In today’s fast-changing workplace, many distributors struggle to find the right talent with the right skills. Even with a well-designed hiring system in place, distributors may still experience a high rate of failure in getting the right people on board. Why is this the case? What are the roadblocks?

Before we answer these questions, let’s look at a scenario: A sales rep position opened last month in your company, because one of your star salespeople was recruited away by a major competitor in your industry. Your hiring manager and sales manager got together to discuss how to fill this vacancy. With HR’s assistance, a job ad was developed and posted through various social media and job boards. Luckily, it did not take long to receive a pool of applications. Based on your preset criteria, you conducted an initial screening of the applicants and identified the top three candidates for onsite interviewing. Each candidate took the DriveTest® and went through multiple rounds of face-to-face interviews with different groups of interviewers. The one candidate who scored the highest in the DriveTest® and received the most positive feedback from interviewers was offered the job. Your mission was accomplished! However, one year into the job, you found your new hire not performing at the level expected, despite the rigorous nine-month job orientation and sales training programs he completed. To help him make improvements, you provided this sales rep with extra training and job coaching. Yet, nothing improved his performance, and evaluations for the second and third years remained consistently low. Now you wonder: Why did our three-year investment in this new hire not make a difference in his performance? Did we hire the right person in the first place?

If this scenario sounds familiar, reflect on the following four questions. These questions are designed to help you assess the general principles guiding your hiring practice, rather than giving you specific tactics regarding how to hire.

  1. How do we define “right”? Answers to this question are subject to individual interpretation, because what is perceived as “right” to one company may not be “right” to another. So, before you start looking for a future employee in the job market, make sure you reach a consensus among your senior executives, hiring managers, division managers and frontline supervisors on the meaning of “right.” For example, would “right” mean having a set of competencies required for a specific job, or does it mean sharing your corporate values and mission (cultural fit) and having the right attitude or work ethics? Figuring out what matters most to your company and what it takes to succeed in a new position will start you on the right path.
  2. What do we look for in a candidate? Often times, people are hired for their IQ — their knowledge and skills — that will enable them to fulfill their duties. But, many people are fired not because of their IQ, but because of a lack of EQ (emotional intelligence) — the capacity to be aware of, control and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically. While EQ is widely recognized as the key to both personal and professional success, it has been largely ignored by many organizational leaders. Ample research evidence suggests that EQ can be a much more significant predictor for success than IQ when it comes to finding the right employees. So, make sure you check the quality of a hire in terms of both IQ and EQ.
  3. Can this position be filled internally? When there is a job vacancy, our first inclination might be looking outside of the company. There is a bigger cost associated with hiring from outside than promoting from within, and it can take up to three years for external hires to perform as well as internal candidates. So, before you look outside to fill a position, look inside first to see if a current employee has the capability or potential to assume the new responsibility. For example, can you place an inside sales rep in an outside sales position? If not, what will it take to make it happen time- and cost-wise, compared to hiring from outside?
  4. Will I hire the same person again? When it comes to hiring, there is no magic formula for success. The reality is that no matter how hard you try, you may still end up with bad hires. Remember: Most, if not all, candidates are prepared or trained to take hiring tests or to answer interview questions. As a result, you may not get a true picture of candidates. So, if you are thinking of letting a new hire go, take a moment to ask yourself: Would I hire the same person again? This question will prevent you from making an emotional or hasty decision and help you to re-evaluate the new hire in a more objective manner. With time, you may find the problem is not that you hired the wrong person, but that you placed that person in the wrong position.

Consider one possible explanation about why we do not always hire the “right” people in the first place: We have paid far more attention to the time for hiring and cost to hire than to the quality of a hire. For many companies, in an effort to fill a position quickly — to minimize the loss of productivity due to a job vacancy — they forget that there is likely a bigger cost resulting from a bad hire.

In our recently released NAW book, Optimizing Human Capital Development: A Distributor’s Guide to Building a Sustainable Competitive Advantage through Talent Strategy, my coauthors and I devoted an entire chapter to the issue of Talent Acquisition. I hope you get yourself a copy, because Optimizing Human Capital Development is the only book on human capital development that is written specifically for the wholesale distribution industry. It provides the soup-to-nuts on hiring, training and retaining the right employees in today’s digital age. Since finding and keeping good employees is one of the top challenges keeping distribution leaders up at night, don’t you owe it to yourself and your company to get your hands on this book to help you?

George Pattee, Chairman of the Board at Parksite Inc., said:

“This is the best book I’ve ever read on human capital strategy, and it’s customized to the distribution industry! Love the process map and explanation as well as the specificity of the action plans. All people managers, the HR staff and senior executives need to read this book.”