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A Crisis in Sales Hiring, with Jeff Thomas [Episode 842]

Jeff Thomas is the founder at Predictably.pro. In today’s episode we discuss the current crisis in sales hiring and how to solve it. According to Jeff’s research, 55% of sales hires fail in less than 2 years. But we both agree it doesn’t need to be that way. We dive into Jeff’s methodology for hiring and dig into how you can use a scorecard based process to eliminate the biases that most affect sales hiring decisions.

Episode Transcript


Andy Paul: Jeff. Welcome to the show.

Jeff Thomas: Thank you, Andy, how are you doing today?

Andy Paul: Doing great. So where have you been sheltering from the storm?

Jeff Thomas: I’ve been fortunate enough to be at my house, which is in the suburbs of Philadelphia and I was, it’s actually been a wonderful experience in a weird way, because about a day before everything shut down, my daughter was visiting from Seattle and she spent the entire time with us. So we had about 90 days with her and she got to know her baby sister, who we adopted about two years ago, and those two became best of friends over this whole pandemic.

Andy Paul: Yeah, that’s nice.

Jeff Thomas: yeah. Yep. That was one of the nice things that have come out of this weird,

Andy Paul: So did she end up having to go back to work?

Jeff Thomas: So she just graduated from Seattle university. She had to go back a week ago because her lease was up. So she had to go back to clear everything out.

She is actually moving back to the East coast because she wants to find a job in music, she’s an art history major. And so she’s looking to work in a museum either in New York or Philly or DC, somewhere closer to home.

Andy Paul: Yeah, I imagine that those positions are hard to come by right now, just given what’s going on.

Jeff Thomas: They certainly can be. And she and I are strategizing about either other things or how to make sure that she gets interviews. and I, this is one of the first times in her life that I’ve been able to give her advice and she says, Hey, wow, that’s pretty good advice to add.

Andy Paul: because that’s the topic of this conversation was about hiring and recruiting and so on.

Jeff Thomas: Exactly.

Andy Paul: if not you who,

Jeff Thomas: I would hope that’s how she looks at it.

Andy Paul: all right. No, you should get her into sales.

Jeff Thomas: She absolutely doesn’t want to go there. I have a great client that she could actually work for and she just, she’s not willing to go there. Yeah. She’ll come around.

Andy Paul: Yeah. Sometimes they do. Sometimes they don’t. Yeah.

Jeff Thomas: Yeah. She

Andy Paul: Sales, as is full of lots of ex teachers and so on and people that, yeah. So lifestyle considerations oftentimes take priority over others. All right. Let’s talk about sales hiring. you maintain that there’s a crisis in sales hiring.

So why is that?

Jeff Thomas: Well, 55% of sales hires fail in 18 months or less. So the crisis is multifaceted,

Andy Paul: let’s still second to that though. So 55%, what positions are you talking about? Mean? You say 55%

Jeff Thomas: generally it’s considered STRs. Yeah. SDRs. AEs account managers. And frankly, although it’s not part of the statistic that says 55%, VPs and heads of sales have, and everybody has probably heard this one has an average tenure of 16 months or less.

And that number goes down every single year. So there’s the crisis coming from a couple of different areas. One is we often hire the wrong person. Two is, we don’t know how to give them the right onboarding and training. and three most organizations don’t understand how much time it takes for an average sales person to get up and running.

Andy Paul: all right, so what’s average.

Jeff Thomas: an average salesperson. I would say somebody who really needs to work hard, who doesn’t have the natural sets of skills that we try to help companies identify through our process. you can go out and hire someone who was really successful in their last job, but if it doesn’t fit your specific requirements, if a simple example is if you go from a product to a service, there’s a huge difference between those types of selling environments.

so an average salesperson, I would just define it. Somebody who can get up and hit their quota, but usually probably takes about two years.

Andy Paul: And that oftentimes seen as a problem by companies, but that’s an interesting point is everybody matures at different rates? Everybody gets it at different rates. have we set the bar too high?

Jeff Thomas: Absolutely. and again, I try to avoid getting into this with what the company does. I would love to add on an onboarding and training component, but frankly, I think there’s a lot of people who do that well. and most companies waste hundreds of thousands of dollars. If not millions of dollars taking a salesperson, giving them enough time to be successful.

If they have absolutely everything nailed. if they’re the right person at the right fit with the right training and the right product and, at least enough of a pipeline to get up and running. but very few companies actually do that. And I know dozens, if not hundreds of really good salespeople who go into a new organization and find out that, if they’re not.

Hitting their quota in nine months, they’re out. And frankly, that’s a huge disservice to the rep, but it’s every bit as much a disservice to the company because now the company has spent $150,000 in direct costs. Let’s say a million dollars in indirect costs. your quota, all the training all the time that goes into, getting this person up and running Yeah, the opportunity cost. They just didn’t give them enough time. and so Mo most,

Andy Paul: though, right? it’s what’s enough

Jeff Thomas: What’s enough time. Yeah.

