2016 Hiring Strategies: Sales

Part 1 of a 7 part series outlining strategies for in demand occupations.

Sales positions consistently rank in the top five positions employers are searching to fill. As the US economy continues to expand, this trend shows no sign of slowing. However, sales has also been ranked among the most difficult positions to fill for the last five consecutive years according to recruiting and workforce development firm Manpower.

The number of job seekers searching for employment in sales occupations has not met demand. This has caused increased competition between employers for the top sales performers. Leading job search engine Indeed found that while almost 9% of jobs posted through their service were related to sales, less than 6% of job seekers were interested in those positions.

Baby Boomers currently make up 40% of the US labor force, and they are beginning to exit the workforce in large numbers. Employers will quickly find senior sales staff in short supply due to a mix of turnover and retirement. For entry level positions, colleges are not producing enough graduates with experience or education in sales, meaning employers will have to either build their own internal pools of sales candidates or recruit from other employers.

In 2015, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted the following for 2024: Sales positions would grow at an average of 5% per year, resulting in about 780,000 new jobs being created. Finance and insurance sales are predicted to have the highest rate of growth, while advertising and travel sales are facing decline.


Strategies for Success

Build Retention:

An employee kept is worth more than an employee found. Focusing on retaining your sales professionals can provide you with a competitive edge and leverage when considering new sales talent. A Glassdoor survey of sales professionals found that 68% of salespeople plan to look for a new job this year, while only 19% have no plans to look for a new job.

The most cited reason for leaving was salary and compensation (72%) followed by opportunities for career growth (65%) and company culture (48%). However, 71% are likely to accept less money in order to work for a company with a great culture, and 78% would trade less money for the opportunity to sell something compelling.

Identify issues that may cause retention problems with your sales team. Do they feel valued? Is their compensation competitive? Do you have a company culture that appeals to them?

Are valued team members retiring? Find out if they’re willing to do a gradual phase-out or adopt a part-time mentorship/training role to transfer knowledge and skills to their successors.

If you have the resources to encourage your team to remain loyal, open your wallet. If you don’t have the means to compensate at a top level, strongly focus on what they need culturally to thrive. This could be flex-time, comped meals or drinks, or even just the freedom to dress down during prep time. Ask them what they want; most of it is cheap to provide.

Nurture your college pipeline:

The hard truth is that the shortage of sales talent is only going to get worse, and the pipeline of new graduates from sales programs is not sufficient to fill demand. Get involved with university career offices, host internships, and recruit at college career fairs. There is a limited amount of new graduates available to replace a retiring sales force, so don’t risk getting frozen out by your competitors.

If you can’t name three contacts at your local college or university that has sent you salespeople in the last few years, you don’t have a pipeline. Identify the professors and administrators that are focused on student success after they graduate. Look for advisors that have placed students with your competition recently (LinkedIn is a great tool for this type of operational research.) These are the people that you can meet professionally or during social events. Don’t be shy about letting them know you want to develop top talent and offer valuable internships.

Adapt to Millennial Needs:

Do your job descriptions use the phrase “competitive environment”? Millennials want teamwork based environments and safety nets. The 2008 recession hit the Millennial generation particularly hard, making many young professionals much less eager to pursue positions that are less stable and financially riskier. Build a teamwork based environment that supports entry-level sales staff, provides continuous training, and lays out a clear career path.

Poach from other companies:

Be ruthless, get on Glassdoor, read company reviews, find companies that have culture and compensation problems, and look for their sales team profiles on LinkedIn. Engage them, find out if they’re willing to make a change, and state a compelling reason why they should work for you instead.

Look for salespeople that have recently changed jobs. Both their previous employer and current employer are experiencing change, and you may be able to take advantage. Look for employees that are reaching a yearly anniversary with a company, if their raise wasn’t what they expected, you may have an opportunity to make an offer that they otherwise wouldn’t have considered.


Next steps:

Sales is a high-growth field both in the short and long-term, and the best talent will continue to gravitate towards the highest paying positions. For employers that are competitive on compensation, and have acceptable company culture and work-life balance, hiring top and mid-level sales professionals will continue to be a reasonable challenge.

Employers that are unwilling or unable to compensate at fair levels will find it necessary to invest heavily in training of younger and less experienced people, and they will lose them much more readily to employers with mature sales systems. These employers should focus on retention and cultural advantage in order to outperform their peer and competitor organizations.


