I’ve always been fascinated by intelligence and generally enjoy the company of people far smarter than me, which is probably a healthy trait for someone in business.  If we can assemble diverse, effective and talented people into a team, we’ll achieve far more than if we try to run a top-down enterprise where the boss is the only person with any brains; however, intelligence, in the form of raw brain-power, is by no means a clear validator and indicator of success.  Many of the brightest people in the world have ended up in menial jobs, or even prison, because they could not adapt, communicate, or relate to ordinary people.  Others have thrived, though their success may not be measured in conventional materialistic metrics.

Nevertheless, when our business is to find sales reps or contract with employees, we have a bias in favor of intelligence, coupled with an assessment of the individual’s specialized abilities for the work, and the potential employee / contractor’s personal relationship skills. We use a variety of working tests and evaluation tools to get around the “send a resume, attend an interview” hiring model.

More recently, I’ve tested another enhancement to this concept. We are seeking a new publisher to replace our retiring publisher in North Carolina. We have used a variety of services, including Time to Hire, to find a commission sales person. I ended up with about 30 inquiries, and a shorter list of 12 short-list finalists. Instead of spending hours interviewing and testing them, I devised a challenging assignment: I described the general scope of the position, provided some background data, and gave the candidates access to any specific information they needed. I then offered them $100 to complete a work plan on how they would handle the job, while outlining their expectations and requirements to proceed. I explained that the compensation would, in part, cover the extra effort they would need to apply to be successful at this initiative.

Three candidates responded with thoughtful answers that were worthy of the compensation. One explained how he would forgo significant pension opportunities by accepting the offer now, but said he would like to remain in consideration if an opening occurs next year. We have contracted the other two: one will primarily serve the North Carolina market, and the other will focus on South Carolina.

I can’t say with absolute confidence that this recruiting modification will be helpful, but you may see similarities to the compensation models offered for design / build proposals, where significant creativity and effort is required by the short-list finalists. It is unfair to ask “maybe” sales candidates to put exceptional effort into the hiring process without some level of compensation, and I think it is fair that some of the ideas from the candidate(s) who don’t get the job can be applied in the business, as long as they are paid for their efforts.

It is also worthy to note that several candidates who looked good on initial screening declined to complete the evaluation. This may have been a reasonable option on the candidate’s part if we wanted just a “sales rep” but, in our organization, regional publishers have to work at a much higher level, behaving and thinking more like independent business owners.

Maybe we can benefit from upending some of our traditional practices, and pay a little up front for careful thought and sincere effort. We may not attract perfection, but I sense our results will be much better than the raw-herd hiring mentality. A similar model may be worth considering the next time you are recruiting sales reps.

This was a guest post by Mark Buckshon, President of the Construction News and Report Group of Companies. You can read his daily blog at www.constructionmarketingideas.com.  He can be reached by phone at (888) 432-3555 ext 224 or by email at buckshon@cnrgp.com.