Andy Paul: I always like to use the analogy. It’s a sport and I’m a huge soccer fan. I listen to the show, know and. Yeah. A lot of times you get a guy who takes off. I was just reading an article this morning about dealing with the stars of the English premier league.

Jamie Vardy plays for a team Leicester city, just hit a milestone. 100 goals scored in the premier league, which is, very rarefied environment to be in.

Jeff Thomas: Sure. Sure.

Andy Paul: he didn’t get into the permanent till he was 28. when he was 25, he was still playing weekend football club, Sunday football, they call it, it just took him a different period of time to get to that point.

every sort of gets at a different, at different rates. I, I sometimes regret people that, not sometimes all the time I 

Jeff Thomas: the time. Yeah.

Andy Paul: regret, pulling. Pulling the trigger, if you will on people too soon. but rarely regretted giving someone extra time and then having them come to fruition and start performing to potential.

Jeff Thomas: pay off a hundred times

Andy Paul: yeah, so how do you, how do we get, how do we change this mindset? Because

Jeff Thomas: yeah, I found one of the actual best ways to change it. And again, my thesis is that by understanding who you need to hire by using the right scientific principles in your hiring process, you’re taking enough extra time to understand that this person is worth your investment. I can’t tell you how many times I personally, and I’ve seen personally, you make an offer to a sales person and they walk out or you’re talking about it, amongst the hiring team.

And the general fee theory is I hope they’re good. I hope this person makes it. and I think that when you have that attitude, you’re much more yeah. Willing to pull the plug on it early. If you put the right amount of time in upfront. And I don’t think you have to put a tremendously larger amount of time in than people currently do.

They put an awful lot of time and they just focus on the wrong things. But when you have a good idea of what you need and you can then say, I have confidence in this. This new hire has the skills to be successful. I think you’ll be a lot less likely to pull the plug and not give them that extra nine months that they might need.

Andy Paul: Yeah. Oh, I think what part of the contribution or part of the, a factor that contributes to us pulling the plug too soon as is. That’s this fixation and, hiring superstars,

Jeff Thomas: Sure.

Andy Paul: right? I think that everyone says, yeah, we want, we want a new server referred to. You talk about a lack of star talent, but I just wonder why are we so fixated on that?

Because it seems to me, we should really have a strong bench of people who are good.

Jeff Thomas: sure. I think that’s a great way to put

Andy Paul: give me 10 people who are good as opposed to two superstars for people who are good and four who are right. I want good. And, but unfortunately it’s like goods become a pejorative, everything’s gotta be hyped up.

So we don’t have a star.

Jeff Thomas: I think that’s a fair way to put it, but again, I think what you can do is if today you’re hiring good, you probably can hire great. If today you’re hiring great. You probably can hire superstars. and when you look at what the very, what your top 20% of your reps do, and these are standard numbers that, I’m sure you’ve heard before the top 20% of your reps

Andy Paul: the Parado distribution, blah, blah,

Jeff Thomas: revenue.


Andy Paul: And by the way, I’m not sure. Completely buy into it. I think there are external factors that affect that. it’s not a normal distribution. That’s what happens. But anyway, go ahead.

Jeff Thomas: Yeah, but I think that there’s always room for significant improvement and it depends where you’re starting from. and frankly, most of those companies that are turning reps over every nine months are well behind on their quota. They’re desperate and they’ll do whatever they can in order to. Try to get a short term result when the fixes are longer term. and in all honesty, most of those companies I don’t work with, and I’m not saying, I haven’t tried. they just don’t want to make investments. They don’t look at this as an investment. They look at the salesperson either as being a good worthy employee or a piece of crap.

and I can’t tell you again, how many times, I’ve seen, direct, it’s always the salesperson’s fault. Why aren’t they doing what I would do? Because I was a great salesperson, that’s that,

Andy Paul: which is bullshit most of the time,

Jeff Thomas: all the time is bullshit. Yeah. Because

Andy Paul: Yeah.

Jeff Thomas: yeah, you’re not hiring new, you’re hiring somebody to do a specific job and you need to give them the right tools to do it.

Andy Paul: but my saying starts with the BS. First of all, the manager thinks they were good and

Jeff Thomas: yes,

Andy Paul: very rarely is the case. And, I think so much of what we, the problems we’re encountering, because what the hell, this is a topic, we can get a thousand experts talking about for a thousand days and still not be exhausted about, why isn’t sales performing up to potential. I think that we have the complete wrong perspective on it, which is that we want to point the finger at salespeople, and this bad behavior of salespeople and they’re not performing. And I use the analogy. It’s remember when we were kids growing up, there’s always a kid on the block that your parents said to stay away from. And because, that’s inferred that he just wasn’t parented correctly. And this is what the problem is in sales, bad parenting.

Jeff Thomas: that’s a fair and valid point and I hate to say it. I see it more often than I don’t.