Four Tips for Recruiting in 2016

Last month unemployment dropped to its lowest level since 2008. Competition for hiring has heated up, especially for skilled positions.  However, many employers are finding themselves stuck in a recession-era mindset that contributes to long delays in filling positions. Here are four tips that can help your business’ recruiting strategy:

1. Welcome New Applicants

Inbound applicants are job seekers who have found your open positions by some means, whether they visited your career site, found a posting on a job board, or were referred by a friend. They’re less likely to meet your requirements for a position, but they’ve taken an active interest in the job and your company, they’re more likely to stay engaged, and more likely to put up with any inconveniences that your recruiting process puts them through.

Make their experience welcoming, keep them updated on the status of their candidacy, and try to ensure they don’t feel like a cog in a machine. Even if they don’t have the skills you’re looking for now, they may in the future, so treating them well now can pay off later.

2. Recruit Passive Applicants Only for Critical Positions

Let’s say your company recruiters go search LinkedIn or a resume database to look for people who have exactly the skills you require for a position. They bring you a list of highly qualified individuals who are potentially a great fit for the role. The problem? An engagement strategy has to be built to convince each of those people to make a life changing choice, and you have to convince them that your company and role is better than their current position. This costs time and money, and any headache or inconvenience that arises becomes a risk of losing their engagement.

Our recommendation is to focus your passive recruiting efforts on hard to fill positions, especially if you are searching for healthcare specialists, sales staff, and developers or mathematicians.

3. Focus on the Applicant’s Goals

Keep job descriptions concise and descriptive, don’t overwhelm readers with thousands of words and industry jargon. Focus on the impact that the position has on the company as a whole and where it fits into your organization, not just a list of duties and responsibilities. Sell your brand, talk about why you are better to work for than your competitors.

When applicants have multiple opportunities, work-life balance and increased responsibility are often stronger selling points than benefits and compensation. A highly sought-after prospect knows their value and makes her decision with the full picture in mind. If you don’t spend time nurturing her opinion of what being your employee will be like, someone else will.

4. Stop Hunting Unicorns

A number of factors can determine who is willing to apply to a job; work environment, meaningfulness, company culture, prestige, and so on, but wages and benefits are still at or near the top of the list.

Highly skilled workers with experience who are willing to work for below average pay essentially don’t exist anymore, the recession is over and they have options now. If your company isn’t willing (or able) to pay competitive wages & benefits (especially for skilled, in-demand positions), then be prepared to settle for less than top talent.
If you can’t afford top talent, it’s not the end of the world. There’s always training, mentorships, and time to build skills to the desired level. Investing in employee training also helps build loyalty and improve retention. You may need to transition your talents away from ”pure recruiting”, and into longer training and development, so be willing to look for talent with growth potential.

Leverage Your Sourcing Options for the 2016 Labor Market


Do you have trouble filling your open positions? 2015 was a tight labor market for many employers, but research shows that developing labor trends in 2016 may bring more success to your recruitment strategy, if you’re prepared to take advantage of the tools at your disposal.

According to Indeed’s Hiring Lab, 25% of American workers have a goal of finding a new job in 2016, while another 27% are open to finding new work this year, and the majority of those job seekers are going to use Indeed as part of their search for a new job. Indeed received visits from 200 million unique visitors in January of this year, more than Monster, CareerBuilder, and GlassDoor combined.

How does IntelliHire enter the picture? Our platform automatically posts your jobs to Indeed for free, and funnels your Indeed traffic into our applicant tracking system. Not only do we provide easy access to Indeed’s applicant traffic, but our screening system will help you sort and qualify your applicants to save time in finding the right candidates.

Since the beginning of this year, over 60% of applicants to jobs hosted on IntelliHire’s has been traffic funneled by Indeed into our platform. Some of our clients have received hundreds of applicants for their open positions in just the last month. This underscores the value of our screening system as it empowers employers to ensure that only qualified applicants move forward, and helps to make better, informed choices in selecting candidates to move forward with.

If you have a diversified sourcing strategy (and you should), IntelliHire also sells CareerBuilder postings at a discount, and we offer social media integration that lets you build and schedule entire recruiting campaigns for your Facebook or Twitter with only a few clicks.

Many employers found it difficult to find new employees in 2015, but 2016 is a new start, and we have the tools to help achieve success in recruiting.


Job Hunting – An Applicant’s Perspective

Post. Interview. Hire. Repeat. Ever find yourself in this routine?  So often we’re focused on this same task that we lose sight of why we are doing it, or if we are even doing it right.  When was the last time you reviewed your application process and how it effects your candidate pool?  Have you ever considered that your application process actually affects the amount and quality of your applicants?

Let’s look at the modern day application process.  If you are like the majority of companies, you fall into 1 of 2 camps.  Either applicants email in their resume for the specific role they are applying, or they fill out a somewhat detailed application that gives you a bit more insight into that individual.  Let’s take a moment of silence for those who are still accepting paper applications…

But what does this mean for the applicant?  If I am standing in my applicant’s shoes, or sitting in their chair perhaps, what impressions am I receiving when applying for a job?

