Medical Sales Rep Recruitment (Part 2): How to optimize the hiring process to select top talent.

In our previous article, we explored the fundamental steps necessary for implementing an effective medical representative selection process. These steps included identifying key characteristics exhibited by top-performing salespeople and using them as benchmarks for hiring. In this article, we will delve into additional strategies that companies can employ to further enhance their ability to select top talent.

Effective Talent Acquisition Strategies: Building a Robust Applicant Pool

In today’s competitive job market, organizations recognize that attracting top talent in the medical sales field is essential for success. One key strategy to achieve this goal is the careful development of a strong applicant pool. By combining strategic sourcing methods with a well-curated pool of candidates, companies can make informed hiring decisions and secure the best fit for their open positions.

A robust applicant pool ensures access to high-caliber candidates. These individuals possess the skills, experience, and cultural alignment necessary for organizational success. Additionally, with a strong pool, recruiters can streamline the hiring process. They spend less time searching for suitable candidates and more time evaluating potential hires. Simultaneously a well-maintained pool of applicants expedites the recruitment cycle, minimizing the time it takes to fill job openings.

Sophisticated organizations employ various sourcing channels to attract applicants such as:

  • Referrals: Recommendations from current employees or customers.
  • Agencies: Working with recruitment agencies.
  • Company Recruiting Websites: Posting job openings on the company website.
  • Internet Job Boards: Advertising positions on online job boards.
  • Unsolicited Write-ins: Receiving applications from individuals who proactively express interest.
  • Job Fairs: Participating in job fairs or career events.
  • Competitors: Identifying potential candidates from rival companies.
  • Trade Shows: Engaging with industry professionals at trade shows and conferences.

Selecting the Right Candidates

Companies employ various methods to screen job applicants, such as reviewing resumes, conducting interviews and sales skills testing to select candidates. As we will see there are several techniques that vary in their effectiveness.

Work Sample Tests: Work sample tests are assessments that allow candidates to demonstrate their abilities directly in realistic job-related scenarios. These tests simulate important parts of the job, such as hands-on situations or case studies. The predictive validity of work sample tests, i.e. the measure of how well a test predicts the candidate’s performance, ranks very high. In fact, work sample tests have the highest validity when it comes to predicting potential job performance among all other techniques. These tests enable direct observation of a candidate’s behavior in relevant work situations. Rather than relying solely on education, experience, or claims, employers can see how candidates perform in conditions similar to the actual job. In such tests, the interviewer might ask the candidate to “sell” something in the form of a role-play. Candidates with strong selling skills will engage the recruiters by asking about their needs and emphasizing relevant strengths and features.

Job tryouts, where candidates demonstrate their behaviors during a short trial period, are similar to role-playing testing. However, this technique cannot be easily applied in the medical sales field since candidates need to undergo extensive training before entering the market.

Candidate Interviews: Interviews with candidates can take two forms – structured and unstructured. Structured interviews rely on a set of standardized and premeditated questions to gather information from candidates. Unstructured interviews on the other hand, do not use a fixed set of standardized questions. Instead, the interviewer adapts questions based on the context and the purpose of the search. Unstructured interviews are flexible and spontaneous while structured interviews are standardized and sequential. Research has shown that by combining structured interviewing with behavioral techniques (such as asking about past behavior) can significantly improve the validity of candidate selection for sales positions, giving interviewers the chance to gain valuable insights into a candidate’s suitability for the role. In other words, structured interviews are significantly more effective compared to informal, ad hoc interviews.

References: In many companies reference check plays a critical role in candidate selection since numerous interviewers consider it crucial to evaluate job applicants by collecting information from individuals who have known and worked with them. However, based on relevant research using references has relatively low predictive validity compared to other methods for several reasons. For example, applicants tend to provide references who will give positive feedback, potentially distorting the assessment. Moreover, references may not be objective and have hidden agendas – for example they might want to offload a weak employee or keep a good one. Another reason is that references may hesitate to share negative information due to legal liability. Therefore, employers should be aware of reference checking limitations and consider strategies to enhance their effectiveness.