Andy Paul: Yeah. we can blame the reps. All we want the seller’s lawyer want, but they’re behaving in ways that the managers enable them to perform or allow them to perform in. and yet we spent all this money training salespeople, and we spend virtually none training managers.

Jeff Thomas: Yep,

Andy Paul: Ideally should be the other way around.

Jeff Thomas: right? Yeah. that’s a good point. I do a lot of coaching in my work and that’s the other part is that managers and coaches are different things even, 

Andy Paul: That’s a whole different topic, but

Jeff Thomas: yeah, we should wait

Andy Paul: into it. but I think that a lot of it comes back to this idea as is, and we’ll get into those or processes that you advocate for. And so on is that you have to be able to structure your. Your hiring process in such a way to insulate you from the influence of poor managers, making bad decisions to hire

Jeff Thomas: That’s a fair point, but I would actually argue that Mo not only poor managers are bad at hiring, but I would say good managers are probably usually bad at hiring. Because as human beings, we are bad at hiring. we don’t do a good job at evaluating a person. for a job in sales is a hard thing to measure.

there’s a lot of really bad salespeople who are highly social. They can have a wonderful conversation with you. and what ends up happening is you play golf and she plays golf and you talk about golf and you have a good feeling and now you make a hire and it just, it crashes and burns nine months later.

And that’s really where we try to help people understand, as a species we’re bad at hiring. I used to have a line on the front of my home, on my homepage that said you suck at hiring. And it really ticked a lot of people off. So I sanded it down to say, let’s face it. We’re all terrible. And then I just took it off because people don’t.

Didn’t want to, I was a little too much in their face about it. they want to say, why, help me understand why everybody else in my organization is bad at hiring. And frankly, that’s a sign that you have a bad person to hire.

Andy Paul: Okay. Yeah. And I think it’s, this is not something that’s purely a sales issue. There was an article a couple years ago, New York times talking about this professor at Yale, they’ve done research on hiring and I don’t know if you had seen that, but her conclusion was, and this one study is that. They were interviewing for, I forgot what type of job it was, but it was somebody working at a grad school doing something. And they had, test group that they brought in for an interview and those that they hired and evaluated purely on the basis of the resume. And the greater predictor of success was the group they hired just by looking at the resume without interviewing them.

Jeff Thomas: Absolutely. Yeah. And I agree it’s across all disciplines. but what I just have found frankly, is that there’s more than enough work to be done in the sales area. And it’s really the most expensive area to fail in a lot of ways, because again, it takes you 12 months to figure out. Is this person even remotely on track in many cases?

Andy Paul: yeah, that’s absolutely true. I think, unfortunately what happens more and more these days though, is that, managers make up their mind really quickly and because, Hey, we’ve got a 90 day onboarding process. Thus, whether it’s a SDR, which is one, one thing about onboarding and 90 days is different with an E on a complex sale 90 days.

Is that really enough? But you’ve got people making up their mind at that point. And at least to some of these issues that I was referring to when he talked about the 80 20 distribution was, is that the thing that complicates the hiring process and evaluating people subsequent to that is that sales is rarely a level playing field.

managers. Distort what’s going on favoritism and how the district leads the way they allocate, the way they allocate their P their coaching attention. Because, I don’t buy that the lower 60 to 80% consume a disproportionate amount of resources. I actually think the top does because managers tend to go, I want to support the people that are making it happen.

So I’m going to give more of my attention to them.

Jeff Thomas: right?

Andy Paul: And so

Jeff Thomas: good point.

Andy Paul: yeah, we set the playing field, these expectations that it’s not equitable.

Jeff Thomas: And again, people give up on those people who will end up getting fired in 90 days or 120 days or six months. the manager, my personal experience has been to see that when top executives start to talk negatively about, I don’t understand why this rep isn’t doing better, or I don’t understand, Why aren’t they either making more cold calls or sending more proposals or closing more deals is also an inflection point when direct managers start to just say, you know what, I’m just going to distance myself from them.

Andy Paul: yes, the winds are blowing this direction and rather than evaluate my own performance and helping this person get up to speed. Yeah, you’re right. 

Jeff Thomas: and again, you now have a hundred thousand dollar, direct. Cost mistake and a potential million dollar indirect cost mistake. but you want to look good in your boss’s eyes. So you go ahead and make that mistake because nobody measures your, the real costs of these failures.

Andy Paul: okay. let’s at the time we have, let’s go through your process. it’s. I like it because it’s similar in some respects to one that I recommend people do. And yeah, first of all, it’s more. Data-driven you’re trying to make a process. That’s more, we’re not making as many subjective decisions, but it’s more of an objective decision at the end of the process, which is really what you want to try to do.

You want to get the, as much of the emotion out of it as you can.

