Running a first candidate call

This is going to be the first of a two part series, where we cover, end-to-end, what an effective interview process for a sales team looks like.

Today we’re going to talk about running a first screening call. If you are working with a recruiter (internal or external), this is the part of the process that they should be taking care of for you.

I try and do these via Zoom. You learn a lot more about how someone presents themselves compared to a phone call. In person is even better. 

This first call is an essential filtering mechanism - the disqualification rate here is often 20-90%. It’s higher if you’re taking in candidates from job ads, and lower if you’re running an outbound motion to qualified candidates.

A recruiter screen is usually 30 minutes, and covers 3 things (each of which take about 10 minutes to complete). 

10 minutes to learn about the candidate 

10 minutes to dive deeper on what they want to do

10 minutes to sell them on the role and answer questions that they have

Hiring SDRs

My preferred method to hire SDRs is through job ads. 

It is the one role in a sales organization where I have found that this makes sense. You want people who are actively putting up their hand to work in sales. 

Most people don’t want to do that!

Because of this, the candidate qualification focuses on:

1) Is this person excited to work in sales?

2) Do they have the social skills required?

3) Do they have the professional skills required to work a 9-5?

You won’t see it talked about on LinkedIn, but a surprising number of job applicants will not reply to your email asking them for a time to set up a first interview. Better to know that up front!

Hiring Account Executives

When it comes to hiring Account Executives, the candidate qualification I look for revolves around:

  • What have they been selling (deal size, sales cycle, buyer personas - individual and corporate)
  • How they have performed against their targets
  • How they generated their opportunities (can they do outbound prospecting?)
  • Where they want to take their careers
  • The sort of company that they want to work for (as well as the stage of that company)
  • The compensation range they are targeting
  • Location factors

As a general rule, good Account Executives have numbers on their resumes, which means you can usually run through this section pretty quickly. 

I always think it makes sense to talk about compensation on the first call. You want to be at least close.

Hiring Early Sales Reps

When you’re hiring for early sales teams you’ll often encounter one of two distinctive attitudes. Neither is right or wrong, but you need to filter accordingly.

Type 1: “I want to work at an early stage opportunity. I like the ambiguity and want to be in a role where I can influence the process.”

Type 2: “How has this team done towards their plan? What does RepVue say? I need certainty.”

The Type 2 person does not want to work for an early stage startup. That’s really good information!

There’s no point trying to oversell a candidate on the first call. If they aren’t excited to move forward, pushing them for a second call only means they’ll drop out later in the process.

The purpose of the back half of the first call

The entire purpose of understanding a candidates motivations to move is to help them get where they’re trying to go. 

This understanding is essential when you get to the final part of the process and find yourself competing with another startup - or the dreaded counteroffer.

A first call should be the first step in a relationship. Not just another tick box.

In that case, an ounce of prevention being better than a pound of cure is very much the case. I have closed multiple candidates in competitive offer situation. I’ve had people withdraw before final interviews. Because I took the time to understand what these people actually want to do with their careers, I’ve got a pretty good recovery rate.

Great candidates are rare. We want to maximize the opportunities we have to bring them into the team!

Next week we’re going to talk about running an effective process with these qualified candidates

In the meantime, if you would like help hiring for your sales team, you can book a time to speak with me here

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