MBA case study

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Me (to HR) – Hey, tell me something, why don’t sales managers interview executives? The reporting manager should be involved in the recruitment process

Him – I agree. But we realized that they don’t have the right interview skills and it was decided that they will not be part of the recruitment process

Me – So, instead of developing those skills, you took the easy way out? Most of the Branch sales managers have been promoted from sales managers? So, what makes you think they have the skills to interview correctly?

Don’t gasp in horror. This is how the corporate works. One big advantage of working in an organization which is not 100% system driven (to put it mildly) is that you can try new things. Your only headache is convincing people.

We organized a training session on ‘Right way to recruit’ yesterday for the team. I have been part of one such training and it is the best training I have attended. There was a lot of resistance initially (I won’t get into the reasons) because sales people are more arrogant, straightforward, difficult to please and harder to convince than any other function in an organization. You can shut them up but you can’t get them to do things your way if they are not convinced. By the end of it, they were convinced and everyone agreed to try these interview techniques. The bone of contention was – replacing hypothetical questions with reality based questions.

Example, instead of asking an executive “How would you achieve a 20% higher target”, ask him/her “Were you in a situation where you were given a higher target than your average business? Did you achieve it or not? How?”. Probe him/her on every detail so he can’t lie or make up stories and you will be able to identify the grain from the chaff. The point isn’t whether he/she achieved the target or not, don’t judge him/her on the results but on the process.

There are more such gems but I will write another post on that. The recruitment process also includes a quantitative test and a personality test. Everyone complained how good candidates fail the tests and we need to relook at them. None of the managers had seen these tests so we had a look. The quantitative test seemed simple enough and HR told us this isn’t where the problem is. Executives are failing the personality test, where, supposedly, there are no right or wrong answers. So, we opened that. That’s when it struck me. The RSM is a South Indian who does not know Hindi so all branch meetings are conducted in English. Since I have joined, I have to follow up his speech with mine in Hindi, covering similar points so everyone in the room gets it. Do I want an executive fluent in English? Not really. His fluency is required in Hindi because he has to interact with distributors, retailers, wholesalers, his team of salesmen etc. How can the personality be tested in a language he/she is not comfortable with? We have decided to get the questions translated in Hindi from now onwards.

Basically, in the last few years we have been losing out on good candidates because we were questioning them in English. It is such a facepalm moment but a very common one. It shows the kind of disconnect that exists in organizations. Sometimes, all that is required is a little common sense and the skill to be able to cut through the bullshit.


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