Jeff Thomas: right. And that’s, what I learned, I started hiring people in the early 1990s. and I recall knowing at that time I was terrible at it. so I started just trying to figure out ways to be better. and for me, what has always been the case is I just struggled. I tend to be a friendly vocal person and I hired, I always just wanted to hire the people.

I like. And I feel fortunate that I was able to see that. So what I started doing as far back as then is piecing together all the tips and tricks and processes that would help me to really understand, can somebody do this job correctly? And so when I started to predict, just this year, I really took. 30 years of sales experience. And about six years of consulting experience, I’ve been a consulting vice president of sales. So I’ve been the VP of sales at 25 or 30 different places and re fractional VP. Exactly. 

Andy Paul: all done that.

Jeff Thomas: yeah, but what I realized in 2018 and 2019 was I had a whole bunch of good tools.

or let me even say a whole bunch of good instruments. but if I were to put them together and have a conductor, have people playing those instruments properly, you would get music. And so I took all these different tools and I built them into a methodology and the methodology, there’s just five steps to it.

And I, the first thing I tell somebody is. Nothing that we do is rocket science. I hope people listen to this podcast and steal it. I let people use my process for free. If they want to hire me to help them make it really work great. but I’m not, what I’ve just done is taken a bunch of things, put them together in what I believe is the right order to help people get results.

And you know what those steps are. it just spells the word prism profile, recruit, interview, select and measure.

Andy Paul: I didn’t even realize there was an acronym there. Look at that.

Jeff Thomas: Acronym in there, 

Andy Paul: I need to pay more attention. So let’s start with a profile because I think one of them. Steps that companies miss. And I think you really get into this is I talked about, yeah, it’s one thing to have a job description, but what they really, the first step is they need to have a job specification

Jeff Thomas: You need to understand, I, yeah, your job description is what you’re going to do, It’s yeah, you’re going to have to either make cold calls or you’re going to have to close this business or work with these kinds of customers. But nobody, very few people really take the time to understand what the requirements are in order to do that job well, and

Andy Paul: I use that just to finish the description. So I use the analogy as if you’re, product marketing or product person and a company says, look, we’re going to make a proposal to manager management to build this particular product. What you’re proposing to them is the job description. The description of what they’re going to do, but before they can start development, they need to have a detailed specification for what they’re going to build.

Jeff Thomas: Yeah. Okay.

Andy Paul: that’s the part that’s missing in sales is we do the job description, but not the detailed specifications.

Jeff Thomas: Yeah, you’re a hundred percent. And so I’m a big believer in assessments. but I look at assessments as the first thing that you do with an assessment and I’m not married to any given one, I’ve seen great results with everything from, Disc assessments all the way through the, whatever assessment you use or often, it can be the right one as long as you continue to use it.

And so what I highly recommend is rather than just using assessments for candidates, as you are, you begin by assessing your current team. so I’ll go in and stack rank a team by department and then by the, over the entire team. we then give what whichever assessment seems to work, in that particular organization, and then use some data science.

I have actually a data science guy who will come in and look at the standard deviations and give us all the information about, where are the true. Characteristics that make somebody successful. And one of the easiest ones that I love to describe, and I’ve already started to mention it here is, many, excuse me, many assessments, rate sociability.

how social is a person? How friendly are they? How warm are they? or how comfortable do they make you feel in almost every case? There is zero correlation between someone having someone being socially adept and performing well. That doesn’t, that doesn’t mean that someone who performs well is not socially adept.

It means that just because someone is socially adept does not mean they will perform well. And so the best way to get to those answers is to really look at your current team and you’re going to need 20 or more people. At a startup it’s a little more difficult or a smaller organization, but we can, I can compare that.

startups data against other companies and give them a good idea to say, this particular new candidate probably isn’t the right hire because you’re going to like the way they interview. I can tell you if you’re going to, I can predict the likelihood of an interview based on the assessment.

Andy Paul: but also to your point though, is even with a startup, is the key thing that you said is really it’s not this assessment itself because it’s the con it’s the continuity of using it. Cause you build a base of consistency and data, but you can perform against whether the assessments are correlative or not.

I’m not a big fan of assessments other than just as a data point, if you want to use them as a data point, because first. Yes. I think they’re not very correlative, but, salespeople not withstanding for them, but if you use it consistently because, and to your point, the start with your team, and if you’re a startup, maybe you don’t have 20 people.

I bet you’ve had 20 people. So if you start doing it and over a year or two you’ll quickly build up that base of data.

Jeff Thomas: Yep. Yep. You’re a hundred percent, right? there’s a study that shows, and I think it’s from the folks who do the Miller Heiman, work that shows if you use an assessment regularly, it’s valuable. But if you use an assessment periodically, it’s actually worse than not using it at all. It will lead you to the wrong conclusions.

And one of the other great examples that I love to use is one of the assessments that I like measures the likelihood that this person will be willing to leave the job. What’s the propensity to job hop? And very often good salespeople have a high propensity to leave a job because they have a high level of confidence in their skills and they operate a little bit independently, so they’re willing to leave.

