28 February 2024 |

feeling mishire woes?

By Gabrielle "GB" Blackwell

They did well at their last org, but…

After my send from last week on hiring faux pas’s, I got a question from a reader that I was too good NOT to share and write an entire newsletter in response to. 

Here’s the question from the reader:

I’ve had a couple mishires with people who had excellent performance in their [previous] roles but absolutely could not figure how the internal systems work [at my current company]….how do I ask questions to vet [if they’ll be successful at my current company]? 

It’s not always apples to apples

I’ve had enough experiences hiring folks who’ve been top performers at their previous employers who end up being lower than expected performers to know that not all that glitters is gold.

There are a variety of reasons why this happens, for example there could be drastic differences between their previous employer and your company across:

  • Sales process
  • Complexity – or lack thereof – of sale
  • Enablement and capability maturity
  • Etc

So if you’re…

  • Building a sales floor from the ground up…
  • Need folks who are going to help you build the plane as you’re flying it…
  • Limited when it comes to enablement resources…

…you’ll want to make sure that you bring folks who have performed well in a similar environment…not just hire someone who’s done well in sales but at a much more established setup.

What this means for interviews

Knowing that performance isn’t the tell-all, be-all of what makes a great candidate, I’ll ask lots of questions about someone’s approach to being successful in their role:

  • What enabled them to be successful?
  • How did they come up with that approach / strategy?
  • Who or what helped them develop that approach?

If they’re unable to speak in depth and clearly answer these questions, that’ll lead me to believe they’re great at taking orders and executing, but maybe not so great at coming up with their own approach. 

If you need folks who’ll just come in and do as they’re told – great! This is likely an ideal candidate for you.

But if you’re looking for folks who are going to uplevel the team, challenge the status quo and/or help build out the program, this likely is not the candidate you want to bring on.

Run it back

Using the example above from the reader where mishires are ones who (I’m paraphrasing) struggle to adopt and adapt to new systems, I’d recommend identifying which skills and/or competencies this aligns to.

Let’s say the two competencies are pipeline hygiene and adaptability (ability to pick up on new workflows). If I know folks who lack these competencies end up not working out at my organization, I’m absolutely going to assess this during interviews.

If I’m assessing for pipeline hygiene, here’s a series of questions I’ll pose to the candidate:

  • Walk me through what kind of reporting practices you were involved with? 
  • What were you responsible for updating? 
  • When / how often? 
  • What systems, if any, did you create for yourself to keep on top of reporting? 
  • And how did that feed back into manager reporting and forecasting?

✅Green flags I’ll listen for:

  • Clearly articulates reporting practices and what they were responsible for
  • Demonstrates a strong handle of fulfilling reporting requirements
  • Systems-level thinking / can clearly speak to how their reporting responsibilities impact other people in the organization
  • Bonus: if they share time blocking admin and reporting into their calendar

⛳️Red flags to look out for:

  • Vague, unclear answers
  • Responses like, “I get it when I get to it”
  • They share there were no reporting practices (this signals a potential learning curve)

If I’m assessing for adaptability, I’d ask something like:

  • Tell me about a time a new process was rolled out that took you some time to adjust to. 
  • What was the process change?
  • Where did you struggle?
  • How did you respond?
  • What was the outcome?

✅Green flags I’ll listen for:

  • Ownership and resourcefulness, i.e. “I brought up my challenges with my manager and worked with them to create a plan to help me adapt”
  • Growth mindset, i.e. “I saw this as an opportunity to learn something new rather than see it as something happening to me”
  • Results and/or insights, i.e. “I was able to pick up the new process and drive X results” or “with the new process change, I needed to adapt my approach to another process to compensate. Here’s what I did, and here’s what the results were”

 ⛳️Red flags to look out for:

  • Fixed and/or defeatist mindset, i.e. “It was never going to work”
  • Bad mouthing and/or disparaging previous employer 

The debrief

Asking questions that’ll help you properly assess whether your candidate has the skills and/or traits necessary to be successful in your organization – not just whether they’ve been successful in sales – can help big time when hiring for your team!

Take the time to fully understand what is required to be successful for the roles you’re hiring…assess candidates against that benchmark…and iterate as you go! 

You won’t for sure guard yourself from making a mishire, but you can at least help prevent it from becoming too frequent of an issue.