How Passive Talent Pipelining Can Help Your Business

As recruiters, we all understand that adding new personnel to the team involves an element of risk. “What if the candidate doesn’t work out?” “What if there are better candidates out there?” “Am I interviewing a representative group of candidates?”

Unfortunately, there is no single way to avoid this risk, but talent pipelining is one way to help reduce your risk of making a less-than-perfect hire.

What is talent pipelining you ask? Basically, it comes down to building and maintaining a list of qualified and enthusiastic candidates that you can reach out to when you have a job opening. Maintaining one (or more!) postings on an industry-specific job board (like SoftwareSalesJobs.com… hint, hint…) is a great way to generate this kind of interest; you’ll be able to pre-screen the applicants and file away the best for when you need to hire.

Even if you are not currently hiring, maintaining passive job postings can help to generate traffic from qualified and enthusiastic candidates. You can then create a “pipeline” of the most attention-grabbing candidates, and keep them in mind during your hiring cycle.

Some of the benefits of having a talent pipeline include:

  • Saving you both time and money over the long-run. “Time is money”, and that rule applies to you too; efficiently scaling your pipeline over time means that you are never starting from scratch. Having “warm” candidates lets you only focus on the most talented individuals. Voila, less time, and fewer costs.
  • Less stress. Remember that crazy deadline where you had to find a candidate in an impossibly short period of time? Yes, that one…now say goodbye. The fact that your pipeline approached YOU through the job posting means less time wasted contacting candidates who really aren’t interested.
  • Fewer mistakes. Rushed or disorganized hiring decisions are leading causes of the dreaded “bad hire”. Having an ordered pipeline of great candidates means you will never be pressured into hiring a candidate that is “just OK”.
  • Increasing candidate engagement. Now that you have their contact information, you can reach out to them through email or Linkedin, creating a reputation for being positive and engaging. Once the right opportunity opens up, your candidates will be more engaged and interested in chatting about the role.

In the long-run, pipelining talent allows you to develop an advantage over your competition. The best candidates will be more engaged with your brand, and less likely to join your competitors (who aren’t putting in the same effort). When you hire better candidates, your life becomes simpler, and business becomes better. What’s not to love?


The Chosen Few – Finding the Right People to Work for You

By Jim Dion, Founder and President, Dionco Inc. 

No best practice, or rather business imperative, has been consistently the same over the years and as important for a large organization as it is for a small operator, like building a strong sales team. Arguably, this is the most important aspect of a company’s success and yet it is still one of the most challenging. Why it is so difficult to find the right people and what can you do to succeed?

Finding the right sales professionals to work for us has always been and will always be one of the biggest challenges of managers and business owners. Some of the changes that have occurred since Gen-Xers and the early Gen-Yers joined the workforce have complicated things even further and the selection game (and the retention one) is now full of new rules. The good news is that if the task is now more complicated, the solution is incredibly simple. It’s called ‘Planning’. Talented sales professionals don’t just fall into our hands. We need to have a solid recruitment and selection strategy. What follow are some of the key steps and activities that we can plan for to ensure we hire and keep the best.

Recruitment is the process by which we seek to create a pool of suitable applicants from which new sales professionals are selected. A proper recruitment strategy and plan requires a very proactive approach, meaning that we need to plan for it.

Have a Constant Stream of Applicants
If you have a small staff and somebody leaves without giving notice, you need to be able to replace them quickly to avoid being short-staffed. However, you don’t want to hire them quickly and bring people on board that are not qualified for the job. That’s why you should always strive to have a stack of current applications available (no more than 6 months’ old) and you should even consider meeting with some of the strongest applicants regularly even if you don’t have anything available at the time when you are meeting them (be upfront, though, with them and tell them that you are meeting with them in case you will need them in the future).

Identify the Best Source
In order to determine the best recruitment source, you first need to familiarize yourself with the job description and job specifications (each position at your company or store should have a job description). This information will tell you the characteristics of both the job and the people who will fill it. So, for instance, if you are hiring for a roadman responsible for selling sports uniforms to coaches and schools, you will not only need to make sure that you seek individuals with a past experience or studies that reflect great communication and interpersonal skills (job requirements), you should also identify where (best source) to look for to increase your chances of finding the right individuals for the job.