As a job hunter, am I just shooting my resume in the dark hoping to hear something back in a few weeks?  There are tons of applicants doing just that.  Many applicants take the “Tommy Gun” approach of “If it’s easy to apply for, then I can apply to 100 jobs while sitting on my couch, and hope to hear back from one eventually.”  These applicants are unmotivated and if your application process calls for just that, I would imagine you spend a lot of time reviewing unqualified applicants.  If you are using this process, it is not working for you, you are working for it.

Or perhaps your application process is a little more intensive.  Maybe after they upload their resume they complete a digital application that will input them into your database.  Hopefully you are able to create simple online interviews that grade the applicant in real time.  Think of the people that complete a more detailed application.  They are taking the “Sniper” approach to job hunting.  They are the precision shooters who want to work for your company.

Next time you post, interview, hire, and repeat, think about your application process and how it effects your candidate pool.

What is an Applicant Tracking System?

An Applicant Tracking System, or ATS, is a software-based system designed to help organizations visualize and store job applicant and candidate data throughout the hiring process.

There are five core features to any ATS:

  • Provide an online space for open positions to be viewed by applicants
  • Allow candidates to apply for positions directly online
  • Screen candidates with either automatic or manual review
  • Organizational user view for candidate progress tracking
  • Communication tools to record in-system and offline events

So what does this look like in practice?

Let’s imagine you are looking to hire a new administrative assistant without an ATS. The first step in your process would be to define the requirements for the position. You would then look to identify sources that you have used successfully in the past. These sources could be job fairs, job-board listings, networking events, or even legacy advertisements like radio or newspaper.

Once you identify your sources, you would ‘post’ your position to your various sources. You would probably update your company’s careers page to include the new opening. Applicants would learn about your job (or not!) and you would begin to receive a trickle and then a flood of calls, emails, applications and resumes.

At this point you have a stack of documents that grows and morphs day-to-day. You probably have created sub-folders in sub-folders in your email inbox. After hours of review of paper and electronic documents, you now have a group of people you think might be a good fit for your open position.

As you can see this process is arduous and unstructured (and we haven’t even started phone screening!) Let’s see how things are different when using an ATS.

The first step is the same. However, with an ATS in place you don’t need to create a job description and find sources from scratch, they are saved from the last time you hired for this (or any) position.

Posting with most Applicant Tracking Systems is made much easier with features like job-board integration, custom job links and email addresses, and direct integration with your organization’s website. As an example IntelliHire’s career’s page ‘widget’ will plug in directly to your careers page so when you post a new job it immediately shows up online on your website!

Since applicants are applying to a job directly on a website you receive virtually no documents through email or paper. Applicants submit all of their contact information, answer questions about their skills, and upload all of the documents you need from them online. Instead of spending all of your time collecting, organizing and trying to keep up with candidate information, you can focus on identifying the best fits for your culture and need.

If you’d like to learn more about the IntelliHire Applicant Tracking System contact us today.

How to Improve Your Careers Page to Source Better Candidates

It used to be very simple to reach out to job applicants. You’d call your local newspaper or radio station, send over a copy of the job description and application instructions, and candidates would pour in. Today’s media landscape is very different. The places people go to find news and information are very fragmented. This is also true for the places people go to find out about new employment opportunities. One of the best ways to develop better applicant sourcing is to make sure your careers page is top-notch.

Here are some tips on how you can reach candidates in new ways:

  1. Make sure that your company has a careers page that focuses on the applicants. Instead of speaking about your company’s culture from a high-level point of view, provide examples of how your people live your company’s values. A great example of this would be to provide testimonials from current employees in your most needed positions.
  2. Provide the applicant with an easy way to apply online. Today’s job candidates expect convenience in how they communicate and apply for jobs. Many applicants will be unable or unwilling to print a paper copy of an application off. You can have your web-designer create a short application form, or even utilize a third-party solution (like IntelliHire) to provide a pre-built application and screening.
  3. Let candidates connect with you directly through social media from your careers site. If you don’t already have a way for candidates to reach out in non-traditional ways such as Facebook and Twitter, it could be beneficial for you to adopt a more ‘open’ approach to candidate relationship management. As with online applications, there are many ways to approach social integration with your careers site. If you are looking for a pre-built solution consider third-party Applicant Tracking Systems that directly integrate with your website.

If you would like to speak with a member of the IntelliHire team to learn more about how we can help you make your careers page more applicant friendly and make it work for you, leave us a message below.