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Hiring Employees in Sales and Marketing

Hiring Employees by the 80% Rule


Woman and man in an interview setting at a desk

Hiring Skilled Employees Is a Challenge

Carlos Davila / Getty Images

We live in an imperfect world. And, most of us are shining examples of the imperfect human race. So, why do we strive for perfection in hiring employees? Beats me.

If you're waiting for the "perfect candidate" to walk through the door, you may have a long wait. And your manager or your Board may be wondering why you can't fill that open position. Without the perfect candidate to hire, I'm going to give you my "80% Rule." Simply put, this rule says that if you find a candidate who meets 80% of the requirements of the job you have open, hire him or her. Read on for tips about how to determine if your candidate hits 80% of your requirements.

"You Can't Always Get What You Want" When Hiring Employees

I am a child of the 60s. I wore Pucci and fishnet stockings when they were first in style. I loved Peter Max and I wore my hair straight and clipped a la Carnaby Street. And, I "grooved" to songs like I'm a Soul Man by Sam and Dave and Satisfaction by The Stones. There's another Stones song that was a hit back then and I've been singing it to my clients who are hiring employees lately. "You Can't Always Get What You Want," a sentiment immortalized by Mick in 1969 and dug up by Betsy now. Here's why.

Unless you are living in China, there is a shortage of qualified people to fill the open positions in your company. (You'll notice I said qualified. More about that later.) The reasons for this are myriad and everyone has an opinion as to why, but suffice to say, it's true.

Recently, The Boston Business Journal asked on-line subscribers, "Are you finding it more difficult to recruit in the Boston area today than it was one year ago?" The findings: 69% of respondents said it is harder to recruit now, 14% said no, it's not more difficult, and 16% said it's about the same. As someone who recruits every day, put me in the 69% category.

If it is more difficult to recruit today, that means the pool of possible candidates to choose from is smaller. And if it is a smaller pool, that forces hiring managers to interview and hire candidates who may not be "100% perfect" for their job.

Life Is Choices

Hiring is like most everything else that you do. During the hiring process, you have to make choices. Similar to the house-hunting process and the car-hunting process, you make pros and cons list and you make choices. You expect to do those things and you're fairly comfortable with the process.

You can be comfortable with making choices in hiring employees, too. It's just a matter of creating that pros and cons list and knowing what you must have and what is a "nice to have" when you are hiring employees.

That's where the 80% Rule comes in handy for hiring employees.

Simply put, if you find a candidate who fills 80% of the requirements you have listed for the job, you should hire him. (Let me qualify this statement about hiring employees. If you're in the market for a brain surgeon, this rule does not apply. I am not talking about super technical positions where the skill level has to be state-of-the-art or 100%. Here you employ the 100% Rule.) Many hiring managers don't want to hear this, but your job probably isn't brain surgery and for most sales and marketing positions, this rule works very well for hiring employees.

And while it might mean that you have to bring your new employee up to speed on a few things, be realistic about what can be learned on the job. Instead, look for good work habits when you interview because those are harder to instill.

So, how do you determine what's 80% when hiring employees? Here are a few tips for hiring employees in sales and marketing.

Hiring Employees in Sales

  • Make sure your candidate has sold a product that has the same sales cycle that you have. Don't hire a base-hitter when you need a home-run guy or vice versa.
  • Make sure the candidate has carried a quota and is comfortable with hitting the numbers.
  • If you have an inside sales job, hire an inside sales person; if an outside job, hire an outside person. These two usually don't cross. They are different jobs.
  • Look to see that the candidate has been in an environment that is fairly similar to yours. If you're a start-up company, you may not want that IBM guy – the cultures are just too different.

Hiring Employees in Marketing

  • Look for a matching skill set but not necessarily a matching product set. As an example, you can hire a product manager who has launched enterprise products for your web-based applications. The skill set is the same.
  • Look for good writing and communication skills – this is a must – and their samples and experience don't necessarily have to be in your industry.
  • Look for instances where the marketer has been in the same environment as your company, whether start-up or mature market, experience matters.

Remember Two Things When Hiring Sales and Marketing Employees: Smart and Gut

Above all, look for smart and trust your gut. Smart people will pick up product knowledge quickly. They'll "click into" your company and your culture. They'll instinctively know what to do to make the transition and segue their skill set into your company.

And, as far as your gut is concerned, trust in the "Wisdom of Mick"…

You can't always get what you want,
But if you try sometimes you just might find,
You get what you need.

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Brian Price, executive director of marketing

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