When we say that sales people often do their best selling during interviews, we know that we sound like a broken record, but that doesn’t change the fact that getting past the sales job is a critical challenge in sales hiring. There are many ways to figure out the “real” salesperson during the hiring process, and few tests are more powerful and difficult to fake than a well structured cross-reference strategy. Notice the use of the word strategy rather than reference call?
Typically at some point in the hiring process, a candidate is asked to provide references who are then called and asked to verify employment history. A reference strategy, on the other hand, seeks to cross reference a candidate’s claims and other assumptions the employer has made during the interview process. Rather than simply calling the people provided as references, the right reference strategy involves the following;
- asking the candidate to describe themselves using terms that would be used by former co-workers and managers (not impossible to fake, but the threat of follow-up keeps most interviewees honest)
- speaking with the most recent former managers of the candidate (these are the most important people to speak with and failure to provide them is a red flag)
- using behavioral questions (rather than confirming employment and numbers, ask how the candidate behaved in situations that are relevant to the role for which they are interviewing)
The Cross Reference Strategy works because it brings superior integrity to the sales hiring and assessment process.
Eliot received his B. Comm. from Carleton University and has been honored as a Top 40 Under 40 Award winner.
He co-authored Sales Recruiting 2.0, How to Find Top Performing Sales People, Fast and provides regular insights on sales team management and hiring on the Peak Sales Recruiting Blog.