first sales hire

There is no secret in telling that the modern recruiting landscape has become more complex and competitive than ever. HRs and recruiters from various companies are fighting a talent war, where the hiring process and its quality is often the winning factor.

It is not enough to write a generic job description and hope for strong candidates to apply in today’s world. It’s more likely they won’t, and you’re risking that your direct competitor will get them with a more proactive approach.

The question is, how can you be more proactive in your hiring process?

No matter your decision to handle the hiring process by yourself or outsourcing it to an external recruiter, you need to define who you are looking for to fit the position. But how? Create an ideal candidate profile. 

What is an ideal candidate profile?

Your ideal candidate profile is a fictional portrayal of your perfect job candidate. 

To describe it better, if your startup has a marketing department, you likely heard the term buyer persona. The purpose of this is to define your ideal customer to whom you want to tailor your whole marketing strategy. This means selecting relevant platforms and tailoring content to their liking. 

Similarly, you should identify your ideal candidate to perfectly fit the role.

Your ideal candidate profile is not a job description.

The job description describes the duties and responsibilities of the job, including daily tasks, details about the position, your company’s background, and a list of competencies to screen out candidates.

A candidate profile will help you attract the right applicants who’ll be excited about your company, culture, and opportunities to grow with you. By doing so, you’ll be able to convey your company’s identity in a way that’s attractive to the right candidate. If you decide not to define your ideal candidate, you’re risking wasting your time and resources to go through overwhelming numbers of CVs. Eventually, you might even end up with a wrong hire that won’t be a good fit for your position.

Ideal sales rep profile

According to Harvard Business Review, the turnover among sales reps is twice as high as in the overall labor force. This can negatively impact your financial resources and your overall business growth when sales reps are often switching at your company. One way to get more predictable results is right at the beginning of your hiring process – define your ideal sales rep profile.

Analyze your landscape

As with any other business objective, you work with a budget while considering the potential ROI. It’s quite challenging to set a budget for a person you haven’t met yet, and it’s even harder when you don’t know what that person can bring to the table. To start, you can reflect on the performance of your current high sales performers. 

Analyze why they perform on a level they do, the key skills that make them close deals. You can go to them and ask them in person about their challenges and what often works for them to bring revenue or new accounts.

These traits can help you better imagine what will be necessary to include in your ideal candidate profile.

Hard key requirements (HKR)

Depending on your company’s business and industry, you can start with defining your hard key requirements. These are the traits you managed to determine by analyzing your current high performers and what is necessary, often decided by data and cultural attributes, to succeed in the role. Consider what the non-negotiable and negotiable requirements are.

HKR should be based on parameters that are straightforward to assess.

In your line of business, you might need a person who has experience with serving the same or similar type of audience. In this case, your ideal candidate profile would have a specific amount of years on a sales position selling to a required audience.

If relevant for your position, you can define the specific kind of business achievements your ideal candidate accomplished. You can consider examples such as a growing market share in an already established market or building an entirely new market from zero.

As it often happens in startups and scaleups, your ideal sales rep might need to handle tasks outside of selling. Here you might be looking for a person who can, to a certain degree, take care of marketing tasks or project management.

Other HKR can be defined based on location and language capabilities.

Based on the type and amount of your hard key requirements, you can place some of them into your job description and a questionnaire that the candidate needs to fill out during the application process. The rest of them you will need to discover during the interview. 

You should have no more than 5-7 hard key requirements. 

Subjective attributes

Your subjective attributes can be coachability and curiosity.

In the current ever-changing digital environment and unpredictable scenarios that corona brought, it’s necessary to coach. It means your ideal candidate should absorb new information and skills quickly and adjust them to the situation.

The curiosity is closely related to coachability, in the sense that your ideal candidate will be interested in learning more about your customers, operations and will be willing to ask insightful questions.

Other attributes can be attitude, personality, and cultural fit. In general, these are difficult to assess fully, and without the right equipment, you can very quickly make a biased decision. Many HRs and recruiters can slip into making a decision based on a gut-feeling where a data-based approach would give you more accurate results. This gut feeling decision can put you and your business into a hazardous situation.

Key takeaway

Businesses can rarely attract high performing candidates with just a generic job description and not knowing who you’re looking for to fill the position.

The ideal candidate profile is a useful tool that will help you better understand who your next sales hire should be. It can lay down the basis for better budget forecasting, and it can minimize the risk of hiring the wrong candidate. From the hiring process perspective, it can save your time from assessing an overwhelming amount of resumes.

Define the set of hard key requirements and decide whether they can be negotiable and to what degree.

Be careful when you’re defining the subjective attributes you expect from your ideal candidate because it’s effortless to make a biased decision at that moment. If it’s in your capabilities, use solutions that can provide you with data so you won’t have to rely solely on your gut feeling.

Feel free to join our community on LinkedIn or contact us on to find out how we can help you.

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