  • Students
    They are most definitely one of your best recruitment options in this example, and pretty much in general in retail. This is not just because most of them want and need to work, but because they can in many cases relate and identify with the product, the brand and the experience very well being users themselves and can be therefore more effective salespeople. Never underscore the importance of finding individuals who are truly passionate about the job, your company, your brand and your products. If you manage to find these people, your success is almost guaranteed, as they will see their job as an opportunity to turn a passion into something profitable. Advertise open positions in student newspapers, or place a notice on dormitory or student union bulletin boards. As well, consider contacting department offices within the school or the Placement Department to find out if they have work-study or internship programs.
  • Personal Friends and Colleagues
    Ask your own personal friends and acquaintances if they know of anyone who would be great to work for your store or business. Referrals are an incredible source as they yield a lower possibility for turnover and more likelihood of better performing employees.
  • Current Employees
    Promote a ‘recruitment culture’ within your store and company and encourage your current staff to be recruiters of talent themselves. This is a great way to attract suitable candidates as your current employees tend to refer their friends, who are likely to have similar work habits and work attitudes. Offer a bonus or incentive for recruiting new people. This way, you not only ensure that your employees feel motivated to fulfill the recruiter role, but you also have a way of thanking them for their efforts (bonus should be paid after a 90-day trial period with the new hire).
  • Permanent Recruiting Brochure
    Professionally printed material that publicizes the benefits and opportunities of working for you should always be available at the store. Small wallet size cards highlighting the company’s positions, culture and benefits, the requirements of the jobs and providing directions where and how to apply can be very effective. Make them fun and catchy so potential candidates will notice them and will be more inclined to take and use them.
  • Sports Events and Functions
    By attending events such as soccer, softball, little league games, etc. and by networking amongst the people you meet there, you increase your chances of meeting with the right individuals who are your target audience for your hiring activity (remember to bring your wallet size recruitment cards to give to them).
  • Sports/Professional Magazines & Professional Sites Ads
    Written/posted ads can reach a wider audience and they are the most familiar form of employment advertising. For highly specialized recruits, ads should be placed in professional (sports) magazines.
  • MySpace (Outside-the-Box Recruiting!)
    Well, this might be the future!! More than 80% of the site’s registered members fall into the core demographic of 16-to-34-year-olds, a large number of whom are college-educated professionals with as much as 13 years of work experience. Retail workers are a diverse group, and MySpace offers access to hundreds of thousands of retail workers from top brands. For example, retail giant Best Buy has a member-supported group on MySpace full of current and past employees. There are also special-interest groups like softball and skiing, which are great sites if you run a sporting goods store or ski resort.

‘Sell’ the Company (and the Brand)
No recruitment strategy will ever work unless you sell your store, the job, the brand and the company. Emphasize your benefits (health, flexible work hours, part-time, vacation pay, etc.), any kind of educational assistance programs available, the training available, growth opportunities, and the culture of the company. Yes, money is very important, but candidates are more and more interested in learning and growth. Without these no money will keep them in place and no money will motivate them to do a good job for you.

Selection is the process of deciding which recruits should be hired. Selection is a formal, in-depth conversation conducted to evaluate the applicant’s suitability for the job. Basically, the goal is to answer the questions:
Can the applicant do the job?
Will the applicant do the job?

How does the applicant compare with others who are being considered for the job?
Selection interviewing is not just asking questions. Selection interviewing involves a series of steps that need to be followed in logical sequence. In a word, it requires careful planning.


  • Step One: Prepare for the Interview


Review the Job Description
Review the job description to identify the job objectives – specific responsibilities, tasks, duties, and outcomes that the employee is expected to produce – and the knowledge, skills and personal traits that are required to attain those objectives.

Review and Screen the Candidates’ Applications or Resumes
The screening of the application forms and resumes is done by comparing the information they contain – skills, knowledge and experience – with what you require for the job (as you find it in the job description for the position available). If they match, you will want to see the candidates. If they don’t, you will file those resumes for future uses (other job openings). It is a good practice to sort the resumes into three groups:

      • Yes candidates: you want to see them
      • Maybe candidates: you will only see them if the yes candidates do not fit your needs
      • No candidates: their resume does not match your requirements for the job and therefore you don’t want to see them.

Prepare Information about the Job to Exchange with the Candidate during the Interview
Store/company history, business, culture (you give the applicants information that keeps their interest in working for you high without overselling it – career opportunities, training opportunities, fun and casual, work environment, etc.); job responsibilities, duties and the skills you want; performance standards; hours; location; pay; benefits; introductory period; vacation time; working conditions.