But if you only give that test to two people and somebody highly likely to leave you say, Oh, I don’t want to hire that guy. and again, when you start to look at your best people in, in an organization or across an industry, the best ones often are very willing to job hop. And that’s where, again, back to our earlier conversation, you need great managers, you need great leadership.

You really need to keep those people engaged, where they are going to go.

Andy Paul: Yeah. The cynic’s view of that, of people, not that I’m cynical, but of people that are willing to leave or have a Princey to leave is a, that they’re unrealistically confident in their abilities, Allah, Dunning, Kruger, and the Dunning-Kruger effect. And. They’re never, if they’ve had a history of leaving quickly as they’re coming to you, less formed than the resume may suggest because they’d never been any one place to develop skills.

Jeff Thomas: to stay long enough. Yeah, that’s a fair point. 

Andy Paul: it’s, but I think, but the bottom line on this and I just wanna make sure it fit it all in, before we go is that you’re creating consistency and you’re creating, know a baseline of data that you use to assess your current team. Does. You’re going to assess the potential new people against, because again, whether you completely agree with the assessments or not, if you’ve used them consistently, at least know people that are performing well in our current environment, Had this, scored these characteristics or whatever.

And. Okay. Now this gives us more information to say, as we evaluate these people. Yeah. We may really like this person, but yeah, there’s significance. Don’t quite hit it in some respects and believe I died. I understand that. I was, I had the CEO of, one of the major assessment companies asked me to take one a couple of years ago and, yeah.

Calls him back afterwards and says, were you trying to gain this or something? I said, no. He said, Oh, geez, You’re there. Your score was so low. I was like, is that it’s yeah, I am. Yeah. Suited to be a shepherd, not a salesperson, a flock in the field, but yeah,

Jeff Thomas: I have a profile that I frequently referred to as upside down. and it’s a weird set of skills. Maybe 10% of great salespeople have, but it’s almost exactly upside down from what a normal profile would look like. And so I give that every so often and the person looks terrible.

except for the fact that when you have benchmarked it against many people who are actually really good at what they do, they’re just different.

Andy Paul: and that’s the thing that’s. And you’ve talked about this, you don’t want a homogenous team in many different respects, right? Weight, diversity, and all sorts of areas. and it’s so it’s this thing is okay, yeah, people are going to come in based on different backgrounds, different upbringings, whatever they’re going to perform differently.

These assessments. It’s like, how do you catch those people that have the potential? I give the example of one client I worked for years. We’re the number one salesperson. And this was primarily inside sales, but not exclusively, but mostly inside pathologically shy. 

Jeff Thomas: That’s the upside down part.

Andy Paul: you would no longer, he would never have interviewed that person in a million years, or you never hired him as you did interview him, but he was a killer.

Jeff Thomas: Yep. And that then that whole, it’s almost an aversion to being social to being like a typical, to being a typical sales person as part of that, for that upside down concept.

Andy Paul: But he made comfortable customers so comfortable because he was incredibly knowledgeable about the field, but had none of the sales quote unquote DNA that trumpet around at all, which again, I think is a. BS concept personally, but yeah. cause clearly I don’t have it cause I yeah, absent that whole gene, But

Jeff Thomas: You and me both.

Andy Paul: somehow I found a way to make it work. All right. so

Jeff Thomas: so then we, yeah, let’s

Andy Paul: let’s go recruiting.

Jeff Thomas: Sure. So the idea about recruiting, I, I don’t want to say people brag about this, but, you go on LinkedIn and especially now, in this COVID environment, that a job goes up for an account executive and in two days they have over 200 applications.

That’s a disaster, in my opinion, because now you can’t make a decision. You have too many things to pick from in order to make a decision. So one of the things that I work with clients to do is, what you need, and now what you want to do, frankly, is you want to get less applicants, not more.

and what you want to do is you want the wrong people to select themselves out of the process. my applications always ask a couple of. I don’t say difficult questions, but time consuming questions. I, the first thing I’ll say to anybody is if you’re using, apply now on LinkedIn, give up, because all you’re asking people to do is take their resume, ball it up and throw it in your.

Workspace. and look, I’ve done it. w when I was looking for a position, I see something, if I really would believe in it, I would take the time to write a cover letter and do some research and work my way in. If I didn’t care that much for one to see what would happen, easy apply.

So you want to have an application that’s a little bit difficult. that really requires the applicant to put in enough work in order to even move into that part of the process. so we help to try to create this application so that you’re not going to get 200 applicants. You’re going to get the right 50, hopefully, but now you have 50 applications.

so every of the predictably process uses. A set of questions and then a rubric or a way in order to evaluate those questions that gives you a score. So for example, you might ask somebody, tell me about your eye. Here’s an example. You can even lead people in the wrong direction and see what happens.

tell me about a time when. you had to make 200 calls a day or two. Tell me about a position. If you had to make 200 calls a day, how well you did it, that now you might be looking for an SDR that only makes 60 calls a day. so again, you can fake them out a little bit, letting them think you want, this person to talk about 200 calls a day, but what’s most important is anybody who reviews that application has a set, gives a score to every single answer.

