Business information written specifically for newspaper advertising departments

How to Hire the Right People

At 2011's Revenue Summit, Cheryl Phillips' presentation sparked a lively debate about the best way to screen potential candidates.

At last spring’s Blinder Group/SNA Revenue summit in Chicago, Cheryl Phillips gave a presentation Outbound Telesales: Myth or Miracle? (Which we featured in the last two issues of Advertising Executive.) During the presentation, she emphasized the need for hiring the right people for your telesales team (which can be easily adapted to your newspaper’s sales team in general). She suggested that during the interview process, you should give your reps a pre-screening test. This led to an enlivened debate about how to hire the right types of professionals for your sales team with audience members chiming in on what works for their newspapers.

BEHAVIORAL INTERVIEWING

The concept of behavioral interviewing came up a number of times during Phillips’ presentation. Behavioral interviewing is based on the logic that past behavior will predict future behavior. Many saw the benefits of this method of interviewing over the traditional interview questions, like what are your strengths and weaknesses (which have become all too stocked, expected and formulaic in responses). Behavioral interviewing tries to explore the applicant’s skill set while also allowing the interviewer to get a picture of how the applicant will behave in the position they’re applying for.

Some examples of behavioral interview:

  • Can you give me an example when you set goals, how you achieved them and what the results were?
  • Give me an example of when you’ve overcome a rejection.
  • Can you give me an example of a time when you made an unpopular decision?
  • Tell me about a time when you worked well under pressure.
  • Give me an example of when you made a difficult sale.

Phillips suggested giving the applicant 30 seconds to a few minutes to get their ideas together and respond. However, some felt that could be too long. “I believe that if they take too long to respond, they have little experience and are stretching,” audience member and News Publishing Company’s Advertising Director Mike Schuttinga added. But, ultimately everyone agreed that it is left up to the interviewer’s gut—and the applicant’s body language—to determine if the interviewee is having a hard time remembering or if they’re embellishing the truth. Others also suggested providing applicants with interview questions before hand. This gives them the opportunity to be well prepared and takes some of the pressure off. However, skeptics argued that this gives them too much time to embellish and create a story.

Phillips also added that it is extremely important to go into the interview well prepared and to ask the same questions to each applicant. This puts all applicants on an even playing ground so that you can objectively compare and evaluate them.

PERSONALITY TESTING

Taking an innovative approach to staffing, the representative of GateHouse Media offered that they use the Culture Index personality screening when interviewing, stating that “the Culture Index helps us make the right decision, and keeps us from making a bad decision.” Also, once they implemented the Culture Index at their organization, for a little fun, they began to screen all current employees in the company as well, and everyone’s results are known. Their decision-making process isn’t left solely up to the results of the Culture Index, but it does make up one third of it, along with experience/education and the interview. Valerie Yazbik, advertising director of Quad-Cities Dispatch, suggested that this could be a good training tool as well. That, after the screening of current employees, you can see what differences exist and it will help to you find the best ways to train them.

For those unfamiliar with the Culture Index, it is an executive process that helps to identify and manage talent. Gary Walstrom, who has over 30 years of experience in hiring and managing, founded the Culture Index. He developed this program in conjunction with Dr. Louis Janda, Ph.D., who is a clinical psychologist. Walstrom and Dr. Janda work together to help corporations manage, recruit and retain their talents. According to the Culture Index, there are four profiles that correlate to a forceful sales personality, and they are the Trailblazer, the Daredevil, the Persuader and the Rainmaker. These personality types are great for closing the deals and getting your advertiser to buy, with or without details. As the Index states: “Fearless, persuasive, and focused on finding a buyer for their product or service, these people have no problem with hunting down their target market and bringing it to a decision on a product or service. That closure, consequent commission and earned high salary is what matters to the Hunters. They do not want to be bothered with the paperwork of how many arrows were shot and how many found targets.”

Fearless, persuasive, and focused on finding a buyer for their product or service, these people have no problem with hunting down their target market and bringing it to a decision on a product or service. That closure, consequent commission and earned high salary is what matters to the Hunters. They do not want to be bothered with the paperwork of how many arrows were shot and how many found targets.” 

The Culture Index then suggests handing the sale over to a different personality type, called Skinners. Skinners excel in managing the client and making the product sell. They are “detailed, methodical individuals who thrive on insuring the client is satisfied, and well educated on your product or service. In short, Skinners make sure your clients will most likely purchase more.”

Of course, the Culture Index does not come free of charge. To integrate the program into your interviewing process, you need to purchase their software and consulting services. For more information, visit: http://www.cindexinc.com/

But this isn’t the only source of personality testing/screening available to managers. The previous day, Chris Edwards of SourceMediaGroup/The Cedar Rapids Gazette Company, also stated that they do personality profiles when hiring, followed by a sales profile and four interviews. (However, he didn’t reveal which form of testing they implemented.) Edwards added that though sales experience was nice to have, because it helps new recruits understand the business, it was not necessary — and previous media experience was not required at all.

With these two media giants utilizing a form of personality screening in their papers, maybe you should consider doing so as well. The consensus at Phillips’ presentation was interview questions were not enough — they are far too easy to rehearse and make the applicant appear glowing. The same could be said for a resume, which are often embellished, but also, it common for an employer to overlook very qualified, and I’ll dare to say it, top-performing sales professional potentials, due to a poor-looking résumé.

There are a number of kinds of personality testing and profiles, and it is up to you to figure out what is the best one for your company, and your budget. 

There are a number of kinds of personality testing and profiles, and it is up to you to figure out what is the best one for your company, and your budget. But, as Phillips stated in her seminar, if you want your employees to stay, it’s well worth the time, investment and effort to make sure you hire the right people.


How to tell if an applicant is lying

In Michael Mercer’s article “3 Ways to Catch Sales Applicants Who Lie to You,” he states that pre-employment tests (whether behavioral or personality) can help you catch if an applicant is lying during the interview process. He points out that an applicant is on their best behavior during the interview process. Which means, if an interviewee lies or embellishes in the interview or on tests or forms, they will most likely be dishonest in their everyday work. Dishonesty can harm your business in a number of ways, including creating trouble with a prospect and not being forthcoming about their challenges at work. You may ask: how does a pre-employment test help you catch a lying applicant? Mercer states that though most applicants will embellish the truth and attempt to make themselves look wonderful, a good pre-employment test is designed to catch these embellishments. These tests often utilize what are known as truism questions. Truisms showcase a weakness or difficulty that everyone has. One example is: “Have you ever said anything behind someone’s back that you didn’t say to their face?” An honest person would say yes, while a liar would say “no” in an attempt to make themselves look better.