Arrange a Suitable Place for the Interview Free from Interruptions and Schedule the Appointments
You need to make sure to allot plenty of time for the interviews. It can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 1 hour or more. You don’t want to rush. Allow about 30 minutes between each candidate so you can review and summarize your notes and have a break and clear your mind.

Prepare an Interview Schedule
If more than one person is to interview the candidate, make sure that everyone is present to interview when a candidate comes in for the first time.elop a Schedule for the Interview Process

If possible, communicate the schedule to the applicants prior to their arrival. Let them know what to expect by listing all the steps in the process: Type of interview, time, location, other.

Be Prepared That Not All Candidates will Show Up/Be Prepared to Hire Immediately
If a candidate has great references and your gut says this person is right, then it is wise to make an offer immediately. You don’t want to lose a great candidate.

Prepare the Interview Questions
Based on your list of requirements for the position (as in the job description) you can create your interview questions aimed at determining to what extent the candidates possess the required competencies and if they will be able to achieve the position’s goals.

  • Step Two: Conduct the Interview

Step two consists of conducting the interview, including:

Open the Interview
Establish rapport; provide an overview of the interview process.

Ask Questions and Take Notes
Gather information. Make sure to use open-ended questions (how, what, when, etc.), and always follow up a yes or no answer with an open-ended question (i.e., “Tell me about a time when you were able to sell an item that was a lot higher in price than the customer’s original request. What happened? How did you manage to do it? What was the customer’s response?”). Ask the same questions and record responses systematically to have a reliable base for comparison. Also, ask contrary evidence questions or questions that ask the applicants to give you examples of times when they were not able to perform a certain task (i.e., “Tell me about a time when you were not able to answer an objection. What happened? How did you feel about it? What did you learn from it?”).

Give Information and Answer the Candidate’s Questions
“Sell” the position, the company, the brand and the product.

Close the Interview
Thank the candidate for his or her attention and interest. Indicate what the next step will be and the time frame within which it will occur. Ask for references. Tell each applicant that no employment offer will be made until satisfactory reference checks and a drug test are made (when applicable).

80% of the interview time should be devoted to asking questions. No matter how long the interview will take – 1, 2 or 3 hours – the percentage of time devoted to each task should not change. For example, in a two-hour interview we would still spend 80% of our time asking questions, which is equivalent to 96 minutes (80% of 120 minutes).
Interview Timeframe


  • Step Three: Evaluate Your Notes and Compare CandidatesComplete an evaluation form or firm up your notes, noting specific information about the candidate wherever possible. Rate the candidate. This is crucial. You may not trust your memory to recall the detail of the interview at a later point in time. Don’t make any notes about the applicant that could be discriminatory.
  • Step Four: Project a Professional Image
    The image created during the hiring process tells a lot about your store and company’s values and culture. Pay attention to the image you create to attract the best and most highly skilled job candidates. Link the hiring process to your company values. For example, if you value “customer first” and “employee empowerment,” be sure to demonstrate that in your hiring process.

…AND Don’t Forget the Baby Boomers Retirees

According to AARP, the nonprofit membership organization for people age 50 and over, there’s been a 40% increase in job-hunting retirees and a 20% increase in companies seeking such experienced workers in the last three years.

  • Why?
    Young workers need extensive training, close supervision and seasoning that comes only with time and experience. Whereas, retirees are ready, skilled and willing to work right away.
  • Who are They?
    Many of these individuals are early retirees, or workers who lost their jobs due to mergers or downsizing. The majority of these people want to work, many of them can’t afford not to. And they bring years of experience, skills and knowledge to the workplace.
  • Why Do They Want to Work?
    According to an AARP/Roper Report, when asked about retirement plans, 80% of 60-year olds said they plan to work at least part-time during retirement. They want to be active and productive, not idle; they enjoy a heightened sense of self-worth; they take pride in their work; and they enjoy working with others.
  • What Are They looking for?
    Flexible work schedules and assignments, opportunities to learn new things and the ability to advance.


How to Hire Great Salesreps

By Dave Stein, Author of How Winners Sell

During the economic downturn of the past two years, numbers of sales executives flushed their least effective salespeople from their teams.

In some industries, things are presently looking up. Many of my clients are hiring again, backfilling those open slots. This time however, they will be hiring differently.