Those scores are typically. Descriptive, but each description carries a number so outstanding. Awful. Okay. and you can have multiple people reviewing applications, especially if he agreed and ideally you want to have multiple people reviewing the same applications. But depending on how many people you have and how many applications, sometimes you have to split it up.

You need to say, Andy, you’re going to do these 50 Jeff. You’re going to do those 50. And Mike, you’re going to do the other 50.

Andy Paul: the reason I have multiple people review the same applications though, is that we start getting rid of some of the subjectivity and that’s the value of the scorecard approach. Those data-driven approaches. Look, if I have four people that are looking at this and they’re making.

A score and assessment and a score of the answer. That’s way more valuable than when we get together at the end to assess the scorecard, knowing that, which is true for, and you refer to this as well. And the interviewing part is, I think, increasingly this is the way you need to interview people.

And it shows, yeah. Especially in startups and tech companies. And we say, look, yeah, you bring people in for that multi interview day, you got five interviewers. And I tell them that I’d be interested in your response. I say, look, You all, you’ll have one person. They’ll do the deep dive on the resume. But then you have maybe four people that are all going to ask the exact same questions in the exact same order.

And people are horrified by that idea, because I think one of the world’s best interviews or what are you talking about? It’s no, you’re all bad interviewers. You might be good conversationalists, which is different. And this then gives you a basis to actually make a judgment on the answers when you can compare.

Hey, we asked, we considered, these were important questions to ask. And I love throwing in questions that talk about people’s values, people’s character, and we got more than one person assessing that.

Jeff Thomas: Assessing those same answers. And that’s exactly how we approach the whole interview process. It really is. And you’re right. It feels a little bit weird. but it’s the best way for you to get solid, predictive information out of an interview process? when you have the five people do, spend all day with that client, what you come up with is.

Three of them. Might’ve liked the person. One of them might’ve been okay on it. And the last one might’ve hated them. but it’s just about, it’s about feeling. It’s not about. how well are they going to do these, do the job. I use a database of about 600 questions every time I see a good question, I toss it in there and I ranked them

Andy Paul: No. cool.

Jeff Thomas: and so I’ll go into a place and say, look, here are problems.

Here are the right eight or 10 questions for you. If you really want to mix it up. I’ll give you six and you can, everybody can add on on their own. you can do that as well. I also would like to, in the interview process, have multiple people involved, meaning a two on one type of scenario because, as humans, when I’m talking, you might be listening, but you’re also thinking about what to say next.

And vice-versa. And so when you add an extra person in there, it puts a little extra pressure on the applicant and we want to do that, but at all, also allows the interviewees, I’m sorry, the interviewers to listen and judge and grade every one of these answers. And so the system that we use actually, you literally go through it’s almost like a survey and you ask a question and you can put your detailed notes in there.

And then you say, if it was, a good answer, a poor answer or a great answer. And again, we just tick over on the side. We didn’t show it to you at the time, but now you get one point or three points or five points. And so when all is said and done each, both of those two people involved in that one interview process, that there’s a new merch score that comes out, for that particular applicant.

Andy Paul: Yeah, I think it’s important for people listening, hiring managers to really understand the concept, which is you are going to have a total number of. Points available for it to you as a candidate. And you may say, look, we’re going to have a cutoff line. people have to be above a certain line to create a certain baseline criteria, but now most importantly, to something you’ve talked about and we’ll get into it.

We’re going to say, look, maybe a total available score, 35 only going to hire people that are 32 and over let’s say for example, and now a year from now, we’re going to look at our 30 twos. How did our 30 twos do. And maybe we’ve made a couple exceptions with a 30 and a 31. How did they

Jeff Thomas: How did they do?

Andy Paul: now? We can say, okay, going forward, let’s tweak it.

We decided to actually, maybe we need 30 threes and

Jeff Thomas: Or 20 nines.

Andy Paul: or 29th may the 29th to the best of all, let’s focus on some 29th, but you have the data to be able

Jeff Thomas: have the data to do it. And that is the last stage of our processes.

Andy Paul: Yeah. people just have to get over this idea that they can do this without data that their intuition is correct.


Jeff Thomas: there’s another really interesting measurement point that is incredibly valuable to companies and we’re jumping out of order, but this is

Andy Paul: Yeah. It’s my show. I can do whatever I

Jeff Thomas: Yeah. when you do measurement. You can go back, through our system. What you can do is understand that, say, Hey, Jeff interviewed this guy and he gave him a 35 or he gave him a 10.

Is Jeff A. Good interviewer or not?

Andy Paul: He’s the Soviet skating judge.

