Hire Your Ad Agency’s Next New Business Person Without Meeting Them

Best predictor of job performance is a work sample
by Todd Knutson


Dan Heath and Chip Heath, authors of "Made to Stick" wrote a provocative article in the June issue of Fast Company. It challenges our basic premise about how to hire successful employees.They argue that the reality is that

Interviews are less predictive of job performance than work samples, job-knowledge tests, and peer ratings of past job performance.

As primary evidence, they report on an unplanned, fascinating experiment that started in 1979 at the University of Texas Medical School. The school interviewed the top 800 candidates, scoring each on a seven-point scale. They admitted the top 350. Then, unexpectedly, the Texas legislature required that they admit 50 more students. It was so late in the process that only the candidates with the lowest scores were available, and they were admitted with everyone else.

The expectation: those with the worst scores would end up at the bottom of the class.

The reality: There was absolutely no performance difference.

And then the graduates went on to their residencies, where their inferior capabilities in actual work in actual hospitals would be clear. Right? "Nope, didn't happen. Both groups performed equally well in the first year of residency." The entrance interviews "correlated with nothing other than the ability to interview."

So, you need to figure out whether or not your candidates can do the job - without interviewing them.

If you're hiring a proactive ad agency new business person, whose job it is to sell, then ask them to sell you something. Here's how you do it:

  • Set up a telephone interview.
  • Create two role practice scenarios (for more details on how to do role practice, read this post).
  • You'll be the marketer and your candidate will represent your agency.
  • Run through each scenario once, listening for the questions they ask you, their ability to engage you, their comfort level when you attempt to shut them down, etc.
  • Observe how well they understand your agency: are they a quick study, did they prepare well or wing it?

I've found this to be the easiest way to weed out new business candidates who claim skills that exceed their capabilities. And this is something you definitely want to know before you hire that smooth-talking interviewer.

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