Getting the edge in professional selling
Terence A. Hockenhull
A COUPLE of weeks back, I wrote an article about the woes of hiring good people in today’s employment market. It’s tough; fewer applicants apply for positions and those who do tend to be woefully underqualified in terms of academics or working experience. So at the end of the day, to get anyone on board who is suitable is tough for anyone in HR, recruitment or, as in most companies, managers or supervisors responsible for beefing up their own teams.
I head up the sales and marketing team in the company I work for and have the responsibility of building and maintaining the sales team as well as hiring in all other positions with our company. No doubt, BPOs and call centers take more than their fair share of the crop offering excellent starting salaries, great benefits and comfortable working environment. But I wonder, as I strive to find engineers, why so many who have spent five years attending university, gone through the rigors of passing their board examination and set out on their career path, seem content with engaging in an occupation which has little if anything to do with their chosen course of study!
Now I come to the crux of today’s article! I have accepted that the chances of me hiring in a highly experienced engineer with a solid background handling the types of engineering tasks and the range of products we sell is all but impossible. Indeed, finding anyone with experience (whether related or not) is difficult. So, as an employer, I am forced to consider newly graduated engineers. I have placed advertisements on online recruitment and job posting sites and “dumbed-down” the posted advertisement to try and attract the largest number of candidates. I am prepared to wade my way through badly written CVs and bio-datas weeding out those who are so woefully underqualified or unsuitable as to make their application for the position a joke! So finally, I am left with those few applicants who I am prepared to interview.
Typically we post advertisements “company confidential” until such time as my HR people get in touch with the applicant and invite them for an interview. At this point, we provide our office address and company name; we even explain that we are a company that supplies engineering materials and products to the construction industry. One would think that between getting a call to come for an interview and turning up (if they actually turn up at all; at least 50% say they will come but never arrive!) they might take the opportunity of visiting our Web site to find out what we do.
The last half dozen applicants have walked into the interview room without a clue about our company or what we do. Asked why they applied for the position, most answer with, “I’m looking for a job.” One of the first questions I ask is what the applicant actually wants to do; what job they would really like. Sure, I am hiring to fill a sales or engineering position but I have a lot of leeway with the position I hire for. I would far rather have someone who defines a job which helps our company meet our strategic goals than try to ram a square peg into a round hole. But no, few are able to define their own goals!
One of my next questions is always, “What do you know about our company?” At best, they respond with a tag line taken of the home page of our Web site. Have they bothered to look at any of our product range, read through our case histories, immerse themselves in the wealth of knowledge available about a company they supposedly want to work for? No!
Here’s the deal; as an employer, I have to take a risk with anyone I hire. It is going to cost time, effort, resources and money to get a new hire up to the point where he or she is a contributing member of our team. As employers, we want to minimize the risk we take; we want to try to get it right first time.
Give me an applicant who is genuinely excited about working for us; an individual who takes time to find out about us and what we do, who is clear about what he wants and what his employment goals are. Even with no experience and the wrong qualifications, this is still infinitely better than the “numpty” who turns up thinking his presence alone should be enough to win him a position working in our company!
Terence A. Hockenhull is a long-term resident of the Philippines. He is an accomplished sales consultant who currently holds an executive sales position with an Italian geotechnical company.