Jeff Thomas: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. So not only do you get to buy by using data, you get to have an understanding of what were the overall results for a candidate, but you start to understand what are the overall results for the interviewers. And do you need to train your interviewers better?

Or in some cases, just say, you know what, we’re not going to let Jeff interview anybody. we’re gonna, we’re going to pop in somebody who tends to be better at. Predicting I years ago, this was back in 2005, I worked with a woman who was hiring for kiosks in airports across the country.

And she just had a sense, I, if she said to hire somebody, I was a hundred percent behind her. and I trusted her opinion more than I trusted mine.

Andy Paul: Right.

Jeff Thomas: And I guarantee you, if you look at my results against her results, you’d have been like, Jeff, you can’t be involved in these interviews. We’re going to have Alison do all of it.

Andy Paul: Yeah. Yeah. That’s all, I will make a prediction. My favorite quote about this is Niels Bohr, who was a Nobel prize winning physicist involved in the development of the nuclear atomic bomb. And, he said prediction is very difficult, especially about the future. That’s 

Jeff Thomas: Yep. That’s what it is. Yeah. 

Andy Paul: Yeah.

Jeff Thomas: but, so yeah, so that’s the, we have a recruiting process, which is the applications, and then they all get rated and ranked and the right, that line is drawn for who moves forward to the interview, which is where we left off all the interviewees get.

Rated and ranked, and then you determine who moves forward to select. And so that’s the next, and in many ways, the last stage before measure selection is about a bunch of things. but w and we tend to forget that there are parts in the selection process that just torpedo the entire system.

I’m a huge believer in role play. and if you’re not doing a role play that is somewhat aligned to your business, you’re probably losing 50% of the predictive capability of your, the rest of your processes. You’re almost wasting your time.

Andy Paul: why so much emphasis on the role-play and up and not that I totally disagree, but I’ve got a caveat to that, but go ahead.

Jeff Thomas: Sure. Sure. So let me explain what we do with the role-play and then explain why we see it as being so important. I’m working with a client right now, and they’re very specific. Sales process. And they have a very limited amount of time in which to sell their interview.

I’m sorry, their, their sales calls are 15 minutes or less. And reps have 30 of these scheduled every single day. What we do with new candidates is we bring them in and we actually spend a full day with them. Before we make a decision, we make an offer. We go ahead and bring them in. We train them on what the script is.

We let them listen to some good calls and let them listen to some bad calls. We then do the first role play. And the first role play is to see, are they able to be brief enough to be able to do this entire sale in 15 minutes? Are they coachable enough to have, let me not say that, are they smart enough to have absorbed information in the last two or three hours?

So to start, to be able to craft a pitch, I tell them I don’t care if you get the facts wrong. The facts don’t matter. it’s are you learning the concepts? But then what we do from that role plays, we just start to give a little bit of feedback and then we move away from the role-play for an hour or two.

and then we come down and do a final role-play and the most important thing about that final role-play is, did they take the coaching advice that we gave them

Andy Paul: exactly. And that’s the caveat I was

Jeff Thomas: Yeah. Yes.

Andy Paul: role-play is great, but to make it, not going to say predictive, but to make it valuable. Did they take the coaching? Did you provide coaching and did they take the coaching?

Jeff Thomas: Exactly. And so the way I used to do it was we would give coaching, literally on this call, we say Hey Jeff, I really wish you said it this way. Why don’t we go ahead and do it again? unless I’m terrible, I’m going to be able to take that coaching. but as I give coaching throughout the day to these prospective hires, and then we stop the process and just go listen to some other calls or have other conversations, that’s really where you see how good can they take your, the feedback now, a complex sale.

It’s a lot harder to coach a complex sale than it is, in this particular case, than this one that I am explaining. so a role for a complex sale, Often should have things that people don’t think about. And those things might be, I’m going to give them a P page, or I’m going to send them an email and say, okay, these are the people, these are the parameters of the sale you need to make.

and these are our role-play actors on our side, right? So we’re going to say, Andy is the CFO. Jeff is the VP of sales, and Mike is the CEO. And now what you do is you have them actually start to do a little bit of research in this, in a fictitious type of a sale, especially when it’s complex. And you start to ask them to do the first part of a sale, which is incredibly important.

It’s something we never evaluate, which is, are they able to figure out what’s important to the client? are they able to do discovery? Are they able to do those kinds of things? And so that would be the example of a different type of a role play, where you have, much more, a longer process.

I would ask somebody to do two or three hours of preparation through this process, or I would expect them to, and again, this comes down to, sometimes people are like, I don’t want to do that. okay. Then I don’t want to have you be on the team,

Andy Paul: Yeah. And you’re asking that they do this before they come in.

Jeff Thomas: Yes, but they’ve already been through some interviews and they’ve had an opportunity to ask questions.

