July 2016

Case Study: Get the full picture

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One of our clients sells products that need to be sold to customers. They don’t fly off the shelves by themselves. They’re not petrol, chocolate, burgers, or airtime.

Their success depends on the capability of the sales force to build credibility with the prospect, run a simple needs analysis, identify a need that their services can fix, position the company as an optimal service provider and get the order.

Enter James Allan*. A young guy with the right kind of sales experience gained over the last 6 years. At first glance, a good fit. If the client had been desperate enough, a quick interview and James is hired.

After James had been hired, (hard to prove, because he wasn’t), the following issues might have arisen:

  1. He may have left within a year or two.
  2. He may have struggled to close deals.
  3. He may have dropped the ball on responsibilities he was supposed to own.
  4. He may have consistently involved other people in his work and spent quite a lot of time socialising with the team and building relationships when in fact he should’ve been on the road.
  5. He may have spent a number of meetings preparing the client to sign the deal but never actually asking for the deal.
  6. He may have become well-liked in the office, but ineffective in reaching his targets.

Wouldn’t it be useful to find this out before you hire somebody? To have the information you need – all the information – BEFORE you decide whether or not you’re prepared to invest recruitment, induction, training, and management time to hire somebody. Somebody who may or may not be successful. Somebody who may leave in a year or two.

I use three tools as a basic starting point for recruitment and internal assessment projects: viz. the CVS, a four-factor tool such as the PPA, PI or the PDA, and ShadowMatch. In this case, I used the PPA.


If I had used the CVS to summarise the CV, I would have discovered that:

  • James had worked in three unrelated industries before moving into the industry of my client.
  • While James had stuck with one job for three years, he had worked in six other jobs for only 2 to 18 months each.
  • James has a qualification irrelevant to my client’s industry and the sales function.
  • There were gaps between jobs.

No sins here, but the investigation begins.


If I’d used the PPA, I would have discovered that James:

  • Is a cooperative and agreeable person who likes to work for and with a team of people
  • Is outgoing and friendly
  • Is quick paced, and can handle variety
  • Is risk-averse, formal, and strictly follows the rules. This also means that if a prospect says no, James will see this a rejection – an unpleasant experience for him. Thus, he might avoid this by simply not asking for the order.

The job profile requires the following behaviours:

  • Assertive and confident
  • Outgoing and friendly
  • Quick-paced, able to handle variety, driven to succeed, goal-focused
  • Comfortable with uncertainty, doesn’t need a lot of structure, able to work with unpredictable circumstances, and – most importantly – comfortable asking for the order

In summary, my client faced potential danger in hiring James. No doubt, he would have interviewed very well with his friendly outgoing personality. He would have integrated well into the company for the same reasons. And because he pays attention to structure and detail, and doesn’t break the rules, my client may have only discovered the real problem after three (or more!) months of limited results: he’s not a closer.

Not because he’s a bad guy. Not because he’s stupid. Not because he provides bad service. But simply because, at the moment that he needs to ask for the order, his discomfort rises to the point that he simply doesn’t ask for the order. He hopes that the client will close the deal. And, as you may know if you’re in sales, not many clients close our deals for us!


ShadowMatch: team and candidate profiles form a shadow, and the applicant’s profile is overlaid to show visually where the similarities and differences lie

ShadowMatch: team and candidate profiles form a shadow, and the applicant’s profile is overlaid to show visually where the similarities and differences lie

Shadowmatch takes the analysis a step further. It’s a useful tool in that it considers both the candidate and the team he’s applying to join. The best performers in the team are profiled to create a benchmark against which to measure the applicant. Their profiles form a shadow, and the applicant’s profile is overlaid to show visually where the similarities and differences lie (see image). While we would never expect to find someone who exactly matches the rest of the team, the closer the match, the better the result of the hire will be.

The Shadowmatch result for James indicated that he was quite different to the top performers of the company in a few important ways:

  • He has a smaller preference to own his work and greater preference to hand off. For a sales person, out on the road, by themselves: not ideal.
  • He has a very strong habit of handling frustration. The high-performance benchmark is average. What does that mean? It means that long after the prospect has decided not to sign the deal, James may still be trying to persuade the prospect that his company, his products and services, and his own personal integrity are such that the client should reconsider. This will all be done in a low-key and friendly way. James might, for example, suggest that he and the prospect have lunch, see another presentation, do a proof of concept, or involve other people. And the prospect still says no. But James handles frustration. So, on he ploughs, when in actual fact he should have thanked that prospect for his time politely – and moved on to the next prospect.
  • James has a radical habit of working with a team. The job requires that he be on the road, alone, to get the job done. It’s likely that James will find any number of reasons to be in the office, talking to the team. If banned from the office, James might find a good reason to visit the client, visiting a prospect or having coffee with a friend. He needs the social interaction.
  • The job requires a strong conceptual capability: i.e. the successful candidate must have the habit of applying himself to problems. But James is average in this respect. Not a complete train smash. But if he only applies himself to solving 50% of the problems presented to him, his colleagues (who apply themselves to 70% of the problems presented to them in the same time frame) will become frustrated that James doesn’t meet the problem-solving requirement. This is not about being clever or stupid – not at all. It’s about whether or not an individual has the habit of applying themselves to problems: some people do, some people don’t. Our job is to build teams where the team members’ habits are similar, so that people cooperate and find themselves developing a strong team simply because everyone ‘gets’ each other.

The Selection Report

The last step is the Selection Report. This concise 1-2 page report forms the core of what we do at Right People Right Job. It’s where we summarise the findings of the PPA, Shadowmatch, and CVS, and relate those findings to the job requirement and the business of the client. I combine my experience from multiple industries over many years together with the data to come up with a final recommendation.

In James’s case, the recommendation was 1: Not Recommended.

One last thing:

Social Media

I don’t like giving the recommendation of 1 (not recommended) or 2 (recommended with caution), because I always worry that I’m letting the individual and the company down: what if I’m wrong?

In this particular case, social media put the final nail in James’s recruitment coffin. I don’t normally meet applicants as my work is done remotely unless I handle everything from job specification to advertising, response management to shortlisting, interviewing to selection. So as a last step, I searched for James on LinkedIn and Facebook. Both his profiles were incomplete, if not bare. To make it worse, on one profile, he was still in a job from four years ago and in the other profile, he was in a different job from six years ago. Ergo: he hasn’t updated his social media sites for years. So he blew any chance he had of persuading me and the client that, despite his CV and his assessment results, there was a passion for my client’s industry or the profession of sales. What he really wants is a job. Any job.

There’s a lesson for all of us in this example: at the very least, we should update our social media profiles on LinkedIn and Facebook quarterly. Preferably a lot more often. When your CV is average, you don’t help your case when your social media presence is weak.

To find out how to use these tools for your next hiring decision, call me on +27 83 308 7627 or email me on steve@rightpeoplerightjob.com.

Thanks for reading this. May your July be warm and successful!

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