The truth is, underlying many stalled searches are problems that need to be resolved before more recruiting hours are invested into sourcing additional candidates.

At some point, the wild goose chase needs to end.

And if you’re the lead recruiter on one of these searches, you’re just the person for the job!

Go ahead and Take the Lead

Recruiting is a team sport, and if the person on the team who’s responsible for making the decision isn’t making the decision, something needs to change.

Continuing to present more candidates and hoping things will be different this time around is never the answer.

If you continue to recruit your way out of a non-recruiting problem, you’ll burn yourself out, give the wrong impression to your hiring manager, lose your enthusiasm for the role, and you won’t give yourself and your team the successful search everyone needs.

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The Rightfully Reluctant Hiring Manager

The number one reason hiring managers don’t decide is because of reluctance.

And this reluctance is warranted! The average turnover rates for sales reps are between 34-55%.

Yikes! Hiring managers often have difficulty prioritizing the skills reps need for the job. This leaves them seeking Mr/Ms. Perfect.

Sales hiring managers visibly own the negative consequences of making bad hires via unmet quotas, poor rep performance, and missed targets. Bad hires have significant opportunity costs and can be career limiting.

A good recruiter works to reduce uncertainty by recruiting quality candidates to fill open positions. They see a nail, and they take out their hammer.

But not every hiring problem is a recruiting problem.

5 Ways You Can Take Control of Your Sales Search and Make Your Reluctant Hiring Managers Happy.

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#1—Ask All of Your Questions and Get in Sync

First, ask all the questions you want. Don’t let your ego hold you back. If you need clarification or you don’t know what someone is talking about, just ask.

Asking questions will save everyone time because the more you understand your hiring manager, the easier it will be to find the right recruits.

If your hiring manager uses jargon or terms that you’re unfamiliar with, ask for clarification. The assumption that everyone does things the same way; therefore, you should know exactly what your hiring manager is talking about is dead wrong.

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There isn’t a magical “Build-A-Sales-Team Blueprint” that everyone follows for instant results.

Every company does things differently; they value different skills, attributes, and qualities. Expect hiring managers to be just as unique.

What one hiring manager thinks is an excellent trait in a new hire, another hiring manager will find ho-hum.

So, don’t be afraid to learn more about what your hiring manager wants for fear of looking like you don’t know what you’re doing.

If a hiring manager thinks your questions are elementary, carry on.

Asking questions on the front-end of the recruiting process will save everyone a lot of time in the long run. You will have a better understanding of the role, and no one expects you to be an expert on everything all the time.

Never underestimate the value of starting a search off right.

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#2—Review the Position Profile Together Preferably over Lunch

Work with your hiring manager on the position profile. Review the profile and select the short-listed must-haves with the hiring manager, and make sure you understand the skills and characteristics they’re looking for in their new hire.

Let’s cut to the chase: if you can conduct this meeting over lunch, even better.

Because spending time with hiring managers gives you a better understanding of their objectives, personality, and goals. Building deeper relationships with your hiring managers creates more synergy. The kind of synergy that can be the difference between filling the search or having it open for six more months.

Get everyone who’s involved in the hiring decision to agree on the position’s must-haves. Some of you are thinking that’s impossible, which leads us to the next idea.

If some decision-makers in the process are unwilling to collaborate, make themselves available for interviews, or show poor teamwork skills, you’ll have to get this resolved immediately.

In order to execute a successful search, sometimes the hiring team needs to be restructured. It’s important to unpack what’s not working and adopt strategies and people who are going to make this search successful.

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#3—Turn Months into Days by Conducting Your Own Primary Research

Having trouble achieving consensus? Here’s an idea for building it quickly. Identify five to seven profiles from LinkedIn and ask your team to make a yes or no decision on which profile to hire.

Sure, you may find some team members reluctant to decide based on a LinkedIn profile because the profiles lack detail, or they’re incomplete, or even inaccurate, but go ahead and ask for a decision anyway.

Set the stage properly and remind everyone this is an exercise, an experiment to get everyone on the same page, and it’s a way for everyone to learn information that could otherwise take months to glean.

The decision-makers will need to work together to make a final decision. And yes, they will have to do it based on incomplete information.

They will need to articulate to you and everyone in the process why they picked the person they did and why they didn’t want to move forward with the rest.

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If you want to take it a step further, you can even make a fictitious mini write up for the candidates and assign them three positive personality traits. Or you can give them three strengths and three weaknesses.

This is an excellent way for a recruiter to test what matters and for hiring managers to see a team’s decisions in action.

It’s also a great way to work through differences when two or more hiring managers are not on the same page. This exercise can help encourage communication and collaboration.

If your hiring manager is new, get their boss involved in the mock vote. They’ll see their boss make a hiring decision so they can calibrate their own hiring recommendations and decide with more confidence.

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If you give this a try, you’re likely to learn more than you might imagine. Use everything you extract from the experience to make necessary adjustments.

But also keep in mind, you’re using what you have to make an educated guess. This is by no means a perfect solution.

This method will inch you closer to what your hiring managers want, but it isn’t fixed nor concrete.

The only way to know who someone will ultimately hire is to work through the process with them directly, get feedback along the way, and bring a search to a successful conclusion.

Ultimately, what you’re working towards is a more meaningful understanding of the hiring manager’s preferences and syncing up multiple decision maker’s expectations for the new hire.

You will be working on taking abstract “ideals” and trying to turn them into guidelines.

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#4—Turn Vague Ideas into Concrete Terms

If your hiring manager can’t articulate what they want, help them!

Make a list of top traits and have them circle the top three they MUST see in a new recruit. Provide them a list of companies to recruit from and see if they have any to add or subtract.

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Ask them about the last hire they made.

It’s hard to underestimate the insights you’ll gain by investigating your hiring manager’s most recent sales hire. Also, interview current or former direct reports.

If you have a willing hiring manager, you can draw out what they’re looking for with a little curiosity, shared vocabulary, and time.

As a savvy recruiter, you can turn vague ideas into compelling and useful search guidelines.

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#5—Agree on a Deadline

If you’ve over recruited for a role, it may be time to make a do or die deadline.

This can create space for a clean break from the role, which can be attacked with a different strategy at a later time.

If the role isn’t filled by the deadline, you can put the position on hold or give the headcount to another team.

Sometimes this will help coerce a decision, move the role to a higher priority, or further enhance team collaboration. If you are dealing with a strong case of hiring reluctance get others involved as soon as possible.

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More Recruiting isn’t Always the Answer

Not all hiring problems are recruiting problems. If you feel as if you’re jumping rope with thousand-pound weights strapped to your arms, then stop the insanity!

Get to the bottom of the hiring manager’s reluctance and use these strategies or create your own to find out what’s missing.

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