The Hunger Games

hiring-hungry-salespeopleHe leaned over the table, looked me straight in the eye and said, “Betsy, I want a young guy who has a big mortgage. I want someone who’s hungry to succeed and make lots of money. ” He had prefaced that remark, naturally, with the comment that it was “off the record.” And, he had waited until the meeting was officially over to state this preference. I appreciated his honesty and took it to heart. I hired five people for his team and they all, pretty much, fit that mold. Among them was a young man who had just gotten married, one with a first baby on the way and a teacher who was hungry to change careers (who, by the way, ended up as their star performer).

This happened years ago. I was new to recruiting and had been at Sales and Marketing Search for just a few months. What that hiring manager taught me was invaluable, not only then, but to this day. He taught me to look for candidates and to hire people who are truly hungry to succeed. That “hunger” doesn’t have to be solely for money, but can be for security, opportunity, recognition or a real professional challenge.

What drives a person to succeed is a very individual trait. Getting at that “driver,” is a critical component of your interview.

Here are a few ways to get at those “drivers” to gauge the “hunger” factor in your candidate:

  • Get Details of Job Movement: While reviewing their job history (which I do chronologically), I ask them for specific details about why they left each job. I get a clear idea of their career progression as well as what drove them as they made those moves. Drivers usually are making more money, an opportunity to move into management or the challenge of selling the latest technology. Look for signs of a pattern in their job changes. If the reason for leaving each job, for instance, is wanting a better opportunity, your candidate is driven upward mobility. Does the job you are offering constitute a better opportunity and a good next step for the candidate? If so, he or she should perform well if hired. If it clearly does not, then it’s probably not a good match.
  • Look for the Personal Motivation: While there are many questions you can’t ask during an interview (see here), you can easily identify the personal reasons motivating the candidate. I like to ask these questions:

    What’s motivating you at this time to look for a new position?

    “What’s not happening at your current employer that is motivating you to change jobs?” (I’ve found phrasing this question in the negative is very effective.)

    Most candidates are very honest and upfront about their motivation, especially if it is a personal one, such as to be closer to family, a new baby on the way, a new home, etc.

  • Look for Performance Indicators: Review, in detail, the sales performance of your candidates. Get quota figures for at least the past five years. Then, be sure to get their actual sales “stats” and their W2 income for at least the past three years. This will give you a clear picture of their performance. And, these metrics should reveal those important drivers at the heart of your candidate’s needs. If you have a candidate who is driven to make President’s Club every year (and has!), then you know that recognition (and probably money) is very important to this candidate.

If a sales candidate isn’t “hungry” for something, at best you may have someone who’s hard to motivate. At worst, and most likely, you’ll have a non-performer on your hands.

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