The reason? The demands of today’s hypercompetitive, buyers’ market has forced sales executives to rethink their approach to hiring. They have learned, all too painfully, that their hiring methods of the past don’t apply any longer.

  • They’ve learned that a rep with a past record of stellar performance elsewhere will not automatically overachieve for them in the future.
  • They depend less on a person’s resume since resume accuracy is declining.
  • They’ve learned that some candidates are talented enough in the interview process to get hired, but are not actually skilled enough to deliver the numbers once they are aboard.
  • They realize that a misfire in the past–a salesrep who doesn’t make it through the first year–has cost them $150k to upwards of $800k including lost business opportunity.What insightful companies are doing now to assure that they are building a high performing team of winners is applying a process to what they did informally in the past.

    The process provides the sales executive with an objective assessment of the candidates. In addition, since a number of people are part of the process, each measuring the candidate’s abilities, a much more accurate and unbiased evaluation results.

    Here are the key elements of the process that I use with my clients:

    1. Multiple stakeholders must agree, prior to the start of interviewing, about the job description and the critical skills, experience, and traits of a successful candidate. For a smaller company, those stakeholders would include, for example, the CEO, VP of Sales, and VP of Marketing. For a larger company, the senior VP of sales, regional sales executive, and sales manager might be included. In addition, stakeholders agree on how the position and the company will be “sold” to the candidate.

    2. A benchmark is established against which progress will later be measured. Data points include performance against quota, average tenure, time to first sale, etc.

    3. An internal hiring team collaborates on building a profile for each unique sales position, which defines the critical skills and traits required for success. Those skills and traits are prioritized and each is categorized with three levels of candidate compliance. You can imagine that the profile for a sales hunter would be quite different than the profile for a sales farmer.

    4. Accurate job descriptions are constructed, which are then provided to recruiters or sites like softwaresalespeople.com for posting on the web. The more closely these descriptions are, the less “noise” you will have downstream when reviewing the resumes that will be generated.

    5. Your HR staff or other resources within your organization are provided with a Resume Screener that will assist them in effectively filtering out candidates with “fatal flaws.” This saves time for the members of the internal hiring team, allowing them to dedicate more time to more qualified candidates.

    6. This hiring team (generally 2-4 people) is organized and trained to work in an integrated fashion to interview candidates.

    7. A set of First Round Interview Questions is engineered. When used as directed, they will enable the internal team members to probe for key skills and traits based upon the candidate profile. Interviewer responses are recorded and analyzed.

    8. A set of Second Round Interview Questions is devised. That tool enables further exploration for critical skills and traits and enables the interviewer to size weaknesses uncovered in the previous interview. Again, interviewer responses are recorded and analyzed.

    9. A behavioral interview is performed. A colleague of mine, Debra Howard, is a trained behavioral interviewer. She and I both recommend conducting a “behavioral interview” for all candidates that make it to the final round, especially for those applying for sales leadership positions. Deb says, “This is a rigorous interview technique that’s been in use for a long time, and has been shown to significantly increase the accuracy of predictions about a candidate’s future job success. Behavioral interviews are difficult to conduct, which is why most companies hire an expert to train their recruiters and HR staff, or they ask an expert to conduct and code the interviews directly. A behavioral interview takes two hours or less, and can assure you that the candidates you hire are high-performers, not losers taking you for a ride.”

    10. A highly effective reference checking process is employed that validates candidates’ claims and uncovers inconsistencies. Be aware of different categories of references, sample questions to ask, and know how to harvest names of references from candidate interviews.

    11. Final candidates are required to participate in sales call and presentation simulations. The candidates are evaluated against required skills and personality traits derived from the profile.

    12. Individual ramp-up plans are engineered. These assure that the gaps between the profile and the candidate’s proven skill set will be closed during the first thirty to ninety days of employment.

    13. Continuous improvement component. In order for this process to continue to work into the future, there must be a mechanism that will provide the stakeholders with feedback.

    Initially some executives and managers who are exposed to this have reacted somewhat negatively. “It will take too much time,” is the most commonly voiced objection.

    But it has quickly become clear that the actual number of candidates making it to the final stages is limited. This process in fact, works like a sales funnel, with numbers of candidates “qualifying out” of the process along the way. The result is that the hiring team has time to focus on the most qualified candidates. In addition, candidates are left with the impression that the company with whom they are interviewing is serious and well-managed. Finally, both the candidates and the company have awareness of the gaps between the candidates’ capabilities and what is required to get the job done.