And if they’re not that interested, I’m not that interested either. with this one client I’m working with right now, we spend eight hours with every single applicant. I’m sorry, every final candidate goes through training and role-play for a whole day. and, that’s a huge amount of time to spend.

so we’re gonna make that investment. We expect that you are too, and we’ve had cases where we did it on a Saturday, or where the person can’t get away from work or something. 

Andy Paul: I find it amazing that in this day and age still the, their candidates for jobs, especially even more senior jobs, it could be as a frontline manager or a director of sales or something who are blindsided, but that’s the idea that. Yeah, we don’t take for granted what you say on your resume that you’ve done or things that we, this is an important job for us.

We’re going to do the best we can to validate and verify that. And yeah, the expression that Ronald Reagan used back when talking about arms control with the Russians is yeah. We trust, but verify it, yeah. Interview is no place for trust. it’s, we’re going to try to validate and verify.

Jeff Thomas: your job is frankly, to find out where they’re lying to you,

Andy Paul: ’cause out there

Jeff Thomas: cause they are, and in all honesty, so is the company, but that’s a whole nother, we can spend two hours on that. One of my favorite things to ask people is who do you think lies worse in the interview process, the company or the applicant, but.

Andy Paul: Yeah. they’re both selling each other, So it’s 

Jeff Thomas: But there’s a couple other pieces to this whole selection that are really critical. I will go in with a client and I moderate that selection meeting. so everybody comes together at the end of the process and they’re going to say what they think. And 80% of the time, the first person to speak if they are for the candidate gets hired.

And if they’re against the candidate doesn’t. Because they’re the first person usually willing to stand up and give an opinion when everybody else in all honesty is just going. I don’t really know. I’m not really sure. Cause I couldn’t tell, I liked the person. It seems like they can do the job, but I don’t really know.

so I’ll ask for people to, before they come to the meeting, send me their decision. Just try to write two paragraphs or three sentences, and then we moderate the discussion and we work very hard to make sure, for example, the CEO doesn’t come in and say, I hated that person. Or I love that person because again, there’s your decision and everything that you’ve done up until that point is now moot.

so we try to really turn it into a moderated discussion so that the positives and the negatives come out and also we try to make sure, and this is when possible that multiple candidates get discussed at the same time, they can compare it against each other because often when you’re just looking at one person versus an open job, you settle for either they’re terrible enough that I’d rather leave it open or maybe they’ll do okay.

Andy Paul: and I think that’s such a great point because I think. Yeah. Again, if you’re a hiring manager or even a seller, and you’re listening to this is this discussion describing mirrors to a large extent, that discussion that you’re. Customers have the stakeholders in the decision when they’re making a decision about you, is that everybody wants to have this fantasy in their mind that, Oh yeah, there’s nine stakeholders.

They all have an equal voice. And it’s no, there’s. And there’s been research on this, Steve Martin out of USC, has that now there’s quote unquote a bully in the room. But, and.

Jeff Thomas: gonna steal that from you.

Andy Paul: Yeah. And that, and yeah, their opinion counts more than everybody else’s because they’re, as you said, they’re willing to stand up and advocate and be more fervent than that.

And so to your point about, yeah. Asking people ahead of time for the decisions, I think it’s genius. so when they come into the room moderating that discussion, if you’re leading that discussion, you can say, why is only John standing up? Because, Jennifer, you told me beforehand that you thought this was the right person.

So what do you think?

Jeff Thomas: Yep. And it forces them to even deal with their I’ll call it their insecurity as about interviewing. And hopefully also get better at it. Now, again, if they’ve run through the process they also have, and whether you give them this information or not is up to really the way you want to run the process.

you can let Jennifer know, Hey, here were all of your scores for this particular applicant or for each of these applicants. This is how you are. Process came out. and so usually you want to let them have it, but sometimes there’s some companies that say we don’t want to, we don’t want to turn it down all the way back down to just a number.

and one of the things I do in every one of our scoring events. And again, you score at the application at an interview at a role-play if you can override the score. We usually ask a question at the very end that has a whole lot of points or a whole lot of negative points that lets you say something like, regardless of the other answers, do you think this candidate should move forward or not?

Or, do you think that there’s a reason why you might’ve scored them poorly, but you still think they’re a good candidate? And because again, you, the people are the decision makers here. We don’t want to, I, I’m not a believer of AI for hiring. I’m not a believer for AI for looking at resumes.

I think it’s just, it’s a terrible thing. You want people to do it, but you want to give them the tools to do it right through the

Andy Paul: Exactly. Exactly. All right. Jeff fantastic discussion. Thank you so much.

Jeff Thomas: been a lot of fun.

Andy Paul: Yeah, absolutely. people wanna find out more about you doing connect with you. How can they do that?

Jeff Thomas: you can reach us at our website, which is predictably.pro P R E D I C T a B L y.pro. And you can also just reach me@jeffatpredictably.pro.

Andy Paul: Excellent.

Jeff Thomas: It’s been a pleasure. Thanks.