A couple of years ago, I was working with a SaaS startup in San Francisco when I was told we would be looking for a new VP, Sales to manage the sales team.
Up until now, our VP of Sales Ops was wearing both hats and managing the sales team. Hiring a dedicated VP, Sales was necessary to help drive the growth that our sales team needed. So, we did what any smart team would do. We posted the job online and as the applications came in, we started screening candidates.
There were impressive profiles here and there, as well as some lousy profiles. We unanimously agreed that one candidate, in particular, was the most impressive candidate on paper. For the sake of this article, we will call him Charlie. Charlie was the “perfect employee.” We called Charlie and set up an interview.
On the day of the interview, we eagerly waited to meet Charlie in the conference room. Our office manager brought him into the room, we shook hands, then sat down. So far so good, I thought to myself.
As we began chatting, Charlie and I hit it off. We talked about his background, work experience, passions, why he was interested in the role, salary expectations, etc. Pretty much everything you would expect from an in-person interview.
Long story short, Charlie was extended an offer and would start working in 2-weeks. While we did invite three other candidates in for an in-person interview, it was really just to compare them against Charlie. He was our number one option from the time we looked at his resume until we extended an offer.
This is the part of the story that I wish never happened. Although looking back, a valuable lesson was learned that I am ultimately grateful for. Within about 2.5 months of hiring Charlie, all hell had broken loose. What we didn’t find out from his resume or interview was that he was an intense micromanager. The last thing that anyone wants in a startup environment is a dictator-like-micromanager who is going to come in and make drastic changes without even observing the current environment.
Three months in, we had lost two of our top sales reps, one account manager, and we were on track to lose more. We had hired Charlie to improve our sales team, paid him a very handsome salary, and he had immediately cost us more than we ever imagined.
Nobody likes to take a loss, but we had no other choice. We had to accept that we made a poor hiring decision and fix it before it was too late. We were able to bring back one of the sales reps who had left but unfortunately, the other two were long gone. Sales were down, team morale was down, and a lot of time was wasted.
1. The problem here is that we had tunnel vision. We thought so highly of Charlie from the beginning that we turned a blind eye to the tragedies that were occurring. This caused our mistake to drag out months, rather than weeks.
2. We had very specific criteria in mind for who we felt would be the perfect employee. Charlie met these criteria. As a result, we overlooked many potentially great fitting candidates.
It’s important to be realistic with yourself when writing a job description and screening candidates. Decide what skills or experiences you can and can’t live without. From my experience, the best jobs I have ever posted had a healthy number of preferred qualifications and a more conservative number of must-have qualifications. In order not to eliminate candidates that could be great fits, I am very conservative with my must-have section.
Additionally, the resume only tells you so much about the person. Instead of checking off boxes trying to find the perfect employee, take time to look beyond the resume. Soft skills are equally, if not more important than hard skills. People are more than their resumes.
There will always be give and takes throughout life and business. In this particular situation, we got the perfect employee on paper, but a horrible employee in reality.