Blind Hiring For Sales Recruitment: The Future Or Just A Fad?

June 10, 2016 Shaun Ricci

You may have heard of blind hiring - it’s a concept that’s been getting a lot of media coverage lately. It's being touted as a way to improve hire quality and increase diversity in the workplace, mainly by preventing our biases from interfering when making hiring decisions.

But what exactly is blind hiring? And how can it help improve the quality of your sales recruitment?


The Challenges Of Sales Recruitment: Is Blind Hiring The Answer?

Sales is consistently rated as one of the hardest roles to hire for, notorious for its high turnover rate. And each failed sales hire can be extremely expensive - up to $49,500 in replacement costs.

cost of turnover

Getting it right is so important that it’s considered one of the top priorities of a VP of Sales.

Aaron Ross and Jason Lemkin argue that at least 20% of a VP of Sales’ time should be spent recruiting great sales reps. So why does sales hiring have such a high failure rate?

We all have beliefs about what we think a great sales performer is supposed to look like. The problem is that our unconscious biases about sales reps’ age, gender, the school they attended and so on, generally don’t correlate with actual performance.

While there’s been a lot of talk that tech has a diversity problem, that issue hasn’t been discussed much when it comes to sales.

Even though women make up 49% of the sales force overall, only 31% of software and technology sales reps are female.


woman tech chart


Sales leaders should care about these numbers because diverse sales teams show higher revenues: Research on more than 500 organizations has found every 1% increase in gender diversity correlates with a 3% increase in sales revenue and every 1% increase in racial diversity is correlated with a 9% increase in sales revenue.

Hiring’s alarmingly high failure rate and the diversity problem are why blind hiring is being touted as such a savior. By anonymizing candidates, blind hiring holds the promise of allowing you to make more objective decisions about the sales reps you hire with the added bonus that it enables you to recruit a more diverse sales team.

So let’s dive in: Here are three ways to conduct blind hiring for sales recruitment.


1. Blind Hiring Through Blind Candidate Profiles

Blind hiring for sales recruitment starts by removing identifying information from candidates’ profiles and resumes, such as their names and photos.

Prior research tells us candidates’ race and gender matter when it comes to evaluating their resumes. Applicants with white-sounding names on their resumes are 50% more likely to get an interview compared to applicants with black-sounding names.

Anonymizing profiles and resumes allows you to focus on a sales rep’s skills, knowledge, and potential free from irrelevant and distracting information unrelated to their future sales performance.

Luckily, blind hiring tools to anonymize sales reps’ profiles already exist. The key to effectively using blind profiles to hire a sales rep is to overcome our strong desire to put a “face” to the candidate. It feels weird not knowing what a candidate looks like before we decide to interview them because we’re so used to hiring someone because we “just know” he or she will be good in the role.

The problem with trusting our gut is that it’s often based on unconscious biases we’ve built up over the years that ironically interfere, rather than help, with our ability to make good hiring decisions.


2. Blind Hiring Through Blind Sales Tests

For sales recruitment, an example of a blind sales test would be a mock cold prospecting email. Since personality plays a larger role in work performance in sales than it does for many other roles, other ways to blindly test sales reps would be a personality assessment and culture fit questionnaire.

Blind tests for roles like software development can work without any major issues. But for sales, the most common job-related test is a mock qualification call or sales demo. And how relevant it is to anonymize sales reps’ voices in the first place?

The whole point of a job-related test is to simulate the activities of the actual job as much as possible. For sales, that means assessing the ability of the candidate to talk, ask relevant questions, and create rapport.

In my opinion, I think the verdict is still out as to whether it makes sense to do blind mock sales calls and demos, but it will be interesting to see what new technology may emerge to make this a more practical part of the sales interview process.


3. Blind Hiring Through Blind Interviews

Finally, the last stage of the hiring process in an interview. Now in this case, a blind interview for recruiting sales reps could take on the form of a written Q&A that’s either take-home or conducted in real time.

Again, how useful it is to conduct anonymous interviews for sales reps in the first place? In-person networking, presentations, and customer visits means that a sales rep’s physical presence probably matters a lot for their sales success.

What could be a happy medium when conducting an interview may be to use a physical divider to separate the sales candidate and interviewer. Now at first pass this may sound silly but it has been used in other fields for years including the arts - the world’s leading orchestras have found this has led to removing unconscious bias and selecting the best musical talent.


The Bottom Line

With an average turnover rate of 28% and thousands of dollars spent on each failed sales hire, traditional methods of sales recruitment are ripe for disruption. With today’s greater access to candidate data and new recruitment technologies, blind hiring represents interesting new opportunities and challenges for sales recruitment.

Blind profiles and resumes helps create a more even playing field for candidates who wouldn’t have made it to the interview stage otherwise, often because of our unconscious biases about what a “top sales performer” is.

But while other methods of blind hiring such as blind job simulation tests have successfully worked in fields such as software development, the question remains whether things such as blind demo-ing and interviewing will prove to be valuable for sales recruitment.

Personally I believe adding in blind hiring early in the process is worth experimenting with. The challenge is not letting your bias slip back in when you start interviewing. Measuring the results of the sales reps you hire that don’t fit your pre-determined profile vs. ones that do will be key to determining the long-term success of blind hiring.

About the Author

Shaun Ricci is a Canadian entrepreneur and the Co-Founder of Ideal. Shaun served as Co-Founder and COO of Field ID until it was acquired in December 2012. Shaun’s accomplishments include spots on the Profit Hot 50 and Deloitte Fast 50 Companies-to-Watch lists as well as the 2012 Ontario Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Shaun is also an active writer, documenting his wins and losses while building his startup sales team.

Featured Image Source: Alone Bandeau Beauty Blind Blindfold Blue Cloudy by Barn Images CC0 Pixabay

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