No matter how much technology changes, the web evolves and advertising channels transform, those in media know they’re in the “people” business. This is especially true if you are in advertising sales, marketing, or other related digital fields where your interpersonal skills, perception and communication abilities help determine the trajectory of your career and the careers of those you hire.
If you are responsible for a web property’s advertising, its successful monetization begins when you’re interviewing prospective advertising salespeople. These interviews are the gateways for your future success. When you interview an ad salesperson for a job, it is incumbent upon them to show you that they can relate, converse, think on their feet, and respond well under pressure – all qualities important to a fast-paced digital work environment. I’ll leave topics about what to look for in resumes and how to best network for talent for other blog entries. For this article and those later in this series, I want to focus on the interview itself. Yes, you’ll have information about their past results and their track record. But, how do you best evaluate a future star during an interview? How does a digital seller rise above the rest in a highly competitive process?
1. Before the Interview: Study has become part of a successful digital media career, and will forever be a part of interview preparation. Did your candidate do their homework? Look to see if the candidate researched your company thoroughly – reviewing your products/ services, advertisers, press releases, etc.:
2. Connection: Let’s assume several candidates are similarly qualified for a job in terms of their experience and results. What then will distinguish someone from the pack? The answer is right in front of you: his/her ability to connect with you and others in the interview process – over time (not just that first meeting). If they connect with you, it stands to reason they’ll connect with clients. Set up interviews and meetings with different people, key people multiple times. Look for consistency (and check on it through the reference checking process – you don’t want someone good at just interviewing).
3. Did the Salesperson Sell Themselves? This IS an interview for a salesperson, right? Were you sold? Some candidates say that “tooting their own horn” is hard for them – you can end those interviews early. In an interview, selling yourself is “must”! Candidates should be clear and enthusiastic about how their experience makes them a fit for the job. If there is a gap between their past job experience and what is called for in certain parts of your job description, they should use this as a means to display their confidence. Did the candidate refer to something they’d done that was similar to bridge the experience gap? Or, did they over-sell you by overusing phrases like “I this” and “I that”.
A successful interview is one where the digital seller leaves you with knowing:
a) what they will do to move the business forward
b) what clients and agencies they know well
c) with which verticals they have expertise
d) their greatest strengths
e) their weaknesses and how they will compensate
f) why he/she wants to work at your company
4. Conversational and Engaging, not gabby: Were there a lot of one-word answers? Did the candidate talk your ear off? Or, were you engaged? Nothing is worse than interviewing a person who keeps giving one-word answers or makes you feel like you’re pulling teeth. Also, was he/she a good listener? You can tell when someone is just sitting there pretending to listen to you – when actually they are just waiting for their opportunity to say something.
A great sales candidate recognizes that the interview is in fact a “sales call”.
5. Specific, measurable results. Get the details from candidates about their results. Better yet, notice which candidates offer the details without you having to ask. What sounds better: “I sold over my quota for the past two years”, or “For the past 4 years, I exceeded my digital ad sales quota of $1.5million by 15% and brought in 12 new advertisers.”?
6. The basics: You’ve heard all of this and it still applies. Expect good eye contact, no gum, no bringing in their Starbucks or water bottles to the meeting, no leaning back or slouching in the chair, etc. We say that absent confirmation to the contrary, dress up. Candidates can do homework about your corporate culture, but they’ll never know for sure when it comes to a job interview. So, it’s best to let them know up front if they need to wear a suit or not.
7. Body Language: “I speak two languages, Body and English.” – Mae West. I refer you to my blog on the subject: http://www.mediarecruiting.com/tag/body-language/
8. Compensation: When using recruiters like Media Recruiting Group, you already know what the person is/was making and what they’re looking for. The candidate should be consistent with what Media Recruiting Group has already communicated.
If you’re not using a recruiter, you have to find out a candidate’s compensation parameters as early in the process as is feasible (you don’t want to warm up talking money). Ideally, knowing this when the meeting is set up works best. If that is not possible, perhaps have candidates fill out an HR form just prior to the meeting so you know. You don’t want to waste a lot of time if the person’s range is outside your budget.
Also, ascertain the candidate’s level of honesty. I’ve known some digital salespeople who inflated their compensation. Perhaps inform them of your company’s HR policy to have W-2 forms brought in at the final stages of the interview process (“It is not personal…it is just company policy.”).
Last, be wary of candidates who know the compensation range throughout the process, but change what they want in the 11th hour. Also, for the issue of counter-offers, refer to my blog from May 14, 2010: http://www.mediarecruiting.com/tag/counteroffer/
9. Did the Candidate ask for the Job? Asking for the job is like asking for the order – its part of the close. An ad sales candidate that asks for the job right there on the spot distinguishes themselves from others. It is beneficial for you as a hiring manager as well, because you can observe their approach and level of effectiveness.
10. After: Receiving a follow up “thank you” email is essential. Would you expect any less if they had just come back from a sales call? In fact, each person in the interview process should receive one. The candidate should express his/her interest in the job and why he/she would be the best candidate for the position. And…spelling counts (a letter to you is no different than a letter to a client).
Then, a telephone follow up should take place. Again, as a seller, you want to show that you are clear, confident and going for the close (sometimes this call goes to the recruiter).
Last, ideally, you should receive a letter (snail-mail) that’s a little different than the email you received. Hand-written notes are a nice touch if you receive one.
Use all of the communications from the candidate to help evaluate their writing style, level of interest, and ability to keep you engaged, and interested in their candidacy.
Take the time to prepare for your interviews. Make sure you are well-rested and focused. Don’t let the meeting be interrupted. The time and effort you invest in the interviews will be well worth it when they result in hiring top sales talent for your organization. And putting these 10 criteria to use will give you an advantage when interviewing for your digital media sales positions. Happy hunting.