Sales rep hiring process gaps can be found and dealt with via the downloadable Hiring Process Mystery Shop

It’s a candidate market. Especially for top sales reps. But many companies will not land these top sales reps. There are too many negative signals during the sourcing and hiring process.


In this post, I’ll share a method to test your own processes. It’s a mystery shop from the perspective of the candidate. Also, be sure to download the free tool Hiring Process Mystery Shop. It can be used by HR partners to uncover gaps in their hiring processes. Sales reps themselves can use the tool to compare potential employers. 


Top sales candidates are discerning. To land them, you have to know what turns them off. If they encounter certain signals, they may cross your company off the list. The hiring process contains many factors- any one of which could be negatively perceived. Then you lose the candidate. 


Here are some of those factors, grouped by 3 areas:


Social Footprint


  • Your company website – Look at the impression that future employees may have. If you’re hiring a Marketer, will your site appeal to one?  Also, it should be easy to get to your Careers page. On the careers page, it should be outward-in.  


  • Press reports/Public earnings reports – Top candidates will “listen” to see how your company is doing. They’ll be interested in strategies and moves that show opportunity. Be prepared to discuss the positive side of unpleasant news with candidates. 


  • Social media outlets – Top reps look to see if your social media outlets (LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, etc.) help them sell.  In other words, there is a strong presence that helps with prospecting.
  • LinkedIn:  Ensure your LinkedIn presence is professional and active. Also verify that top sales leaders have market-leading profiles. That goes for Reps, too, as a plethora of lame profiles may scare away candidates.
  • Youtube:  Leverage Youtube or Vimeo to place videos about working at your company. Have some testimonial videos that attract the types of Reps you are looking for.
  • Crowd-sourced data – Sites like or have user-posted data on your company. They also give a barometer of your company reputation. Potential candidates may look through such data. For top reps, they hopefully don’t base their decision to bail solely on this data. However, you should still be ready to defend any negative reviews. 


Hiring Process 


These are the areas that can give the most negative signals. However, they’re also the ones you have the most control over.


  • Online job postings – The tone and “coolness” of the job posting tells a lot to candidates. A staid, inward-out posting causes innovative candidates to think about looking elsewhere. I wrote about this a couple months back.
  • Recruiting tactics – Pay attention to the “script” used by initial recruiter introductions. It should be respectful and sincerely stroke the candidate. That means enough research should be done to know the accomplishments/skills of the candidate.  Also, ensure the caliber of the recruiters includes a high level of EQ (Emotional Intelligence).
  • Application process – Simple is better. However, there should be some challenges too. Top sales candidates see if it’s too easy, it may not be the challenge they want. We advocate a multi-step application process.  It involves much deeper candidate history than typical applications. It is based on the Topgrading for Sales book. This process alone will weed out many less-than-stellar candidates. The top sales reps you want will rise to the challenge, however. Ensure the candidate knows the process and when to expect communications. Lack of communication will surely drive top sales reps to other employers.
  • Interviewing methods – Top sales reps like to see objective interviewing techniques. At the least, the interviews need to be organized and efficient. Also, don’t have candidates go through umpteen rounds of low-level interviews.
  • Job tryouts/scenarios – As part of the hiring process, top candidates will thrive during job tryouts.  If you don’t use them, or at least scenarios that test the candidate, start. These will tell the candidate that you are serious about getting the right hire. The candidate will also appreciate the chance to understand if they are a fit for the role and your company.
  • Offer/Acceptance process – Simply providing a one-way offer will not work with sales reps – who are by nature negotiators.  So, explain how the process will work – and point out where the sales rep candidate will have a chance to negotiate.
  • Onboarding – Lack of or no mention of a strong onboarding process can be a negative. If you have a good process – especially for sales reps – make sure you tout this during recruiting and hiring. 


Company Environment


  • Work locations – Candidates may be picky about geographies they will work in – and your flexibility in how they work (telecommute, home office, branch office). Even to the point of rural vs urban balance in their sales territory. Also, if they must come to HQ periodically, is it easy to get to?
  • Company buildings/assets – Work locations or even headquarters look and feel – is it attractive and contemporary? Or does it smack of ’90’s cube farms? It’s very easy to check Google maps or Flickr photos for what the workplace looks like.
  • Company altruism – Especially among Millenials, things like being green and giving back to the community are important.  This should be easily determined through your website or social media.
  • Your client and supplier lists – Top Reps want to know if they’ll be able to leverage their existing relationships.  Be sure your client list is easy to obtain.  Be ready for a later discussion about how they can benefit from their current relationships with your clients.


This is a lengthy list to pay attention to.  While you can’t make all of it perfect, you can find gaps.  Do this by following a mystery shopping process.  Here are some steps:


1. Coordinate someone to be a “fake” candidate. Use more than one to test different aspects of hiring. Leveraging interns or freelancers for this works well.

2. Download the Hiring Process Mystery Shop tool. It gives you the checklist of things to look for. Sales Reps can leverage this tool to compare potential employers.

3. Run the mystery shop over a pre-determined timeframe.  This period should coincide with actual hiring activities. That way, you can compare the mystery shop data with actual feedback from new hires.

4. During this mystery shop period, interview some candidates that didn’t get hired.  Ask them for feedback on what negative perceptions they had of the hiring process.

5. Develop an improvement plan. Work with any recruiting agencies you employ to fix gaps. 


If you’ve already done something like this, pleHiring_Process_Mystery_Shop1ase comment below.  Share the method and results you used. 


Photo courtesy of -> Imagery Majestic


Steve Loftness

Helps sales and marketing leaders make the number through implementation and change management of proven and emerging effectiveness practices.

Steve leverages his Six Sigma Black Belt and change management expertise to help clients with innovative yet pragmatic solutions. His experience with clients in multiple industries gives him the ability to ensure that any solution designed will actually get adopted.


Prior to joining SBI, Steve was a partner at TDG and Sundoya, where he developed business and implemented improvements within engagements. He is also part of the international consulting community having lived and worked in Spain and Russia. And yes, he speaks both languages.

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