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Hiring talent requires selling!

by Miki Saxon

One trait common to managers and employees alike is the desire to succeed—both are always searching for ways to look good to their bosses. For managers, accomplishing this is both simple and difficult—simple because the advice is age old: Hire the best people even if they are smarter than you and you have to pay them more; difficult because following this advice can bring paranoia and insecurities to a boil. However, if your desire is to complete the project on time and within budget; juice innovation; find creative solutions to procedural bottlenecks; turn a cost center into a revenue generator; reduce department turnover and lower recruiting costs; increase quality; develop better service and stronger ties with your customer—while the list is endless, the source of success is the same: People.

Recently a manager I know said, “In some ways I miss the good old days (most recent recession) when there were plenty of candidates and I could pick and choose.” He might think that was true, but no matter what the market the smartest managers knew they had to sell their company and they learned how to do it! They did that to

  • better compete for talent;
  • get the candidate to accept the offer;
  • hire without always resorting to increased salary/benefits;
  • ensure a better fit;
  • make it harder for headhunters to steal their people.

But the foremost reason to learn to sell is that it is the fastest, simplest, and only way to guarantee your own personal success! As a manager, there is nothing you can do individually that will offset a nonperforming group. When you choose management, you are choosing to lead and motivate—not do it yourself.

The ability to sell your company doesn’t mean talking someone into taking the job, it means presenting your story in an appealing way, projecting your enthusiasm, portraying your company as a great place to work, and, most importantly, doing it honestly.

Life is full of silly assumptions and two that I’ve run into in this area are that people

  • know how to interview, know what to talk about, remember to cover all the bases, and are good at it; and
  • will automatically sell during interviews, know how to sell, and are good at it.

First, people aren’t born knowing how to interview—there is no interviewing gene—it’s a learned skill, just like any other in the business world.

Next, other than sales professionals, most people don’t consider themselves to be salespeople. However, if they ever convinced anybody to do anything that was their idea they’ve sold. As with any presentation ever made, you must know why your offering is great and believe it! Think about yourself in relation to your company—think about the whys

  • Why do you work there?
  • Why are you excited?
  • Why are you passionate?

Selling your company isn’t about lying or spin, it’s about drawing out the candidate to discover what she’s really looking for—what turns her on, what turns her off—and addressing those needs and desires.

In order to sell, you need to know all about your company, the position, career path, etc. The best part about honest selling is that you don’t have to remember what you said! You want to make the most of selling what your company has and improving it when possible instead of agonizing over those things you don’t and can’t have. Just don’t fall into the “idiot trap” by thinking that

  • you’re smarter than the candidate, therefore the candidate won’t know when you’re blowing smoke; or
  • the candidate will forget statements or promises made during the interview.

The assumptions that companies make about what sells, why people change jobs, why they accept offers, etc., also tend to create problems. There’s a myth out there that the best people all have the same hot buttons:

  • Family-friendly
  • encourages risk taking
  • Cutting-edge work
  • Free-wheeling culture
  • High growth rate

As with most assumptions, these are delusions. Furthermore the people who want one or more of these circumstances are not necessarily better than the people who don’t want them. Even company politics or a reputation for being bureaucratic and slow is not on everybody’s taboo list. The fact is a person might take a certain job in a certain company at a certain time for reasons that not only aren’t apparent, but don’t really matter outside of the candidates own mind.

Different people have different needs. Take a truly honest look—at your company, your group, your products, yourself, your world—and then sell what you really have to offer. The worst error is to hire a round peg for a square hole, even if she is a world-class peg. If you are a mature company and hire a great candidate by convincing her that you can satisfy her risk-taking desire, you are setting up a scenario for failure. Similarly if you are a hot, young start-up and hire a brilliant marketer who wants to work 45 hours a week in a structured environment with lots of resources, that too is a disaster waiting to happen. Neither candidate is better than the other—just different with different needs.

You want the best person for your specific position—the person who can be a happy, productive member of your team—not the best person in existence as measured on some cosmic industry yardstick. It doesn’t matter what you have to offer; it will light someone’s fire and that person will produce for you.

Do’s and Don’ts of selling


  • ask your employees why they’re there and what are the biggest selling points: project, people, growth opportunity, career path, etc.
  • start selling at the first opportunity, the ad, and sell at every contact thereafter until the person starts work.
  • communicate your passion.
  • listen, don’t just talk.
  • identify the candidate’s desires and explain how your opportunity can satisfy them.


  • lie—ever.
  • make assumptions.
  • get carried away and forget to actually interview.

Good hiring is based on a simple idea—that the highest productivity gains come when employees are happy. When an employee is challenged, appreciated, and given the opportunity to develop: happy > turned on and motivated > higher productivity > increased success, satisfaction, and loyalty. The credit goes to the manager and that reputation will proceed her wherever she goes.

Finally, as important as selling is, it’s not the only thing that needs to happen during the interviews, whether by phone or in person. That’s why interviews must be planned (tune in tomorrow).

One Response to “Hiring talent requires selling!”
  1. MAPping Company Success Says:

    […] is the same mentality that you need to appeal to when hiring; in other words, you’ll need to sell the whole shebang to candidates, just as they are selling themselves to […]

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