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6 Best Practices for High-volume Sales Hiring to Support Rapid Growth

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What Makes High-volume Sales Hiring Unique? Hiring is a part of any sizable business’s daily routine. The companies with the best HR functions help hiring managers find and select sales candidates with the best fit for the job, usually coming with something to offer as well as room for personal growth and development.

What about situations that require high-volume hiring with a goal to hire hundreds of sales people within a short period of time (often a calendar quarter)? There are many reasons for such ramp-ups, including:

  • Adding a new business unit
  • Expanding into a new territory
  • Keeping up with fast-paced growth
  • Needing a dedicated sales force to sell a new product or service
  • Wanting to upgrade your talent en masse
Recruiting, selecting, and onboarding large armies can be time-consuming and a strain on already tight resources. To be successful in high-volume sales hiring, follow these steps

Raise Awareness of Your Company and Open Positions

The first step in high-volume sales hiring is raising awareness in your industry, region, or functional area. You want the market to know that your company has a large number of openings that it is trying to fill right away. This sends a positive message that business is strong and that you need more talent to keep up with rising demand.

Not all companies are household names or even well-known in business circles. Perhaps you’ve operated under the radar of the public eye but now find that you need to raise general awareness. Here are some ideas:

  • Asking local politicians, business leaders, the chamber of commerce, news outlets, and potential customers to talk up the fact that you are hiring
  • Advertising on association websites
  • Google and Bing pay-per-click ads
  • Raising awareness with connections on LinkedIn
  • Tapping your employees’ personal networks, motivating them with referral incentive programs
  • Talking to your current customers, who may be candidates themselves

Build the Company’s Image as a Desirable Place to Work

Building your company’s brand or image is something you need to do proactively and continuously to attract the best people and to keep the ones you have happy. What do you do for your employees that makes them want to come to work and perform at their best? How do you and your employees support the communities in which you operate? This generally involves doing the following:

  • Applying for awards on the “Best Places to Work”
  • Getting local newspapers, TV stations, magazines, and bloggers to include stories that highlight your company’s management and people practices
  • Encouraging your managers to speak at local civic and professional group functions
  • Supporting your employees’ involvement in local charities
  • Holding meetings with local search firms and professionals to make them aware that you are gearing up your hiring
  • Highlighting your firm’s features on your website

Create a Profile of Your Ideal Candidates

What are the attributes of the top performers in the roles you’re trying to fill? Use this list to help inform what you will look for in prospective candidates. This generally involves doing the following:

  • Determining the minimum criteria for education and work experience
  • Using a valid psychographic assessment instrument to identify a candidate’s desired behavioral attributes for a particular job
  • Identifying any special skills and the acceptable level of skill competence
This is an important step that has both helped and hindered many hiring companies, especially in recent years since the downturn. Once managers and recruiters have identified the desired skills, experience, and attributes, they use those when placing hiring ads as well as in screening software for résumés and applications. While you want to be able to sort through the volume of candidates, don’t be so specific that you exclude desirable candidates who may have missed a keyword.

Identify and Exciting Qualified Candidates

After you have identified the skills you need and the positions you’re trying to fill, you need to find viable candidates. The next steps generally include:

  • Creating a demographic profile of your “target” (passives and actives) and finding out what they read, where they go online, which conferences they attend, and which associations they belong to. Use that information to identify the best media to advertise in.
  • Identifying internal candidates who can transfer or be promoted
  • Re-marketing your employee referral program to increase referrals
  • Working with relevant professional associations on promotional opportunities
  • Looking at top performers at your competitors
  • Placing job ads in targeted online publications and job boards
  • Posting announcements on campuses or registering at the career office
  • Holding your own job fair
  • Placing “exciting” job descriptions on your website

Convince People to Apply on Your Website or in Person

After potential candidates become aware of your firm and your open jobs, you need to convince them to actually apply. Some of the most effective tools include:

  • Holding an “invitation only” open house for targeted candidates
  • Offering a small reward for showing up to an interview
  • Guaranteeing applicants an interview (for key positions)
  • Cold-calling targeted candidates
  • Building an exciting website or microsite that generates buzz among your target audience or industry
  • Using web tools like robots to search the web for great personal web pages and résumés
  • E-mailing or direct mailing recruiting letters or brochures to candidates
  • Asking your top performers to post answers to questions and company best practices in technical chat rooms and list servers in order to impress other professionals
  • Offering perks, such as flex time, extensive training, and work-at-home options to excite potential applicants
At this stage, you should take an outside-in view of your company and how applicants will perceive your company. Go to the company website and try to apply for the job. Is it easy or difficult? If your site is woefully out of date, then work with your IT staff to create a microsite specific to this hiring initiative.

If applicants are to apply in person, make sure that receptionists and the like are aware and are poised to help and impress the candidates. If they receive rude or confused treatment, candidates will question the professionalism of the company and their desire to work there.

Make Job Offers That Candidates Can’t Refuse

Once you have identified your finalist candidates, develop an offer strategy that entices candidates to say yes. Some of the most effective tools include:

  • Benchmarking your competitors in order to find out what they’re offering
  • Training your hiring managers on how to sell the job and the company
  • Making a list of company “wow” features and providing it to employees and managers
  • Providing managers with side-by-side comparison offer sheets
  • Conducting market research in order to identify job acceptance criteria
  • Offering significant sign-on bonuses to the top candidates
  • Offering “exploding” offers to encourage candidates to accept right away
  • When feasible, offering higher-than-competitive pay, with a significant portion “at risk” (i.e., based on performance or other criteria)
Finding large numbers of applicants almost always means you will get a high volume of under-qualified candidates. The key to success is not to use every tool but rather to overuse the tools that bring in the highest number of qualified candidates and that also effectively screen out the under-qualified.

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