The NFL Draft has, by the time of this publication, come and gone. Equal parts art and science, the league’s rookie dispersal of college players reminds us a lot of the hiring process in sales. In football, you have things like college games, all-star games, the combine, interviews, and various workouts with which to evaluate players and try to project how they’ll perform at the professional level. In sales, you have resumes and interviews. But to really get a sense of how candidates might fit, organizations can consider job simulations and talent assessments.
Why Organizations Should Consider Job Simulations
Resume scanning and interviews are valuable screening tools – they allow you to identify if someone has the relevant experience and the cultural fit for your organization. What they often don’t provide you is incontrovertible proof that a given candidate will actually succeed in the role if hired.
For example, say you’re scouting for a sales rep. Just because they’ve succeeded in one vertical or geographic region doesn’t mean they’ll have success in yours if there’s a difference (we also see the latter mentioned in college basketball, where fans voice concern if a new head coach has the regional ties and affinity to recruit well in their new school’s area). Also, there are those candidates who interview well but who don’t perform well once they’re hired (the equivalent of a combine warrior whose production fails to live up to their testing hype).
Job simulations are the closest approximation available of testing how candidates will either perform in a given role or have the upside to be a star performer (in cases of unproven possibilities).
Job Simulations in Sales Hiring
The most frequent form of job simulation – especially in sales – is a role-playing exercise, where the candidate is given a hypothetical situation and asked to roleplay the scenario. To make this as accurate as possible, it should be based on a situation the company has faced in the past (obvious caveat that names should be changed to protect the guilty and the innocent, of course).
Other possible simulations could include having the candidates listen in on a sales call and respond to it with their thoughts about the experience – specifically probing for constructive analysis and demonstrating knowledge. Or perhaps you’d want to have them give a mock sales presentation.
Preparing for Job Simulations
On the employer side, examine critical situations that come up in a given role. Naturally, this will involve talking to people who already perform the sales role being hired for about their own experiences. Select one that seems most appropriate for a job simulation, based on the level that you’re hiring for (junior sales rep, tenured rep, sales manager, etc.) and draft a scenario around your chosen situation.
From the job candidate’s perspective, do research on the company, its verticals, and products. While the employer won’t expect you to have an in-depth, granular knowledge from the jump, you should have a baseline understanding that will allow you to perform well in the simulation. Also consider how your current skills work within the role and how you can illustrate them during the simulation. Lastly, remember this is more than just a test for them. It’s a chance for you to see if this position is truly something that you’re interested in – a demo of the job, as it were.
When to Run the Simulation
One of the thorniest issues involved with job simulations is when to run them. After all, this is a time-consuming, labor intensive process.
The ideal time will be after the initial screening interview and before the later rounds of interviews. That way, you can cull the candidate list down to a manageable number while still giving yourself the best chance at finding the optimal hire.
Why Organizations Should Consider Talent Assessments
Talent assessments are frequently online questionnaires whose questions are geared toward discovering a candidate’s personality, work style, knowledge, and/or skills, and determining whether those combination of factors are a match for the position and company. Typically, they’re part of the pre-interview screening to help winnow the field down to the best candidates.
For this form of testing to be successful, you’ll need to carefully construct your questions to elicit the information you’re hoping to learn without unintentionally leading the candidates to the so-called correct answer. If you’re not certain that you can write a valid test yourself, consider consulting with a third-party vendor that specializes in this field.
Talent Assessments as a Job Candidate
As a potential candidate for a position, you want to make sure you’re honest in your answers. While trying to game the system might land you the job, if it’s not the right fit, you’ll at the very least be unhappy and at worst be found out and back on the job market a short time later.
Although both job simulations and talent assessments require careful planning and considerable resources to be successful, the short-term lengthening of the hiring process will result in a net time savings and higher homerun rate on hires by allowing you to see them real-time in your environment (job simulations) and a sense of culture and skill fit (talent assessments). Conversely, for jobseekers, these forms of in-depth examination provide the best possible preview for determining if the position and company are a good fit.