Sales Manager’s Role: Sales managers play a pivotal role in candidate selection since they are responsible for evaluating potential hires and making informed decisions about who joins the sales team. Successful sales managers recognize that hiring successful job applicants contributes to the overall success of the team. Therefore, the quality of the management matters a lot. If a company wishes to develop an exceptional sales force, it must start with excellent sales managers. Weak management can lead to subpar hiring decisions because they might feel threatened by exceptional sales reps. On the other hand, strong managers actively seek out candidates that can excel in sales and contribute significantly to the results of the team. Top-tier professionals attract and select high-caliber candidates. Conversely, if managers are not top-notch, they may settle for less qualified candidates. It has been said that “First-rate people, hire first-rate people. Second-rate people hire third-rate people”.

Assess Candidate’s Alignment with Company’s Culture: One effective approach to assess job fit between the candidates and their future role, is to expose them to the job environment. For example, you can arrange for them to spend a day in the field. This allows both the company and the candidate to gain insights into mutual fit based on workplace culture, interactions with colleagues, and alignment with job requirements. By experiencing the role firsthand, candidates can make informed decisions, and organizations can evaluate compatibility beyond qualifications alone.

All the above are the most common and most important methods when it comes to candidate selection. However, we should keep in mind that imperfections exist in all methods used for predicting job performance. According to research, work sample tests are the most effective predicting method, yet they are not infallible. While no method is perfect, a thoughtful combination of techniques can improve the accuracy of hiring decisions. The goal is to create a comprehensive and well-thought-out selection process and for this reasons companies should consider using a mix of approaches to select the best candidates for their teams.

How to Attract Strong Candidates

Attraction plays a vital role in every stage of the recruiting process. The first step is to create a clear and compelling job description. A well-crafted job description attracts suitable candidates by providing accurate information about the position and highlighting the job’s benefits without overselling it. Next come the in-person interviews. This is a chance for both parties to assess fit. At this stage interviewers should balance selling the job (without overselling it) and evaluating candidates’ skills. After the candidate has gone through the selection process, the employer follows up with a formal offer, ensuring a positive experience for the new hire.

When you have put in the effort to find great candidates, it’s indeed disheartening to lose them after extending an offer. While an attractive offer increases the likelihood of acceptance, effective follow-up can play a crucial role. Keep in mind that a well-timed and courteous follow-up can make a difference in securing the job.

Another crucial step to attract strong candidates is to provide them with a realistic job preview (RJP). RPJ is very significant in recruitment and employee satisfaction, and it is used during the hiring process to present both positive and negative aspects of the job to prospective applicants. When expectations match reality, employees are more likely to stay longer, therefore making their selection the right one for the organization.

Some Final Remarks

As sales rep turnover is a common occurrence in many sales forces, vacant territories can lead to panic. When territories remain unfilled, customers go unserved, new accounts are left unattended, and district or regional quotas are at risk. Some managers hastily rush to fill these vacancies, but this approach can be misguided. While it is essential to promptly hire star candidates, filling a position with just any available candidate can harm sales in the long run. Instead, organizations should consistently seek out new talent to avoid the need for rushed hiring decisions.

Rather than waiting for a position to become available, forward-thinking managers actively recruit even when all territories are filled, and they do so by maintaining a pipeline of potential candidates. Successful managers keep a list of potential candidates, which includes several sources. These sources can be recommendations from current employees, strong candidates who previously declined offers, individuals who were excellent second choices during previous recruiting efforts, former employees who left the company but can return, staff from other functions who have relevant skills and even chance meetings that can yield valuable connections. Keeping a candidate list ensures preparedness. You never know when unexpected turnover will occur, and having a list handy minimizes the need for rushed hiring decisions.

Finally, you should keep in mind that as the landscape of selling processes and sales roles evolve, and novel assessment methods emerge, top-performing sales forces recognize the need for ongoing adaptation. They continually reinvent their recruiting programs, aiming to attract and select the most effective salespeople. By staying agile and proactive, these sales forces ensure that their approach to recruitment remains effective and aligned with changing market dynamics.