Interviewing is a wildly subjective activity for most small businesses. We are all wired for our own bias, preferences and weird hang-ups. There is no one perfect way to interview, but there are a lot of ways to get yourself sued.

I always preface articles like this with a disclaimer – I’m not a lawyer. I don’t recommend building your interview process by yourself after reading one article online. Employment law varies from state to state. Gather your ideas, then sit down with your legal counsel for a few hours.  As my lawyer always cheerfully reminds me; “Pay me now, or pay me later.”

Clearly outline expectations

We do this via group interview. We invite all interested candidates to a webinar where we clearly lay out who we are, what we expect, our core values, and what a day in their new job would look like. We discuss our vision for the business and the key performance indicators that they will be held accountable to. We talk about the variable compensation and how it is earned.

At this point we want any candidates who aren’t interested in the job, or who applied without reading the ad entirely (for example they have a Chromebook, and our calling platform doesn’t work on Chromebooks) to opt out.

Ensure your candidate can work from home

One of the reasons we ask candidates to provide us with a video showing us their home office set up, is that we don’t have a lot of legal options when it comes to asking people what their lives are like outside of work.

Questions during in-office interviews don’t normally include asking about someone’s home life. Whether someone is single or married or has children isn’t an appropriate interview question, but understanding what their home environment is like, as it pertains to working from home, is reasonable. Ask your lawyer.

The questions aren’t important, the answers are

We noticed the subjectivity of interviews far more, once we started interviewing on-site. Three of us conducted interviews and we all had our own hiring bias. I might like a candidate that one of the other interviewers disliked.

I struggled early in my business with the idea that I needed to personally LIKE and ENJOY the people I hired to work with me. My first business coach pointed out that I had more employees than friends, and I needed to break myself of the idea that my employees would be my buddies. Some of them are. Some of them aren’t. That’s fine, and I respect all of them.

What we learned that we needed to avoid was hiring people on “gut feel” vs. facts.

Gut feeling: “This person is super amiable, I think they’ll be great on the phone.”

Fact: “This person has changed jobs every four months for 6 years, they’re likely not that reliable.”

Now add multiple decision makers into this facts and feelings mess, and what I liked in candidates and what my partners liked in candidates were very different. I want to give everyone a chance, but that creates chaos, culture disruption, and higher turnover.

With the help of a facilitator, the leadership team clearly laid out the things that we thought were good indicators and bad indicators based on our years of hiring. From there, we developed a new hiring matrix to screen our interview candidates. The matrix outlines how we score candidates based not on what they say, but how they say it. We made it simple – scores from 5 (best) to 0 (worst) and no room for subjectivity. All candidates are “graded” using the matrix, which adds up to 100 points. If they score over 85, we offer them a job.

A poor job history alone won’t disqualify a candidate, but a poor job history with one-word-answers during the interview would. Failing the typing test won’t disqualify you, but failing the typing test and the spelling test might. Showing up late for an interview will immediately disqualify a candidate.

When people answered questions passionately, directly, and with detail, that was a good indicator that they would be a better candidate than the person that answered the same question with a one-word answer.

When we asked candidates to fill out the application form were they pleasant about it and did they fill it out entirely, or did they write “see resume” in every field? This role requires a lot of repetition and attention to detail. If they’re already miffed about having to fill in a handful of forms, and cut corners in their very first task, they’re not going to last long on the call “floor”.

Some other good indicators:

    • When you ask a complex question, the candidate isn’t afraid to say “I don’t know.” You want your prospector to be open to learning and okay asking for help. If they are making up answers to questions in an interview, this is a good indication of what your prospects will experience when they ask a question.
    • The candidate offers honest explanations for why they left jobs (and that reason isn’t “hated management” for every role), and they don’t disparage former employers during the interview. Don’t penalize a candidate for an honest response about why they left a job – a lot can change.
    • The candidate asks you questions about your business or about you. This shows they did prep work, and that’s not common for telemarketing roles.
    • The candidate didn’t have any trouble logging in to the phone bridge or the video chat.

Some indicators that this is not the right fit:

    • The caller asks about pay before any other question – pay is important, but the pay was clearly outlined in your recruiting ad, right?
    • The call quality is terrible – you’re hiring them to work from a home office using their own gear. Their internet speed and call quality is going to matter.
    • The candidate tells you stories about the time they worked for “insert large famous well known company here”, or contradicts you when you outline your process because “they did it differently at xyz co.” You’re not hiring someone to reinvent your process, you’re hiring an entry level outbound agent who can follow the process you’ve created. We don’t penalize “overqualified” candidates – if we’re lucky we get a new improved version of this candidate, ready for their comeback. We don’t hire “former rock stars lacking humility”.

Budget to hire more than one agent

Telemarketing is a high-churn business. Budget to hire three candidates at the same time – one won’t make it through the first two weeks of training, and one will be gone in 30-90 days. Keep interviewing candidates monthly, even if you don’t need to hire a new agent today.

You want uninterrupted prospecting – there is no value in hiring one person who quits in 30 days, leaving you back where you started, with an empty pipeline, a bunch of open tasks and no “Plan B.” Always have a “Plan B.”

Photo: fizkes / Shutterstock

Carrie Simpson

Posted by Carrie Simpson

Carrie Simpson is the founder of Managed Sales Pros, a lead generation firm dedicated to providing new business opportunities for MSPs. Carrie teaches IT firms how to build, manage, and grow their sales pipelines. You can follow Carrie on Twitter @sales_pros and connect with her on LinkedIn. 

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