Business Essentials: A 'passion' to walk the talk of selling: the quality a CV can't communicate

A software firm is desperately seeking a reliable way of recruiting sales people
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The Independent Online

"We have very ambitious expansion plans because we feel we are unique in the market," explains Mr Hoddinott, who is based at the UK office in Twickenham, south-west London. "But we can't seem to find the staff to meet these plans."

The company, founded in the late 1980s, is a software author producing solutions for project costing and accounting. "Because of this, we look for a knowledge of accounts, together with market specialisation as we only work in certain sectors," he says. "In addition, we want proven experience of sales.

"But while a CV can be helpful in providing that information, what it doesn't reveal is whether the individual will have the passion needed to excel at what they do."

In fact, he admits, he has gone off the idea of CVs altogether, after several futile experiences with recruitment agencies. "The CVs they tended to send through were either random or poor quality. I think it was because there was no real effort on their behalf to understand our business or culture. The employment agencies just didn't take the time to find out who we were or what was important to us."

This has forced Mr Hoddinott to become more reliant on headhunting, which, he says, isn't ideal. "I don't really want people who have left a company, because these candidates raise questions - notably, why hasn't someone else snapped them up?"

On the other hand, the truly exciting candidates are still in a job and it's hard to tempt them away to a small company that is growing and can pay well, but doesn't have the reputation of an SAP or Oracle.

Mr Hoddinott even wonders if he should scrap the idea of hiring top sales staff and get them in young, to be trained up by Maconomy. "The problem here is that if you don't recruit people with the rigring top sales staff and get them in young, to be trained up by Maconomy. "The problem here is that if you don't recruit people with the rightht industry knowledge, the right accounting background and the right sales experience, it takes a long time before they can get up to speed. We're usually talking about four years."

Another alternative would be to try to attract industry experts, who could then be taught by Maconomy about how the product works. "But there are problems here too: they wouldn't have the sales or accounting experience."

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY

Don Hales, Managing director, Quest Media, and founder of the National Sales Awards

"Networking and referrals are the best ways to recruit people who are right for your organisation. Make a point of getting to know those who are making things happen in businesses where the skills are transferable. Build lists, keep in touch and constantly demonstrate the passion that exists within your company.

"Once people get to know something about your organisation, they begin to feel part of it. Several will either ask about joining or recommend friends and colleagues - and people rarely recommend incompetent friends, as it reflects on them.

"Looking to the future, consider recruiting graduates without sales experience - they may be bright, energetic and realistic about starting salaries.

Gareth Osborne, Managing Director, The Recruitment And Employment Confederation

"A recent report cited bad in-house recruitment practice as one of the biggest causes of loss to UK business (costing over £12bn in 2003). It is equally true that finding the right recruitment partner is as important as choosing the right lawyer or accountant, so randomly selecting agencies could be equally futile.

"First, fully understand what you want. If passion is the key, determine what motivates or stimulates that passion - it's hardly ever money alone. Then brief a good agency and expose them to an example of the best. Why not let them interview your top sales person?

"A good brief will help the agency to find candidates who can be trained if the perfect solution is not immediately available."

Rebecca Clake, Organisation and Resourcing Adviser, Chartered Institute Of Personnel And Development

"Relying on CVs alone is unlikely to give you the quality information you need to differentiate between candidates.

"By ensuring that people receive a comprehensive specification (outlining essential or desirable skills for the job), you will stand a better chance of getting the details you need.

"So design an application form that will allow you to ask candidates the right questions, and to receive their answers in a consistent format.

"Making sure you provide background details on your firm, and what makes this opportunity different, will also help 'sell' the job to potential candidates.

"If you are offering a varied and interesting role, you could design an advertisement that piques people's interest and place it in the relevant trade press. This way you can reach the 'browsers' from a variety of backgrounds - who may not yet realise they are after a new job."

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