Pandemics aside, remote work appears to be a way of life for the foreseeable future. Here are some tips on hiring sales reps who you may not meet in person for a long time to come.
If there’s one thing that we learned in 2020, it’s that many of us can work remotely. Some companies that never would have thought about remote work went permanently remote. And while it’s one thing to transition your current team to working at home, hiring sales reps brings with it a new set of questions and concerns. You’ve figured out how to deal with the challenges of virtual meetings with your customers, refocus your sales pitches to be mobile-friendly, and you’ve even managed to bring on new clients. Hiring, though?
Interestingly enough, a study from 2012 indicated even then that 63% of companies were already conducting remote interviews, so this practice isn’t entirely new. However, with so many people on video conferences these days, researchers and businesses are taking a more in-depth look at what works and what doesn’t with virtual meetings.
While the virtual experience has been extremely effective in replacing our regular daily interactions, video interviews, while an excellent substitute during the pandemic, don’t exactly mirror the in-person experience. As you map out your plans for hiring sales reps in the coming months, consider some of the following helpful information to ensure your recruiting stays successful.
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Hiring sales reps when you can’t meet them in person
Perhaps the most important thing to remember when looking to bring on new talent in this remote world is that you’ll have to work hard to make virtual interviews as effective as the in-person experience.
True, on the surface, it doesn’t seem like much is lacking. You’re able to see the candidates (somewhat), which allows you to read some body language. Computer hardware has improved so that it almost feels like you’re making eye contact when you look at the screen instead of having to look at the camera the whole time. In some ways, it hardly feels different from having someone sitting across the table from you.
That’s not the case, though. Much research has come out in recent months to suggest that there are drawbacks to video calls, including job interviews. With that in mind, given the current climate of the world, video interviews are a necessary alternative—one that can still be very effective when done well.
One of the best ways to combat the challenges of virtual interviews is to understand how the brain reacts to virtual interactions differently from in-person.
First and foremost, our brains have to work harder at virtual meetings. While video does allow for reading facial cues and some body language, because of pixelated displays, lagging connections, and just the fact that someone isn’t standing right in front of you, it’s harder to focus on the non-verbal communication you’d otherwise get. So if you’re hiring sales reps via video conference, you’re already using more energy, which can lead to exhaustion more quickly.
Not only will you have to focus harder on non-verbal cues, but you’ll also have to work harder at active listening. With so much processing in your brain, it can be easy to get lost in your thoughts, only to realize you haven’t heard anything the candidate said. (Very embarrassing for any recruiter or manager!)
And of course, there are the technical difficulties to consider. When you’re hiring sales reps in person, you won’t have to worry about a connection cutting out or audio interference or anything like that. Even if you experience some silence in an in-person interview, it doesn’t send your brain into a tailspin the way it does on video calls, where silence may be indicative of anything from a natural candidate pause to a frozen connection.
5 Ways to overcome the challenges of hiring sales reps remotely
1. Keep it distraction free
Just as you would expect your candidates to be free from distractions, conduct your video interviews someplace quiet and sans anything that might grab your attention. It helps if you maintain eye contact the entire time—something we don’t typically do face-to-face, but is actually more comfortable on video calls since you’re not really looking into the other person’s eyes.
2. Cut back on interviews
Reduce your call schedule. For example, if you would typically take three or four interviews in a day, take only one or two virtual interviews. Yes, that increases the time to hire, but it also helps compensate for all of the extra work your brain is doing, ensuring that each candidate has not only your attention, but your focus.
If possible, take video interviews in a standing position. Not only does this reduce strain on your body, which can affect your interviewing practice, but it also makes you naturally more attentive. Sitting all day can increase the exhaustion we feel from video calls, so these standing breaks—while they may not sound appealing—are an excellent way to split up the day and change the scenery.
4. Test your mic
It’s also a best practice to test your equipment beforehand. Check your internet connection and computer battery. Make sure your video conferencing platform is up to date and not lagging. Test your microphone and camera before the call, and make sure you’re not on mute when the candidate arrives.
5. Ask better questions
Finally—though this list isn’t exhaustive—remember to ask probing questions not only about the candidate’s experience, but also questions that give insight into their performance, behavior, and ability to be autonomous. While virtual can work for hiring sales reps, you’ll miss a lot of information without the non-verbal cues. Compensate for this by digging deeper into how a candidate thinks and behaves so you can better determine their culture fit with the company and their capacity for working from home without someone holding them accountable.
With COVID-19 still looming, we need virtual technology now more than ever to keep our businesses going. It’s crucial, then, that we take the time to understand and adapt to our new environments, even if they end up being temporary. Like so many other things, recruiting practices have changed with the world, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be just as effective in helping you build a team of closers.
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