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Tips for ramping up hiring in a changing market

The brutal winter that left many of us in a polar vortex may have slowed the start of the summer buying season, but optimism remains high. According to NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe, 
“Builders are adding inventory in anticipation of a further release of pent-up demand.”

Added inventory means added jobs – and added headaches for companies that haven’t changed their hiring practices to reflect today’s digital world.  

While the housing market was in its slump, the sales paradigm shifted. Digital sales and marketing practices replaced traditional sales tactics. Lead generation morphed from traditional cold calling or feet-on-the-street selling to digital demand generation. Ongoing customer relationships changed from phone calls and dinners at fancy steakhouses to recommendations on LinkedIn, “likes” on Facebook and digital engagement across all channels. 

As a result, both the definition of a successful candidate and the process for finding one changed. 

HomeSphere recently asked some of our customers – sales leaders at building product manufacturing firms – about their hiring practices. The objective of the survey, conducted by BBC Research & Consulting, was to help our customers better forecast hiring challenges and improve the selection of sales representatives.

Among the companies polled, 84 percent hired at least one sales professional in 2013, and 17 percent hired more than five. The good news? These companies found qualified candidates in an increasingly tight labor market. The bad news? Only 76 percent of the hires were considered “successful.”

The results led our team, experts in sales and lead generation, to develop tangible suggestions for hiring in 2014. The answers were right in front of us – on computer, tablet and smartphone screens just a few inches away. 

According to a recent survey by Right Management, nearly 100 percent of job seekers use LinkedIn as their No. 1 social media site for job-hunting, followed by Google+. When we interviewed our clients and partners, we found they were also using social media to advertise job openings. 

Though that’s a good first step, companies aren’t always using digital tools to their highest potential. In today’s market everything is online, including relationships, which are still the most effective way to get a job. If you haven’t switched to networking digitally, your hiring program may be as stale as the want ads. 

I’m also asking you to reconsider the qualifications of what is considered a successful hire. In our survey, 20 percent of partners ranked industry-specific sales experience and knowledge as the most important characteristic in hiring. Experience is good, but we encourage our partners to change their priorities. Why? 

First, the pool of highly experienced “A” players has shrunk drastically. Many veterans have stayed employed, retired or successfully switched careers. Moreover, the pool of younger professionals with a few years’ experience is equally as shallow, as graduates chose other fields during the housing bust, for obvious reasons. 

Sure, hiring managers can pick off a few veterans from competitors, but even that isn’t the best strategy. In today’s reality a successful candidate has to have a deep understanding of the changing nature of sales, not necessarily a specific product vertical. So stealing the 15-year veteran from your competitor might have an immediate positive effect – a few more names in the database and a new customer or two – but it doesn’t necessarily establish the foundation for long-term growth. 

Instead, we encourage our customers to look for candidates who understand today’s sales process. The best candidates are those with a strong understanding of the sales force automation and digital marketing tools that generate prospects directly, such as social media, display, paid and organic search, targeted email and other types of behavior-based digital advertising. We encourage partners to look for candidates who understand the new level of engagement and relationship building, which, like it or not, is ruled by sales and marketing automation tools. Finally, we encourage companies to look for individuals interested in building new approaches, rather than relying on past experience that’s become irrelevant to today’s digital world. 

In other words, today’s want ad should stress the importance of digital experience over product experience. Preferably, it would be written in a 140-character tweet.